The 2021 Banking on Climate Chaos report by the Rainforest Action Network shows that since the 2016 Paris climate agreement, the Big 5 Canadian banks have financed over $700 billion in fossil fuel projects. Moreover, “since 2016 tar sands lending and underwriting has been dominated by the big five Canadian banks — in particular TD and RBC”. These projects fuel climate destruction, and violate Indigenous land, treaty and human rights. These projects would not be financially viable without funding from the banks. For example, “without the direct financing and services provided by its bankers, Enbridge would have little choice but to abandon its plans to expand the Line 3 pipeline,” according to Sightline Institute.
By signing the pledge, you are committing to closing any accounts or moving your money from any accounts you have with the Big 5 banks as soon as you are able, and not opening any new accounts until they make significant changes to their lending policies. When closing your account, communicate with your local branch manager to explain why.
Anyone aged 13 or older who lives in, or has significant ties to what is colonially known as Canada can sign the pledge. This pledge is focused on Gen Z and millennials, as the generations that will face climate breakdown for decades to come. However, recognizing that this is a collective and inter-generational struggle, we welcome people of all any age to make the pledge.
Yes! When you sign the pledge, you can select “I do not yet manage my own bank account.” You will pledge to either close your existing bank account once you manage your own bank account, or open your first bank account with an alternative institution whenever you are able.
The answer to this will depend on the account that you’re closing and how you do it, and will vary some between the banks. Before closing, make sure to review your specific banks fees and policies around closing and account. We have listed some information on our Guide to Switching.
If you want to move your money, but aren’t in a position financially (or due to other circumstances) to do so at this time for whatever reason, that’s totally okay! You can still sign the pledge and make the switch whenever you are able. We don’t only want to see people switching their accounts, we also want to show the banks that there is genuine willingness among their customers in switching to more ethical options whenever they may be able.
You can also consider starting a new account somewhere new and using that primarily until the time when you can officially close your bank account with the Big 5.
Regardless, you can still help raise awareness about the Big 5 banks, their destructive funding practices, and the alternative options whether you close your account with them or not.
See our “Banking Alternatives” page for specific info on credit unions, their benifits, and options available to you.
Banks might not care about us individually moving our money from our accounts, but if thousands of us come together to deliver this united message, the banks will take notice. Research shows that people are likely to stick with their account for life, and that’s why banks put so many resources into signing up young customers. Moving our money from our modest chequings accounts now may seem negligible, but to the banks that’s a significant loss of future business. I.e. Decades worth of lost overdraft fees and credit lines, potentially even mortgages.
Our theory of change is based on creating reputational risk for the banks. The banks don’t want to be seen as “dirty”. We know our generation has an impact on finances. Last year, Mad Money host Jim Cramer announced that he no longer recommends owning fossil fuel stocks because they are doing so badly that young people see them as unsustainable and are refusing to hold them. While the banks can afford to lose a few individual customers, they can’t afford to lose a whole generation.
This campaign isn’t about keeping your funds specifically out of fossil fuels (though it doesn’t hurt!). The goal of this campaign is to leverage our collective power to force the big banks into action. By raising awareness of the banks’ destructive lending practices, we are exposing their actions and holding them accountable. We can only force the banks to change if we act together, and moving our money together is a strong way to send a message while also threatening their bottom line.
Each person’s individual contribution contributes to collective power and they do work. By pledging to move our money at the same time, our people power can sway momentum for change in our favour. Moreover, this campaign, as previously stated is about establishing reputational risk.
Divestment campaigns have gathered a lot of momentum in recent years, for example, university divestment campaigns. Divesting from a company lowers its stock price, but it doesn’t impact the company’s day-to-day balance sheet. Fossil fuel companies can still build new projects even while their stock price is falling if they have access to loans. So we have to stop the loans; loans coming from the banks. Essentially, targeting the banks fills another important piece in the divestment puzzle to shift power away from fossil fuel companies.
None of the financial institutions we list played a role in establishing this campaign and we receive no funding from any of them. None of our team members hold seats on credit union boards or hold share ownership beyond a basic membership.