They owe us: Why we need to take the climate crisis to the heart of global finance
Date: 31 May 2013
Over the past five years as recession has turned first into depression and then into slump, governments and corporations have been highly effective at putting climate change on the back burner; in the age of austerity, saving the planet is a frivolous luxury we simply can’t afford.
So on Friday 14 June, just before world leaders jet in to the G8 Summit, we’ll converge on Canary Wharf to put the climate crisis firmly back on centre stage. We’ll demand that the banks repay their huge debts to society and to the planet.
Canary Wharf is of course an iconic centre of global capitalism, home to some of the world’s biggest banks and finance corporations and ground zero for the global economic meltdown.
Few people will need reminding that ordinary people are footing the bill for the banks’ £1tn bail out. But the finance industry is every bit as to blame for the fast approaching climate crisis as it is for the economic crisis.
As a recent report from carbon tracker showed (http://www.carbontracker.org/wastedcapital) , global finance invested over £441bn last year alone in fossil fuel extraction; easily enough to guarantee irreversible climate change.
Why? Because global finance knows that the world economy is addicted to using plentiful energy, regardless of the consequences. And by investing so much, the banks and wealthy investors are doing everything they can to ensure we don’t kick the habit.
The fact is global capitalism and climate change are inextricably intertwined.
It’s no accident that 8 of the 10 largest companies in the world are energy corporations. Energy corporations have dominated global capitalism for the last 100 years.
After all, an economic model that requires infinite growth must also require abundant energy, even if it means tipping the planet inexorably towards climate chaos.
This insatiable demand for profit has led the city to invest in ever more destructive ways of extracting fossil fuels, such as shale gas “fracking” that causes earthquakes and poisons water supplies, the apocalyptic tar sands in Canada and drilling for oil in the Arctic.
Indeed, City investors show no embarrassment in touting the Arctic’s rapidly melting icecap as an unprecedented business opportunity.
Wherever energy and markets mix, the results are usually disastrous for the environment. Take Europe’s doomed Emissions Trading Scheme ,where companies were supposed to pay for carbon credits on excess emissions. Instead, corporation gamed the system so much that carbon credits became virtually worthless. And of course carbon emissions carried on upwards.
Meanwhile, here in Britain it has recently emerged that energy corporations and city financiers have been fixing the energy markets.
The “Big Six” cartel of energy companies that control the UK energy market are being investigated for fixing gas trade prices; this, at a time when annual household gas bills have rocketed by £300 on average, pushing millions of Britons into fuel poverty.
And just two weeks ago it emerged that Shell and BP had their offices raided as part of an investigation into fixing the oil market.
These scams are strikingly similar to fixing of the LIBOR market rates that led to several banks being fined hundreds of millions of dollars.
We clearly need to radically rethink the corrupt relationship between our energy supply and private capital. And if we are to seriously resist climate change, our first step must be to make our energy system work for the common good and not for private profit.
But, predictably enough, our current government appears to be in denial about our energy crisis, desperately pushing the energy companies’ fossil fuel schemes at the expense of renewable energy projects.
In October last year 21 people spent a week up the chimney of West Burton Gas Power Station to protest the government’s mad “Dash for gas” to build new gas power stations.
And despite an outrageous lawsuit form EDF suing the protesters for £5m, No Dash for Gas plans to return to West Burton with hundreds of people for the “Reclaim the Power” camp in August.
Meanwhile Frack Off has carried out a number of high profile actions, that have helped to put plans for large-scale “fracking” in the UK in serious doubt.
“They owe us” on 14 June is part of this resurgence in climate action as activists force climate change back on to the agenda.
Join us as we take climate protest to where it’s possibly needed most of all; to the home of the finance corporations that are banking on climate chaos.