As bailed-out bank RBS publishes details of its 2010 financial results, campaigners call on the government to cure RBS of its high-risk oil addition. RBS’s results show that it is still not making a profit and today’s (24 February) stunt in London highlights the unhealthy investments of an unhealthy bank.

Photos from the stunt

Campaigners from Friends of the Earth Scotland and the World Development Movement are urging the government, as majority shareholder in the bank, to use its power to switch the investments of the Royal Bank of Scotland away from climate-damaging fossil fuels and instead to finance much-needed low carbon industries.

At the Treasury, campaigners delivered over a thousand postcards signed by taxpayers angry at the Government for letting RBS use their money to finance projects and companies that are worsening climate change and threatening human rights.

A campaigner dressed as an RBS banker, addicted to fossil fuels, lay ‘unconscious’ on the pavement outside the Treasury this morning, having overdosed on oil while another dressed as a doctor tried to cure the banker of his oil addiction.

RBS is the UK bank that has been most heavily involved in financing the global coal industry and companies mining tar sands in Canada. Since being bailed out in October 2008, RBS has provided finance of nearly £3.6bn in direct loans to fossil fuel companies and has helped raise equity finance worth an additional £9.3bn. Of this £13bn, just over £1bn has financed companies involved in tar sands mining.

Campaigners argue that the government should be turning RBS into a Royal Bank of Sustainability or a Green Investment Bank in order to finance low carbon transition in the UK and kick start a green jobs revolution in the UK. RBS was bailed-out with a total £45.5bn of taxpayers’ money and the bank is now 83% owned by the Government. Despite its majority shareholding, the Government has refused to intervene to switch RBS’s lending practices away from destructive projects like tar sands and into low carbon, green energy. Mary Church of Friends of the Earth Scotland said: “People don’t want a profitable RBS at the expense of human rights and the environment. Instead of simply lining the pockets of bankers, a Royal Bank of Sustainability could serve the interests of both taxpayers and the environment, by financing a just transition to a green economy.”

Liz Murray of the World Development Movement said: “There is growing anger among the public that the government is allowing RBS to continue investing taxpayers’ money in companies pushing environmentally and socially devastating projects such as tar sands mining in Canada and Madagascar. These are unhealthy investments from an unhealthy bank. The Chancellor must step in and protect the taxpayers’ shareholding by ensuring that RBS finances green growth not climate change.”

Canadian tar sands extraction has been described as the most destructive industrial project on earth, producing carbon emissions three times larger than conventional oil and creating devastating impacts on indigenous communities and the local environment.

In Northern Alberta, an area the size of Wales, has been stripped bare and rivers polluted by the tar sands extraction. Similar excavations are also being investigated in a UNESCO World Heritage Site containing undisturbed forests and mangrove swamps in Madagascar.


For media enquiries, please contact:

Per Fischer, Press Office, Friends of the Earth Scotland
t: 0131 243 2719

Notes to Editors

WDM Scotland is the Scottish wing of the World Development Movement – a UK-based anti-poverty campaigning organisation with a world-wide reputation for tackling hard-hitting, controversial issues.

Friends of the Earth Scotland exists to help people in Scotland look after the planet for everyone’s future. We think globally and act locally in Scotland, delivering solutions to climate change by enabling and empowering people to take both individual and collective action. We offer help to people with the big things in life – helping to sustain a healthy society and environment. We believe that all of our children’s futures will be better because of what we do.