Elders for Climate Sanity (E4CS) is a group of H350 elders whose goal is to use our time and life experience to help end fossil fuel use in Hamilton and beyond.
Our primary objectives are to promote divestment of fossil fuels in banks and pension funds, to support the indigenous struggle against proposed pipelines through Wet’suwet’en land, and to call out greenwashing wherever we see it. See below for more detail.
We’re an active group, holding regular pickets outside banks—in particular RBC—in our area, writing to politicians and newspapers, organizing petitions, and making presentations at churches, libraries, retirement homes, etc.
Fossil fuel divestment is an attempt to address the climate crisis by exerting social, political, and economic pressure on institutions in order to stem the flow of funding to companies involved in extracting fossil fuels.
While all the major Canadian banks, pension funds, academic institutions and so on are culpable to various degrees, we’re focusing primarily on the Royal Bank of Canada (it’s the biggest culprit), the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board (it represents all of us), and McMaster University (it’s local).
E4CS believes that being allies with Indigenous peoples is a vital part of climate activism since many of them are on the front lines trying to protect their land, water, air, culture and traditional governance.
Given the terrible impacts of settler colonialism, the Indian Act, residential schools, and the “Sixties Scoop”, we have a responsibility to participate in the process of reconciliation. It is also important to recognize that their actions, struggles and traditional ecological knowledge benefit non-Indigenous people.
Our activism includes support for the Wet’suwet’en Land Defenders in their struggle to protect their land, water and air from the destructive development of the Coastal GasLink (CGL) pipeline in Northern BC. Our focus on demanding that RBC—the world’s largest funder of fossil fuels—divest from funding oil and gas aligns with the Wet’suwet’en’s Land Defenders demand that RBC stop funding CGL and respect Indigenous rights.
From Molly Wickham (Gidimt’en, Wet’suwet’en Nation, hereditary name, Sleydo), on behalf of the Wet’suwet’en chiefs about the impacts of CGL:
“Our sacred headwaters, the Wedzin Kwa river, is the lifeline for our people. By financing Coastal GasLink, […] RBC is putting us profoundly at risk. The gas pipeline violates our hereditary title and has led to years of RCMP violence and harassment of peaceful Indigenous Land Defenders, and the forced removal of Wet’suwet’en peoples from our territory. We’ve been crystal clear: RBC must divest from this toxic project, which threatens Wet’suwet’en land, air and water, and steamrolls Indigenous rights.”
CTV News, Vancouver, 17 March 2022
Greenwashing is disinformation put out by a public entity to present an environmentally responsible public image. Governments and corporations engage in it, and right now, climate villains such as RBC and the other four big Canadian banks are ramping up their greenwashing.
RBC is the richest bank in Canada with a huge carbon footprint globally. It has vast resources to spend convincing Canadians that it’s doing its part for what it calls “climate change” or “the climate challenge” when we know it’s a climate emergency that demands an end to business as usual.
The banks focus on net zero by 2050, but that is only the beginning of what we must do to stabilize the climate. From an article in The Conversation: The real act of climate cleanup begins at net-negative emissions for all greenhouse gases. Only then will their atmospheric concentrations finally begin shrinking.
So why are we seeing this increase in greenwashing by banks?
They’re feeling the pressure to act but they lack the vision and the will to risk short-term profits that real change would require. Even though—in the case of RBC at least—they’ve issued interim target dates (2025 and 2030) on the road to carbon net zero, they continue to hedge with statements such as “these targets are aspirational”, while continuing to fund fossil fuel expansion.
As E4CS continues to picket the banks (while also taking issue with Enbridge, TC Energy, Shell, etc.), we hear comments from passers-by based on the fear and doubt sown by all the greenwashing. No, we don’t expect people to stop driving their ICE vehicles tomorrow, nor to turn their gas or oil furnaces off this winter if they haven’t got a heat pump.
The transition is underway but it will take time and financial commitment from governments and corporations. In the meantime, “when you’re in a hole, the first rule is to stop digging!” Yet RBC continues to dig by funding the extraction and use of fossil fuels. It’s this that makes the Elders’ blood boil and gets us out on the street picketing the banks come rain or frigid temperatures, not to mention angry bank managers who call the cops on us. Good news: we must be having an impact!
(And in case you’re wondering, we don’t aim to get arrested, mostly for strategic reasons. We’ve typically waited till the last warning, then left.)
Understanding the Climate Crisis: Why Is the Atmosphere Warming? by Hamilton 350 member Tina Di Clemente.