RBS-NatWest – forcing open the carbon frontier

Press Release 12 Mar 2007 admin

The Royal Bank of Scotland is intimately involved in controversial oil projects from Africa to the Arctic, according to new research published today, Monday 12 March 2007.[1] As the government prepares to publish its draft Climate Change Bill, the report “The Oil & Gas Bank” reveals the extent to which RBS-NatWest is providing the financial fuel driving climate change.

Publicly promoting itself as “The Oil & Gas Bank”, RBS provides oil corporations with the cash to build and operate drilling rigs, pipelines and oil tankers in some of the world’s most sensitive and unstable places.[2] Bank loans play a key role in forcing open the new carbon frontier. RBS has financed oil projects in Nigeria, Angola and Ecuador that cause environmental destruction, disruption of indigenous peoples and increase conflict. The bank was one of only six banks that persisted in bidding to finance Shell’s Arctic disaster, Sakhalin II.

Johan Frijns of BankTrack stated “Identifying itself so brazenly with fossil fuels carries major reputational risks for RBS. The self-assigned title “The Oil & Gas Bank” could soon become a liability rather than a badge of success.”

Mika Minio-Paluello of PLATFORM and the report’s lead author said “Financing dodgy projects is not acceptable from a mainstream high street bank. The fact that RBS doesn’t run the projects it finances doesn’t mean it can ignore their impacts.”

By financing vast oil and gas projects, RBS loans lead to carbon emissions “embedded” in the activities of the fossil fuel sectors that tower above the bank’s direct, publicly disclosed carbon emissions that stem from its building use or business travel.
•    The emissions embedded within RBS project finance to oil and gas projects reached 36.9 million tonnes in 2005, equivalent to those of a quarter of all UK homes (6.2 million)
•    Yet RBS reported 2005 emissions as only 318,000 tonnes in its Corporate Responsibility Report – less than one hundredth of the 36.9 million tonnes RBS was responsible for through its financing of new oil and gas projects.
•    Provisional figures for 2006 already show that RBS annual emissions are greater than Scotland’s. [3]

Bronwen Thomas of national student network People & Planet said “Climate change is a massive issue amongst students, as big as apartheid was in the 1980s. Students are concerned that by opening NatWest accounts they will help push the atmosphere past its tipping point. Soon the Oil & Gas Bank might find their young customers switching to more climate-friendly alternatives.”


Notes for Editors:

[1] “The Oil & Gas Bank – RBS & the Financing of Climate Change” was produced by PLATFORM, BankTrack, Friends of the Earth Scotland, nef (the new economics foundation) and People & Planet. The report is available online at

[2] The Royal Bank of Scotland owns NatWest and is the second largest bank in Europe. In December 2006, RBS launched as a new website.

[3] Provisional figures on information available show that RBS’ emissions for 2006 will be at least 43.7 million tonnes of CO2 emissions. Scotland’s emissions are expected to fall below 43 million tonnes.

[4] PLATFORM is a social and environmental research organization that provides a centre of expertise on the oil & gas industry.

[5] BankTrack is an international network of civil society organisations and individuals tracking the operations of the private financial sector (commercial banks, investors, insurance companies, pension funds) and its effect on people and the planet.

[6] Friends of the Earth Scotland is an environmental justice charity working on policy, corporate campaigning and community action. It is part of the international Friends of the Earth network and has local groups across Scotland.

[7] nef (the new economics foundation) is an independent think-and-do tank that inspires and demonstrates real economic well-being. It aims to improve quality of life by promoting innovative solutions that challenge mainstream thinking on economic, environment and social issues.

[8] People & Planet is the national student network campaigning on world poverty, human rights and the environment. In November 2006 it launched a new climate change campaign challenging the financing of oil & gas extraction.

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