Follow the money
Cool Tips for a Hot Planet
When I was seven, I came into some birthday money: $5! My parents helped me open a Canada Trust bank account with it. My goal: save to buy a pony.
I never did get the pony, but I did use my account to save for my education, a car, and eventually a house. During those years Canada Trust was taken over by TD bank, but my loyalty remained.
I never really thought about what the bank did with the money in my savings account. Thanks to the movie It’s a Wonderful Life, I learned from banker George Bailey “The money’s not there!” as he explained to customers their deposits are rolled into investments – not just hidden away in a vault.
As the world burns, where banks and pension funds direct our money is getting more scrutiny. And when you start paying attention, it doesn’t look pretty, at least for the climate conscious.
According to the recent fossil fuel finance report, Banking on Climate Chaos, Canada’s big five banks have been stoking the fires by financing oil, gas and coal expansion to the tune of $1.1 trillion since the Paris climate accord was signed in 2015. And top of the heap is RBC, which led the world in financing fossil fuels in 2022.
This money is by no means supporting the transition to clean energy. Earlier this year both Shell and BP walked back pledges to shrink oil production and shift to renewables. Chevron and Exxon plan on increasing production of oil and gas, products the UN secretary general calls “incompatible with human survival.” Recently, the new CEO of Suncor, Canada’s second largest energy company, recommitted to oil sands production, saying “We are in the business to make money, and as much of it as possible.”
Alarmed by such news, many climate-concerned investors have been pulling their money out of the oil and gas sector. Financial advisors might be reluctant to support that, especially when the fossil fuel industry is raking in mega profits, but times are changing. The head of the International Energy Agency says the writing is on the wall. Energy conservation and the transition to electric cars and new green technology means we will likely see peak oil by 2030. It’s all downhill from there.
Tim Nash, owner of Good Investing, suggests we can direct our money to do less harm by transferring at least some of it from a bank to a credit union. Credit unions tend to invest in the local economy, not in large corporations. Check out your bank’s record at bank.green.
Those with pensions can join Shift Action, which is pushing the big pension funds to adopt more sustainable investment policies.
We can also call out our Canada Pension Plan. Its investment board owns an oil company that recently announced plans to spend $6.2 billion to increase oil production by 60 per cent. Tell them you are not amused.
And contact your MP to urge support for the Climate Aligned Finance Act, currently under study in the Senate. It would ensure that banks and pension funds set and deliver on credible climate plans.
Since we can’t rely on oil and gas companies to voluntarily wind down production, our banks need to pony up and invest our money in a cleaner, safer future.