Posted Under: Capitalism,Environment,Protest,Scotland
Well, you’d be wrong of course. A few years ago, RBS launched a self-branding scheme as ‘The Oil and Gas Bank’. Some bright spark in marketing pointed out that this was probably a social faux-pas among the millions of people concerned about climate change, resource wars and the middle eastern situation, so it got moved to the side. But that phrase does reflect the reality of the bank. In the first 6 months after the bail out, RBS was still the biggest financier of fossil fuel industries in the UK.
When it comes to climate change, there’s been a lot of bullshit from both sides. In the run up to Copenhagen, there was the awful UEA affair (for which the Press Complaints Commission is finally getting some grovelling apologies), and the rise of the somewhat senseless idea that ‘now the recession’s here, no one cares about climate change’, which would make sense if it weren’t for the shared causes of both crises.
But from the other side, those purporting to be concerned about climate change, there’s also been a wave of crap. Tck Tck Tck, the online campaign spearheaded by internet-savvy videos and texts, failed to move people into action, but also failed to say anything interesting.
The UN Summit was a trade agreement, just like WTO or G20, and so was filled with the usual imperialist bullying from the ‘big powers’, all under the auspices of benefitting the little guy. Instead of ‘trickle down economics’ however, the white-wash (or green-wash, as it’s come to be known) was ‘Solving Climate Change’. But all three mechanisms (CDM, REDD & Carbon trading) that the UN has in its solution-bag do the same thing: transfer capital from poor states to rich states, and increase the control of the Global North by covering up their carbon emissions.
So it’s not really surprising that RBS continues to finance fossil fuels, or that the UN agreements will fail to do anything about emission levels, or that the petitions of NGOs have been pretty much ignored. And the crimes of RBS’s capital just keep going. This week Cairn Energy is seeking money from Vedanta, using profits gained from the exploitation of aluminium on India in order to finance exploration in offshore arctic greenland. Oh look: both Vedanta and Cairn Energy are already majorly financed by? RBS. In fact, the most destructive, fastest expanding and quite simply most gigantic fossil fuel project in the world – the Canadian Tar Sands - is financed by? RBS.
So it turns out, this is what gets people turned on. Despite all the spleen vented about the banks (and the bankers), there’ve been no poll-tax style protests. The G20 protest was precisely that: a G20 protest. An RBS branch window was smashed in (and a 2 year sentence handed out for it) but the protest itself was at a symbolic centre of finance, and not even directly against the Bank of England. While I like the idea of going to ‘the belly of the beast’, there wasn’t exactly a demand to lower interest rates.
The Climate Camp in Edinburgh isn’t going to change the world – in fact, on its own it won’t change RBS for more than a few days, though it might disrupt it a fair bit. But in 2007, when the Climate Camp at Heathrow set up, people didn’t really think the 3rd runway would be scrapped. In 2008, when we set up near Kingsnorth coal-fired power station in Kent, we were planning for a rolling blockade: we didn’t actually think the whole project would be shelved under pressure about the needlessness of new coal.
And in 2010, how many people think we’ll actually change RBS, the banking sector, or the system as a whole? Very few. But we should start to think about what it would mean to win. I doubt that many Bolivian protesters thought that when they started demonstrating against the privatisation of their water by Bechtel, that they would actually throw the company out of the country and elect a new government on that basis. Not exactly my hopes and dreams, but it would be a start.
The Camp is from Thursday August 19th, over the weekend, and the big day of action against RBS (starting with the global HQ) is on Monday 23rd. The exact location of the site itself is still a secret (really, I don’t know where it is), but it’ll be in or very near to Edinburgh. If you can spare the time and train fare, I’ll see you there. And for those who can’t make it, I’ll try and post some stuff up here, but otherwise check out the constantly updated climate camp website, where there’ll be videos and photos posted as the camp progresses.