The banks crashed the economy. We must stop them crashing the planet

From the deadly cyclone that hit south-eastern Africa just last week to the wildfires that have raged across Saddleworth Moor, climate change is already devastating communities around the world. Every year average global temperatures are rising, and according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change we have just 11 years left to act to limit the worst of the crisis.

For decades, we’ve been told that ‘everyone is to blame for climate change’. But this isn’t true. It’s not ordinary people who’ve made the mess we’re in – it’s the oil barons and the fossil fuel executives. According to a report last year, just 100 companies are responsible for more than 70% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions since 1988. It’s the CEOs of these companies making money from climate catastrophe, while the rest of us are left facing extortionate energy bills and the damage caused by extreme weather events.

If we’re serious about preventing catastrophic warming, we have to take on the fossil fuel industry. Rather than digging more coal mines, drilling more oil fields and building more pipelines, we need to radically transform our energy infrastructure and build a green economy for the many. And this has to happen in every part of the country, from the de-industrialised Welsh valleys to my hometown of Redcar in North Yorkshire.

But in order to win this fight, we also need to take on the banks. Although fossil fuel companies have lots of money, they don’t have the billions of dollars needed to build their infrastructure. This is financed by banks, including HSBC, the Royal Bank of Scotland and Barclays.

Of all the banks, Barclays is by far by worst. A new report published by BankTrack and others last week has shown that between 2016 and 2018 Barclays funded fossil fuels to the tune of over $85bn, with over $24bn going into fossil fuel expansion.

That’s why Momentum, in collaboration with campaign group People & Planet, are taking action. This Saturday, at over 40 Barclays branches across the country (which can be found on Momentum’s online map), Momentum members from Bangor to Banbury will be staging creative direct actions to pressure the bank into dropping its fossil fuel investments, using distributed organising techniques pioneered by the Bernie Sanders presidential campaign in 2016 including mass conference calls and WhatsApp groups to mobilise members.

This kind of action has worked before. In the 1980s, UK students won their campaign to get Barclays to withdraw from the apartheid regime in South Africa. And in 2017, following hundreds of direct actions staged by People & Planet campaigners across the country, Barclays’ chairman told shareholders the bank would be withdrawing its financing of a company licensed to frack in Ryedale.

It’s clear we need urgent action on climate change, and right now people across the world demanding it. From the movements pushing for a Green New Deal in both the US and the UK to the international youth climate strikes, people are calling on governments to decarbonise our economies, invest in renewables and create hundreds of thousands of high-paid, unionised green jobs.

But to transform Britain, we need to take on corporate power too. A decade ago, the banks crashed the economy, condemning millions of people across the country to a decade of poverty and austerity. Now we’ve got to stop them crashing the planet. Find out where your nearest action is taking place, turn up on Saturday, and together let’s land a fatal blow to the fossil fuel industry.

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