Andrew Cave: RBS has much in common with protesters

Tim Gee wrote in The Scotsman this week about his reasons for taking part in the Climate Camp protest. Believe it or not, we agree on a number of points. We agree on the need for post-crisis Royal Bank of Scotland to be more accountable, and this has been an early priority of the new leadership team.

We agree that RBS has a responsibility to repay the public's support by ensuring a swift return to sustainable profitability, enabling the UK taxpayer to profit from the investment in RBS. We also agree on the need for society to transition to a low-carbon economy. Where we disagree is on how this might happen.

We believe governments need to lead a consensus-based process of changing the types of energy we all use, which is where a binding international agreement to address climate change is critical. The transition cannot be left to voluntary action because it will involve regulatory changes that may prove unpopular if they result in higher bills.

Our lending to energy firms represents about 5 per cent of our total lending, which reflects the sector's share of the global economy. Oil, gas, nuclear power, coal, wind, solar, biomass and hydro are all part of the energy mix for the foreseeable future. RBS will continue to provide finance, but the move away from fossil fuels – driven predominantly by regulatory forces – is already happening. Since 2005, we have financed more wind power projects than any other type of energy project.

But by targeting the funding of the energy sector, the protesters divert attention away from the bigger issue of spiralling demand, which is ultimately what drives the energy sector. There needs to be a more constructive national debate on this issue.

While we respect the protesters' right to express their views and understand the desire to raise awareness about climate change, we clearly do not agree with the tactics that we saw last week. Active participation in the political decision-making process is to be commended, but there is a careful line to navigate between influencing the political process and trying to bypass it altogether.

• Andrew Cave is head of group sustainability at RBS