They may not be everybody in the City’s cup of tea, but Extinction Rebellion certainly liven up the place. Yesterday’s protest outside the Lloyd’s building by lunchtime had a party atmosphere: the sight of a broker or two enjoying a takeaway pint in the sun listening to the group’s band was probably a Lime Street first.
The target yesterday was the insurance industry, which whilst not always the sexiest is without doubt one of the Square Mile and indeed global capitalism’s most important. Without insurance, companies don’t invest; that’s especially true in risky markets or on more speculative projects. Lloyd’s serves a particularly useful purpose in that respect, allowing for the creation of bespoke policies that allow the wheels of progress to turn – albeit in a marketplace whose customs do at times seem a tad archaic. Insurers serve a more obvious point too which should not be lost on those in XR who tout apocalyptic warnings of increased and more severe natural disasters – they pay out when it happens, allowing people to rebuild, after all.
More broadly though XR miss the mark of what role the City plays in tackling climate change. For the absolutists on the loony left, all that matters is that firms exit fossil fuel investments and stop dealing with polluters. That sounds compelling on a poster, but it ignores two simple facts.
One, that a transition to greener fuels requires a transition, and two, that many of the new greener technologies we will use for our energy in the future require fossil fuels either as part of their manufacture or to bring them online. That’s before we get to the power required for mining the extremely rare materials vital to those new technologies: God forbid Extinction Rebellion find out how much copper is required to transfer energy through a wind turbine.
The City is at the heart of the battle against climate change, not working to oppose it. XR should come back to the Square Mile with fewer drums and a little more curiosity.