Children made climate an election issue. Now we’ll target banks that fuel fossils

Comment: The EU election showed voters have heard the school strikers’ call for action. But will the public institutions that finance coal, oil and gas projects also listen?

The Trans Anatolian Pipeline gas project in Turkey (Photo: Tanap)

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For the first time in the history of the European elections, the climate crisis was a decisive issue for many voters because us young people helped make this a big ticket issue – even though we were unable to actually vote.

Politicians, at both national and European level are failing to take the transformative action the climate breakdown calls for. We demand politicians make limiting global temperature rise to the critical 1.5C threshold a top priority.

Today, there is a more powerful mandate for climate action in Europe than we ever had before, but we are not prepared to sit back and leave our future in the hands of politicians. We are the first generation to really be hit by the impacts of climate change and we are the last generation who can prevent an irreversible collapse of our climate. The science is clear: limiting global heating to 1.5C or below is achievable, it is a matter of justice, a matter of political will and crucially a matter of people power. We are taking action now and in the coming months because we are not willing to take our chances with politicians.

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That is why last Friday, well over a million youths around the world took to the streets again with over 1800 climate strikes in more than 130 countries, and why we took our protest to the EU banks that are fuelling the climate crisis. In Europe, we demand that our public banks stop fossil fuel funding and instead invest in the transformation of our economy we urgently need. These banks control the money and have the power to effect real change. The action we need requires systemic change and that demands that we shift the flows of capital. The banks control the money, so they have the power to effect real change.

Currently, both the European Central Bank and the European Investment Bank provide easy finance, worth billions of euros, to the fossil fuel industry. In addition to providing loans that enable fossil fuel projects in the first place, these public banks also provide a ‘rubber stamp of approval’ by taking on the bulk of any financial risk, which guide the private banks before getting involved.

This article is part of a collaboration between Climate Home News and the global student climate strike movement. Read why we are offering a platform to young people here.

Further still, public institutions like the European Investment Bank continue to provide direct technical and legal support for new fossil fuel projects to directly help them get realised. In many respects these banks are often more than just passive lenders to projects. They facilitate projects going ahead from conception to completion and offer up public money to take on the financial risks of these projects.

Coal, oil and gas companies are the main driver of greenhouse gas emissions. Their destructive business plan to keep developing more and more fossil fuels is incompatible with a liveable planet and the Paris Agreement. The destruction of our climate should not be enabled with our public money. The European Investment Bank is currently reviewing its energy lending policy. We demand that the group of finance ministers that comprise the EIB’s Board of Governors seize this moment to cut funding for massive new fossil gas projects and treat the climate crisis with the gravity it requires.

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Instead of lining the pockets of fossil fuel CEOs and their shareholders, European public money should be going towards the transition to a fossil free economy, which requires massive investments and is in all of our interest. The European Central Bank has been a key player in obstructing the transition to a low-carbon society. Its push for austerity measures forced many countries, especially across southern Europe, to make deep cuts in areas that are vital to address the climate crisis such as public transport and renewable energy.

Since 2008, central banks in Europe have created €2.4 trillion worth of ‘new money’ to bail out the very institutions that have caused the financial crisis. If we can print trillions to save the banks, we can mobilise the finance needed to build out the energy infrastructure and low-carbon society and avert climate breakdown.

We know that banning fossil fuel funding and investing in the new economy is only the start to a deeper transformation of our financial institutions and societies. EU banks are major players propping up the destructive status quo of financial markets striving for infinite growth, which has pumped gigantic amounts of money into fossil fuel extraction and has pushed us beyond what our planetary boundaries can sustain.

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We have shown that even if we are not able to cast our votes in elections that does not mean we are without power. School strikes around the world have been mobilising millions of people in communities across the world. We cannot and will not allow the blatant disregard for our futures to continue. We have shifted the debate in the lead-up to the European elections and influenced the outcomes. We need to build on this momentum and push for bold action on climate change, which also needs to provide an answer to the social and economic issues that have emboldened far-right parties.

This movement is only building in strength as we confront the institutions driving climate breakdown, we will leave politicians with no choice but to act. We will make sure that the climate emergency can no longer be ignored by the political and financial backers of the fossil fuel industry. This is not just our generation’s job. We are already planning for another massive global mobilisation. Starting with a global climate strike on 20th September, we will kick off a week of climate action and call on adults to take action alongside us.

Konstantin Nimmerfroh is from Fridays for Future Frankfurt and Erik Konijn is part of Youth For Climate Luxembourg.

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