Activists call on BlackRock to divest from fossil fuels

Climate activists called on BlackRock to invest in clean energy during a protest outside of the investment company’s midtown headquarters. ( Photo by Alejandra O’Connell-Domenech)

Climate change activists blocked the entrance to BlackRock’s midtown headquarters early Tuesday morning during a protest of the investment management company’s ties to fossil fuel corporations responsible for deforestation.

“We are here to send a message to BlackRock to clean up its dirty act,” said Pete Sikora, the climate campaigns director for New York Communities for Change which organized the demonstration of roughly 150 people. “It’s time for them to become the solution and not the problem.”

Activists dressed as the Reverend Billy and the Church of Stop Shopping chanted, sang and danced with allies from Extinction Rebellion, Friends of the Earth, the Sunrise Movement and Code Pink as they called the company in control of $6.52 trillion worth of assets to not only divest from fossil fuels and companies connected to deforestation but to invest those funds into clean energy.

“We all know that burning fossil fuels and deforestation causes climate change,” said Krystal Ford from the Sunrise Movement. “But we also know that greed causes climate change. There are people who are profiting right now off of this climate disaster.”

Climate activists blocked the entrance to BlackRock in Midtown on Tuesday. (Photo by Alejandra O’Connell-Domenech)

BlackRock has multi-billion dollars worth of investments in some of the world’s largest oil companies like BP, ExxonMobil and Chevron and is the largest investor in the world in coal, according to The Guardian. 

According to a report from Friends of the Earth US, Amazon Watch and Profundo, a Dutch research firm, BlackRock is one of the top three shareholders in 25 of the largest companies listed as “deforestation risks” like Golden Agri-Resources which recently bought oil sourced from a privately-owned plantation inside of a high priority conservation area and critical wildlife habitat in Indonesia. And its investment in such companies is increasing.

BlackRock’s investments in the pulp, paper and palm oil, some of the sectors most responsible for deforestation, jumped from $103 million in 2014 to $565 million in 2018, the report shows.

“They say that they care about the environment,” Myriam Hernandez, from New York Communities for Change, said in Spanish. “But their actions say just the opposite.”

The protest occurred on the seven-year anniversary of Superstorm Sandy’s touchdown in New York City — an event that activists said was “just a taste” of what is to come if pollution is not stopped worldwide, citing the UN’s report that humanity only had 12 years to decrease greenhouse gas emissions by about half and to achieve net zero emissions by 2050 in order to prevent irreversible damage to the climate.

Sikora said that activists would continue to apply pressure to the company.

“This is just a taste of what’s to come for BlackRock,” he said.

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