Socialist Worker

Climate campers target oil bankers

by Martin Empson, Campaign Against Climate Change trade union group (pc)
Issue No. 2215

The annual Climate Camp starts in Edinburgh this week. It will attract thousands of activists to protest at the destruction of our planet.

The camp, also known as the Camp for Climate Action, is targeting the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS)—the now‑nationalised financial giant that until recently was happy to describe itself as the “oil and gas bank”.

The environmental organisation Platform describes RBS as the “primary UK bank financing new extraction of fossil fuels”.

Oil companies bankrolled by RBS are responsible for the extraction of 2.4 million barrels of oil every day—producing 376 million tonnes of carbon dioxide a year.

In this way, RBS is responsible for more carbon emissions than the whole of Scotland.

The bank is an enormous organisation. Its total global assets are over £700 billion.

It is involved in extracting oil in Nigeria and Angola and gas from the Persian and Mexican Gulfs. And it has also financed new, more controversial projects such as the Canadian Tar Sands.

As more readily accessible oil sources are depleted, more and more cash is required to extract oil from harder to reach sources like the tar sands.

And in the wake of BP’s disaster in the Mexican Gulf, oil from the Canadian tar sands is being widely touted as a “safer” alternative to conventional oil sources.


RBS is positioning itself to profit from this. The amount of oil in the sand is vast—only Saudi Arabia’s oilfields are larger.

Already the tar sands are set to become the biggest single source for US oil, raking in billions of dollars in profit for the companies involved in the extraction process.

But these superprofits come at a huge human and environmental cost. Getting usable oil from tar sands is extremely difficult.

It uses five times as much energy than refining crude oil.

So not only does the burning of the extracted oil release greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, as usual, but now the extraction of the oil itself also produces vast amounts of emissions.

There are other costs too. For every barrel of oil, between two and four barrels of water are needed to get it out of the sand—and this water ends up poisoned, sitting in huge storage lakes.

Some of this water inevitably leaks back into natural water systems, killing fish and plants.

It also creates sickness among the indigenous people living nearby. These people have already had their land stolen—now their environment is being destroyed as well.

RBS has reportedly poured £4.9 billion into the extraction of oil from the tar sands.

By funding projects like this, RBS is culpable in the ongoing destruction of the planet and some of its most vulnerable communities.

It cannot dissociate itself from what its “investment” means for both people and the climate.

Welsh camp cops it

Up to 200 riot police evicted the Climate Camp Cymru from a site in Glyn‑Neath, South Wales, last Saturday.

The campers were there to protest against open‑cast coal mining sites nearby.

But police first blocked activists from getting to the site, and then deployed around 15 vans full of riot cops against the camp.

For details of the camp go to

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Article information

Tue 17 Aug 2010, 18:05 BST
Issue No. 2215
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