‘This is an act of care’ – Extinction Rebellion women break windows at HSBC Canary Wharf HQ in latest action to highlight the financing of climate breakdown
April 22, 2021 by Extinction Rebellion
At 7am on Thursday 22nd of April, the 51st Earth Day, nine women from Extinction Rebellion and political party Burning Pink broke windows at the HSBC headquarters in Canary Wharf. The women wore patches with the words ‘better broken windows than broken promises’ in reference to the Suffragettes acts of civil disobedience, which are widely credited with winning women the right to vote in the UK. They placed stickers on the windows of the bank reading ‘£80 billion into fossil fuels in the last 5 years.’ After carefully breaking the glass using hammers and chisels the women sat down and waited to be arrested.
The action followed similar acts of civil disobedience at Barclays branches and the banks’ headquarters in Canary Wharf as part of XR’s Money Rebellion, as well as a number of actions internationally, highlighting the role of the financial sector in the climate and ecological crisis.     
Despite HSBCs pledge to shrink its carbon footprint to net zero by 2050, their current climate plan still allows the bank to finance coal power, and provides no basis to turn away clients or cancel contracts based on links to the fossil fuel industry.  The women argue that commitments to reaching net zero carbon emissions in 30 years’ time are largely meaningless without immediate action to put banks on course to avoid an increase in global temperature in excess of 1.5° Celsius.
According to a report released this year from the Rainforest Action Network, HSBC is Europe’s second-largest financier of fossil fuels after Barclays. The report details how HSBC has provided at least $111bn (£81bn) to some of the world’s largest fossil fuel firms since the Paris Agreement was signed in 2016. 
London mayoral candidate for political party Burning Pink, Valerie Brown, 68, was among the women who broke windows. Addressing HSBC management directly she said: “Investing in fossil fuels is murder. More and more people can see that clearly. Why can’t you?”
She added: “We will not stand by whilst you invest in runaway greed, whilst people’s lives are being shattered by the fossil fuel industries.”
The women used hammers and chisels decorated with the names of five members of the South Afrikan women’s climate justice group, the Pink Panthers – Silindile Mchunu, Francina Nkosi, Precious Mazibuko, Lerato Mogapi, Eunice Manzini – to carefully crack the glass.
Orthalia Kunene from the Pink Panthers, said: “The Pink Panthers are in solidarity with the 10 women from Extinction Rebellion smashing windows at one of the commercial banks funding fossil fuel industries.
“It’s clear: banks are just as guilty for the destruction of our climate as the fossil fuel companies that they fund. Since the Paris climate agreement in 2015, where the world agreed to avert the worst effects of climate breakdown, the world’s top banks have poured $1.9 trillion into fossil fuel financing. And that’s not even counting their 2019 investments which are still being calculated.
“A changing climate affects everyone, but it’s the world’s poorest and those in vulnerable situations, especially women and girls, who bear the brunt of environmental, economic, and social shocks. Often, women and girls are the last to eat or be rescued; they face greater health and safety risks like water and sanitation, systems become compromised, and they take on increased domestic and care work.” 
Grandmother and member of Extinction Rebellion from Preston Susan Reid, 62, said: “I shouldn’t be having to do this but I think we owe it to our children and grandchildren to act in whatever way we can. I would like to enjoy my retirement with my grandchildren, but instead I have to spend it fighting for their future because banks like HSBC are happy to keep making money from fossil fuels no matter the risk.
“We’re in a planetary emergency and people are dying right now. Just because it’s not on our doorstep doesn’t mean it’s not already happening in the global south. What we are doing today is an act of care.”
Journalist Blyth Brentnall – who risks a prison term for the action today because of previous actions with Extinction Rebellion and political party Burning Pink – said: “As a 29-year-old who might go to prison for up to two years for this, I am risking losing my job, my accommodation and relationships with family and friends. It’s a terrifying prospect. But I’m doing this because it’s even more terrifying that the commercial banks are knowingly investing billions in industries that will deprive future generations of an inhabitable planet.”
Gully Bujak, 28, from Extinction Rebellion, said: “HSBC have poured £80 billion into fossil fuel projects in the last 5 years. £80 billion since we signed the Paris agreement. These companies are killing us, and it’s time to stand up and be counted; doing this today may land us in prison but we’re on the right side of history.”
Notes to editors
 Extinction Rebellion co-founder Dr Gail Bradbrook breaks window at Barclays Bank in act of civil disobedience: https://extinctionrebellion.uk/2021/03/30/breaking-extinction-rebellion-co-founder-dr-gail-bradbrook-breaks-window-at-barclays-bank-in-act-of-civil-disobedience/
 ‘Oi Barclays, clean your act up!’ – Extinction Rebellion Dirty Scrubbers pay a visit to Barclays HQ: https://extinctionrebellion.uk/2021/03/30/oi-barclays-clean-your-act-up-extinction-rebellion-dirty-scrubbers-pay-a-visit-to-barclays-hq/
 ‘No More Fossil Fools’ – Extinction Rebellion spray fake oil on Bank of England as part of a Global Money Rebellion: https://extinctionrebellion.uk/2021/04/01/breaking-no-more-fossil-fools-extinction-rebellion-spray-fake-oil-on-bank-of-england-as-part-of-a-global-money-rebellion/
 Extinction Rebellion’s Global Action Network and Money Rebellion Team Up to Target Central & Private Banks: https://extinctionrebellion.uk/2021/04/03/extinction-rebellions-global-action-network-and-money-rebellion-team-up-to-target-central-private-banks/
 ‘Better broken windows than broken promises’ – Extinction Rebellion women break windows at Barclays HQ in Canary Wharf: https://extinctionrebellion.uk/2021/04/07/breaking-better-broken-windows-than-broken-promises-extinction-rebellion-women-break-windows-at-barclays-hq-in-canary-wharf/
 Shareholders push HSBC to cut exposure to fossil fuels: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/jan/10/shareholders-push-hsbc-to-cut-exposure-to-fossil-fuels
 Banking on Climate Chaos: Fossil Fuel Finance Report, 2021: https://www.ran.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/Banking-on-Climate-Chaos-2021.pdf
 Full quote from Orthalia Kunene:
“The Pink Panthers are in solidarity with the 10 women from Extinction Rebellion smashing windows at one of the commercial banks funding fossil fuel industries.
“It’s clear: banks are just as guilty for the destruction of our climate as the fossil fuel companies that they fund.Since the Paris climate agreement in 2015, where the world agreed to avert the worst effects of climate breakdown, the world’s top banks have poured $1.9 trillion into fossil fuel financing. And that’s not even counting their 2019 investments which are still being calculated.
“While many banks may invest in renewable energy too, the bad far outweighs the good. In the last three years, global banks have only put $130 billion into green projects. That’s less than 7% of what they pump into oil, gas, and coal.
“We understand that banks have a huge power to shape the economy. They create money when they make loans, so their lending decisions determine where money flows and where it doesn’t. Under our current system, these global players have the power to make or break the low-carbon transition.
“As the Pink Panthers, we understand that women are at the forefront of the climate crisis and that climate change is making our world more dangerous for women. Catastrophic storms, of increased frequency and strength, are destroying lives, homes, and businesses. Severe droughts are stifling rural livelihoods.
“A changing climate affects everyone, but it’s the world’s poorest and those in vulnerable situations, especially women and girls, who bear the brunt of environmental, economic, and social shocks. Often, women and girls are the last to eat or be rescued; they face greater health and safety risks like water and sanitation, systems become compromised, and they take on increased domestic and care work.
“We have seen how our broken finance system has not only failed to tackle the climate crisis, it has also undermined governments’ abilities to do so. The cost of the financial crisis has squeezed public budgets: governments are less willing to invest in a green future as they struggle to maintain vital public services today
“This action shows us that women are a powerful force to rebuild societies and hold financial institutions accountable. This action also speaks to unity among women in the north and the global south. Its time for us to take action and fight against climate change.”
ABOUT MONEY REBELLION
ABOUT EXTINCTION REBELLION
Time has almost entirely run out to address the ecological crisis which is upon us, including the 6th mass species extinction, global pollution, and increasingly rapid climate change. If urgent and radical action isn’t taken, we’re heading towards 4˚C warming, and the societal collapse and mass loss of life that that implies. The younger generation, racially marginalised communities and the Global South are on the front-line. No-one will escape the devastating impacts.
Extinction Rebellion believes it is a citizen’s duty to rebel, using peaceful civil disobedience, when faced with criminal inactivity by their Government.
Extinction Rebellion’s key demands are:
- Government must tell the truth by declaring a climate and ecological emergency, working with other institutions to communicate the urgency for change.
- Government must act now to halt biodiversity loss and reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2025.
- Government must create and be led by the decisions of a Citizens’ Assembly on climate and ecological justice.
- In the UK, come to one of our events, join the Rebellion Network and let us know how you can help out.
- Start a group where you are: in the UK or around the world.
- Find your local group.
- Check out the International XR website, with links to the French, German, Italian and UK websites.
- And while your time and energy are of most importance, if you are financially able to donate money, see our crowdfunder.
About Rising Up!
Extinction Rebellion emerged from the Rising Up! network, which promotes a fundamental change of our political and economic system to one which maximises well-being and minimises harm. Change needs to be nurtured in a culture of reverence, gratitude and inclusion while the tools of civil disobedience and direct action are used to express our collective power.