King's Lynn campaigners stage 'fossil bank' protest
The Lynn branch of one of Britain’s biggest banking groups was the target for an environmental demonstration at the weekend.
Extinction Rebellion activists staged a protest outside the Barclays branch in the High Street on Saturday.
And they believe the action has given their cause a significant boost.
Robert Shippey, who was among the protesters, said: “We got pages of signatures for our petition to the borough council to declare a climate emergency, and had an uptick in new members joining us.”
The activists say the Barclays branch, which remained open throughout the protest, was targeted because of the company’s record of investment in fossil fuel extraction.
They have highlighted a report published by the campaign group BankTrack earlier this year, which says Barclays invested around £90 billion in fossil fuel projects, including fracking and coal extraction, over the past three years.
It claims the bank is the worst in Europe for investing in fossil fuel production, though Barclays insists it is taking its responsibilities seriously.
Mr Shippey said: “We didn’t aim to close the branch, or stop people from going about their day.
“We aimed to raise awareness of the dire situation we all face, and specifically make people aware that Barclays are using their customers money to continue to invest in fossil fuels.”
The bank says it invested more than £27 billion in social and environmental projects last year and is committed to procuring all its energy from renewable sources by 2030.
A statement on its website said: “We are determined to do all we can to support the transition to a low carbon economy, while ensuring that global energy needs continue to be met.”
The firm said its financing operations would reflect the expected longer-term shift away from carbon-based fuels.
But it argues that a “responsible approach” is needed to the use of fuels such as oil and gas in the near future.
They added: “We have placed specific restrictions on what we will finance, ensuring we are balancing our responsibility to help keep the lights on and to support economic prosperity.”
However, Charlie Gardner, of Extinction Rebellion, said it was “extraordinary” that the bank was continuing to invest in such projects despite the links between fossil fuel use and climate change.
He said: “It is particularly ironic that the very spot where Barclays stands on our proud High Street is likely to be underwater within decades as a result of the sea level rise that Barclays is profiting from.
“Our message to Barclays is simple: Profiting from our destruction is not acceptable, and until you divest completely from fossil fuels then you are not welcome on our High Street.”
More by this authorAllister Webb