The climate action group Extinction Rebellion (XR) had a special Valentine’s present for Citigroup on Feb. 14.
About 80 XR activists gathered outside Citigroup’s global headquarters in Tribeca, calling on the banking conglomerate to stop investing in fossil fuel expansion. The protestors showed their love for “Mother Earth” holding banners and a “broken” heart while handing out fliers to passersby and Citigroup employees, scurrying to work.
Climate activists fear that time is running out if governments and private companies don’t take swifter and more drastic actions to cut greenhouse gas emissions.
According to the International Energy Agency, there can’t be any new oil, gas, or coal development if countries want to bring down the greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by no later than 2050, aggressively addressing the climate emergency. Net-zero emissions would keep a 1.5 degree rise in temperature within reach and prevent a climate catastrophe.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) says that the next few years are critical to prevent a complete climate collapse.The organization urges that immediate and deep emissions reductions across all sectors have to happen within the next three years. Otherwise, limiting global warming to 1.5°C is beyond reach. Environmental groups warn that a climate collapse could lead to mass extinction and social upheaval.
Yet, Citigroup, the second largest financier of fossil fuels next to JP Morgan Chase, invested $15 billion in fossil fuel expansion in 2021. Between 2016 and 2021, just after Paris Climate Agreement was adopted in 2015, Citigroup has financed $285 billion in fossil fuel investments. Of the $285 billion, almost $105 billion went to fossil fuel extraction.
Joanna Oltman-Smith said she joined the protest because signing petitions and phone calls haven’t worked.
“We worked to get the right people in office that will set good regulations, overseeing how banks do business,” Oltman-Smith said. “And so far, nothing.”
Protesters also called out Citi’s funding of fossil fuel projects in the Amazon, the planet’s most important ecosystem and home to millions of Indigenous People. Environmental groups say Citi is the biggest funder of state-run oil projects in the Amazon. They draw a direct correlation between Citigroup’s funding and the destruction of the Amazon’s ecosystem and human rights violations of Indigenous groups.
Teddy (last name withheld) said Citi was one of the planet’s “biggest climate criminals.” He emphasized that time was running out and that banks needed to pull out of investing in fossil fuels immediately.
“And a double whammy is that [oil companies] are doubling fossil fuel extraction in the Ecuadorian Amazon,” Teddy said. “The Amazon is the planet’s most important carbon sink. So, as they’re drilling for oil in the Amazon to spew more carbon into the air, they’re taking away our best shot at actually capturing and storing any of the carbon that’s already in our atmosphere.”
One activist said that the pipeline transporting oil from the “lungs of the planet” to the coastal port has had 427 spills and that 2,000 contaminated sites haven’t been cleaned up.
“All banks, including Citi Group, must commit to ending financing and exploitation of fossil fuels and the Amazon and in the world in general,” they said.
Claire (last name withheld) lamented that not enough people talk about big banks’ involvement in the funding of fossil fuels.
“We need solutions now,” Clairs said. “We don’t need solutions in 2035. We don’t need solutions in 2050. We need solutions now.”
Ex-Brit turned Manhattan resident since 2008.