Legal challenge to Treasury over RBS investments

Treasury Building, Westminster
Green groups have lodged a legal challenge against the Treasury as taxpayer-owned RBS continues to invest in coal and oil

A legal action against the Treasury aims to prevent RBS investing taxpayers' money in coal and oil

A green coalition has brought a legal challenge against the Treasury for refusing to rein-in the Government-owned RBS bank, which continues to invest in polluting industries

A high court action has been brought against the Treasury for allowing the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) to continue to bankroll some of the world's most polluting industries.

Platform, People & Planet and the World Development Movement claim in papers submitted to the court on Monday that the Government is allowing public money to be invested in energy companies environmental degradation and human rights violations.

The Government owns 70 per cent of RBS, having used taxpayers’ money to bail out the ailing bank in October 2008. Since then, RBS is known to have loaned an estimate £10 billion to coal, oil and gas companies, including £6 billion to Kingsnorth operators E.ON.

The green coalition behind the legal challenge claims this breaches the Treasury’s policy to limit emissions and tackle climate change.

Having previously promoted itself as ‘the oil and gas bank’, RBS’s loans to the coal industry totalled £100 billion in the two years leading up to the bailout.

The court action is intended to force RBS to adopt low-carbon principles, as well as, through a formal assessment of its lending portfolio, to invest only in ethical and sustainable enterprises.

‘On Monday we filed the papers and full witness statements applying for a judicial review against the Treasury over the lack of environmental and human rights considerations laid out in RBS’s investment framework,’ Platform’s Kevin Smith told the Ecologist yesterday at the Sustainable Development Commission (SDC) Breakthroughs for the 21st Century conference in Westminster.

‘We’re hoping to get permission to go ahead with the legal challenge sometime in August, and from there throughout autumn – it’s going to be a long process.

Smith was at the conference showcasing Platform’s ‘Royal Bank of Sustainability’ initiative, one of 19 ‘breakthrough’ ideas presented at the conference. With its capital, assets and infrastructure already in place, the scheme envisaged the new-look RBS funding green and renewable initiatives, upgrading housing stock and weaning companies off fossil-fuel dependency.

‘The people in RBS at the moment have a lot of skills and experience in terms of providing finance and how the financial architecture works,’ Smith said. ‘I’d imagine lots of them would be very keen to do something more environmentally progressive and sustainable with their jobs, given the opportunity. Banking staff are concerned about climate change too, and I'm sure most aren’t happy with how RBS is managed either.’

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