October 21, 2020

Protesters outside European Central Bank demand end to fossil fuel investments

Wednesday 21st October. Frankfurt, Germany. Protestors outside the European Central Bank (ECB) today demanded the Bank stop financing the fossil fuel industry, following the breakthrough revelation last week that the ECB is considering ditching its principle of market neutrality, which has led to it purchasing billions of euros of bonds from polluters like Shell and Total. Activists from the Koala Kollektiv, a climate justice group, set fire to a model planet earth outside the headquarters of the European Central Bank (ECB) in Frankfurt to symbolise the destruction caused by the Central Bank. More than 160,000 Europeans have called on the Bank to stop financing climate breakdown.

“Stopping climate change is the most urgent challenge of our time. If we fail to meet the Paris climate targets, humanitarian crises such as famine and wars over resources will become a constant reality in this century. We demand that the ECB stops giving money to industries that threaten our future. That means: getting out of coal, oil, gas and combustion engines. In particular, the billions spent to respond to the Corona crisis should not add fuel to the climate crisis. Instead, the ECB must promote a socio-ecological transformation of our economy.” said a spokesperson for the Koala Kollektiv.

The action was timed to coincide with today’s ‘ECB listens’ event, intended to gather input from civil society groups to help shape the bank’s future direction and priorities as part of the bank’s ongoing strategy review. More than 80% of 24,000 Europeans recently surveyed by civil society groups SumOfUs, Reclaim Finance and 350.org said that climate, environment and social issues should be the highest priority for the central bank but the ECB continues to support fossil fuel finance.

“Europeans do not want a return to ‘normal’, where profit reigns supreme at the expense of our climate, our health and a real social justice for all. And the European Central Bank has a chance to listen by ending their position of ‘market neutrality’ that does nothing more than prop up dirty fossil fuel companies like Total and Shell. We know they are reviewing their position, we know they are aware of the massive outcry, but now it is time to act.” said Leyla Larbi, Senior Campaigner at SumOfUs.

“President of the ECB, Christine Lagarde has said the bank should ‘explore every avenue’ to tackle the climate crisis, but the bank is purchasing bonds from some of the world’s worst climate criminals through its trillion-euro Covid recovery package. The ECB is ‘listening’ to civil society today, but the truth is that they already know what they need to do – stop financing climate-wrecking companies like Total and Shell.” said Nick Bryer, Campaigner at 350.org.

“The voices of climate activists in Frankfurt echo those of more than 160,000 Europeans that have petitioned the ECB, reminding it that we must act now to face the climate emergency. As a preliminary step to a meaningful strategy review, ECB Governors must immediately stop purchasing the assets of climate destructive companies, starting with those involved in coal or planning new fossil fuel projects, and cannot wait the several years that it may take for the ongoing process to deliver concrete results.” said Paul Schreiber, Campaigner at Reclaim Finance.

This week new research from Greenpeace and the New Economics Foundation confirmed that ECB corporate asset purchases are improving the financing conditions of highly polluting companies and proposed alternatives to green them. The bank’s purchases are structurally misaligned with EU commitments to the Paris Climate Agreement and fail to adequately reflect climate-related financial risks.

Notes to editor

Media Contacts 

(EN) Mark Raven, Europe Communications at 350.org[email protected], +44 7841474125

(DE) Sebastian Bock, Germany Campaigner at 350.org[email protected], +49 1738667167

(EN) Jon Date, Communications on behalf of SumOfUs, jon.date@digacommunications.com, +44 7533011983

(FR/EN) Paul Schreiber, Campaigner at Reclaim Finance, [email protected], +33 6 89 02 07 88