Last week the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its Synthesis Report. It briefly made headlines on the BBC and in the more sensible newspapers, but was then quickly forgotten. Greta Thunberg commented “Today, after yesterday’s IPCC report, everything is back to normal – as always. We continue to ignore the climate crisis as if nothing happened. Our societies are still in denial, and those in power go on with their never-ending quests to maximise profits. We cannot afford this.”
“First, climate change has already caused widespread and substantial losses to almost every aspect of human life on this planet, and the impacts on future generations depend on the choices we make NOW.
Second, every bit of warming matters. The warmer the planet gets, the more widespread and pronounced the changes in both average climate and climate and weather extremes become.
Third, the impacts are very serious: they directly affect our health, food sources, water and more.
Fourth, the percentage of animal species exposed to potentially dangerous conditions increases significantly the faster the world warms. In general, ocean species like coral and tropical species are most at risk.
So given this dire news, surely we are well on our way to cutting our carbon emissions, no? No. The synthesis report is crystal clear: we are not doing nearly enough to avoid dangerous impacts, let alone achieve the targets of the Paris Agreement.”
The report shows our choices matter and the faster we act, the better off we will all be – all of us who call this planet home. So many of the solutions are already available today, and benefit us in so many ways — addressing health, equity, justice, and even economic concerns while increasing resilience and accelerating the transition to a clean energy future.
The report was launched with a speech from the United Nations Secretary-General. António Guterres. He began
“Dear friends humanity is on thin ice and that ice is melting fast as today’s report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change details. Humans are responsible for virtually all Global heating. Over the last 200 years, the rate of temperature rise in the last half-century is the highest in 2000 years. Concentrations of carbon dioxide are at their highest in at least 2 million years. The climate time bomb is ticking but today’s IPCC report is a how-to guide to diffuse the climate time bomb. It is a survival guide for humanity as it shows the 1.5-degree limit is achievable but it will take a quantum leap in climate action. This report is a clarion call to massively fast-track climate efforts by every country and every sector and in every time frame. In short, our world needs climate action on all fronts everything, everywhere all at once.”
On hearing the speech, Geoff Cox, Chair of South Yorkshire Climate Alliance said “I feel sorry for the Secretary-General, he must be running out of words to describe his despair. It’s interesting to reflect that climate scientists have been warning of irreversible climate consequences for years – to prompt action, and now feel the need to emphasise the remaining scope for hope – to ensure we don’t all just give up”.
Climate scientist, Prof Bill McGuire tweeted “I’m sorry, but the ‘final warning’ was years back It is now practically impossible to stop a 1.5C rise, so we cannot sidestep dangerous climate breakdown But we must fight for every 0.1C rise to stop dangerous becoming cataclysmic.” He calculates that we need to slash emissions by 50 per cent in about 80 months to have any hope of remaining within the 1.5 degrees of heating.
Author Jason Hickel called for a Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty, which now has strong support from scientists and civil society. We need a clear and binding plan for phasing out fossil fuels in a just and equitable way. Meanwhile, our Government continue to go ahead with the Cumbria coal mine, Rosebank oil field, and block onshore wind and solar.
We need to understand that the IPCC is a very conservative body. Everything that they publish has to achieve the consensus of a very large group of international scientists. This explains why there is hardly any mention of the risks associated with feedback loops and weakening carbon sinks as they are so difficult to model. These feedback loops are already kicking in at our current 1.1 degrees C of heating but will accelerate as the planet heats up further. This could lead to a Hothouse Earth scenario where the planet continues to heat up, changing our living planet to a desolate one like Mars.
The media have largely ignored the urgent calls in the report for the net zero targets to be brought forward to 2035. They have also failed to inform us of the mega bill that we are passing on to our youth. It is they who will have to pay for the carbon capture and storage that will be needed in the future because our generation has failed to stop our addiction to fossil fuels.
If you are concerned about the climate emergency please join us at the Big One from April 21st-24th. There are coaches from Sheffield. The Big One is being supported by Extinction Rebellion, Greenpeace, CND. PCS Union, Friends of the Earth, CAFOD and many other campaigning groups.
The Tree Inquiry Report has been published but it is a long read. I am going to use this page to catalogue the varied coverage of the report.
The tree campaigners have been completely vindicated. Sir Mark said that initially developing and adopting a flawed plan “was a failure of strategic leadership” with responsibility resting primarily with senior council officers and senior political leaders in post between 2008 and 2012 – during which time both the Lib Dems and Labour held power.” Some leading Councillors should be considering their position. From what I have read it is clear to me that both Cllr Terry Fox and Cllr Bryan Lodge should resign. As I said on Facebook “People responsible for “irrational, unreasonable, deceitful, dishonest, bullying and intimidating behaviour” should no longer be at the helm of Sheffield City Council.”
On Radio Sheffield this morning (8/3/23) Paul Brooke from STAG was calling for a full apology to the High Court for the way the Council misled them. Misleading the High Court is an extremely serious matter. Those that did this are lucky perjury is not being considered. Surely a written apology is clearly needed.
The Lib Dems are calling for Fox and Lodge to resign, but this should not distract from the fact that they too are very much to blame. Lord Scriven has apologised for his mistake in misinterpreting the term “over-mature”. This led to the plan to target 17,500 street trees in the city for felling. The 2007 report stated 74 per cent of its 35,000 street trees would be classed as “mature” or “over-mature” by March 2008. The council then produced an outline business case which wrongly misinterpreted those findings as meaning those trees were “ready for replacement” – leading to the 17,500 figure being put in the contract tender in 2009. The Lib Dems should also be apologising for championing this disastrous PFI contract with Amey. The contract was originally negotiated by a Liberal Democrat led council but was finalised under Labour and signed in 2012.
Shoppers have been struggling to find fresh salad and vegetables in the supermarkets recently. Some have blamed this on Brexit, others on extreme weather in Spain and North Africa. The truth is a mixture of both. Extreme weather in Spain and North Africa has badly affected the crops so climate change is now impacting our food supply. This will get worse as we continue to increase the amount of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere. We are currently at 1.2C degrees of warming, but it is rising fast and so are the extreme weather occurrences that destroy crops all over the world. If you like to eat it is time to get serious about the climate emergency.
Comments on the Star letters page often accept climate change is happening, but then say there is nothing we can do about it as it is caused by “natural cycles”. I want to explode that myth because unless we realise that our pollution is destroying the systems we need for survival, there is no hope for our future.
Carbon is the fourth most abundant element in the Universe. Most of Earth’s carbon—about 65,500 billion metric tons—is stored in rocks. The rest is in the ocean, atmosphere, plants, soil, and fossil fuels.
You probably learnt about the carbon cycle at school. Humans and animals breathe in oxygen and breathe out carbon dioxide. Plants and plankton absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen in the process of photosynthesis. When plants are eaten, or they decay or are burnt, the carbon dioxide is released again. Sometimes the carbon is absorbed into rocks and over massive periods can become coal or oil.
252 million years ago volcanoes were burning through carbon-rich limestone and igniting massive coal and natural gas deposits, injecting thousands of gigatonnes of CO2 into the air. What happened? Mass extinction because the climate overheated.It is Carbon that modulates the temperature of the planet and the chemistry of the ocean. If the carbon cycle goes wrong, the thermostat breaks and the oceans acidify.
Peter Brannen writes in Greta Thunberg’s The Climate Book: “In the End-Permian mass extinction carbon dioxide blasted out of Siberian volcanoes for thousands of years and nearly ended the project of complex life. All the normal guardrails in the carbon cycle buckled and failed in this, the single worst moment in the entire geological record. The temperatures soared by 10C, the planet convulsed with lurid blooms of algal slime that robbed their ancient waters of oxygen. This anoxic ocean instead filled with poisonous hydrogen sulphide as hurricanes roared overhead….one could travel the world without seeing a tree, the world’s coral reefs had been replaced by bacterial slime, the fossil records went silent and the planet took 10 million years to pull itself back from oblivion..”
What is happening today? We are igniting similar massive reservoirs of underground carbon by burning fossil fuels. It’s not erupting through massive volcanoes; instead, we are mining and drilling to power our factories, cars, lorries, ships, planes, boilers, TVs, fridges, and game consoles. We are emitting carbon at a rate ten times greater than previous mass extinctions.
The planet doesn’t care if this increase in carbon in the atmosphere comes from a once in a 100 million year volcanic event or a materialistic fossil fuel-burning industrial society. It will react in exactly the same way.
One worrying disruption to the carbon cycle is the growth of wildfires. A forest fire releases vast quantities of carbon into the atmosphere but also the destroyed vegetation ceases to absorb CO2 from the atmosphere. Wildfires generate air pollution, destroy habitats and wildlife and damage water quality. The Amazon basin used to be a huge carbon sink, so it absorbed massive amounts of carbon dioxide. But now it is drying out due to climate change, making wildfires more likely and it is being felled to support industrial-scale agriculture. It has become a net source of carbon in the atmosphere.
The soil contains over 3000 gigatonnes of carbon, about four times the amount of carbon in the atmosphere and all the plants in the world combined. It helps regulate the carbon cycle and contributes to food production, biodiversity, drought and flood resilience. But it is threatened by climate change. As temperatures rise, the activity of microorganisms in the soil increases, so more CO2 is emitted. There is a danger of a terrible feedback loop, where increased temperatures increase soil CO2 emissions, which further increase temperatures etc.
To avoid this tipping point we need to take immediate action. We have to urgently reduce our CO2 emissions, plant far more trees and adopt sustainable agricultural practices. This will increase the soil carbon bank and draw down atmospheric CO2. It isn’t just a lack of tomatoes we need to worry about. All life is threatened if we don’t stop disrupting the carbon cycle.
The climate has varied throughout the earth’s history. Each time there has been a dramatic change it has been because the carbon cycle has been disrupted. Today the carbon cycle is being disrupted again
At the Full Council meeting on 20th February South Yorkshire Climate Alliance gathered supporters of groups such as Extinction Rebellion. 5 Rivers Rising Samba Band, Greenpeace, the Trades Council, Nature Recovery Sheffield, the Green Party and Climate Vigil to mark the 4 years that have passed since Sheffield declared a Climate Emergency. The theme of the rally was “Drowning in Promises”. We have heard so many promises from the Council in the last 4 years, yet there has been so little action. XR emphasised that with their lifejackets. Click here to see what happened 4 years ago. when I handed in the petition to the Council.
Here is a video of the rally outside the Town Hall, including speakers from Labour and the Greens. It was significant that nobody turned up to speak for the Lib Dems, even though they had been invited well in advance. Other speakers were from Greenpeace, Nature Recovery Sheffield and the Trades Council.
Here is a video of Geoff Cox, Chair of South Yorkshire Climate Alliance, handing in the petition and the reply from Cllr Mazher Iqbal (Labour).
In my view the Green Party Councillors have been trying to hard to introduce measures to start to get us to Net Zero. The Workplace Parking Levy is a good example of this. But Lib Dem and Labour Councillors are continuously watering down or rejecting the proposals and sometimes even spread misinformation about them to get the electorate on their side. So now we are seeing the rise of right-wing conspiracy theories. Here is a quote from a letter in today’s Star.
“The Council is implementing a scheme that will not stop but instead moves ever onwards, starting with Clean Air Zones, moving towards ultra low emission zones, then low traffic neighbourhoods and eventually fifteen minute neighbourhoods and the abolition of private car ownership. All this is fact and is written in black white.”
Of course the author does not mention his sources. It is worrying that the great idea of fifteen minute neighbourhoods is being hijacked by these Trumpian conspiracy theorists, who make it sound as if people will be prevented from travelling more than 15 minutes from home. Actually a 15-minute neighbourhood involves a menu of policy actions that provide residents access to most, if not all, of their needs within a short walk or bike ride from their home. They are about preventing the need to travel, so that all the services you need, schools, doctors, green space, shops etc are close at hand. To get to Net Zero we do have to reduce our car use, so we need massive investment in public transport, with public control of our buses and trams.
We must not let these right wingers take control of the agenda. If you are concerned about the climate emergency, please get active. Write letters to the press, write to your Councillors in support of measures they want to take to tackle the climate crisis, write to your MP to move it up the political agenda, and join us outside Parliament for the Big One to demand change from our Government.
The junction of Duke Street/Bernard Street/Talbot Street near Park Hill is extremely dangerous for pedestrians as there are no pedestrian lights. Please sign the petition! https://you.38degrees.org.uk/p/safecrossing
A guest blog by By Joan Miller from South Yorkshire Climate Alliance
Four years ago Sheffield City Council declared a Climate Emergency but since then progress to zero carbon has been far too slow. It is certainly not what the massive gathering of protesters was calling for back in 2019.
So this week South Yorkshire Climate Alliance wrote to all the Councillors to remind them of the urgency of the situation and to suggest they hold cross-party meetings to see what measures they can agree on that will start to reduce emissions. Here is the letter.
It is now four years since Sheffield City Council formally recognised the Climate Emergency facing the world.
In February 2019 the council declared a climate emergency, and subsequently stated its intention to work towards Sheffield becoming a zero-carbon city by 2030 – thereby playing our full part in the Paris Agreement. The time scale was ambitious but properly reflected the urgency of the situation. Since then, four of the eleven years between setting the target and achieving the goal have passed without any steps being taken that will genuinely make a serious dent in our city’s carbon emissions. The positive actions that have been taken, such as energy efficiency improvements in 800 homes and the SCC fleet replacement programme are commendable, but the reality is that they are on nothing like the scale and pace required.
The South Yorkshire Climate Alliance (SCA) has asked repeated questions at full council and committee meetings about this slow rate of progress in recent months, but none of the answers given suggest any sense of urgency. We believe this can be turned around with sufficient political will, and are asking all Sheffield City Councillors to show this on a cross-party basis. The Transport, Regeneration and Climate Policy Committee’s decision on 19 January to create a Task and Finish Group to accelerate the production of the decarbonisation route maps can be a means to do this – to inject the necessary urgency into both the plans and the delivery.
We would encourage Sheffield City Council to take lessons from measures other councils have already taken. Friends of the Earth and climate solutions charity Ashden have drawn together a set of case studies which provide exactly this type of information (https://groups.friendsoftheearth.uk/resources/councils-tackling-climate-chaos). To take two housing examples: Manchester has made significant progress in training up a retrofit workforce, and Liverpool has taken measures to improve insulation in privately rented accommodation through licensing measures. Investment in decarbonisation measures will stimulate the local economy, create jobs, reduce heating bills and need not be a significant burden on council budgets.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told world leaders at the opening of COP 27, “We are on a highway to climate hell with our foot on the accelerator.” We urge all Sheffield City Councillors to reflect on the reality of this. Providing clear leadership for our city is in your hands. Give the citizens of Sheffield a vision of what we can achieve together. The South Yorkshire Climate Alliance, and the voluntary and community sectors more widely, will be active supporters in making these changes happen – and all the more so if you create the right kind of enabling, participative infrastructure alongside it.
Geoff Cox, Chair
On behalf of South Yorkshire Climate Alliance
The Council has faced many years of cuts to its budget, so you may think it is understandable that little progress has been made. But Friends of the Earth and Ashden have published 51 case studies of Councils that have made good progress and not all of the measures increase costs to the Council, indeed some raise more funds which can then be invested in better public transport.
Nottingham’s workplace parking levy, introduced in October 2011, was the first of its kind in the western hemisphere. A workplace parking levy is a charge on employers who provide parking spaces. This tackles congestion by incentivising employers to reduce their parking provision, supports employees with alternative journey plans and helps fund major transport infrastructure.
In Nottingham, the charge only applies to employers who provide 11 or more parking spaces. Smaller employers are exempt, as are spaces for disabled people, NHS premises and emergency services. The current charge per parking space is £428 a year, payable by the employer. All revenue raised from Nottingham’s levy is ringfenced by law to be spent on improving local transport.
The results have been spectacular. Nottingham now has one of the UK’s strongest public transport systems. Fewer people drive, air quality has improved and so has public health. The levy contributed to a 33% fall in carbon emissions in Nottingham since 2005.
Please sign the petition on the SCA website. At 1 pm on Monday 20 February SCA will be outside the Town Hall before the Council meeting to make some noise – there’ll be performance art and music. Come along and let Sheffield City Council know there is a demand for change. At 2 pm we’ll present the petition to the Council.
Who should you be following on Social Media this year? Which Sheffielders are the big environmental influencers?
I’ve put together a couple of league tables to see who has the most followers on Facebook and Twitter. The clear winner on both is the Baroness of Manor Castle, Natalie Bennett who is one of the two Green Party peers in the House of Lords. She led the Green Party from 2012 to 2016 and is a Sheffield Green Party member. Her forthcoming book is called “Change Everything”. She works tirelessly in the Lords trying to amend and/or defeat acts of parliament.
In a recent New Year’s video, she described three bills she is currently working on.
Foodworks come second on the Facebook table (15093 followers) and fifth on Twitter (@TheFoodWorksSHF 6352). Foodworks are a social enterprise, established in 2015 to raise awareness and reduce the scandal of food waste. They save over 500 tonnes of food per year and are working on building a fair and sustainable food system for Sheffield. They work with 100s of committed volunteers whose time, passion and skill drive their ability to feed thousands of people each month.
Second on Twitter and third on Facebook are the Sheffield and Rotherham Wildlife Trust. A video filmed in Wyming Brook featuring Chris Packham urges us to get involved at two levels. He wants us to do things at a personal level, greening our lifestyles and building greener local communities. But he also wants us to communicate our demands to those in power and hold them to account because time is running out. This he says, “is the time for changing minds, changing practices and making meaningful differences”. Also featured in the video is Smithy Wood which was saved from “development” as an M1 Service Station and Owlthorpe Fields which was finally designated as a local wildlife site in 2022. If you want to help protect nature @WildSheffield is a must-follow.
Third on Twitter (@SheffieldGreens) and 7th on Facebook is Sheffield Green Party . With 14 Councillors, the party holds the balance of power on the Council and with the new Committee system they have considerable influence in the Town Hall. A quick scroll through their Twitter account reveals pictures from the nurse’s picket lines, new cycle parking facilities and news of roads to be resurfaced, without the need to cut down any trees. Sheffield Greens are definitely worth a follow to understand more about what happens at Sheffield Town Hall.
4th on Facebook are Sheffield Tree Action Groups, a victorious campaign now featured in two films, The Felling and Tree-sistance. The campaign is still active, keeping an eye on the Council to ensure that they are now properly managing our street trees, but many of the Facebook posts are interesting reminiscences from the height of the dispute when protesters stood under healthy trees to stop them being felled. The group has spawned many other groups, such as It’s Our City which successfully campaigned to improve our local democracy by ditching the “Strong Leader” model of governance and bring in the Committee System, and Nether Edge and Sharrow Sustainable Transformation which has among other things been raising money to plant new street trees.
5th on Facebook and 8th on Twitter is the Regather Coop. This amazing group run a veg box scheme, a small farm where they grow fruit and veg and cut flowers and run a community hub at Club Garden Road.
I hope 2022 will go down as the year the world woke up to the climate emergency. Extreme weather events have hit every part of the globe, including Sheffield. So far the planet has heated 1.2C. We are on track for 1.5C by 2030, 2C by 2050, and over 3C by 2100. 2022 was the hottest year in the UK since records began, and will probably be the hottest year globally. 96% of oil and gas companies are still expanding operations, further accelerating the climate emergency.
I am indebted to Climate Vanguard for compiling this list of climate events which I have summarised below.
In February, 13 million people in the Horn of Africa faced severe hunger due to the worst drought in 40 years.
April saw 341 deaths and over 40,000 affected due to unprecedented flooding in Durban, South Africa.
In April and May, there was a heatwave in South Asia. Temperatures soared to reach 49C in India and 51C in Pakistan, leading to crop failure and water shortages.
In June in Italy, the River Po experienced its worst drought in 70 years, damaging agriculture. Tokyo had the worst heatwave since records began.
In July Sydney flooded, which was the third extreme flooding event in 18 months in New South Wales. A “Heat apocalypse” in Western France, forced 25,000 to flee their homes.
On July 19th, we experienced 40.3C in the UK, the hottest day on record. This beat the previous record of 38.7C set only 3 years ago in 2019.
In August wildfires covered 3 million acres of the Arctic. More than 100 municipalities in France ran out of drinking water due to the heatwave and the River Rhine almost ran dry. Water levels became so low in the Elbe River in the Czech Republic that a “hunger stone” from 1616 was revealed with the message “If you see me, then weep”. Torrential downpours in New Zealand displaced 1,200 people, a summer heatwave in China was the most severe ever recorded in the world, with peak temperatures of 45C. 66 rivers dried up resulting in mass crop failure. 937 people were dead, and 30 million were displaced, due to horrific flooding in Pakistan.
The extreme cold in the USA is currently causing chaos. Did you know that a hotter climate can bring bigger snowstorms? Here in the UK, we will face extremely cold winters if the Jet Stream, which usually keeps us warm, is diverted due to the melting arctic.
Geoff Cox, Chair of South Yorkshire Climate Alliance, recently went to the Sheffield Council meeting to demand that they bring forward the plans to reduce Sheffield’s emissions. We are supposed to be aiming to be a carbon-neutral city by 2030, but as yet we don’t even have the plans to show how we are going to get there, let alone implement them.
Nationally we have seen a Government implementing legislation to attack climate protestors rather than legislation to tackle the real problems, the climate and nature emergencies.
The Conservatives are binning many EU laws that have previously protected nature and are encouraging so-called “Investment Zones” which wildlife organisations call an attack on nature. They have destroyed any credibility in the myth that the UK is leading in tackling climate change by giving the go-ahead for a new coal mine.
Internationally we have seen two major conferences, COP27 and COP15. The breakthrough of COP27 was the establishment of a Loss and Damage Fund to help vulnerable countries cope with the destructive impacts of climate change. COP15 focused on biodiversity. The agreement they reached aims to address species loss, restore ecosystems and protect indigenous rights. The stakes could not be higher: the planet is experiencing its largest loss of life since the dinosaurs. One million plant and animal species are now threatened with extinction, many within decades. Neither of the agreements from COP27 or COP15 were legally binding so I am not confident nations will follow through and implement them. In 2023 we need many more people to actively challenge their Governments to do the right thing for the planet. Make it your New Years’ resolution to get involved and campaign for change. You could do something practical like joining a litter-picking group or getting involved in wildlife protection, you could join a pressure group and get involved in campaigning or you could join a political party and make sure they put climate at the top of their agenda. But do something! Ignoring it won’t make it go away! For inspiration see the long list of campaigning groups on South Yorkshire Climate Alliance’s website. (https://www.southyorkshireclimatealliance.org.uk/groups)
There was mayhem at the Barclays Sheffield branch last Monday (14th November).
Dressed as cleaners, many in drag, complete with mops, buckets sponges and brushes the “Dirty Scrubbers” from Extinction Rebellion arrived to give the bank a spring clean. As tunes such as “Carwash” by Rose Royce, “Stayin Alive” by the Bee Gees and “I want to break free” by Queen blared out from the pa, the Dirty Scrubbers strutted their stuff using mops and brushes as air guitars while cleaning the windows and dusting the furniture. Large crowds gathered in amazement and took away leaflets about the bank’s dirty dealing and some even joined in the dancing!
Why target Barclays? Extinction Rebellion says that their investments are speeding us down the road to climate catastrophe. And the Palestine Solidarity Group say their investments support the repression of the Palestinian people.
Barclays are the UK’s and Europe’s largest financier of fossil fuels. Since 2021, when the International Energy Agency concluded there could be no new oil, gas or coal development if the world was to reach net zero by 2050, Barclays has invested $19.583 billion in fossil fuels. Since the Paris Climate Agreement in 2016, their total investment in fossil fuels is $144.897 billion.
Extinction Rebellion co-founder Gail Bradbrook said: “Today hundreds of people staged an intervention on Barclays, sending a message to the high street bank that with protests taking place at over 100 of their branches they are rapidly losing the social licence to do business in towns and cities of the UK.
“It’s high time that Barclays recognised the destructive role they are playing as Europe’s largest financier of fossil fuels and changed course.”
“We want Barclays to stop funding nature-destroying projects and more than that we want them to show leadership. We ask them to publicly denounce an economic system geared towards the destruction of the planet, we want them to admit in public what bankers tell us in private – that they aren’t changing fast enough because the current system incentivises harmful behaviour.”
The UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, recently warned, “We are on a highway to climate hell with our foot still on the accelerator.” This summer the UK recorded its hottest-ever temperature, and there were three times the usual number of wildfires. In April Guterres indicated for the first time those he considers responsible for the worsening climate saying, “some government and business leaders are saying one thing – but doing another. Simply put, they are lying.”
Extinction Rebellion, along with other groups, is calling for Barclays to end all investment in fossil fuel expansion. In March 2020 Greenpeace activists shut down nearly 100 Barclays branches in protest against the bank’s continued multi-billion dollar support for fossil fuels.
But that’s not the only reason why people are upset with Barclays. They are also investing in Israel’s violent repression of the Palestinian people.
Armed violence is at the heart of Israel’s apartheid regime. Palestinians live under the threat of lethal violence and detention, home demolitions and forcible transfer, and intrusive surveillance of all areas of their lives.
Countries like the UK trade in arms with Israel, whilst corporations like Barclays invest in these weapons. Barclays provides billions of pounds worth of investment and loans to arms companies selling weapons and military technology to Israel.
Barclays owns shares worth over £1.3 billion in companies supplying Israel with weapons used against the Palestinians. In addition, Barclays provides these companies with over £4 billion worth of loans and other financial services.
Elbit Systems is Israel’s largest private arms company. It supplies 85% of the drones used by the Israeli army. These have been used in Israel’s deadly bombardment of the besieged Gaza Strip. Elbit has also been associated with the production of cluster munitions which are banned under international law.
Sheffield’s Tadhamon Singers (which is Arabic for Solidarity) recently went to Palestine and saw at first-hand how repressive the Israeli regime is. They sang their songs at cultural centres, in the shadow of the infamous apartheid wall, in refugee camps and at checkpoints.
Steph Howlett, a member of the group said “The impact of the illegal occupation on children was particularly distressing. The Israeli army regularly invades the refugee camps, and we saw video footage of soldiers arresting terrified children as young as 8 or 9, throwing teargas into a children’s playground with the children running in panic in all directions, and pouring into people’s houses shouting in the middle of the night, shining lights into the faces of children who are deeply traumatised by these experiences. Two members of the group witnessed an Israeli sniper shooting at children in the Aida refugee camp.
It is abhorrent to know that Barclays’ finance supports the companies making this repression possible”
Meanwhile, Sheffield City Council has decided to continue banking with Barclays for another five years. Officers put the contract out to tender and three applications were received. Barclays won the contract by scoring highest on price and quality, despite the Council’s so-called “Ethical Procurement Policy”. This demands that suppliers committing acts of “Grave Misconduct” should be excluded. Surely fueling climate breakdown and arming the repressive regime in Israel should count as “Grave Misconduct”?