Climate protesters block DC streets, demand World Bank lead fossil fuel divestiture
© Sutton Dunwoodie

Climate change protesters blocked streets near the World Bank in downtown Washington during rush hour Friday morning to demand financial institutions divest from fossil fuels.

The demonstration was organized by a coalition called Shut Down DC, which halted traffic on Sept. 23 in similar protests shortly before the United Nations Climate Action Summit in New York.

Shut Down DC called on the World Bank to lead a private sector divestiture from the fossil fuel industry. The coalition's website ists major Wall Street firms it says have invested in fossil-fuel related industries and invites protesters to pressure the companies to end those investments.

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A World Bank spokesperson said in an email that the institution is the largest multilateral funder of climate investments in developing countries and has not financed a new coal-fired power plant since 2010.

The World Bank committed $17.8 billion to climate-related investments in fiscal 2019, the spokesperson said, adding that investments totaled $119.1 billion over the past nine years.

Protesters began their demonstration at George Washington University and then marched to the World Bank headquarters a few blocks away blocks intersections near the multilateral institution.

Demonstrators plan to join Academy Award-winning actress Jane Fonda later in the day for her ninth consecutive “Fire Drill Fridays” protest in D.C. 

Those protests are a weekly call for action on climate change and modeled on Swedish teen environmentalist Greta Thunberg’s “Friday’s for Future” campaign. Thirty-seven people were arrested in connection with last week’s event. 

Brianna Jordan, a spokeswoman for the Metropolitan Police Department, said in an email to The Hill that traffic has been restored from Friday morning’s demonstrations and no arrests were made. 

Emily Chang, who lives and works in Washington, was one of the protesters blocking traffic Friday in downtown D.C. She said the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned that the earth’s temperature could increase as much as 1.5 degrees Celsius in the next 8 1/2 years and have far-reaching consequences.

“Eight-and-a-half years is not a long time. I’m only going to be, like, 31 by then and, man, I hope I have more decades to live after that,” Chang said. “Leaders are not taking action on climate, so direct action and things like this are disruptive, intentionally so, to raise awareness.”