LONDON (Reuters) – Climate activists targeted BlackRock, the world’s biggest asset manager, in London on Monday, demanding that major financial institutions starve fossil fuel companies of the money they need to build new mines, wells and pipelines.
Science broadcaster Emily Grossman is led away by police during an Extinction Rebellion protest to highlight the role of banks in financing fossil fuel projects undermining the 2015 Paris Agreement to curb climate change, in London, Britain, October 14, 2019, in this image obtained via social media. Kimwei McCarthy via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS – THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. MANDATORY CREDIT. NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVES.
Extinction Rebellion, which uses civil disobedience to highlight the risks posed by climate change and the accelerating loss of plant and animal species, is midway through a new two-week wave of actions in cities around the world.
Activists thronged the financial heart of London on Monday, unfurling banners, addressing passersby by megaphone or blocking streets around locations including BlackRock, the Bank of England, Bank of China and Barclays.
At BlackRock, volunteers glued themselves to the doors while others staged a mock dinner party with rolled-up banknotes on their plates. Police said they arrested more than 90 people.
The arrestees included Rabbi Jeffrey Newman of the Finchley Reform Synagogue, who was arrested near the Bank of England praying, singing and wearing a prayer shawl for the first day of the Jewish festival Sukkot, Extinction Rebellion said.
“The City of London is a preeminent nexus of power in the global system that is killing our world,” said Carolina Rosa, spokesperson for Extinction Rebellion.
BlackRock declined to comment.
Police later ordered a halt to all assembly linked to Extinction Rebellion in London. At Trafalgar Square in the heart of the city, where demonstrators have pitched camp for the past week amid fountains at the base of Nelson’s Column, protesters began removing tents. Police made no immediate move to shut down another main protest camp in the district of Vauxhall.
“Officers have begun the process of clearing Trafalgar Square and getting things back to normal,” said Deputy Assistant Commissioner Laurence Taylor.
Extinction Rebellion said it had left Trafalgar Square but would continue actions in London and cities around the world.
“The Climate and Ecological Emergency isn’t going away and we remain resolute in facing it. We urge the Government and the authorities to join us in doing the same,” the group said in a statement. “This is bigger than all of us.”
Extinction Rebellion wants to cause enough disruption to force governments to rapidly cut carbon emissions and reverse the collapse of ecosystems to avert the worst of the devastation scientists project if business as usual continues.
Critics say the group is proposing what amounts to the overthrow of capitalism without any clear idea of what would follow, and that the world needs fossil fuels.
Extinction Rebellion said that more than 1,400 people had been arrested in London since it launched its latest actions a week ago. A similar number has in total been arrested in 20 cities in countries including the Netherlands, Belgium, the United States, Australia, Canada and New Zealand.
While activists have long targeted fossil fuel companies, a growing global climate protest movement is increasingly scrutinizing the role fund managers, banks and insurance companies play in enabling oil and gas extraction.
Emily Grossman, a British science broadcaster who has a PhD in molecular biology, who joined the protest outside BlackRock, said that financing fossil fuel projects was undermining the goals of the 2015 Paris Agreement to limit global warming.
“This is criminal damage that they are doing to our lives and to the lives of our children and it has to stop,” said Grossman, who was later led away by police.
Major oil companies have approved $50 billion of projects since last year that run contrary to the goals of the Paris Agreement, according to an analysis published last month by financial think-tank Carbon Tracker.
Fossil fuel companies say they need to invest in new projects to meet future demand for energy, particularly in fast-growing regions such as Asia.
Climate protesters want to pressure index fund firms such as BlackRock because the sector, which now controls half the U.S. stock mutual fund market, has enormous power to influence companies in which they invest trillions of dollars.
The leading U.S. index fund firms, BlackRock, Vanguard Group and State Street Corp, rarely use that clout, a Reuters analysis of their shareholder-voting records found this month.
Writing by Guy Faulconbridge and Matthew Green; additional reporting by Simon Jessop in London and Akshay Balan in Bengaluru; Editing by Michael Holden, Ed Osmond and Grant McCool
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