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XR protester arrested

Extinction Rebellion demonstrators protesting the financial industry's contributions to the climate emergency were arrested at a Bank of America building in New York City on September 17, 2021. (Photo: Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

40+ NYC Activists Arrested for Protests Against Banks Fueling Climate Emergency

"We're sending a message loud and clear that the little action that politicians and greenwashing CEOs have taken so far does not begin to deal with the magnitude of this crisis."

Jessica Corbett

At least 40 climate activists were arrested Friday at the New York City offices of JPMorgan Chase, Citibank, and Bank of America, organizers said, as campaigners across the United States demanded financial institutions stop supporting the destruction of the planet.

"We need our government leaders to take action immediately... The climate crisis is here, now."
—Christina See, XR NYC

"People are in denial about the mess we're in," said Kerith Creo of Extinction Rebellion (XR) NYC. "We're sending a message loud and clear that the little action that politicians and greenwashing CEOs have taken so far does not begin to deal with the magnitude of this crisis."

The protest actions included delivering 150,000 petition signatures as part of the Stop the Money Pipeline (STMP) coalition's "Deadline Glasgow: Defund Climate Chaos" campaign to pressure banks ahead of COP 26, a United Nations summit set to start on October 31.

Despite financial institutions' net-zero emissions by 2050 pledges, the petition highlights, "they are providing loans, insurance, and billions in investment capital to corporations expanding the fossil fuel industry and deforesting the Amazon and other tropical forests―companies that are guilty of human rights abuses and violations of Indigenous sovereignty."

The petition calls out some specific projects—such as Line 3—and urges banks, insurers, asset managers, and the Biden administration to "end their support for companies engaged in climate destruction and human rights abuses" before the two-week U.N. summit in Scotland.

The upcoming negotiations in Glasgow "are the most important international climate talks since the Paris agreement was signed in 2015," STMP said in a statement Friday. "It is also supposed to be 'the climate finance COP.'"

The coalition continued:

Scientists say that almost 60% of oil and gas reserves and 90% of coal must remain in the ground to keep global warming below 1.5°C. This follows a groundbreaking report from the International Energy [Agency] earlier this year that stated "there is no need for investment in new fossil fuel supply in our net-zero pathway." Yet, not a single Wall Street bank has committed to winding down their investments in oil and gas and all still have some exposure to coal. In fact, the largest fossil fuel financier, JPMorgan Chase, has publicly committed to funding oil and gas for years to come.

In New York City, climate activists set up a boat outside the office of JPMorgan Chase, urging the bank to "stop the greenwashing," and draped a banner that read "#1 Funder of Climate Death" over the building's entrance.

At Bank of America's Manhattan office, "half a dozen women blockaded the entrance and a seventh woman sat in a hammock supported by a large tripod on the sidewalk," according to XR. Outside Citibank's building, "activists set up a camp on the lawn near the entrance and put up a tripod to which they locked themselves down."

"We've reached the breaking point," said Christina See of XR NYC. "We need our government leaders to take action immediately. The New York City area saw over 40 deaths due to record breaking floods just a few weeks ago. The climate crisis is here, now."

The remnants of Hurricane Ida—which initially made landfall in Louisiana on the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina—caused fatal flooding across the Northeast, sparking warnings from not only climate activists but also political leaders about what the future holds.

While touring damage in New York and New Jersey, President Joe Biden said that "we got to listen to the scientists and the economists and the national security experts. They all tell us this is code red; the nation and the world are in peril. And that's not hyperbole. That is a fact."

Climate campaigners responded to Biden's comments by urging him to declare a national climate emergency and stop all fossil fuel projects, highlighting his refusal to block the Line 3 tar sands pipeline opposed by Indigenous leaders and environmentalists in Minnesota.

The protests came as the U.S. president held a climate meeting with leaders of major economies and confirmed a new global pledge to reduce methane pollution at least 30% by 2030. Biden's event followed his leadership summit in April, during which he pledged to cut the nation's overall planet-heating emissions in half within this decade.

Activists on Friday "shut down 4th Avenue in downtown Seattle, and disrupted business at the Canadian Consulate, Chase, and Bank of America," according to the Washington city's arm of 350.org.

STMP explained that "they're targeting the world's biggest financers of climate chaos, as well as the Canadian government, who bought the troubled Trans Mountain oil pipeline in 2018."

The demonstrations in New York City, Seattle, and beyond came as a new U.N. analysis revealed that recent emissions reduction pledges governments have made in anticipation of COP 26 are nowhere near ambitious enough to meet the Paris agreement's 1.5°C target.

According the new report, the world is on track for 2.7°C or warming by 2100—a revelation that prompted U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres to warn that a failure to meet the Paris temperature goal "will be measured in the massive loss of lives and livelihoods."


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