Fiona Harvey Another oil sands AGM protest, this time at a bank

Stand by for the next stage of the environmental protests against the exploitation of the oil sands. On Wednesday April 28, green activists will target the annual general meeting of the Royal Bank of Scotland, protesting against its high levels of lending to fossil fuel companies, particularly the oil and gas industry.

The bank, which had to be bailed out by the UK taxpayer during the financial crisis, has links to companies investing in tar sands, and to some mining companies.

BP was criticised at its AGM for the risks it is taking in exploiting the oil sands. Shareholders brought resolutions – which were defeated – that would have forced the bank to take more account of the possible risks. Similar resolutions are planned for the AGMs of Shell, ExxonMobil and ConocoPhilips.

Protesting at AGMs is nothing new, and fossil fuel company meetings have frequently been besieged over the past few years. But there are signs that this new wave of protests is better coordinated, encompassing shareholder motions, public and carefully planned actions by green groups aimed at raising the profile of the issue, and a spate of unofficial local demonstrations at facilities such as petrol stations.

Friday’s protestors, from the World Development Movement, said RBS’s involvement with investments in oil sands would outweigh the effect of the £1bn “green investment bank” unveiled in this year’s Budget.

But RBS can argue that being owned by the taxpayer does not mean it has to “green” its investment strategies. The courts have already ruled in their favour.

At the remaining oil company AGMs, the resolutions are unlikely to have much direct effect – it is very probable that they will all be voted down. But of course the point for the green campaigners involved is not just the resolutions, but the publicity generated.

Related links:

Oil sands: Citi gives a tick for financing, a cross for emissions - FT Energy Source
How the majors see ‘business as usual’ on oil and climate - FT Energy Source
ConocoPhillips, Total move forward on Canadian oil sands - FT Energy Source