Approximately 60 individuals, including members of Seniors for Climate Action Now! (SCAN) and Queen’s Backing Action on the Climate Crisis (QBACC), stood outside the RBC branch at lunch time holding signs decrying the bank’s status as one of the biggest funders of fossil fuel projects in Canada, and, according to SCAN, the “fourth largest in the world as of 2021.”
In a letter that SCAN members are handing over to RBC staff as they move their assets out of the bank, members point out that RBC has invested “over $262 billion in fossil fuel expansion since the Paris Accord in 2015 when world leaders agreed that continued investment in fossil fuels is ruinous for the planet.”
Jamie Swift, a member of SCAN, said the protest on Saturday was taking place in conjunction with others, and in solidarity with Wet’suwet’en land defenders in British Columbia.
Demonstrators took to the streets in 40 locations across Canada on Saturday to mark “Fossil Fools Day,” in a mass effort leading up to RBC’s annual general meeting on April 5.
According to the letter from SCAN to RBC, the bank is the “primary funder of Coastal GasLink (CGL) built through Wet’suwet’en territory without their consent.”
The pipeline project is currently under construction and will cover 670 kilometres through traditional Wet’suwet’en territory in B.C.
A similar demonstration happened in Kingston on March 21, and Swift said local older adults are beginning to make changes happen.
“The larger context of our work around RBC is that of divestment,” Swift said. “We’re trying to show that it is possible for people to pull their money out of the biggest carbon project underwriting bank in Canada. By the end of this month, we hope we will have been able to divest nearly $2 million from RBC just from our Kingston supporters.”
Gavin Hutchison, a founding member of the local environmental group 350 Kingston, said the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, released on March 20, was “very clear” in its prognosis for the future.
“If I want my children and particularly my grandchildren to have a livable planet, we all must reduce our greenhouse gas emissions by 50 per cent by 2030, and by 100 per cent by 2040,” Hutchison told the crowd. “Simple targets to remember, not so simple to do.”
The technology to achieve those goals is available today, he said, urging people to replace their fossil fuel furnaces with cold climate air source heat pumps and to replace old cars with electric vehicles, actions that would take people “80 per cent of the way there” in the reduction of their own carbon footprint.
“It’s that technology that RBC should be financing, not pipelines,” he said.
“We are committed to achieving net-zero in our lending by 2050 and have established interim emissions reduction targets that will help us drive action and measure progress,” Lanthier told The Canadian Press. “These targets are informed by science and reflect a measured and deliberate approach to climate action.”
Sienna Margorian, co-president of QBACC, appreciated the swath of age groups represented at the protest in Kingston, from young children to older adults.
“It’s just really incredible to see us all working together,” she told the crowd. “If we’re going to make a change, if we’re going to solve the climate crisis, we’re going to have to work together. It’s not going to be one group; it has to be a communal effort.”
Swift, who attended the demonstration operating a giant devil puppet with a sign that read, “Hot up there? Come on down,” said he is involved in climate activism because he wants a future for his granddaughter.
“Approaching the end of the 21st century, she will be my age,” he said. “We don’t want the end of the century to look like a frightening, scary dystopian science fiction movie. All signs point to that.”
Swift hopes that SCAN will help mobilize individuals in a social movement against an institution that is “doing its best to underwrite industrial projects that are imperilling the future of our grandchildren.”
“For me, it’s a way of getting together and showing ourselves, each other and showing our community that it is possible to get together in a demonstration of public concern about the future of our species and every other living creature in the world,” he said.
— with files from The Canadian Press