Mass die-in action delivers strong message to RBS and Treasury: “Stop funding bloody oil!”

This is coverage from yesterday’s action against Royal Bank of Scotland, Britain’s fifth largest Bank, it is 84% taxpayer-owned since being bailed out, and is the 11th largest global investor in the Tar Sands. Indigenous Environmental Network,  organized yesterdays events, both the UK Parliamentary visit and the RBS action in collaboration with the UK Tar Sands Network and our North American partner Rainforest Action Network , as part of a 10 day tar sands speakers tour across UK and Ireland targeting UK banks and pension funds that are currently or considering investment in Canada’s Tar Sands. (for more info on tour go to our blog.)

Three Indigenous Canadian women visited the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) London headquarters today to demand that they stop financing one of the world’s most polluting projects – Alberta Tar Sands. This highly destructive form of oil extraction is having a devastating effect on the health of Indigenous communities and fuelling global climate change. They were joined outside RBS by student activists who staged a ‘die-in’ on the ground, to demonstrate that ‘Tar Sands oil is blood oil’.

With puddles of oil seeping out below them, students highlighted RBS’ role in financing the “most destructive project on earth” and then stood in solidarity with indigenous communities chanting “stand up fight back” before the Canadian delegation went in to deliver a letter to RBS chief Stephen Hester. The event attracted lots of media attention with several Canadian and UK TV crews filming the protest.

Alex Fountain, a People & Planet activist and student at Manchester Metropolitan University, who helped organise the die-in said:

“RBS is Europe’s dirtiest bank. It specialises in financing projects that trample over communities and trash the climate. We are here today, in solidarity with the Indigenous communities who are being killed by Tar Sands pollution, to tell RBS: stop funding this bloody oil.”

Solidarity actions were also held across Scotland this morning. People & Planet group members from Edinburgh, Aberdeen and St. Andrews all protested outside branches of RBS and handed over a letter from the Indigenous Canadians to branch managers and bank representatives.

Earlier in the day the three women briefed MPs on the role of UK banks and oil companies in the Tar Sands in a Parliamentary meeting hosted by the Liberal Democrat Spokesman for Energy and Climate Change, Simon Hughes. They also delivered an open letter to the Chancellor, Alistair Darling, questioning why the Treasury is allowing a state-owned bank to finance companies that are doing such damage to their communities.

The extraction of oil from Tar Sands is responsible for three to five times the carbon emissions of conventional oil. According to new research by Rainforest Action Network, RBS – which is now 84% publicly-owned – has been responsible for $2.7 billion of finance to companies that own, or are building, Tar Sands infrastructure in Alberta, Canada, since the first banking bail-out took place. RBS is also revealed as the UK bank most heavily involved in financing Tar Sands since 2007, providing almost $14 billion of finance [1].

Eriel Tchekwie Deranger, one of the Indigenous women, explained to the gathered media:

“The Tar Sands is the world’s largest and most destructive industrial development. It is destroying an area of ancient forest larger than England. Millions of litres a day of toxic waste are seeping into our groundwater and we are seeing terrifyingly high levels of cancer in our communities. It is shocking that a bank effectively owned by the British Government is financing a project which is killing Indigenous people.”[2]

Heather Milton Lightening, who is one of the indigenous keynote speakers for this weekend’s forthcoming Shared Planet conference in Manchester, added:

“Just when the world is focusing its attention on attempts to cut carbon emissions at December’s Copenhagen summit, the Canadian government is championing the extraction of billions of barrels of this dirty oil – and the UK taxpayer, through RBS, is financing it! We have come to the UK to get support in our struggle to leave Tar Sands in the ground, for the sake of our communities and for the climate.”

Simon Hughes, Liberal Democrat spokesman for Energy and Climate Change, is critical of the Government’s approach:

“Tar Sands are one of the most destructive fossil fuels on earth. They cause much more carbon pollution than any other oil, and are also responsible for massive damage to nature, wildlife and local communities. Now that the Government has used our taxes to prop up the banks, it must stop using our money to support companies in their extraction of high-polluting fuels like Tar Sands.”

The visit to RBS was part of a 10-day nationwide speaker tour organised by the UK Tar Sands Network, of which People & Planet is a founding member, and north-America-based Indigenous Environmental Network. The tour culminates this weekend at Shared Planet, where all three women will speak to gathered students about the local and global impacts of the Canadian tarsands.


[1] Research from the Rainforest Action Network indicates that since Oct. 13, 2008 – when HM Treasury announced its recapitalization of the Royal Bank of Scotland Group – RBS has extended at least $2.7 billion in debt/equity issuance underwritings to companies that own and/or are actively building tar sands extraction infrastructure and/or tar sands oil pipelines in Alberta, Canada. Companies financed by RBS since this date include ConocoPhillips, Devon Energy, Enbridge, Kinder Morgan, StatoilHydro, and Total.

[2] Research from the Rainforest Action Network indicates that since the start of 2007, RBS has extended $13.9 billion in debt/equity issuance underwritings to companies that own and/or are actively building tar sands extraction infrastructure and/or tar sands oil pipelines in Alberta, Canada, while Barclays Bank was responsible for $13.7 billion and HSBC for $9.1 billion.

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