Protestors target fossil fuel financiers on eve of Cop26 summit

Pressure is building on financial groups backing fossil fuel extraction schemes in the final run-up to the Cop26 climate summit in Glasgow.

Protesters from Coal Action Network set up a climate justice memorial at Lloyd’s of London.

Pressure is building on the financial backers of new fossil fuel extraction schemes in the final run-up to the Cop26 climate summit in Glasgow.

On the eve of the crucial negotiations, groups in the UK and further afield have staged protests drawing attention to firms that continue to finance fossil fuel projects as scientists warn the effects of irreversible manmade climate change are already widespread and rapidly intensifying.

Two actions were held in England this Friday, both targeting Lloyd’s of London – which pledged last year to pull out of the fossil fuel market by 2030, but may offer financial cover for a number of new coal and oil ventures in the UK, Canada and Australia.

“Lloyd’s is known for insuring projects that no one else will,” said the Coal Action Network, “which increasingly includes climate-destroying fossil fuel projects, making it a major global energy insurer.”

Brianna Fruean, an advocate for the Pacific Islands at Cop26 who attended a morning rally outside the insurance company’s headquarters in the capital, told Left Foot Forward: “They know that we’re watching them and they know what destruction their investments have been causing.”

Protestors today called on the firm to rule out backing any future projects that involve fossil fuels. This would include several controversial ventures it has been linked with, such as the proposed new coal mine in west Cumbria and the North Sea Cambo oilfield project.

The UK government’s support for Cambo and flirtation with greenlighting the new deep mine in west Cumbria have both attracted sustained controversy during the same year it accommodates the ‘make or break’ UN climate talks. The recent public inquiry into the scheme heard that, aside from undermining the UK’s role as Cop26 host, approving West Cumbria Mining’s plans could trigger a chain reaction effect, boosting the prospects of fossil fuel projects overseas.

Demonstrators also turned out to make clear their anger over ongoing fossil-fuel finance at the offices of an associated firm in the former coal heartland of Newcastle upon Tyne, where less than a year ago time was effectively called on the domestic surface coal mining industry as councillors rejected plans for a new opencast pit on the outskirts of the city.

Tyneside protestors gathered outside the offices of Chubb, a Lloyd’s syndicate group, which is involved in the insurance of fossil fuel projects, such as the Adani coal mine in Australia.

Jack, from the Newcastle4Climate organisation, explained that the demonstrations’ wreath-laying acts were intended to underline that millions of people are already thought to be losing their lives to climate change each year.

“In our memorial, we remember the damage the climate crisis has caused and reflect on what the future may hold for our planet and its young people,” he said.

“By doing this, we are reminding the companies on our doorstep that they are directly profiting from and responsible for the loss of lives, nature and communities from the climate crisis.”

Those who turned out at the rally heard from campaigners opposing the opening of the west Cumbria mine, as well as residents from the area surrounding site of England’s last surface coal mine at Pont Valley, County Durham .

June Davison, a Pont Valley resident who has fought the project for years, told Left Foot Forward: “I think most people would struggle to understand the role that insurers like Lloyd’s have in enabling fossil fuel companies to cause the devastation they do.

“Most people probably mistake it for the bank [Lloyds plc] – when it’s a completely different company we’re talking about.”

Lloyd’s is not the only major financial group to come under renewed pressure over its climate record in the days leading up to Cop26 – where coal use is likely to top the agenda and world leaders are expected to commit to ambitious new pledges around fossil fuel phase-outs.

Deutsche Bank has this week faced backlash in Germany over its financial backing for Australia’s largest independent coal producer, the Whitehaven Coal firm (as distinct from West Cumbria Mining Ltd, which is bringing the deep mine application near St Bees, along the Cumbrian coast).

Lloyd’s of London has defended its climate record, pointing to its membership of the net Zero Insurance Alliance and Paris Agreement goals as proof of its stated commitment to move away from fossil fuel investments.

“Lloyd’s is accelerating its transition towards a more sustainable insurance and reinsurance marketplace,” said a spokesperson for the company. 

“We have this month further stepped up our climate action by joining the UN convened Net-Zero Insurance Alliance and committing to transition the Central Fund to net zero, while also leading the Lloyd’s market to a net zero underwriting position by 2050 at the latest. 

“To drive near term action in support of these goals, we will also set, publish, and report against interim science-based targets every 5 years and create a new market-wide ‘Sustainability Transparency and Reporting Regime’ in 2022 which will be used to measure the market’s progress towards net zero.”

Tommy Greene is a freelance journalist

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