Stop Climate Chaos


Campaigners land blow on 'oil and gas' bank

The government has been roundly criticised from various quarters for the use of public cash to bail out and prop up RBS. Scandals over Sir Fred's pension and now the ten million pound salary and bonus package for the new RBS boss have been grabbing headlines and stoking public outrage. And rightly so. Now the World Development Movement, along with PLATFORM and People and Planet, have dealt a further blow to the government's hands off approach to how it manages the billions of pounds of taxpayers' money poured into the self-styled 'oil and gas' bank. We launched a legal action today to challenge the Treasury's disastrous decision to finance RBS but ignore the government's own environment and human rights criteria to check that taxpayers' money is not spent in a harmful way.

Before launching the judicial review of this decision, Platform wrote to the Treasury to ask why they decided to ignore the fact that public money was being spent to fund a bank that is known for financing high carbon projects, several of which have also been linked to serious human rights concerns. The answer came back that 'environmental and human rights records of individual banks were of no relevance'. The excuse was that taking these considerations into account wouldn't be in the public interest. Obviously because the only thing that the Treasury thinks is in the public interest is making money no matter what the consequences might be.

But our question is: what could be more in the public interest than a bank that transforms from being the worst for financing dirty and destructive projects to one that actively contributes to an ethical and low carbon future? Does the Treasury really think that supporting a bank that has spent £10 billion since last October in loans to coal, oil and gas companies is in our interest? I don't. Nor do I think it is in the interest of those people who are already losing their homes, jobs and lives as a result of climate change or those who are for example living in countries, like the Democratic Republic of Congo or Sudan where civil war persists partly as a result of oil exploitation.

Apart from the public interest question, the government is supposed to spend public money in a way that reinforces its policies and legislation. So how can this expenditure be justified given that the government and especially Gordon Brown goes to considerable lengths to proclaim, insist and reiterate that the UK is a world leader on tackling climate change, global poverty and human rights abuses? The Treasury's decision to pour money into RBS and the other bailed out banks renders these words meaningless.

This legal action has been taken as a last-ditch attempt to force the government to admit its short-sightedness and use our money to fund a greener, cleaner and ethically sound banking system that works in the interests of people in the UK and around the world.

Kate Blagojevic
Press officer, World Development Movement
0207 820 4900/4913, 07711 875 345, Email: kate.blagojevic@wdm.org.uk

Join us on: Twitter Facebook Flickr Actly YouTube FriendFeed