Thursday, January 13, 2011

The Co-operative Bank; good with money or fantastic for aviation?

From the Mule - 7th January 2010

Environmental activists have been angered by the news that the Cooperative Bank has taken part in a refinancing deal for the development of Manchester Airport. The bank will provide £40 million over the next 5 years to Manchester Airports Group despite its much-vaunted ‘Ethical Investments Policy’ which includes mitigating the threat of climate change as a central tenet.
The Bank’s policy states, “We will not finance any business whose core activity contributes to global climate change, via the extraction or production of fossil fuels (oil, coal and gas), with an extension to the distribution of those fuels that have a higher global warming impact (e.g. tar sands and certain biofuels).”
Zoe Creighton-Hird from Manchester Climate Action said, “If their ethical policy states that they won’t finance businesses that contribute towards climate change via fossil fuels then why do they finance businesses that do the same via emissions from aviation? It’s another case of aviation being ignored as a massive contributor to climate change and goes to show that the Coop’s environmental image is an illusion, if they are willing to invest millions into the fastest growing cause of carbon dioxide emissions.”
Manchester Airport is currently responsible for around 5 million tonnes of carbon emissions per year, making it one of the biggest polluters in the North West. It plans to demolish local homes to expands its operations, with the intention of doubling passenger numbers by 2030.
The Coop Travel arm of the business states the following on its website, ”We were the only travel agent to oppose the development of a third runway at Heathrow and we oppose the development of runways throughout the UK unless there is a clear sustainability case.”
The Cooperative Bank’s brand is based heavily its environmental credentials, in particular for its recent active role in opposing the tar sands project in Canada. While its ethical code is widely regarded as being at the forefront of conscientious banking, this move raises serious questions over the bank’s policies.
When contacted by the MULE, a spokesperson for the Cooperative Bank said, “The Bank’s Ethical Policy is based on consultation with our customers and reflects their ethical concerns.”
“Whilst we acknowledge that the climate change impact of various forms of transport are a concern to some people our Policy does not contain an explicit statement excluding finance for air travel related business.”
“We are, however, arguably one of the UK’s leading businesses in tackling climate change, through, for instance, our refusal to invest in fossil fuel extraction and production, procuring virtually all our energy supply from renewable sources and our, as part of our Toxic Fuels campaign with our customers and members seeking to halt the increasing trend towards exploiting fuels with a higher global warming potential such as tar sands.”
The finance deal with Manchester Airport Group totalled £280 million, with six other banks – Barclays, Handelsbanken, RBS, HSBC, National Australia Bank (through its subsidiary Yorkshire Bank) and Santander – providing £40 million each over a five year period.


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