The president of BMO Financial Group in Quebec was invited on Wednesday by the Board of Trade of Metropolitan Montreal (CCMM) to talk about the leadership of the financial sector in the fight against climate change. However, BMO is a major funder of fossil fuels, which environmental activists did not fail to point out, who interrupted him during his speech.
The president of the BMO in Quebec, Grégoire Baillargeon, addressed hundreds of members of the metropolitan business community by explaining that his bank is “motivated every day” in the fight against climate change, when three activists from Greenpeace interrupted him.
“You are aware that you are doing greenwashing by continuing to finance fossil industry projects,” Greenpeace Canada spokesperson Patrick Bonin told him. For several minutes, the activist pointed out the contradictions of BMO, which is part of the Net Zero banking alliance, but which, however, financed the fossil industry to the tune of 25 billion dollars in 2022.
The BMO leader insisted that the Greenpeace activist finish his plea before saying this to him: “I came here to deliver my heart to you today, and I would like to have the privilege of meeting with you to discuss the question. The environmentalist accepted the banker’s invitation.
Mr. Baillargeon then delivered a vibrant plea by inviting the Chamber of Commerce to get involved in the fight against climate change. Speaking to business people in Montreal, he asked this question, his throat tight with emotion: “Will we be the leaders, will we be able to look our children in the eye and say that we have done what ‘we could ? launched Grégoire Baillargeon. “Never has such a responsibility been given to so many people and time is running out”, he added, indicating that “in the future, we must all be better citizens”.
At the end of his speech, the hundreds of business people present in the room rose to applaud him.
180 billion in the fossil industry
Yet BMO has invested more than $180 billion in the fossil fuel industry since signing the Paris Agreement in 2015, study data shows. Banking on Climate Chaospublished by a consortium of environmental groups.
According to projections by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the use of coal, oil and gas must be reduced by 100%, 60% and 70% respectively by 2050 by compared to 2019 levels, to meet the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. In the wake of the publication of an IPCC report in 2022, the Secretary General of the United Nations, António Guterres, had also declared that “investing in new fossil fuel infrastructure is, morally and economically, madness”. .
But rather than decreasing these investments in this sector, BMO has instead increased them in 2021. In 2020, BMO’s financing in the fossil fuel industries was around $20 billion; its aid has grown to almost 25 billion in 2021 for this sector, the same amount as in 2022. Last year, the Bank of Montreal was ranked 13e ranks among the largest funders of the fossil fuel industry in the world, again according to data from Banking on Climate Chaos.
“Yes, we finance the fossil industry, food transportation, what we need, still requires gasoline,” replied Grégoire Baillargeon to a question posed by Michel Leblanc, President and CEO of the Board of Trade of Metropolitan Montreal. “We must not demonize our partners in Alberta, we must rather work together,” added Mr. Baillargeon, referring to the oil sands industry.
The largest oil sands operators received $21 billion in funding in 2022, according to Banking on Climate Chaosand this funding comes primarily from the major Canadian banks, TD, RBC and BMO.
Net Zero Banking Alliance
The Net Zero banking alliance, of which BMO is a member, asks its members to “reduce and phase out all fossil fuels that cannot be subject to emission control measures as part of a just transition” .
The Canadian Press asked Grégoire Baillargeon if BMO intends to stop funding new fossil fuel infrastructure. He replied that to stop funding the oil sands industry would be the equivalent of “putting your head in the sand”.
“We are a reliable bank for the Canadian economy and being a reliable bank means being there for the entire economy”, he added, indicating that its mission is to “bring a strong in carbon towards the transition” and that this is what he intends to do “hand in hand with everyone as soon as possible”.
BMO’s president for Quebec also said that the bank had “announced a 30% reduction in its scope 3 portfolio in the oil and gas sector by 2030”. The expression “scope 3” refers to indirect emissions, such as those linked to the combustion of fuel produced thanks to bank financing for example.
Mr. Baillargeon emphasized that decarbonizing the economy will require a huge collective effort. “If there are practices that are high in carbon, these practices must change, that means that consumer demand must change. This means that business demand must change, regulations must change, businesses must change their ways of doing things, industries must be reinvented. »