Vancity is saying goodbye to fossil fuels—eventually

The financial institution has committed to banishing carbon emissions from its lending portfolio by 2040

It won’t happen overnight—not by a long shot—but Canada’s biggest community credit union is getting out of financing fossil fuels.

Vancouver City Savings Credit Union just became the first bank or credit union in the country to commit to net-zero carbon emissions across its entire lending portfolio. Vancity plans to reach that goal by 2040, a decade ahead of the global target encouraged by the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

The IPCC has warned that to limit global warming to 1.5 C above pre-industrial levels, the world must cut human-caused carbon emissions to about 45 percent of 2010 output by 2030 on its way to hitting net zero by 2050. In a hopeful sign, climate models recently revealed that swiftly eliminating emissions could stabilize temperatures in just 20 years.

Besides reaching net zero, Vancity has made four other climate commitments part of its business strategy: financing an equitable climate transition, investing in a better future, being more transparent and accountable, and “walking the talk” in all it does. The credit union also said that it will set an “ambitious initial target” for cutting emissions by 2025.

Canada’s big banks are laggards when it comes decarbonizing their portfolios. Vancity cites a report by the San Francisco­–based Rainforest Action Network showing that from 2016-19, Royal Bank of Canada, Toronto-Dominion Bank and Bank of Nova Scotia were three of the top 10 banks worldwide for financing the fossil fuels industry. Combined, those three firms provided almost US$90 billion to oil and gas companies in 2019.

“The financial sector must play a central role supporting the shift to a low-carbon economy that is clean and fair for everyone,” Christine Bergeron, Vancity’s interim president and CEO, said in a statement. “Vancity has long been at the forefront of confronting systemic inequity and addressing climate change, and these commitments will help Vancity do its part to address the climate crisis by engaging our members and communities as a key part of the solution. It won’t be easy to meet our commitments, but the days of business as usual are over. We must all do more if we want to address the urgent challenge that’s taking place around us.”

Vancity, which manages some $28 billion assets on behalf of 543,000 member-owners, launched Canada’s first socially responsible investment fund in 1986. In 2008, it was the first North American financial institution to become carbon-neutral across its internal operations. Among its other climate-friendly credentials, Vancity is a signatory and board member of the UN Principles for Responsible Banking and the Collective Commitment to Climate Action, and a member of the Partnership for Carbon Accounting Financials, which supports creating a global greenhouse gas accounting and reporting standard for financial services.

You can find more details on Vancity’s climate commitments here.