ROYAL Bank of Scotland’s newly-appointed CEO, Alison Rose, is being urged to turn the lender into a climate change leader by formally ending its financial support for the coal, oil and gas sectors.

More than 30 civil society groups from around the world have written an open letter to Rose, laying out the new challenge for her after she takes over from Ross McEwan in November as the first woman to head one of the UK’s big four banks.

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The 31 groups, including Friends of the Earth Scotland (FoES) and BankTrack, want her to make RBS the “first major bank to formally end its financing for fossil fuels”.

They say non-governmental organisation (NGO) analysis shows RBS financing of fossil fuel companies is now negligible, putting the state-owned lender in a prime position to show real climate leadership by definitively ending its support for the sector. RBS decided in August to rule out financing for oil and gas drilling or exploration in the endangered Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, which followed earlier announcements that it would no longer provide finance for coal mine, coal plant and tar sands projects.

However, policy restrictions do not close off the possibility of the bank’s future support for new conventional oil and gas projects or for all coal companies seeking to expand their activities. The lender is one of 45 international private sector banks to have introduced policy restrictions on their coal financing.

NGOs believe that RBS, which this week became a founding signatory of the UN’s Principles for Responsible Banking, can now go further than its peers and lead by example.

MSPs have already backed a new net-zero deadline of 2045 and voted to go ahead with a Bill creating a new Scottish National Investment Bank, which Nicola Sturgeon said would have a primary mission of delivering zero-carbon finance.

Greig Aitken, climate campaigner at BankTrack, said: “As the climate crisis intensifies, and with growing global consensus that fossil fuel expansion has to end urgently, we’re hopeful that new CEO Alison Rose will see the business and sustainability case for ending the bank’s fossil fuel financing, and thereby position RBS as the climate leader in the banking sector.

“What’s more, Glasgow’s hosting of the UN Climate Summit in 2020 is the perfect opportunity for RBS to take swift, ambitious and very timely climate action.”

Ric Lander, from FoES, added: “By publicly committing to stop financing the businesses who want to extract, produce or sell fossil fuels, RBS would send a clear message that they are serious about responding to the climate emergency.”