London climate change activists zero in on BlackRock

With more than 2,500 people arrested globally in the past week, Extinction Rebellion is now targeting the asset manager.

    A protester eats fake money outside the BlackRock office during Extinction Rebellion demonstrations in London [Henry Nicholls/Reuters]
    A protester eats fake money outside the BlackRock office during Extinction Rebellion demonstrations in London [Henry Nicholls/Reuters]

    Climate activists targeted BlackRock, the world's biggest asset manager, in London on Monday to demand that financial institutions starve fossil fuel companies of money to build new mines, wells and pipelines.

    Extinction Rebellion relies on civil disobedience to highlight the risks posed by global warming and the accelerating loss of plant and animal species and is half-way through a two-week wave of actions in cities around the world, particularly in the United Kingdom.

    Activists thronged the financial heart of the UK capital on Monday, unfurling banners, addressing passersby by megaphone and blocking streets - around locations that included BlackRock, the Bank of England, Bank of China and Barclays.

    At BlackRock, volunteers glued themselves to the doors while others staged a mock dinner party with rolled-up banknotes on their plates.

    "The City of London is a pre-eminent nexus of power in the global system that is killing our world," said Carolina Rosa, spokesperson for Extinction Rebellion.

    Extinction Rebellion wants to cause enough disruption to force governments to cut carbon emissions rapidly and reverse the collapse of ecosystems. Their goal is to avert the worst of the devastation that scientists project if business as usual continues.

    Critics say the group is proposing what amounts to the overthrow of capitalism without any clear idea of what would replace it, and that the world's energy needs cannot be met without fossil fuels - which are directly causing climate change.

    Extinction Rebellion said that 1,336 people had been arrested in London since it launched its actions a week ago. A further 1,463 people have been arrested in 20 cities in countries including the Netherlands, Belgium, the US, Australia, Canada and New Zealand.

    'This is criminal damage'

    While activists have long targeted fossil fuel companies, a growing movement is increasingly scrutinising the role that fund managers, banks and insurance companies are playing to enable oil and gas extraction.

    Emily Grossman, a British science broadcaster and expert in molecular biology who joined the protest outside BlackRock, said that financing for fossil fuel projects undermined the goals of the 2015 Paris Agreement to limit global warming.

    "This is criminal damage that they are doing to our lives and to the lives of our children," said Grossman. "And it has to stop."

    Major oil companies have approved $50bn in projects since last year that run contrary to the goals of the Paris Agreement, according to an analysis published last month by financial think-tank Carbon Tracker.

    Fossil fuel companies say they need to invest in new projects to meet future demand for energy, particularly in fast-growing regions such as Asia.

    Climate protesters want to pressure index fund firms such as BlackRock because the sector - which now controls half the United States stock mutual fund market - has enormous power to influence companies in which they invest trillions of dollars.

    But the leading US index fund firms - BlackRock, Vanguard Group and State Street Corp - rarely use that clout, a Reuters News Agency analysis of their shareholder voting records found earlier this month.

    SOURCE: Reuters news agency