Extinction Rebellion targets BlackRock, keeping up the pressure

Activists have repeatedly called the biggest global asset manager the 'world's largest investor in deforestation'.

    Protesters eat fake money outside BlackRock's London headquarters during an Extinction Rebellion demonstration in October [Henry Nicholls/Reuters]
    Protesters eat fake money outside BlackRock's London headquarters during an Extinction Rebellion demonstration in October [Henry Nicholls/Reuters]

    Climate activists with Extinction Rebellion have targeted BlackRock, the world's biggest asset manager, by dumping ashes at its London office.

    The action was part of a campaign designed to draw yet more attention to what activists - in the United Kingdom and elsewhere - says is destruction that Blackrock unleashes in the Amazon basin through its investments.

    More:

    "BlackRock are the world's top investor in deforestation and coal, and one of the biggest investors in other fossil fuels," Extinction Rebellion said.

    "We have dumped a pile of wood ash outside the building to represent the destruction of the Amazon fires, and are holding an open mic in the ashes for activists to embody the flames of our rage and compassion."

    Activists unfurled a banner with the slogan "Stop financing deforestation".

    Impossible to ignore: Inside Extinction Rebellion | earthrise [10:53]

    The ashes came from waste collected from pizza ovens and wood-burning stoves.

    At the protest, the group also planned a "carnival of flames and ashes with chaotic dance performances, fire-jugglers, musicians, [and] speakers from multiple groups, giving a personal account of the fate their communities and territories face when daily attacked by extractivist industries".

    BlackRock, which has $6.84 trillion in assets under management, could not be reached for immediate comment.

    In August, as fires ravaging the Amazon basin sparked unprecedented deforestation, a report released by Friends of the Earth, Amazon Watch and Dutch research firm Profundo took BlackRock to task over its "substantial exposure to deforestation and land conflict risk".

    The report concluded that BlackRock is among the top three shareholders in 25 of the planet's largest publicly traded companies with "deforestation risk". An analysis of BlackRock's holdings showed that the asset manager's investments in six sectors - soy, beef, palm oil, rubber, timber and pulp/paper- have increased by more than half a billion dollars in the past five years.

    Campaign groups have also called BlackRock the "biggest driver of climate chaos", due to its huge investments in fossil fuel companies.

    The fund manager drew media attention in the UK in 2017 when appointing former UK Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne - one of the principal architects of Britain's austerity-driven economy - as a senior adviser.

    He receives 650,000 pounds ($840,000) a year for the part-time consultancy role, according to a register of Members of Parliament's interests, sparking controversy over whether he may be profiting from his government experience and contacts for corporate lobbying. He is also editor of London's Evening Standard newspaper.

    Stanley Fischer, the former number two at the United States Federal Reserve, has also been a senior adviser to the company since early 2019.

    Extinction Rebellion has announced that activists in 22 countries will begin a global hunger strike starting on Monday, and launch a new wave of protests in the UK to keep the climate emergency on the political agenda in the build-up to a Brexit-dominated election on December 12.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies