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The Royal Bank on oil and water

The Globe and Mail reports this morning that, “The Rainforest Action Network…staged a demonstration outside the annual meeting (of the Royal Bank of Canada in Vancouver recently) – and, at the same time, another one at RBC’s Toronto headquarters.”

The Council of Canadians joined the Rainforest Action Network for both of these demonstrations (notably organizers Harjap Grewal and Stuart Trew) and intends to do more collaborative work with them in the coming months.

BLUE WATER PROJECT INCOMPATIBLE WITH TAR SANDS INVESTMENTS The article notes that, “The activists say the bank’s status as a prominent Olympics sponsor and its 10-year, $50-million Blue Water philanthropic program (which funds fresh-water projects internationally) is incompatible with its role as a top financier of the Alberta oil sands, which many believe is a significant source of water pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.”

The report also notes, “RAN representatives in the meeting asked RBC chief executive officer Gordon Nixon to come to Fort Chipewyan, in northern Alberta, a community affected by oil sands pollution, to see the situation for himself. At first, Mr. Nixon ignored the request. But when pressed a second time, he told them that while he wouldn’t promise anything, he would consider it.”

In a November 25, 2008 speech, Nixon said, “All too often, energy and water are treated as separate and unrelated commodities…They’re not. We need water to generate energy. And we need energy to deliver clean water.”

NIXON WORRIES ABOUT A STERNLY WORDED LETTER FROM MAUDE BARLOW Nixon says, “As pressure mounts on the world’s limited water resources, individuals, industries and governments will all have to start managing our shared water resources better. And that means there is a role for business in offering innovative solutions to the challenge. That’s where Canada comes in. Before I get a sternly worded letter from Maude Barlow, I should clarify that I’m not talking about privatizing water here, or exporting Canadian water to the United States. I’m not going to wade into the debate about whether water is a commodity or a human right, or offer an opinion about water policy, or the role of government. But in the last few years, I’ve gone on record advocating for Canada to focus on niche areas in which we can compete globally.”

NIXON SAYS CANADA HAS A ROLE TO PLAY IN A GLOBAL WATER INDUSTRY WORTH $400 BILLION He adds, “Some call this picking winners and losers…Water could well be one of those winners for Canada…Canada is well positioned to develop and commercialize technologies to conserve, reclaim, rehabilitate and purify water. The opportunities are limitless. The global water industry is estimated at $400 billion a year and is expected to increase to $1.6 trillion US in the next ten years.”

NIXON CALLS FOR A NATIONAL WATER STRATEGY Along with a policy framework to address climate change, Nixon says, “We’ll also need a similar, coordinated approach to water in Canada, where a patchwork of overlapping responsibilities is complicated by the lack of a strong, overarching national water strategy and a history of undervaluing the worth of water.”

The Globe and Maill article can be read at http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/LAC.20090310.RNOBODY10/TPStory/Business

The full text of Gordon Nixon’s speech can be read at http://www.rbc.com/newsroom/2008/1125-nixon.html