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Citibank Faces Back-to-Back Protests in New York City Over Fossil Fuel Financing

This week Citigroup was the target of numerous actions in its hometown of New York City. 

On Wednesday, dozens of activists with Extinction Rebellion NYC blockaded the entrance to the bank’s global headquarters in downtown Manhattan for two hours.

A day earlier, separate groups of protesters with New York Communities for Change and Extinction Rebellion NYC infiltrated a sustainable business conference at which Citi executives were set to speak, flooding the hotel with flyers and disrupting two panels.

In both cases, protesters called on the megabank to release plans winding down its financing of the fossil fuel industry and, crucially, to support a shareholder proposal at its April 26th shareholder meeting calling on Citi to cease its support for fossil fuel expansion. The shareholder proposal cites the International Energy Agency’s position that new fossil fuel supplies are inconsistent with taking the world net zero by 2050.

Citi has released a net zero roadmap, however the plan does not mention any plans to phase out fossil fuels, by far the leading cause of climate change. Citigroup is the second largest financier of fossil fuels among all global banks, having poured $285 billion into the sector between 2016 and 2021. It is also the leading financier of coal in the US.

The lockdown at Citi headquarters led to a tense standoff between protesters and Citi executives, with invitations to speak with Citi’s Chief Sustainability Officer. However, Extinction Rebellion declined, saying in a tweet, “It’s time for action, not more talk. @Citi has an opportunity to act next week, when a shareholder resolution explicitly about ending expansion is up for a vote.” Nineteen Extinction Rebellion activists were arrested at the action, but not before a number of activists stormed the lobby and continued the demonstration.

The actions in New York are part of a wave of actions nationwide targeting large banks on their climate policies this month:

  • The Stop the Money Pipeline coalition launched a series of letters aimed at banks signed by tens of thousands of bank customers.
  • Dayenu, a movement of American Jews supporting climate action, is hosting Passover actions at bank branches across the country.
  • In Los Angeles, a group of scientists chained themselves to a JP Morgan Chase building in protest of the bank’s fossil fuel financing.

In addition to Citi, Wells Fargo and Bank of America will also host their shareholder meetings on April 26th. Shareholders have placed groundbreaking climate action resolutions on the ballots at all three.

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