Police arrest climate activists protesting Swiss banks

August 3, 2021|Written by Camilla Schramek|Swiss National Bank

Zurich police detained climate activists from outside the Credit Suisse headquarters and several UBS bank buildings yesterday following a seven hour protest of the climate-damaging investments of Swiss financial institutions. Around 70 activists were taken into custody, said organising group Rise up for Change, promising further actions targeting the Swiss National Bank (SNB).

The climate protests, broadcast live with commentary on YouTube, are the latest of several actions focusing on the support given by the SNB and Swiss banks to the fossil fuel industry and other high-emission sectors that cause climate change.

“People are already dying and losing their homes because of the climate crisis, as the floods of recent weeks have made clear,” said Guillaume Durin, media spokesperson for Rise Up for Change. “The ignorance of decision-makers is intolerable in view of the worsening situation.”

“The science shows unequivocally: only if these financial institutions stop investing in oil, coal and gas with immediate effect can the internationally recognised climate goals be achieved,” added spokesperson Frida Kohlmann, demanding that Swiss financial institutions “immediately withdraw from all investments in fossil energies.”

Further protests are expected this week, with the activists promising to turn their attention to the SNB. The group is demanding that the central bank “assume its social responsibility” and “immediately stop new investments, loans and insurance services for projects and companies that are active in fossil energies, destroy ecosystems and violate human and indigenous rights.”

Research shows substantial investment in high-carbon assets by the SNB and the banking system. One study found that SNB investments in the USA and UK, alone, are the source of almost as much CO2 emissions as the whole of Switzerland, and that the bank’s portfolio supports global heating of 4-6°C by the year 2100. Other studies, including from the Swiss Office of Environment, show similar financial support for 4-6°C of warming across the Swiss banking system as a whole.

Extensive fossil fuel investment by banks and central banks is widespread. Researchers  found that major Eurozone banks have accumulated €532 billion in fossil fuel assets, representing 95% of their total equity. Other research shows that the financed emissions of the 15 largest British banks and 10 largest asset managers represent almost 1.8 times the UK’s domestically produced emissions and more than the total emissions of Germany.

This page was last updated August 3, 2021

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