Climate activists smashed windows at HSBC's headquarters in Canary Wharf on Thursday, in the latest protest targeting major banks.
At least 19 windows were shattered by a group of nine female protesters from Extinction Rebellion and the political party Burning Pink at 7am as part of a campaign against the financing of “devastating climate change”.
Wearing patches on their clothes with the words “better broken windows than broken promises”, the activists used hammers and chisels to break the windows and pasted stickers on the building before sitting down to wait for the police to arrive.
"Despite HSBC's pledge to shrink its carbon footprint to net zero by 2050, their current climate plan still allows the bank to finance coal power, and provides no basis to turn away clients or cancel contracts based on links to the fossil fuel industry," Extinction Rebellion said in a statement on their website.
The group cited a 2021 report from the Rainforest Action Network, which said HSBC is Europe’s second-largest financier of fossil fuels after Barclays, with the bank providing at least $111 billion to some of the world’s largest fossil fuel firms since the Paris Agreement was signed in 2015.
“The women argue that commitments to reaching net zero carbon emissions in 30 years’ time are largely meaningless without immediate action to put banks on course to avoid an increase in global temperature in excess of 1.5° Celsius,” Extinction Rebellion said.
Extinction Rebellion is looking to create a wider revolt against the political, economic and social structures of the modern world to avert the worst scenarios of devastation outlined by scientists studying climate change.
The activists said the patches on their arms referenced the struggle of the Suffragettes who used direct action to fight for votes for women in the early 20th Century.
Gully Bujak, 28, from Extinction Rebellion, said HSBC have poured £80bn into fossil fuel projects in the last five years, a message echoed in stickers pasted onto the windows of the bank by the protesters.
“£80 billion since we signed the Paris agreement. These companies are killing us, and it’s time to stand up and be counted; doing this today may land us in prison but we’re on the right side of history,” Ms Bujak said.
A spokesman for HSBC declined to make an immediate comment.
London mayoral candidate for political party Burning Pink, Valerie Brown, 68, was also among the women who broke windows.
“Investing in fossil fuels is murder. More and more people can see that clearly. Why can’t you?” she said, addressing HSBC management directly.
“We will not stand by whilst you invest in runaway greed, whilst people’s lives are being shattered by the fossil fuel industries.”
Extinction Rebellion staged a similar protest at the London headquarters of Barclays two weeks ago, breaking windows and carrying placards with similar slogans. They also pasted the message "In case of climate emergency break glass" on the front of the bank's building.
A Barclays spokesperson said at the time that Extinction Rebellion is “entitled to their view on capitalism and climate change” but asked that they express their view in a manner that did not involve criminal damage and put people at risk.