It’s time to hold the big banks to account for their dirty loans
Earlier this month, oil prices slumped to minus $ 30 a barrel as the world faced an unprecedented economic shock. Yet, remarkably, the big British banks continue to invest money in fossil fuels.
According to a new report, UK lenders have provided £ 158 billion in financing for fossil fuel projects since the Paris Climate Change Agreement in 2015. Barclays, Europe’s worst offender for fossil fuel financing, has lent more than £ 90 billion. As climate change threatens entire ecosystems and is poised to displace millions of people, bankers continue their drive to put profit before people.
The economic crash that followed the coronavirus pandemic offers a real opportunity for economic change and investment in a green recovery. Around the world, we are seeing calls for an economy of care, not consumption, and for a focus on environmental responsibility. As the oil industry is on the brink of collapse, demands for governments to take advantage of this opportunity to implement a just transition and secure green jobs are increasing.
Government is only one side of the coin, however. The current financial system is responsible for fueling the climate crisis, with an emphasis on growth at the expense of people and the natural environment, which puts our future at risk. Fossil fuel companies rely on state subsidies to continue their extraction, but they rely equally on funding banks. This crisis may differ from 2008 in many ways, but the importance of the financial sector as a political battleground should not be overlooked.
But instead of any commitment to real climate action, we are now seeing the rise of greenwashing tactics from banks like Barclays, aimed at cleaning up their image while continuing to profit from fossil fuels. Instead of cutting funding for the fossil fuel industry, Barclays simply stressed its support for distant targets and diverted attention from their fossil fuel portfolios. We cannot be seduced by this. If we allow banks to deflect the talk of sustainability, then a system based on exploitation and global inequality will be sustained at its weakest point. We need a complete divestment from fossil fuels because this polluting economy cannot continue.
With Barclays’ AGM this week, they will be in the spotlight as questions are asked about their fossil fuel funding. With shareholders support a resolution Calling on the bank to end its lending to fossil fuel projects, Barclays faces growing pressure to stop funding ecological destruction.
However, we don’t have to sit and watch, waiting forever for the bankers to do the right thing. We have the power to make a difference. We have already seen groups like Greenpeace closed nearly 100 Barclays branches and now the students are also taking action. UK students are pushing their universities to boycott Barclays, with the aim of putting pressure on the bank to end its financing of fossil energy projects. This means no to universities that have accounts with Barclays or invite them to sponsor events on campus. This current wave of action echoes that of the Anti-aparthied movement of the 1980s which has seen student unions, among other institutions, threaten to boycott Barclays if they refuse to withdraw from South Africa. This is a vital reminder of the need to hold financial institutions to account and proof that this can be achieved through direct lenders action and pressure from below.
Activists have already exerted immense pressure and even forced concessions from Barclays on their funding of fracking, coal and tar sands, bringing these issues to the public eye and helping to create an environment in which to invest. in fossil fuels is a huge stain on a company’s reputation. . Now, at a time when the weaknesses of the current economic system have been exposed, it is our opportunity to act and end the chaos caused by the endless pursuit of profit. This is our opportunity to say that enough is enough.
We can use this current situation to motivate collaboration between activists, working together to demand a future based on respect for our environment and compassion for the people in our communities. Our strength is in our numbers, and if enough of us refuse to accept that the current system of exploitative and ruthless capitalism can continue, then we can emerge from this pandemic stronger and with a brighter future.
When banks refuse to make the right decisions, we have to be the ones pushing them in the right direction and holding them to account. In this time of political flux, we can either rebuild a broken and shattered system or pave the way for a new world. By cutting the pillar of our polluting economy, we are laying the foundations for a greener future.