Canada's Banks are Lagging on Net-Zero Promises

Canada's Banks are Lagging on Net-Zero Promises

Both banks and governments are under pressure from taxpayers and climate activists to decarbonize the economy. As a result, many financial institutions have pledged to go net-zero by 2050, in major part by halting investments in fossil fuel projects. In late March, Canada released a roadmap for achieving 2030 climate targets. However, despite this plan and other pledges, many Canadian banks are among the top fossil fuel lenders in the world. Only one, Bank of Montreal, has promised to reduce the absolute emissions of its carbon-intensive investments. Meanwhile, the others set "integrity-based" targets to reduce emissions, which means total emissions will continue to grow. Compared to other countries, Canada’s banks have fallen far behind on climate goals and continue to feed into the oil-dependent economy.

DW: Banks increase funding for fossil fuels despite 'net zero' pledges, February 15, 2022.

River Voices: Our house is on fire, January 3, 2022.

Why This Matters

The energy sector in Canada makes up around 10% of the country’s GDP, which means cutting fossil fuels could significantly reduce domestic carbon emissions. Just last year, Canada was named "worst performer” of the G7 nations for its effort, or lack thereof, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and for doubling its financing for oil-sands extraction (one of the most carbon-intensive production processes). Cutting investments in the fossil fuel industry could put Canada on track to meet Paris Agreement targets and spark a rapid transition to clean energy sources.

BBC: UN scientists say it's 'now or never' to limit global warming, April 4, 2022.

Democracy Now: Bill McKibben | Latest IPCC Climate Report Underscores “Fossil Fuel Is at the Root of Our Problems,” April 7, 2021.

Greedy Greenwashing

Dozens of banks globally have pledged to be more eco-friendly, sustainable, and climate-conscious. But skeptics find these to merely be buzzwords meant to mislead consumers into believing these banks are greener than they really are. Last year, Canada’s top five banks increased their fossil fuel lending by 70%, and the world’s top 60 banks loaned $742 billion to fossil fuel projects, despite making climate commitments and net-zero pledges to decrease their investments. Although greenwashing laws exist to address and regulate the environmental claims of corporations, they are vague, non-specific, and incomplete. Banks continue to mislead consumers while simultaneously disregarding the consequences of their investments and the dangers they pose to average citizens.

Now This: Sheldon Whitehouse on Greenwashing and Fossil Fuel Industry, May 14, 2021.

Al Jazeera: Should fossil fuel advertising be regulated?, October 20, 2021.

NBC: Are Major Companies Living Up To Their Net-Zero Pledges To Combat Climate Change?, February 10, 2022.

Our Eden: Your Bank is Funding Climate Change, November 13, 2021.