Carole Holmes is Co-Chair of GASP, Grandmothers Act to Save the Planet. As a grandmother she has deep concerns for the environmental health of the planet her grandchildren will inherit. In this post she tells her story about how her bank is financing the climate crisis. It’s a call for climate action aimed directly at RBC, Canada’s worst fossil bank.
Calling on Banks for Climate Action
In 1945, my mother Juliette, fresh out of nursing school, met a handsome RCAF airman named Romeo, who was waiting to be deployed to Europe. The war ended, but the romance blossomed. My parents Romeo and Juliette then married and settled in a small rural community in Southern Ontario.
Life was challenging given my father’s precarious seasonal work, but my mother’s resilience, hard work and commitment kept our family of nine children thriving. As the oldest, I learned many simple but important life lessons from her, including doing the best you can with all that you have.
We should all be frightened about what our children face. — Carole Holmes
She also believed that people are given many gifts, talents and skills, and those who have more privilege have a responsibility to give back to their community – a call to service for the common good.
Remembering her this Mothers’ Day 2021, and her ‘call to service’ resonates in the work I do now, fighting for a livable future for my own daughter and my beloved grandchild against a much larger enemy, climate change.
We should all be frightened about what our children face. There is less than a decade left to avoid climate catastrophe according to all the best scientific evidence and projections. It sounds so simple: We just need to limit global warming from rising 1.5º degrees Centigrade above the average temperature that existed here on Earth before the industrial revolution. But we are already experiencing horrendous climate disasters from driving up the global temperature slightly over 1ºC.
Canadian Banks – $700 billions into Fossil Fuels
How shocked and surprised I was to learn about the huge role Canadian banks play in accelerating climate change. RBC – my bank – has been the worst of all, ranking #5 on the Dirty Dozen list of global private banks helping fossil fuel companies overheat our planet. In other words, they are accomplices in putting all future generations in peril.
RBC is not alone. Together with TD, Scotia, BMO and CIBC, the Big Five Canadian banks have loaned $700 billion dollars to the fossil fuel industry since the Paris Climate Agreement was signed in 2015.
All of the CEOs of the Big Five Canadian banks are key to turning this around. But they need to move quickly and act boldly, because the fate of all children and grandchildren – including their own – is at stake.
Four of the five Canadian banks have recently pledged to achieve ‘net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050’. This is a welcome move. Mark Carney has said the transition to net-zero “is creating the greatest commercial opportunity of our age.” But this target is far too distant. We need all of these banks to put in place bold short- and mid-term targets for reducing their ‘financed emissions’, to give all those vague 2050 promises teeth.
A good first step for our Big Five banks would be to join the Net-Zero Banking Alliance before the UN’s Glasgow climate conference in November this year. This is the gold standard for net-zero commitments in the financial sector, and of the 43 international banks that are founding members, only one Canadian financial institution – VanCity Credit Union – is on board so far.
Another crucial step is for banks to stop financing fossil fuel expansions. Burning all the coal, oil and gas already in the world’s current reserves will drive global temperatures way beyond 1.5ºC, so it is insane to add more capacity. Yet since the Paris Climate Agreement was signed in 2015, the Big Five have invested close to $300 billion (CAD) in expansions, often in the dirtiest fuels such as coal and tar sands.
When Will my Bank Divest from Fossil Fuels?
My mother’s voice is back. She says we all have a chance for greatness in this critical climate moment, including the CEOs of our big Canadian banks. She would tell all of us – and each of them – to use our gifts and skills and authority and privilege to do everything possible to steer us away from the climate catastrophe, and from the fossil fuels that are causing it.
She would say it takes great courage to do the right thing.
While there is still time, will we?
Carole Holmes is Co-Chair of GASP, Grandmothers Act to Save the Planet, based in Oakville Ontario. GASP4change.org.
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