This piece is a guest post by the brilliant by Suzanne Dhaliwal, Director of No Tar Sands.

If any other outlet would like to host this piece on their website as well, we’d be delighted to share it with your audience. Please contact us at [email protected], for original photos, graphics, and text. 

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Reopening of Lloyds underwriting hall grand washed out by demands to halt fuelling climate catastrophe. 

Climate justice activists welcomed Lloyds of London employees back from furlough this morning with the clear message that nothing short of “washing their hands of fossil fuels” would make the financial giant any different from who they were in March when the building closed. 

A picture of a group of activists outside Lloyds of London, with a quote from campaigner Robert Noyes.

Activists welcome staff back to Lloyds of London, in solidarity with indigenous frontline campaigners.

In an attempt to catch up to the sweeping demands for social and ecological justice in 2020 Lloyds of London had planned to reopen its doors to its famous underwriting room in an attempt to rebrand as the ‘woke’ innovative financiers of Century. However, the shiny new  “connectivity bar” and private “digital booths” which will support those returning to work in a world changed by coronavirus adapt to shifts in digital systems and to meet the demand for increased virtual meetings are inadequate to meet the needs of a world reeling from daily climate catastrophes, increased land grabs, sexual violence and exploitation of indigenous lands amidst coronavirus.

 

In recent years insurance has become a central target for climate campaigners given the need to increase the levers to pull both investments and underwriting out of carbon-intensive fossil fuels such as coal and tar sands. Whilst other insurance financiers are finally bowing to the pressure and making definitive plans to withdraw investments and underwriting of highly polluting fossil fuels, Lloyds continues to perform as though they were immune to the climate crisis, market forces of their competitors and the global call for social and racial justice that goes beyond stop-gap diversity tactics and shiny refurbishment. 

 

In September last year, a survey by the Banking Standards Board revealed that 1 in 12 staff had seen sexual harassment in the market over the past year, while more than a fifth said that people in their organisations had turned a blind eye to inappropriate behaviour. Speaking two weeks ago to the Financial Times, Lloyd’s chief executive John Neal stated that “it is abundantly clear that we have much work to do, and that we must be impatient in our resolve to get there”. 

 

However, The standards for accountability from policing, governments and corporations have undergone a seismic shift and it is not enough to present staffing restructuring, basic diversity goals as progress anymore. 

 

Lloyd’s of London, is proud to be credited with having invented the concept of insurance in a coffee house in 1686, however with that legacy comes complicity in the slave trade and colonial explorations which brought with them death, disease and destruction.  Although Lloyds has acknowledged its role in the global slave trade it seems to lack the awareness that reparations need to go beyond the staffing decisions in the London headquarters. 

 

Colonialism never really ended, the exploitation of Indigenous lands, the violation of their sovereign rights, and the social devastation from comes from the violence which accompanies extraction projects continue more so than ever to this day, and have seen an increase of the risk posed as construction has not been halted on indigenous lands due to coronavirus, if anything they have increased as mining companies to take advantage of the lockdown. 

 

This summer Zurich withdrew financing of the Trans Mountain pipeline, one of the planned tar sands pipeline expansion projects which was scheduled to move bitumen from the Alberta tar sands coastal British Columbia and going forward will excludes companies dedicated to tar sands transportation infrastructure including pipelines and railways. 

 

“Trans Mountain Pipeline is a white supremacist pipeline. It’s white supremacy when they say they have the right to put a pipeline through when Indigenous people continue to say no.” Kanahus Manuel stated.

Kanahus Manuel, of Tiny House Warriors, situating the pipeline in a white supremacist tradition

Manuel has been pivotal in raising the alarm bell on the social impacts of the proposed pipeline, including an innovative campaign which placed small houses built by the Secwepemc and Ktunaxa people, to assert their rights over un-ceded Indigenous land, through which an expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline which was slated to carry diluted tar sands oil.

 

The Trans Mountain pipeline was opposed due to concerns around the climate impacts of tar sands extraction, the environmental risks associated with oil spill and significantly the lack of consent and adequate consultation from indigenous communities opposing the project and the epidemic of Missing & Murdered Indigenous women which routinely occur alongside construction projects that employ temporary workers in work camps. 

 

“Indigenous resistance to tar sands has proven to be an imposing force and it shows no signs of stopping. We call on all insurance companies to stop supporting the tar sands industry. If you are providing insurance to tar sands projects, you are willingly supporting the theft of Indigenous lands and the violation of our inherent rights.” said Dallas Goldtooth, from Indigenous Environmental Network in response to Lloyds dragging its feet on the Trans Mountain Pipeline .

Dallas Goldtooth, from the Indigenous Environmental Network.

 

Lloyds of London remains one of the few remaining insurers of the Trans Mountain Pipeline despite the high profile pressure to follow market leaders like Zurich who are taking meaningful action. In this current milieu meaningful action means promptly withdrawing underwriting and investment in projects that violate indigenous sovereignty, go against the Paris agreement and face international high profile opposition for their climate impacts or else they can expect to see more action like today from climate activists who clearly see the links to ongoing white supremacy, colonial violence and climate catastrophes that they are are complicit in.

 

“Indigenous Peoples are at the forefront of drawing a line on toxic investments and underwriting and for Lloyds to continue to delay on pulling out of the Trans Mountain Pipeline and Adani projects show that they are out of touch with the reality of the risks and pressures that the insurance industry is reacting to when it comes to Indigenous sovereignty and climate leadership. As far back as 2017 we have seen the insurance industry moving in the right direction  French company AXA announced its sell off of €700m of tar sands investments.” said Lindsey Bacigal – Indigenous Climate Action “When we found out that Aviva plc held major passive investments in corporations operating in Alberta’s tar sands, including Teck Resource Ltd (Frontier Open pit mine) we turned down a $150,000.00 cash prize in early December 2017, Lloyds is significantly behind in responding to the risks associated with Indigenous opposition to projects.

 

The UN has acknowledged that without the respect of the rights of Indigenous People who safeguard 80% of the world’s remaining biodiversity and are calling for meaningful impact assessments of the ecological and climatic impacts of fossil fuel projects we stand no chance of tackling the climate crisis head on.

Suzanne Dhaliwal, Director, UK No Tar Sands Network

 

Without a significant culture shift Lloyds will continue to remain behind the times, amongst its peers since the escalation of Black Lives Matters protests and the successful call from Indigenous Peoples to withdraw from projects which have not sought adequate consultation and consent dropping Trans Mountain and making commitments to withdraw from projects that violate Indigenous rights and future climate chaos is the bare minimum. 

 

Lloyds also continue to provide back to the Adani coal project, which last week saw the Wangan and Jagalingou Indigenous People’s re-established tribal control of their lands in central Queensland, and have blocked workers from reaching the mine construction. Indigenous People are sending a clear signal to investors and the global community that this project will continue to meet opposition for its climatic impacts and violation of Indigenous Rights. 

 

The action today at Lloyds was the marker of a new era of market forces, sustained direct action that won’t be satiated with diversity quotas and hollow techno-fix gestures, the coordinated global movement standing with the frontlines of Indigenous sovereignty movements has only just kicked up momentum after activists have been in lockdown. 

 

The true cost of the ecocide & industrial genocide that has taken place on Indigenous land is incalculable. Right now the possibility of planetary survival & our legacy to the future depends on insurers taking a stand & pulling the financial plug on tar sands pipelines & expansion.