The publicly-owned Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) has been involved in at least £40 billion worth of loans to fossil fuel companies around the world over the last six months, according to a new analysis seen by The Guardian.
RBS has played a leading role in funding coal, oil and gas industries in the US, Europe and Asia, despite their major contribution to the carbon pollution which scientists say is disrupting the global climate.
The bank, which is 82% owned by the UK government, is due to stage its annual general meeting at its Edinburgh headquarters on 30 May. It has come under fierce fire from environmental groups for bankrolling projects that are “environmentally and socially destructive”.
RBS, however, pointed out that it was not the only bank involved in the loans, and that society was “heavily reliant” on fossil fuels. The bank was the biggest lender to renewable projects in the UK, it said.
But the analysis for Friends of the Earth Scotland (FoES) concluded that only £3 billion of all the £67 billion power and energy loans that RBS helped fund between October 2011 and March 2012 were for renewable electricity projects.
By far the biggest chunk - £37 billion – went to oil and gas extraction, refining and distribution industries, with a further £2.5 billion to fossil fuel electricity generation. The remaining £24.5 billion were for electricity and gas utilities, networks, financiers and others, where it’s difficult to know the level of fossil fuel investment.
The loans included £414 million for coal-fired power stations in India, plus investments in the US coal giant, Duke Energy, and the London-based exploration company, Tullow Oil. RBS was also said to be involved in arranging a £7.5 billion loan package to the US oil firm, ConocoPhillips, which has been criticised for a spill in northern China and for its links to tar sands extraction in Alberta.