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Reform Magazine | January 17, 2022

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Piling on the pressure: Outside COP26

Piling on the pressure: Outside COP26

Adam McGibbon gives a campaigner’s perspective on the UN climate summit

It can be immensely confusing working out what’s going on at a COP gathering. It’s confusing to untangle all the messages coming out through the media, but also confusing just to be there, in Glasgow, in Paris and, in my case, COP24 in Poland – the last COP I was at before this year.

It feels like there are two conferences going on, almost like two separate worlds. There’s the one inside the negotiation hall, with the state representatives, the politicians and the civil servants. And then there’s the one outside, with the observers, the NGOs, the protestors and the marchers. There’s a bit of overlap – some of the NGOs are inside, observing the actual negotiations – but not much. In Poland I certainly felt like all the energy and ideas were happening outside the conference hall, not in it – and to a certain extent it’s been like that in Glasgow too.

I was there as the UK Campaign Lead for Market Forces. We’re an international organisation that works to shift finance away from activities that harm the environment. Largely, we’re campaigning against private financial institutions, especially banks. In the UK we are targeting three globally significant banks – Barclays, HSBC and Standard Chartered. They spout endless platitudes about climate change action, but every week they continue to finance fossil fuel companies and projects that are destroying the world’s hopes of meeting climate targets.

A lot of companies, like those banks, go to the COP gatherings to boost their brand. Our goal was to disrupt their narratives and pile on the pressure. So, early on in the first week we announced the results of our Race to Disaster research. We’d calculated the levels of investment these three banks had put into financing fossil fuels between last January and now. Barclay’s ‘won’ the race with $5.6b of investment – but HSBC isn’t far behind, with $5.3b.

Barclays wants you to think it’s responsible and climate-friendly but since 2015 (when the Paris climate agreement was signed) it has financed around $145b in fossil fuels, making it the biggest financier of fossil fuels in Europe and the seventh largest in the world. This was picked up by Sky News, the Associated Press, the Evening Standard and others…

Adam McGibbon is UK Campaign Lead for Market Forces, which exposes institutions that finance environmentally destructive projects. He was talking to Laurence Wareing, Content Editor for Reform. www.twitter.com/adammcgibbon

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This is an extract from an article published in the December 2021/January 2022 edition of Reform

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