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#SummerOfHeat: Why scientists are engaging in civil disobedience at Citibank?

Climate activists launch "Summer of Heat" in NYC, targeting Citigroup for fossil fuel financing. Protests led by diverse groups and scientists aim to end Wall Street's support for climate-harming projects. Citigroup defends its climate commitments.

By Ground report
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#SummerOfHeat: Why scientists are engaging in civil disobedience at Citibank?

Photo credit: New York Communities for Change/X

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New York's financial district is the latest battleground in the fight against climate change. A coalition of climate action organizations has launched the "Summer of Heat," an activism program targeting Citigroup and other Wall Street companies for financing fossil fuel projects exacerbating the climate crisis. Climate Defenders, Climate Organizing Hub, New York Communities for Change, Stop the Money Pipeline, and Planet Over Profit are organizing the Summer of Heat.

Activists block NYC Citi Bank HQ protest

On Monday, 150 activists crowded in front of Citigroup's headquarters on Greenwich Street near North Moore Street in Tribeca. The protest began the "Summer of Heat on Wall Street," described by organizers as "a months-long campaign of relentless and disruptive protests to end Wall Street funding for oil, coal, and gas." 52 climate activists were arrested for blocking the doors to Citibank's global headquarters in New York City, where 12,000 employees work. This action, dubbed "Spring Spark," was a precursor to the "Summer of Heat," a series of disruptive protests aimed at banks and other institutions enabling fossil fuel companies.

The protests are organized by local groups involving people of colour, working families, and youth, with hundreds of member groups. Alice Hu, senior climate campaigner with New York Communities for Change, a coalition member, explained the rationale behind the protests;

After Hurricane Sandy, we've prioritized the climate fight. We're targeting Citibank because they're the biggest funder of new fossil fuel projects since the 2016 Paris Agreement".

NASA scientist joins climate protest

Scientists among the protesters added depth to the demonstrations. NASA climate scientist Peter Kalmus, arrested during the protest, said;

"I'm here because we're in a slow-planetary emergency, which is heating up super fast right now. And one of the key reasons for this is the financing of new fossil fuel projects. Citibank is the worst, the biggest funder, the biggest financer of new fossil fuel projects on the planet right now since the Paris Agreement in 2016. So it's kind of like society is in this weird, collective, surreal, state of denial where we continue to do the thing that's causing the planet to overheat, that's causing the coral to die, the Amazon to die, that's causing all the ice sheets to melt, causing these floods and heat waves that we're experiencing. We're going to start getting crop losses and famines. It's because of this, the funding of new fossil fuel projects, which goes against the science."

Kalmus emphasized the urgency, stating, "We've written thousands and thousands of papers. They have not listened to us. They're fools. They're stupid. They're being unwise. They have to start listening to scientists."

The protesters echoed Kalmus's sentiments, chanting "Planet over profit!" as officers arrested some participants. One protester, on a video posted to an X account called "Planet Over Profit," highlighted the significance of the action;

"They've arrested dozens of us today because we're out here for the kickoff to Summer of Heat. CitiBank is funding... hundreds of billions of dollars to the fossil fuel industry, while putting all of our lives at risk. So people are taking arrest over and over throughout the summer to let CitiBank know and to let Wall Street know they can't keep funding and financing destruction and death across the globe."

Citi defends against protest blockage

Citi defended its position, a company spokesperson said in a statement, "While we respect peaceful protests, activists do not have the right to block building access. Citi welcomes stakeholder engagement and is transparent about climate-related activities."

The spokesperson added, "We support the transition to a low-carbon economy through our net zero commitments and $1 trillion sustainable finance goal, reflecting the need to transition while meeting global energy needs."

According to Citi's Climate report, the company funded about $10.4 billion to the energy sector in 2022, with $4 billion going to oil and gas production. A report by nonprofit groups in May showed that the world's 60 largest banks provided fossil fuel companies with more than $6.9 trillion in financing in the eight years after the 2015 Paris Agreement. Citigroup, which owns Citibank, has financed the most new extraction projects and is the second-worst in overall fossil fuel financing at nearly $400 billion since 2015.

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