Call on the AMS to Divest from RBC!

Call on the AMS to end its partnerships with RBC (aka Canada’s largest fossil fuel financier)

We, the undersigned University of British Columbia students, call on the Alma Mater Society, in keeping with its stated commitment to fossil fuel divestment, to divest itself of its ongoing relationship with the largest fossil fuel financier in Canada, RBC. The AMS’s continued support for RBC, including hosting RBC on campus and paying RBC for financial services, runs in direct contradiction to the AMS’s commitments to climate justice and Indigenous rights and its mandate to support students' futures.

RBC is the top funder of fossil fuels in Canada and the 5th largest funder in the world, having lent $262 billion CAD since 2016. RBC is also the lead financier of the Coastal Gaslink Pipeline and a lead underwriter for the Trans Mountain Pipeline, projects that violate the principles of Free, Prior, and Informed Consent under the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The Coastal Gaslink Pipeline does not have the consent of the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs who have recognized jurisdiction over part of the territory it would cross. The Trans Mountain pipeline does not have consent from local First Nations including the Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh.

The fossil fuel industry relies on the support of banks like RBC to continue the extraction that is setting us on the path toward an unlivable and deeply unjust future. RBC’s funding of fossil fuels directly threatens students' futures, with those who already face systemic oppression being most at risk due to the inequitable distribution of climate impacts and environmental pollution.

Big banks like RBC know that their reputations among young people, on whom they rely on for profits, are in jeopardy. They know that fuel investments pose a reputational risk that threatens their bottom line. This is why RBC is doubling down on securing young people’s support by opening dozens of RBC On Campuses across the country and pouring $500 million into a 10-year program to win over young people’s hearts and minds.

The AMS is enabling RBC’s greenwashing propaganda by hosting RBC in the Nest, thereby providing them direct access to students and sending the false message that students support their climate-wrecking investments. The AMS also supports RBC financially by providing over a million dollars of student money to RBC every year in loan interest payments and paying RBC to manage its multi-million dollar banking and investment accounts.

The AMS, as a representative of thousands of young people, is in a strong position to influence RBC to withdraw its support for fossil fuels, just as students across the country have successfully pushed universities to divest. The AMS should be using its societal influence to intensify pressure towards environmental and social justice values—not helping banks patch up their reputations.  

The AMS already supports these priorities in principle: it has supported the fossil fuel UBC divestment campaign since 2014, and fully divested its own funds from fossil fuels in 2018. The AMS Climate and Environmental External Policy further commits the AMS to advocacy efforts for maintaining at least three-quarters of all known fossil fuel reserves in the ground and to opposing fossil fuel extraction or distribution projects in Canada that are proposed or approved without the free, prior, and informed consent of the Indigenous peoples whose lands would be affected, like the Trans Mountain and Coastal Gaslink Pipelines.

Further, the AMS has made multiple statements expressing solidarity with Indigenous land defenders and Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs, yet is supporting the lead financier of the very project these individuals are resisting. The Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs attended RBC’s April 2022 AGM to demand RBC defund the Coastal Gaslink Pipeline, and the frontlines have issued multiple calls for action targeting RBC’s leading role in the project.  

The massive support RBC lends to the fossil fuel industry is no secret. As our student union, the AMS has the mandate to reflect students’ desires for a more just future and a livable climate. On issues as stark as the preservation of a safe climate, inaction speaks as loudly as action. By refusing to act, the AMS is complicit in RBC’s fossil fuel destruction.

Therefore, we call on the AMS to (updated to reflect feasibility):

  1. Issue a statement condemning RBC’s lending to fossil fuel projects, including the Coastal Gaslink Pipeline and Trans Mountain Pipeline, and communicate these concerns to RBC.

  2. Produce a public report for review by Council investigating options for moving banking and investment accounts to a financial institution with a fossil-free lending policy.

The work of divestment is not over, and we need a student union bold enough to carry it on. Please join us in calling on the AMS to stand up to RBC.

Climate Justice UBC

Sulong UBC

Black Muslim Collective

UBC Bike Kitchen/AMS Bike Co-op

The Pride Collective

Centre for Climate Justice

The Student Environment Centre

IRES Student Society

UBC Environmental Law Group

Geography Student Association

Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights

Social Justice Centre

Independent Jewish Voices (Vancouver Youth Bloc)

Environmental Sciences Students' Association

Sponsored by