RBC CEO urges tax policies to encourage net-zero transition

Dave McKay issues call for tax incentives amid criticisms of Big Six bank’s role in fossil fuel funding

RBC CEO urges tax policies to encourage net-zero transition

Even as investors and Indigenous groups chastised the bank for its support of fossil fuel corporations, Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) CEO Dave McKay called for tax policies and incentives to promote investments to support a transition to a net-zero economy.

The Canadian government’s plan to reduce carbon emissions will lead to “a massive shift in this decade,” and more robust investment to meet these goals will require “public and private capital to support both growth and the green transition,” McKay said at the bank’s annual shareholder meeting. “That’s why investment and tax policies as well as incentives must be considered.”

As predicted by many observers, the 2022 budget made spending on green technologies a priority. That came on the heels of the government unveiling a $9.1-billion (US$7.24 billion) plan last week to reach its 2030 emissions-reduction goals.

Although major Canadian banks, among which RBC is the largest, have announced intentions to reduce their financed emissions, continued funding of fossil fuel businesses and pipelines has angered some investors and communities.

During the in-person meeting, chiefs of the Wet'suwet'en Indigenous people, who oppose TC Energy Inc.'s proposed Coastal GasLink pipeline and RBC's funding of it on traditional Indigenous land, had planned to confront the bank's leadership in person.

But according to Reuters, the event had been changed to a virtual-only format late on Wednesday after confirmation of a positive case of COVID-19 that had affected several meeting staff members and participants.

Shareholder resolutions encouraging RBC to remove fossil fuel activities and projects opposed by Indigenous people from eligibility for sustainable financing, as well as to not finance or provide consulting services for the privatization of pollution-intensive enterprises, were set to be voted on at the meeting. The bank's board of directors has advised shareholders to vote no on both.

"RBC has the most to do (on climate measures), but has made the slowest progress," said Matt Price, director of corporate engagement at Investors for Paris Compliance, the group that presented the first proposal.