We can’t halt climate catastrophe without serious changes to the economic system fuelling it.
Our economy funds climate and ecological destruction, favouring short-term profits above the interests of life on Earth. Financial institutions outlast governments – and let small, unrepresentative groups make huge decisions for us and for the planet.
Money Circle is a thinking, action and outreach circle within Extinction Rebellion UK. We aim to spur change in the financial sector, demanding new systems which will allow the Earth to remain habitable over the next few decades.
An economy that prioritises climate justice and climate health can get our carbon emissions to net zero by 2025. But we need to stop the financial system from holding us back.
THE TIME IS NOW…
We are dangerously short of time. The next few years will decide whether emissions grow to a level that seriously harms the Earth’s ability to support us – or are cut in time to rebuild a system that we can all thrive in.
Our financial system was developed under the colonial belief that there will always be new land to steal and people to exploit. It demands higher and higher return on investments, even if that means harming the habitability of our planet.
But now, even financial insiders know this model is unsustainable.
In the covid-19 pandemic, we’ve seen normal financial rules thrown out of the window – we have had bailouts, free handouts to citizens, and complete shutdowns of the industries most likely to do harm. To avoid climate catastrophe, we can’t return to finance-as-normal.
WHAT DOES MONEY CIRCLE DO?
Money Circle acts as a think tank and incubator for a wide-ranging group of actions and initiatives targeting the financial industry. We work on various levels, from increasing awareness and Telling the Truth within the industry, to researching pressure points, to thinking about new financial systems that would benefit the planet.
SwitchIt: We worked with XR Faith and others to encourage the public to switch their bank accounts, pensions and utility bills to greener alternatives.
XR Catalysers: We provide a non-judgemental listening ear to financial industry workers who want to explore their feelings and intentions around climate and ecological emergency.
Reset TV: We created a series of seminars to educate rebels about the financial system’s guilt in the climate catastrophe.
Get in touch at email@example.com if you have a potential project you’d like to work on with us.
- WHY MONEY?
Last year, XR’s key demands focussed on governments, pushing them to bring in legislation and budgets that can halt climate catastrophe. But the financial system is the other key holder of power in British society.
Banks, the stock market and other powers in the City of London govern the economy. And they have zero accountability to the rest of us – unlike politicians who can at least be replaced at elections.
The financial system uses your savings and pension schemes to actively fund destruction, e.g. drilling for oil, creating plastics, and deforestation. The UK’s high street banks are way behind many others in different countries, who are divesting from fossil fuels and refusing to lend to companies with no plan for honouring the Paris Agreement. For instance, Barclays remains Europe’s biggest funder of fossil fuels.
If investors’ policies on fossil fuel financing don’t change, the world will be on track to heat by 4 degrees, a level of warming so dangerous that the World Bank says it “simply must not be allowed to occur”!
The current system also operates under the principle of eternal growth and ever-increasing GDP, demanding that the economy must keep growing, i.e. doing more activity, even if it’s destructive activity. For instance, the Gulf oil spill in 2010 was counted as a benefit to US GDP, because money was generated by cleaning it up.
This belief in constant growth comes from the colonial idea that there are always more resources to take and more people to exploit. Actually, of course, our planet is finite.
We cannot keep engaging in more and more economic activity without seriously hurting people around the world and permanently destroying our climate.
- WHY IS THIS A KEY FOCUS DURING THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC?
This is a historic moment when we can choose to recover in a green, innovative way rather than propping up old systems and institutions which don’t work.
Governments and financiers are straining right now to ‘get back to normal.’ Covid-19 bailouts have set the scene for “business as usual,” funding airlines and car-makers with no-strings-attached handouts worth billions.
The only problem with that, is that very few people (9% of the UK) want to return to normal. If we do return to an economy based on ever-increasing GDP, then pretty soon our new ‘normal’ will include frequent floods, fires, draughts, famines and epidemics of viruses caught from wild animals whose habitats have been destroyed.
Instead, we’d like to see a logical ‘new normal,’ where:
- big fossil fuel polluters are allowed to fail
- renewable infrastructure and reforestation are given mass stimulus, with people supported via green jobs
- governments stop measuring their countries’ success in terms of how much people are consuming and polluting
This is an emergency, for climate as well as Covid-19 – and there can be no justification for propping up activities that actively harm all life on Earth.
The UK is hosting major climate conference COP26 in 2021. Yet two of our largest banks, Barclays and HSBC, are Europe’s biggest fossil fuel funders. The eyes of the world are on our financial institutions to drastically change course.
- WHAT DO FINANCE INSIDERS THINK?
Senior bankers, hedge fund managers and investors are already speaking out themselves against funding big polluters, and systems which demand more and more consumption each year. They’re not stupid: they know there’s no logic involved in ignoring huge, scientifically-proven risks to the functioning of human life on Earth.
- In December 2019, investors managing $37trillion+ urged governments to tackle the global climate crisis.
- In January 2020, a report from financial consultancy giant McKinsey warned of climate hazards that ‘could put millions of lives at risk,’ reaching ‘thresholds beyond which physiological, human-made, or ecological systems work less well or break down and stop working altogether’
- Also in January 2020, notorious asset manager BlackRock called for ‘a fundamental reshaping of finance’ in response to climate catastrophe.
- In June 2020, advocacy body Finance Watch warned that climate catastrophe poses a bigger threat to financial stability than covid-19, and urged banks to stop lending to fossil fuel polluters.
So why aren’t financial decision-makers running around like headless chickens? Why aren’t they using their power to make change?
Mark Carney, ex-governor of the Bank of England, uses the phrase, ‘tragedy of the horizon,’ to explain the problem. Financial decision-makers plan 2-3 years ahead. But there’s a gap of a few years between insults to the climate (oil drilling, deforestation, burning carbon) and their effects (flood, pandemics, wildfire, melting of the ice caps).
That means that the system doesn’t reward decisions which will lead to small losses in the short term (drop in GDP, clients not getting the maximum returns on their investments) but will prevent enormous losses (regions made uninhabitable, unbreathable air, famine etc) in 5-10 years or more.
We need to pile up pressure on the financial industry to make radical, urgent change. We need to be un-ignorable.
- WILL BANKS EVER REALISTICALLY GIVE UP ON FOSSIL FUELS?
The collapse of fossil fuel companies due to lack of investment is actually much more likely than you might think!
Fossil fuel companies are partly profitable because of government subsidies – that’s right, they’re actually paid by our government to destroy our planet.
Investors know that with people like us fighting hard, those subsidies haven’t got long to last. They also know that regulation and a shift to renewables will wipe out the value of fossil fuels. If all the coal, oil and gas projects that banks have invested in actually happen, the world will collapse at a level that would hugely threaten their other investments.
That means that banks and pension funds that invest your money in fossil fuels projects are putting it at enormous risk. It’s likely that those projects will never happen, becoming ‘stranded assets’ and leaving millions of people bankrupt.
- WHAT CAN I DO RIGHT NOW?
Almost everybody in the UK can do something about this – if you have a bank account, pension or utility bills, you can act.
Even from your sofa, you can take your money out of destructive investments:
1. Defund Your Bank. Check how your bank is using your money, and which banks are doing better, here. Switch your account to a better bank using the seamless Current Account Switch Service – then write to your old bank telling them what you’ve done, and why.
2. Defund Your Utilities. Check where your utilities company is getting your power, gas and water, and which companies are doing better, here. Switch to a renewable utilities service – then write to your old utilities company telling them what you’ve done, and why.
3. Tackle Your Pension Fund. If you control your pension fund, find a green alternative. If your only pension is the one provided by your employer, you can ask that employer to move to a green pension provider. Even if they won’t move it, you can still write to your current pension provider telling them you’re concerned they may be investing your money in fossil fuel ‘stranded assets’ that are going to collapse in a few years.
- HOW CAN I GET INVOLVED WITH MONEY CIRCLE?
You can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org – we’re a friendly bunch and can set up an introductory Zoom call!
If you’re a financial worker and you’re not sure about XR, or you want to share your feelings about the climate free from judgement, we can put you in touch with other ex-finance people who can discuss it with you.
If you’re short on time but want to help, donate to XR.
If you’re planning an action targeting finance, these are good hashtags to use:
- TELLING THE TRUTH ABOUT MONEY
We know that money and climate are complicated! There are plenty of resources to find out more, including (but not limited to):
- Heading for Financial Extinction by XR Money member and former investment manager Vince Knowles
- Can Economics Help Us Save the Planet? by Naomi Klein
- Our own Money Talks webinar series with various experts featured
- A helpful explanation of the history of GDP and why it can’t be the be-all and end-all
- Positive Money’s debate on the (un)importance of GDP growth
- Fossil Fuel Finance Report outlining banks’ investments in fossil fuels in full detail