Scotiabank has chosen not to renew its long-running membership in the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, a move that comes at a time when financial institutions are facing growing scrutiny for their role in contributing to climate change.
The Toronto-based bank — which in an email confirmed its exit from CAPP but declined to provide a reason for the change — not only held an associate membership in the oil and gas lobby group, but for many years was also the title sponsor of the annual Scotiabank CAPP Energy Symposium.
The most recent symposium, held just last month, still had Scotiabank’s name attached to it, though CAPP spokesman Jay Averill said that won’t be the case going forward.
“CAPP’s agreement with Scotiabank on the Energy Symposium was completed this year and we are grateful for their support of Canada’s natural gas and oil industry,” Averill said in an email. “We have already started the work in finalizing a partner for next year’s Energy Symposium.”
Scotiabank — which was the only one of Canada’s Big Five banks to hold a membership with CAPP — is a member of many industry and business associations in Canada and globally. On its website, the bank says that while its affiliation with these groups “does not imply an endorsement of positions or public statements,” the bank frequently reviews its memberships “to ensure consistency with bank-held public policy positions.”
Its departure from CAPP comes as financial institutions are under increasing global pressure to account for their own role in contributing to climate change as funders of fossil fuel companies.
Scotiabank itself came under fire just last month at its annual general meeting, as shareholders and environmental groups criticized the institution for not moving fast enough on the climate front. While the company has made numerous climate change commitments, including setting initial targets for achieving net-zero emissions by 2050, one shareholder at the meeting pointed out that Scotiabank’s financing of fossil fuels increased by 87 per cent to $30 billion in 2021.
According to a report from The Rainforest Action Network — a San Francisco-based environmental group — Scotiabank is the ninth largest lender globally to the fossil fuels sector (Royal Bank of Canada, the only other Canadian bank to make the list, ranks fifth), and has provided more than $195 billion to oil and gas companies since the signing of the U.N. Paris Climate Accord in 2015.
“Banks and insurers are increasingly in the crosshairs of climate activists, because they’re providing the funding that keeps the fossil fuel machine running. And Canadian banks are some of the worst in the world when it comes to financing fossil fuels,” said Keith Stewart, senior energy strategist with Greenpeace Canada.
Stewart added he’s pleased that Scotiabank will no longer be supporting CAPP through membership dues, but said his organization is calling on the bank to commit to stop funding new oil and gas projects entirely.
Scotiabank is not the only high-profile exit from CAPP in recent years. In 2020, French oil and gas giant Total dropped out of the lobby group citing a “misalignment” between the organization’s public positions and those expressed in Total’s climate policies.
Global energy giant Royal Dutch Shell is still a member of CAPP, but has previously urged the organization to support both the Paris climate accord and the pricing of carbon to encourage greenhouse gas emission reductions.
U.K.-based BP plc has also warned CAPP that the lobby group’s policies are only “partially aligned” with the oil company’s own climate positions and its ambitions to become a net-zero producer by 2050.