protestors with banners at Citi headquarters

Climate activists block entrances to Citigroup's headquarters in New York City on April 25, 2024.

(Photo: Climate Defenders)

'Summer of Heat' to Take Aim at Wall Street for Funding Climate Chaos

"We know that they're enabling the fossil fuel industry, and we know that to end the fossil fuel era, banks like Citibank must stop funding fossil fuels," an organizer said.

Climate activists will engage in nonviolent direct action at Citigroup's headquarters in New York next week to protest the bank's large-scale financing of fossil fuel companies, organizers told Common Dreams on Friday.

Five climate action organizations have banded together to create the "Summer of Heat," a monthslong activism program targeted at Citigroup and other Wall Street companies for their role in the climate crisis.

The world's 60 largest banks provided fossil fuel companies with more than $6.9 trillion in financing in the eight years after the Paris agreement was signed in 2015, a report published by nonprofit groups in May showed. Citigroup, which owns Citibank, has poured the most financing money into new extraction projects of any bank in the world and is the second-worst in terms of overall fossil fuel financing at nearly $400 billion since 2015.

On Monday, climate organizers will seek to change that. "We're starting big," Climate Defenders deputy director Renata Pumarol told Common Dreams. "We're starting with a complete shutdown of Citi headquarters in New York. We have a 150 people."

Actions at Citigroup headquarters will continue all week, she said.

Climate Defenders is one of five convening organizations of Summer of Heat, along with Climate Organizing Hub, New York Communities for Change, Stop the Money Pipeline, and the youth-led Planet Over Profit. The groups believe that consistent activism over a prolonged period will be more effective than one-off actions, and so, since November, they've been planning a series of summertime protests, Pumarol said.

"We know that big banks are heavily investing in coal, oil, and gas, and we know that they're enabling the fossil fuel industry, and we know that to end the fossil fuel era, banks like Citibank must stop funding fossil fuels," she said.

She said she was inspired by the 75,000-strong March to End Fossil Fuels in New York City in September. That week, climate activists, including many from the same groups leading Summer of Heat, also organized a blockade at Citigroup's headquarters, denying employees access to the building; 25 were arrested. In April, they returned for two more days of direct action at the headquarters, calling it a prelude to the Summer of Heat; more than 50 were arrested.

Climate activists block entry to Citi headquarters on September 14, 2023. (Photo: Ken Schles)

Organizers chosen Citigroup not just because they consider it to be a bad actor but also because they sense that the company might be responsive to public pressure, Pumarol said. It was the first Wall Street bank to take a stand on gun policy, setting restrictions on sales made by business partners amid a national debate following a mass shooting in Parkland, Florida. Citigroup CEO Jane Fraser has also expressed an interest in changing business course on account of the climate, Pumarol noted.

In addition to Citigroup, Summer of Heat organizers have asset managers and insurance companies such as KKR, Blackrock, AIG, and Chubb in their crosshairs, the program website says. They have what they say will be a fun-filled summer of activism planned, including even a "road trip" to the Hamptons in August to "disrupt the vacations of Wall Street's fat cat CEOs and executives making a killing off of killing the planet," according to their media advisory.

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