Environmental groups are suing the Treasury in an effort to ensure that RBS invests only in sustainable and ethical projects – This article was originally published at http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2009/jun/30/rbs-nationalised-banks-green.
Since the banking crisis last year, RBS has remained firmly in the public eye as the most controversial bank in the UK. Beyond the populist pillorying of Fred Goodwin’s undeserved pension bonanza and the most recent wave of outrage over the size of the new boss’s pay packet, lay more fundamental questions over the relationship between public money, climate change and the role of finance in fuelling the expansion of coal, oil and gas around the world. Because the Treasury didn’t provide any satisfactory answers when we asked them these questions, Platform, the World Development Movement and People Planet are today filing an application for a judicial review over the lack of environmental and human rights considerations in the recapitalisation of RBS.
For some years, RBS has been targeted by NGOs and climate activists as being the UK high-street bank most associated with pumping billions into fossil fuel projects across the globe. Until it recently wised up to the need for a greener public image, it even went as far as promoting itself on the www.oilandgasbank.com website that it set up. Before the recapitalisation, it had financed companies that were not only disastrous in terms of spewing out countless tonnes of carbon into the atmosphere, but that were also accused of human rights abuses – companies such as Lundin Petroleum, which is active in Sudan and listed by the Sudan Divestment Task Force in its “Top Five Highest Offenders”.
Before the recapitalisation, such instances of questionable finance were a scandal because they helped trash the climate and often human rights too. Since November last year, they are even more outrageous because RBS is now using public money to do it. In March