It has been a devastating year so far of wildfires, floods, and storms across the globe, not to mention the first ever recorded rainfall in the Arctic. July was the hottest month in human history. 

As climate violence bears on communities, breaking meteorological records and overwhelming social systems, even atmospheric scientists have expressed their shock at the intensity and frequency of extreme weather events. What can be done to put the brakes on a climate at breaking point? 

Thankfully, many are adopting bold responses, directing attention to the financial sector’s part in financing fossil fuel industries. In Europe, as we emerge from lockdowns and restrictions on mass gathering, organisers have pulled off some seriously impressive events, directly challenging banks for their complicity in fuelling the climate crisis. And things will get bigger and bolder in the lead up to COP. 

In Switzerland

At the end of July, activists gathered in their thousands to confront the role of the Swiss financial sector in inflaming wildfires and supercharging storms. Switzerland may well be a small country, but the Swiss financial center is the source of twenty times its domestic emissions and plays a significant role exacerbating the crisis. 

On August 2nd organisers targeted two of Switzerland’s biggest commercial banks, Credit Suisse and UBS for their support of projects like the Line 3 Tar sands pipeline and fracking projects in Argentina. They occupied the square at the heart of the financial sector in Zurich, blockading the bank’s headquarters to demand that they stop funding fossil fuels and human rights violations. 

The banks were forced to close their doors until police removed the activists and their blockade. The actions were a great success with the Swiss media covering Swiss finances’ role in the climate crisis for the whole week.

In Germany

Less than two weeks later, the climate movement in Germany responded to a call out from the local Fridays for Future group in Frankfurt to ‘Strike with Us’ and ‘Block the Banks’. Over 70 groups and organisations responded to the call with 15,000 people turning out to demand that financial giants like Commerzbank, Deutsche Bank and the European Central Bank stop the money flow to climate-wrecking industries. 

Since the Paris climate agreement was signed in 2015, banks have poured trillions of dollars into new fossil fuel projects. Despite all of their flashy PR claiming support for ‘net-zero’, these banks are still ploughing billions into new fossil fuel projects.

A recent report by Oil Change International – Unused Tools: How Central Banks Are Fueling the Climate Crisis – shows how despite the net zero commitments and bold talk by central bankers, these critical institutions are woefully behind in taking any practical action to confront the ecological crisis. 

As the demand for central banks to stop supporting the fossil fuel industry, so do calls for them to use their unique money creation powers to play a proactive role in retiring them. Two solutions proposed by economists and campaigners being the creation of a bad / fossil bank or by buying majority shares in them to manage their retirement. 

In the UK

Last week XR Money Rebellion targeted the heart of financial capitalism – the City of London. Home to some of the biggest banks in the world, such as Barclays and HSBC, a huge amount of the capital needed to build out new fossil fuels projects originates from decisions made by bankers here.

After rallying outside the Bank of England, protesters went to Standard Chartered bank, to highlight the $31.4bn that it has invested in fossil fuels since the Paris climate agreement; to Guildhall, from where the financial district is governed, ending at Paternoster Square, where the London Stock Exchange is located.

As the clarity of the climate emergency is growing, so is public understanding of the main culprits and drivers of the emergency. Financial institutions are fanning the flames of our planetary crisis – it’s time to turn back the heat on them. Watch this space for an exciting  announcement for what’s next!

Written by Tim Ratcliffe