On the afternoon of Thursday, 1 November, protestors representing the groups Fossil Free Newham and Divest London interrupted a ‘World Trade Summit’ event held at King’s Business School. The protestors spoke out against government involvement in Climate Change, specifically fracking in Argentina.
Divest London is described on its twitter account as a “citizens’ movement, pushing institutions across the capital to show leadership and divest from fossil fuels.”
The World Trade Summit, held in conjunction with King’s Business School, Barclays bank and the Institute of Export and International Trade, a professional membership body supporting import and export, lasted the duration of the afternoon and included several talks and panels on the topic of the promotion of global export. Attendees included business and government leaders.
The event was briefly disrupted when six protestors, seated in a row in the audience, stood in unison and read from a printed manifesto. The protestors were asked to leave by the event organisers and were peacefully escorted out of the building by security during a scheduled break for refreshments.
One protestor managed to remain past the break, however, asking repeated follow-up questions about UKEF’s fossil fuel investments until she was also asked to leave.
“I found it entertaining,” said one attendee, stating, “freedom of speech.”
“What was funny was Lesley’s trying to stop them,” he also said, referring to Lesley Batchelor OBE, the Director General of the Institute of Export and principal host of the event.
Other attendees stated difficulty hearing the protestors’ message, as the protestors were speaking simultaneously and out of sync.
Fossil Free Newham later clarified their intentions to Roar in a written statement. According to a spokesperson, “Fossil Free Newham is working with Divest London and others to highlight the continuing large-scale funding of fossil fuel projects by the UK government and multi-nationals in the face of growing climate change, and to convince businesses, government bodies and other institutions that they must divest from fossil fuels now to avert disaster.
“We strongly object to the use of UK taxpayers’ money to subsidise fossil fuel projects around the world through government funding bodies such as UK Export Finance.”
Fossil Free Newham specifically condemned the UKEF’s involvement with Argentina, stating, “UKEF is offering £1bn to support companies doing business in Argentina. BP and Shell are investing in fracking in Vaca Muerta, Argentina, threatening the land rights of the Mapuche people. The last few years have seen increasing levels of state violence in aid of these extraction projects, leading to the murders of climate activists Santiago Maldonado and Rafael Nahuel, among others.”
After all the protestors were escorted out, talks continued on schedule and wrapped up with gin cocktails on the 8th floor south terrace.
Correction: an earlier version of this article stated that all protestors were escorted out, omitting that one protestor stayed behind for the Q&A session. This has since been included.