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Strike WEF

Marchers participate in a three-day protest against the World Economic Forum meeting in Davos, Switzerland. (Photo: Kristian Buus/In Pictures via Getty Images)

Earth Defenders March on Davos as Global Financial Elite Targeted for Funding Climate Destruction

"The banks, insurers, and pension funds here at Davos are culpable for the climate emergency."

Jessica Corbett

On the heels of a new Greenpeace report exposing how financial players that attend the World Economic Forum's annual meeting collectively have pumped at least $1.4 trillion into the fossil fuel industry over the past few years, the International March for Climate Justice arrived in Davos, Switzerland Tuesday for the start of the global summit.

"We don't have demands to the WEF, we want to abolish it... The WEF members have led the world into a catastrophic state."
—Payal Parekh, Strike WEF

For the three-day march, participants took various routes on trains, skis, and foot. More than 600 activists set out on the final stage of the hike Tuesday, and a ski tour of 40 people left early in the morning, according to Strike WEF. Their meeting point was a rally in Davos at 3pm local time.

"We have to fight for our cause against resistance. Our planned route on the road for today was not authorized and we will therefore reach Davos on other routes," Strike WEF spokesperson Payal Parekh explained. "The climate justice movement won't be stopped that easily."

Marchers on Tuesday blocked the road that leads to Davos for about hour, according to updates that Strike WEF shared on Twitter. Participants, supporters, and reporters posted about the action with the hashtags #WorldEconomicFailure, #ClimateJustice, #StrikeWEF, and #Davos2020.

The theme of this year's WEF meeting—which brings together leaders in business, government, the nonprofit sector, and the media—is "stakeholders for a cohesive and sustainable world" (pdf). One of the summit's primary goals is to discuss "how to address the urgent climate and environmental challenges that are harming our ecology and economy."

The marchers aim to highlight how summit attendees have failed to address the climate crisis and are calling for an end to the annual event, which is in its 50th year. As Parekh put it: "We don't have demands to the WEF, we want to abolish it... The WEF members have led the world into a catastrophic state."

Mitra Tavakoli, another march spokesperson, said that "the WEF represents an economic system that causes social injustice and the climate crisis. It cannot be part of the solution! The system leads to a dead end. 50 years of empty promises are enough. It's time to get rid of the WEF and capitalism!"

"It's important to show that there are people who have different opinions and other visions on a world than the elite, the 1%, that is meeting up in Davos," one marcher told BBC News' Dougal Shaw Monday night.

Supporters of the march include several climate advocacy organizations, from Greenpeace Switzerland and Friends of the Earth International to various local branches of Climate Strike Switzerland and Extinction Rebellion. The march was featured on a list of protests across the globe from Jan. 18 to Jan. 25, 2020 compiled by the Fight Inequality Alliance. The alliance is made up of more than 200 social movements, nongovernmental organizations, and trade unions.

In a statement Monday, Njoki Njehu, Pan-Africa coordinator of the alliance, blasted not only the WEF but also U.S. President Donald Trump, calling him "living proof that billionaires should be abolished." Her comments came ahead of Trump's speech at the summit Tuesday.

"These money men at Davos are nothing short of hypocrites as they say they want to save the planet but are actually killing it for short-term profit."
—Jennifer Morgan, Greenpeace International

Njehu noted that "while the world is burning and drowning because of the climate crisis, he keeps cutting climate regulations and steered the United States away from the Paris Agreement. He is a billionaire president, ruling on behalf of his billionaire friends. And now, he is attending the World Economic Forum, a meeting officially billed as 'addressing inequality and climate change.'"

"Nothing can be more hypocritical than that," she said. "We need to reimagine a world where all billionaires, including Donald Trump, do not exist. Where their obscene wealth is spent on schools and hospitals, teachers and nurses, instead of being hidden in the secret bank accounts of billionaires. It is just common sense to abolish billionaires. The planet and the people cannot afford billionaires like Mr. Trump."

Fight Inequality Alliance partners include Oxfam International, which released a report Monday about the global inequality crisis. Oxfam pointed out that last year, the world's 2,153 billionaires "had more wealth than 4.6 billion people," for which the report credited "a flawed and sexist economic system."

Meanwhile, another alliance partner, Greenpeace, released a report Monday about Davos attendees funding the fossil fuel companies that are wrecking the planet. Greenpeace is also a part of Stop the Money Pipeline, a campaign launched earlier this month that aims to end Wall Street's financing of climate destruction.

Greenpeace's new report—entitled It's the Financial Sector, Stupid (pdf)—found that from the adoption of the Paris climate accord in 2015 through 2018, 24 banks that attended Davos 2019 have given $1.4 trillion to fossil fuel industry. Putting that figure into context, the report says that its the same amount that the world's 3.8 billion poorest people, over half of the global human population, had in 2018.

The banks called out in the report and on a companion website are: JPMorgan Chase, Citi, Bank of America, RBC Royal Bank, Barclays, MUFG, TD Bank, Scotiabank, Mizuho, and Morgan Stanley. Greenpeace also spotlighted three pension funds and five in insurance companies that often attend Davos and have financial ties to the fossil fuel industry.

"The banks, insurers, and pension funds here at Davos are culpable for the climate emergency," Greenpeace International executive director Jennifer Morgan said in  a statement. "Despite environmental and economic warnings, they're fueling another global financial crisis by propping up the fossil fuel industry. These money men at Davos are nothing short of hypocrites as they say they want to save the planet but are actually killing it for short-term profit."

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