Newsletter 27 November 2015

Co-op Bank, Palestine, Coal and the Customer Union

Dear Save Our Bank supporter

Some important news below, some good and some bad, on Palestinian support organisations which have had their accounts closed, and on the Co-op Bank’s climate commitments. But first an update on our crowdfunding campaign.

Over 1,100 for the customer union

We wrote to you last week with the news that the Crowdfunder campaign to launch a Co-op Bank customers’ union had met its funding target. That’s great news and means we will go ahead and launch the union.

There are still 18 days to run until the end of the Crowdfunder, and we’ve set our sights on reaching 2,000 members or more, and a challenging stretch target of raising £30,000, which would meet all our funding requirements for year one.

Since our last update we’ve sailed past 1,000 members, and we have over £22,000 in pledges. If you haven’t pledged yet, please help take us further, and don’t miss the chance to become a first-wave member of the Customer Union for Ethical Banking.

Pledge to join the union

Co-op Bank supports “Paris Pledge” to quit coal

A crucial climate summit starts in Paris next week. Following the horrific attacks earlier this month many protests and demonstrations have been controversially cancelled amid security concerns. But there’s a greater than ever need for climate change to be stopped in its tracks.

One thing that activists around the world have been calling on banks to do for starters is to stop financing the coal industry, as coal is the most carbon-intensive fossil fuel and the biggest contributor to climate change. And we’re pleased to report that the Co-op Bank has stepped up, and become the largest of the 20 banks around the world who have signed the Paris Pledge to quit coal finance.

The Co-op Bank has long had a policy position against financing the extraction and production of coal, oil and gas. Now in the run-up to the climate summit, they have gone a step further and ruled out finance for coal-fired power stations. Now let’s hope the Paris summit delivers a legally binding deal that steers the planet away from climate disaster.

Co-op Bank closes accounts of 21 Palestine support organisations

A number of our supporters have contacted us with concerns about organisations working to support Palestinians having their accounts closed. We contacted the bank about it as details continued to emerge.

This week we learned that the Palestine Solidarity Campaign has launched a legal case against the bank for closing its account, along with those of 20 local organisations. The PSC is also asking people to close their Co-op Bank accounts in protest.

The bank has cited ‘due diligence’ on money transfers to high risk locations in a detailed statement setting out its reasons here. However this leaves many questions unanswered. If the PSC did not have sufficient controls in place, what should groups wanting to support Palestinians do to ensure they meet the Co-op Bank’s standards? Given the urgent humanitarian needs in the Palestinian territories, the Co-op Bank needs to enable legitimate charities to make transfers.

We’ve written the bank an open letter calling on the bank to remember its proud tradition of supporting human right campaigners and to cease any closure of accounts of organisations working to support Palestine.

If you are concerned about this as well, we encourage you to write to the bank to let them know how you feel, or contact them via Twitter or their Facebook page.

We don’t agree with the PSC that we should close our accounts – we explain why here. We respect the decisions of those that do decide to move to another bank. We do want the bank to change its position on this.

It is at times like this that a union of customers can have an impact.

As well as our open letter to the bank, we are considering setting up a petition with 38 Degrees to reach beyond Save Our Bank supporters, to ask the bank to reverse its decision and do more to support groups that want to send money to Palestine. We’ll only do this if our supporters think it’s a good idea. Please let us know if you would like us to go ahead with this by voting here.

Thanks, and if you haven’t yet done so, please pledge to become a member of the customer union.

The Save Our Bank team

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