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2022 was a year of connecting the dots, and demystifying the connections between climate chaos, financial flows and corporate greed. Collectively, we experienced increasing economic insecurity, volatility from Russia’s fossil fuel-funded war in Ukraine, and record-shattering climate disasters like fires, floods, and deadly heat.
That’s why we’re reimagining an economy that supports everyday people more and fossil fuel companies less.
In 2022, as the largest financier of fossil fuels in Canada, we held Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) accountable for Indigenous rights-violating projects, and fossil fuel companies it funds, (think Coastal GasLink through unceded Wet’suwet’en territory) and greenwashing myths bank executives peddle in attempts to burnish their lagging reputations.
As the deferred salaries for millions of people, we are also demanding public pension funds prioritize our economy’s much-needed long-term transformation by divesting from the energy systems and companies of the past — fossil fuels — and reinvesting in the climate solutions we so desperately needed yesterday.
Despite collective grief and seemingly daily doses of bad news these past 12 months, it’s also been a year of incredible progress. Here are some of the highlights.
A global movement takes hold
The Global Fossil Fuel Divestment Movement surpassed $40 trillion: The movement to get institutions like universities, pensions, faith and philanthropic organizations to end investments in fossil fuels hit a new high-water mark, growing 20-fold since the Paris Agreement was signed.
We commemorated over 1,555 institutions representing more than $40 trillion in assets committing to divest from fossil fuels. For perspective, $40 trillion is equivalent to covering 2021 climate damages — 230 times over — or financing 7000 billionaire space joyrides.
In 2023, watch as we build a climate-resilient economy that puts people over profit, writes @R_BrooksStand #Divestment #ClimateFinance #ESG #DefundClimateChaos #greenwashing
In October, a comprehensive report from the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis affirmed the financial case for divestment is stronger than ever, even in the face of Russia’s fossil fuel war in Ukraine.
Taking on the banks
Holding Canada’s largest bank RBC accountable for greenwashing and violating Indigenous rights: Merriam-Webster added greenwashing to the dictionary this year. And the Competition Bureau added an additional warning. RBC, the country’s No. 1 fossil fuel financing bank, is one example of this entry with its “distract and deceive” playbook.
Throughout 2022, we followed the leadership of and built power with front-line and Indigenous land defenders to fight sovereignty-violating fossil fuel projects, including with Wet’suwet’en hereditary leadership fighting the Coastal GasLink pipeline.
In April, we took over RBC’s shareholder meeting with Wet’suwet’en hereditary leadership after the in-person portion was cancelled at the last minute, and even brought a 15-foot inflatable of CEO Dave McKay to the annual RBC Canadian Open golf tournament in June.
After an official complaint was filed with Canada’s Competition Bureau by the lawyers at Ecojustice on behalf of a group of Canadians, the federal law enforcement agency opened an official investigation into RBC for alleged misleading climate advertising.
Despite RBC claiming the purchase of the Canadian unit of HSBC is good for the climate, RBC poured more than $9.2 billion into fossil fuels — just in the first three-quarters of 2022 — despite public commitments to reach net-zero financed emissions. RBC spent 2022 dragging us backwards on Canada’s climate ambitions.
Pension divestment campaign hit new highs to protect portfolios and planet: There’s a rise in politically motivated anti-ESG rhetoric, costing pensioners, workers and communities millions. From public employees to teachers and health-care workers, the Climate Safe Pensions Network is protecting portfolios and the planet alike, demanding pension funds divest from fossil fuels.
Health-care workers launched the First, Do No Harm campaign, and in September, sent over 75,000 letters to the National Academy of Medicine demanding divestment support.
From Ontario to British Columbia to New York and California, teachers are rising up to demand public pension funds divest from fossil fuels and stop destroying their students’ futures and risking their retirement benefits.
In the U.S., the American Federation of Teachers passed a national resolution for divestment, and the Chicago Teachers Fund committed to divest its $11.5-billion pension fund from fossil fuels. In 2023, this will heat up as proposed legislation gains momentum in at least half a dozen states, including California with the two biggest pension funds in the U.S.
Climate finance is not only about stopping the extractive fossil fuel economy. This is about what we fight for.
This is about economic justice and collective liberation, in a world free from climate chaos and chronic economic instability. This is about investing in climate-safe solutions like renewable energy, the return of Indigenous land, public housing, health care for all, free public transit, and climate reparations for impacted communities.
In 2023, watch as we build a climate-resilient economy that puts people over profit.