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10th Aug 2022

Greta Thunberg leads pan-Europe COP26 climate protests

  • The wreckage from the 2021 floods was hauled from hard-hit Verviers in the east of Belgium to the European capital
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The decrepit remains of what was once a family vehicle was dropped on the doorstep of Belgian Central Bank (BNB) on Friday (29 October), in a protest against the financing of fossil fuels in the era of a climate emergency.

The wrecked car, damaged in the 2021 floods, was hauled from hard-hit Verviers in the east of the country to the BNB and the EU capital to bring "the reality of climate change to its doorstep" - a symbolic harbinger of what is to come if financial centres do not stop financing such fuels.

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  • A car, crushed in the 2021 floods which are an increasing part of the climate emergency. Fossil-fuel cars are also a cause of the problem

Environmental and financial NGO's Positive Money and FairFin were behind the action in the EU capital. In Paris, activists protested French banks NP Paribas, Société Générale, Crédit Agricole who invested billions in French oil company Total.

In Frankfurt, the ECB and Deutsche Bank were targeted, and in London Greta Thunberg founder of Fridays for Future protested in the financial district.

In total, 50 financial centres around the world were targeted on Friday, as part of concerted action to usher in the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, also known as COP26.

That flood left 242 people dead. Losses, across multiple countries including Germany, amount up to €10bn. "People won't have heating this winter," one of the activists told EUobserver.

Climatologists have connected the extreme rainfall event that led to the floods with climate change.

If banks keep funding fossil fuels this problem will only get worse, the activists said.

Their demand was simple: stop fossil fuel funding.

Since the 2015 Paris Agreement, the world's 60 biggest banks have poured over €3 trillion into fossil fuels, with EU banks providing over €475bn.

'Banks finance two-thirds of economy'

High on the agenda of this years' climate conference is sustainable finance.

Global leaders have come to believe that the best way to tackle climate change is to get banks and investors to channel all that wealth into clean technology, renovating homes and other world-saving projects.

The problem, according to Stan Jourdan of Positive Money, is that not all these new technologies are attractive investments yet - "we need €200bn investments in housing annually."

This could be supported if central banks would fund banks with negative interests loans, making it more attractive for commercial banks to invest in such projects.

Banking rules and the financial system, in general, does not attract big crowds. They are complex and seem remote from everyday experience and the problem of climate change.

"But banks finance two-thirds of the economy," Stan Jourdan, says. Real-life action like the large scale renovation of homes in large part starts with changes in the arcane rules of banks.

Central banks especially are important. They are tasked with regulating commercial banks.

And while the European Central Bank (ECB) has shown some initiative in greening the EU financial sector, much of it is still in the research and planning phase.

In practice, central banks still back fossil fuels through their bond-buying schemes and lending operations.

Activists want central banks like the BNB and the ECB to start enforcing rules that make it less attractive for investors and commercial banks to invest billions in new fossil-fuel infrastructure.

EU banks play 'major role' in deforestation, report finds

Banks based in the EU have earned a reported €401m from deforestation, out of more than €30bn worth of deals with companies linked to logging. Deal-making was dominated by big banks from the Netherlands, France, Spain, Germany, and Italy.

European banks book €20bn a year in tax havens

The research estimates that a 25-percent minimum tax rate (the lowest current rate within the seven largest world economies) would net member states an extra €10-13bn a year in tax revenue.

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