Royal Bank defends funding for BC Coastal GasLink pipeline despite environmental concerns

The chief executive of the Royal Bank of Canada on Thursday defended the bank’s funding of the Coastal GasLink pipeline and called for incentives to help the shift to a net-zero economy, as investors and Indigenous groups denounced his support for the fossil fuels.

Chief Executive Dave McKay was speaking at the bank’s annual shareholders’ meeting, which was changed to a virtual-only format late Wednesday after a positive case of COVID-19 was confirmed among its staff.

Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs had traveled from British Columbia to Toronto to voice their opposition to RBC’s funding of the pipeline on traditional Indigenous lands. The pipeline is 65% owned by private equity firm KKR & Co. Inc. and Alberta Investment Management Corp.

Calling for the meeting, they accused the bank of funding a project they said damaged rivers and wetland forests and limited their ability to hunt wildlife.

McKay said the project has been widely reviewed and approved by regulators and has the support of 20 elected First Nations along the route. He added that 16 of them took the option of having an economic interest there.

Despite the support of elected leaders, the pipeline still faces fierce opposition from several groups, including Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs who claim that band councils – as political entities created by the government federal – do not have jurisdiction over land beyond reserve boundaries.

That job, they say, belongs to hereditary chiefs under the Wet’suwet’en system of governance that predates the formation of Canada and has not been extinguished.

Continued financing of fossil fuel companies

Canada’s big banks, including RBC, the largest, have released plans to cut their funded emissions, but continued funding for fossil fuel companies and pipelines has riled some investors and communities.

Last week, Canada released a $9.1 billion plan to meet its 2030 emissions reduction targets.

Spending on green technology is expected to be the focus of the 2020 budget, which will be released later Thursday.

The Canadian government’s plan to reduce carbon emissions will drive “massive change this decade” that will require “public and private capital to support both growth and the green transition,” McKay said.

“That is why investment and fiscal policies, as well as incentives need to be considered.”

McKay also reiterated his concern over a proposed tax on bank profits.

Two shareholder proposals urging RBC to exclude fossil fuel operations and projects opposed by Indigenous groups from eligibility for sustainable financing, and to refrain from financing and advising on the privatization of intensive assets of pollution were rejected, in accordance with the council’s recommendation.

Pipeline a challenge for emissions targets

When completed, the Coastal GasLink pipeline will transport natural gas from Dawson Creek in northeastern British Columbia to LNG Canada’s processing plant on the coast in Kitimat.

This project has been described by the Canadian Center for Policy Alternatives as a “carbon bomb” incompatible with the province’s carbon reduction goals.

Speaking to CBC this week, B.C. Environment Minister George Heyman said emissions associated with LNG Canada’s Phase 1 plant are factored into models set by the Clean BC plan. The province said details of the industry emissions reduction program will be released in 2023.

But Sierra Club BC, which is suing the province for failing to provide a detailed plan to meet emissions targets, says the total emissions allowed by LNG Canada’s only terminal in Kitimat would make it nearly impossible to meet emissions targets. Province.

Hollywood review

Actor and activist Mark Ruffalo has spoken out against the Coastal GasLink pipeline in British Columbia. (Craig Ruttle/Associated Press)

RBC’s support for the pipeline has also drawn criticism from high-profile Hollywood stars, including The Avengers stars Mark Ruffalo, Robert Downey, Jr. and Scarlett Johannson.

In an interview with CBC, Ruffalo said he did business with RBC subsidiary City National Bank and therefore felt responsible for pushing the bank to stop funding the pipeline.

“Even though they talk about being climate change champions and being champions for indigenous rights and peoples, everything I’ve seen is absolutely contrary to both of those statements,” Ruffalo said.

But Crystal Smith, elected chief councilor of the Haisla Nation in northwestern British Columbia and one of Coastal GasLink’s supporters, said the actor failed to understand the benefits of the pipeline project in providing jobs and money and supporting cultural revitalization and education initiatives for Indigenous peoples. In the region.

“It’s done more for economic reconciliation than any other project,” she told CBC.

Regarding the divide between hereditary and elected Wet’suwet’en leaders over whether to support the project, Smith said disagreements are to be expected among any group of people and it is up to the members of the nation to decide how to move forward.