Canadian banks are financing mountains of GHGs

Canadian banks are financing mountains of GHGs


Even though a report has just revealed that the Bank of Montreal (BMO) finances the equivalent of 3.5 times Quebec's GHG emissions, its leaders claim to lead the way in the fight against change climatic.

“We try to pave the way for others. […] In 2019, we set ourselves targets and we are making rapid progress,” preached Grégoire Baillargeon, new president of BMO Financial Group Quebec, on the sidelines of a conference last week.

According to a report just published by Oxfam-Québec and the Institute for Research in Contemporary Economics (IRÉC), Canadian deposit institutions financed the equivalent of 1.9 billion tonnes of CO2 in 2020, or 2.5 times the carbon weight of Canada. The four Quebec banking institutions – BMO, National Bank, Desjardins, Laurentian Bank – finance Quebec's GHG emissions six times. 

Need for transparency

“Spontaneously, when we think of polluting emissions, we think of trucks or industries, explains Catherine Carron, spokesperson for Oxfam-Québec. But do we think about the responsibility of those who finance these projects? If we want to attack the root of the problem, we must attack the root of each polluting project”.

However, at present, there is no consensus either on the disclosure information nor on their calculation. According to Ms. Carron, it is nevertheless essential for consumers to be able to make an informed choice.

“If I go buy a bag of crisps, I have the list of ingredients, I have the nutritional information to know the impact on my health. But if I want to shop for a financial product, I have no idea of ​​the impact on the planet and the humans who inhabit it. I don't have the nutritional information,” she says.

According to the organization, the implementation of Bill S-243 currently under study at the federal level must be accelerated. which would require banks to disclose information in a harmonized way. There is an urgent need to accelerate the transition of banks, thinks his spokesperson. The measure has already been in place since 2020 in the European Union.

Commitments lagging behind

While all Canadian banks sponsor many GHG emitting projects, it is true that their reduction targets differ. 

Despite a significant carbon footprint, BMO stands out as the only Canadian bank to have set an absolute reduction target for its financed GHG emissions by 2030. But only by 30%. The United Nations demands a halving.

Of the other Canadian private banks – RBC, CIBC, TD, Scotia, National Bank, Laurentian Bank – none to date has published a reduction target absolute. They therefore fall even further behind the objectives set by the UN, which are essential for limiting global warming to a sustainable level. 

Desjardins has not yet published any 2030 targets, but says to aim for carbon neutrality in high-emitting sectors by 2040, ten years earlier than the market norm.