City of London under two-day siege as activists take over

  • Post last modified:February 27, 2024
  • Reading time:20 mins read

The City of London has been under siege for two days, thanks to activists. Rightly so, given the insurance industry at the heart of one of the world’s largest financial centres has been getting away with destroying the planet for decades. However, this week numerous campaign groups are holding the City of London and its businesses to account.

Predictably, cops have already got involved to protect big business – arresting five activists as of 5pm on Tuesday 27 February.

Insure Our Future

Insure Our Future’s Global Week of Action aims to highlight the insurance industry’s complicity in helping fossil fuel projects to expand, whilst climate breakdown is happening on a global scale and parts of the world are becoming uninsurable or people can no longer afford insurance premiums.

In the UK, home insurance premiums are expected to rise by more than a third in the next two years. At a time when many families are struggling to afford the basics, they will incur costly insurance premiums from an industry that is enabling climate-wrecking fossil fuel projects that threaten their children’s futures.

Mothers Rise Up in the City of London

First, on Monday 26 February, Mothers Rise Up – a group of concerned mums who campaign for climate action – performed a vibrant and orchestral street show at 11.00am outside the headquarters of corporate insurance giant, Lloyd’s of London. It kicked off the start of Insure Our Future’s Global Week of Action.

In the City of London, Mothers Rise Up urged the marketplace to cease insurance for new fossil fuel projects, and for a fair and rapid phase-down and out of existing fossil fuel projects in line with a 1.5°C pathway which is needed to avoid the deadliest impacts of climate breakdown and allow all children to grow up on a safe planet.

The striking, family-friendly street performance consisted of more than 30 dancers grouped into mothers and corporates, creating a show where a new world is imagined, performed to Dvořák’s New World Symphony:

Performance and protest go hand-in-hand

Towering stilt walkers dressed as oil derricks depicted the fossil fuel industry, and a young child in a huge planet Earth showed what is at stake. Dozens of concerned mothers, some with toddlers in tow, grandmothers, aunts and uncles also gathered outside Lloyd’s to urge the insurer to do what is right for all children’s futures:

city of london

The theatrical show, which kicked off Insure Our Future’s Global Week of Action, juxtaposed the fragility of a child’s innocent world, against a corporate and oily money-driven agenda – and imagined how the insurance industry could be a powerful force for positive change.

The performance ended with the insurance industry siding with the mothers and choosing to protect the future of children and the planet by ceasing the insurance of dangerous fossil fuel projects:

As the performance closed, the classical track faded to gentle birdsong. Before this event, a peaceful interfaith vigil by Quakers in Britain was held between 9:30-10:30am, organised in support of the Global Week of Action.

A global network of action

The display was crafted by Mothers Rise Up together with Denni Sayers – a mother, choreographer and director working in opera and theatre. She has previously choreographed performances at leading opera houses around the world, as well as Mothers Rise Up’s previous Mary Poppins flash mob outside Lloyd’s of London:

The mother-led action outside Lloyd’s was one of more than 57 events happening across 27 countries and six continents from 26 February to 3 March, from New York to Tokyo and Zurich, highlighting the often-overlooked role of the insurance industry in fuelling the climate crisis:

city of london

This is the first time that so many different groups have joined together globally to demand climate action from the insurance industry.

City of London insurers: laggards on the climate crisis

Emma Powell, co-founder of Mothers Rise Up and a key creative force in conceiving the action, said:

We all want a healthy and thriving planet for children and future generations. Through music, props and dance, we are creating a vision of a better world and urging the insurance industry to play its role in bringing this future into reality. We hope that our action will see those in the city looking up from their everyday busyness and committing to do their bit in working towards the cleaner, brighter future all children need.

Maya Mailer, co-founder of Mothers Rise Up, said:

As the climate crisis deepens and our fears mount for our children and all children, we continue to search for creative ways to inspire insurers to take courageous action. Through their underwriting choices, insurance companies can play a pivotal role in accelerating a fair, rapid transition to a world powered by safe, clean renewable energy.

And yet insurers in the Lloyd’s marketplace continue to insure and enable dangerous fossil fuel expansion, including human rights abusing projects like the East African Crude Oil Pipeline. The world’s oldest and most influential marketplace should be a leader, not a laggard, and play its part now in preventing further climate breakdown.

Our kids need action now: later is too late.

Then, on Tuesday 27 February Extinction Rebellion got involved – and things got occupied.

Extinction Rebellion: doing its thing

Extinction Rebellion activists today occupied the offices of five major insurers in the heart of the City of London, including the iconic Walkie Talkie building.

Teams of activists in business attire infiltrated the lobbies of the firms from 8.30am, outsmarting police and security, and staged a lobby occupation calling for company bosses to talk to them about the need to stop insuring new oil, coal and gas.

The buildings occupied were:

  • The Walkie Talkie – offices of Tokio Marine.
  • Leadenhall Street – offices of Probitas.
  • Threadneedle Street – offices of Talbot.
  • Creechurch Place – offices of Travellers.
  • Mark Street – offices of Zurich.

city of london

‘No insurance = no drilling for oil and gas’

One of the Extinction Rebellion protesters Liz Pendleton said:

We wanted to engage constructively with insurance bosses about their decision to insure the fossil fuel crooks wrecking the climate.

A member of staff from Zurich did take a letter from XR to their CEO. But no-one from senior management at any of the companies we visited had the courage to talk to us. It seems they were too shy about their bad climate behaviour to actually face us and justify it.

The insurance industry has a unique opportunity to immediately halt all the ‘carbon bomb’ projects like the East Africa Crude Oil Pipeline and the West Cumbria coal mine that will cause climate breakdown and a future of killer storms and heatwaves, floods, famine and war.

It’s very simple. No insurance equals no drilling. No insurance equals no digging. So these companies have a superpower that could give us all a fighting chance of a liveable future. Most of the insurance companies’ CEOs may not have responded to our letter, but we know that there are many good people working in these buildings, with friends and families they care about. They also don’t want this planet destroyed.

We will continue trying to engage with these businesses in the hope that they will act before it’s too late.

Insure our Future NOW

The occupations are part of a week of protest in the UK and across the world by climate activists. They came a week after Extinction Rebellion sent a letter to more than 40 insurers in the City of London warning they could face targeted protests unless they met three demands, including a complete and immediate ban on insuring new and expanding oil, gas and coal projects, infrastructure and operations.

The occupying activists unfurled banners saying “Fossil Fuel Insurance is our Death Assurance”, “No Cover for Climate Chaos”, and “Insure our Future – not Fossil Fuels” and invited insurance workers to sit down and speak with them to talk through how the insurance industry can help insure our future:

Copies of Extinction Rebellion’s ultimatum letter were handed into the reception desk with a polite invitation for insurance company bosses to meet activists in the lobby to discuss their decisions to continue to insure climate-wrecking fossil fuel projects:

city of london

Insurance workers and their bosses have also been invited to attend a community assembly on “How can the insurance industry move faster to slow climate breakdown?” on 5 March at 7pm.

While the occupations were going on, a large group of protesters held a Fossil Fool Tour around the City, carrying broken umbrellas symbolising the insurance industry’s failure to protect us, visiting the occupied buildings and supporting the activists inside:

Insurance resulting in destruction

One of the protesters, Polly Hallam, a student at London School of Economics, said:

I can’t just stand by while these companies sit in their comfortable offices calmly issuing insurance policies that will result in destruction, displacement and death across the world. We’ve seen that insurance firms are capable of doing the right thing when they face protests. Many pulled out of climate-wrecking projects like the Cambo oil field in the North Sea under pressure from activists. We urge the companies we visit today to do the same.

Another protester Dr Lucy Hogarth, a member of Scientists for Extinction Rebellion, said:

Just 20 companies, many of which are based in the City of London, ensure 70% of fossil fuel projects. Examples such as Cambo in the UK and the East Africa Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP) have proven that the insurance industry will pull out of these projects when pressured. I have joined the Insurance Week of Action to tell insurance companies that insuring fossil fuel extraction in 2024 is unacceptable. These companies are enabling destruction, displacement and death from the comfort of their headquarters.

Predictably, cops with nothing better to do than protect corporate climate criminals arrested five Extinction Rebellion activists:

City of London: be warned, it’s not over…

Insurance companies are experts in risk and know precisely the threat that climate change and environmental destruction poses to us all, yet these companies continue to insure oil, gas, and even coal projects. Without insurance, major oil, gas and coal companies cannot operate.

Insure Our Future’s week of action is continuing. Make sure you’re following the Canary for more updates, or you can subscribe to our daily emails here.

Featured image and additional images supplied

Source link