On the 31st of September, a group of demonstrators broke the world record for the greatest number of protests in one day, in an attempt to draw attention to the London’s role in global climate change. The group, calling themselves the 'Carbon Marathon,' held sixty-two protests at companies and institutions connected to the fossil fuel industry across the capital, breaking the previous record of twenty-two held by Amnesty International. Beginning as trading opened at Canary Wharf at 8am, the ‘race’ passed through the City of London, Mayfair, and Westminster, before finishing on the Southbank at 6pm.
Targets included extractive companies such as BP, but also many indirect and lesser-known participants in the fossil fuel industry. At HSBC’s Canary Wharf office, activists blocked one entrance in protest at the bank’s nearly £7 billion investment in coal between 2005 and 2014, causing a ‘code red’ to be declared by security. Another blockade occurred in Moorgate at Phillips 66, part owner of the Dakota Access Pipeline currently being fought by Indigenous Sioux communities in the USA. Further targets included industry associations, private equity firms, brokerages, consultancies, legal firms and public finance institutions. The marathon marked the beginning of Reclaim Power, a global month of action against dirty energy, for clean, community power.
Charlie Satow, an organiser of the protest, said: “Last year, the UK signed the Paris Agreement, committing to pursue efforts to keep global temperatures below a 1.5C limit. Dirty energy is the single largest contributor to climate change, and the science resoundingly states if we are to stand any chance of achieving our targets, we need to leave fossil fuels in the ground. Despite this, London continues to harbour a network of companies and institutions that benefit from the endurance of fossil fuels. Today we shine a light on this injustice, and ask whether it’s acceptable to Londoners, to have hundreds of companies in this city bankrolling and facilitating it.”
Daniel Macmillen Voskoboynik, another organiser of the marathon, added: “Through fires, floods, heat waves and droughts, the furious impacts of an altered climate are increasingly inescapable. Tackling climate violence means tackling one of the major obstacles in our way: a dirty energy industry intent on preserving its wealth at the expense of the safety and dignity of much of the world’s population. Today’s actions aim to expose those companies, institutions and political actors responsible for delaying our only hope: a swift, just transition to an energy and transport system that works for people and planet.”
Recent research shows that oil and gas fields and coal mines currently in operation contain enough carbon to push the world over the threshold for two degrees of global warming. London and the UK are particularly embedded within the global fossil fuel industry, with one third of the total value of the FTSE 100 being represented by fossil fuel and mining companies.