Cop26: Alok Sharma attacked for praising financiers as ‘new Swampys’ in climate fight

‘Today the Swampys of the world are all around us, in boardrooms .... and trading floors’

Rob Merrick
Deputy Political Editor, at the Cop26 summit
Wednesday 03 November 2021 17:01
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Cabinet minister Alok Sharma is under fire after claiming bankers and City traders are as committed to fighting the climate emergency as the activist Swampy.

The famous protester made his name in the 1990s, getting arrested as he fought to stop new road schemes – while financiers have signed up to Rishi Sunak’s Cop26 project to achieve net zero carbon emissions.

That initiative is already being criticised for lacking any legal targets and after a Treasury minister admitted investments in coal power will still be permitted.

But Mr Sharma, president of the Cop26 summit, said: “When I started my career in finance in the 1990 in the City, there was a guy called Swampy – some of you may recall him?

“He spent his time occupying trees and tunnels and he was the main face of climate action in the United Kingdom.

“But today the Swampys of the world are all around us, in boardrooms, in government departments, in multilateral development banks and trading floors all around the world – you, my friends, are the new Swampys, so be proud.”

The comments were attacked by Dr Larch Maxey, a fellow campaigner of Swampy – real name Dan Hooper – who accused Mr Sharma of “appropriation”.

“It is attempting to take resistance, to take the truth and commercialise it and commodify it for the corporate agenda,” Dr Maxey said.

“If only what he was saying was true. If only we were all Swampys – then we wouldn’t be in the greatest threat humanity has ever faced.”

He criticised the government for sending out the message of “just trust us, the experts, the bankers, the politicians, and your future is safe”.

“Well, it’s not. The future is in danger because of their actions over the last 30 years and because they are carrying on,” Dr Maxey added.

The Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero (GFANZ) scheme will see all listed companies in Britain forced to produce their own binding plans to reduce carbon emissions or face fines.

Mr Sunak said 40 per cent of global assets will be aligned to the 1.5C limit for global warming, adding: “Six years ago Paris set the ambition. Today in Glasgow we’re providing the investment we need to deliver that ambition.”

But Lucie Pinson, executive director of the Reclaim Finance, said: “Not a single rule to prevent even one dollar from being invested in the expansion of the fossil fuel sector.”

In Glasgow, Mr Sharma defended his Swampy comparison, saying: ‘“The point I was making is that there is a big momentum from the private sector in pursuing green growth and that is something we should all welcome.”

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