Canada's eight biggest banks financed about 1.9 billion tonnes of emissions in 2020, estimates a report out Tuesday by Oxfam groups in Canada that calls on the industry to increase its own emissions disclosure.

The report, produced by Oxfam-Québec in partnership with Oxfam Canada, found emissions are more than double the total carbon footprint of Canada as a whole, pointing to the need for government to do more to push banks to reduce them. 

"The impact is enormous," said Ian Thomson, manager of policy for Oxfam Canada. "So as far as addressing the climate change problem, we feel that banks are key players and have to play a critical role."

Oxfam-Québec collaborated with non-profit research group l'Institut de recherche en économie contemporaine to crunch the public data, using what public data is available to cover a wide range of the banks' lending and investment portfolios.

Institutions covered in the Oxfam-Québec report include TD, RBC, Scotiabank, BMO, CIBC, National Bank, Desjardins and Laurentian Bank, with TD topping the list by funding the equivalent of 446 million tonnes of carbon dioxide followed by RBC at 369 million tonnes.

The report builds on studies such as the Banking on Climate Chaos report that has focused more on bank funding specifically to the fossil fuel industry, which as of March it estimated Canada's five biggest banks have provided $911 billion in funding to the industry since 2016.  

Canada's biggest banks have committed to reaching net zero financed emissions by 2050 and have also made major commitments to provide sustainability-related funding. 

Oxfam-Québec said emission reduction projects funded by banks however are hugely overshadowed by emitting ones, with about five tonnes in emission savings through the funding of things like renewable energy and efficiencies for every 100 tonnes of greenhouse gases the banks have financed.

Banks have also emphasized the need to continue funding fossil fuel projects as part of an orderly transition, which has taken on increased relevancy as Russia's invasion of Ukraine has disrupted global energy markets, but Thomson said banks need to be investing more in technologies that are going to both lower costs and get to the other side of the climate crisis. 

"We don't feel that doubling down on fossil fuels is at all a sustainable strategy in the short term, or in the long term."