Cop26 president Alok Sharma in deep water over ’Swampy’ appropriation
Kicking off the summit’s Finance Day, which aims to channel cash towards transitioning global economies to net zero carbon emissions, Mr Sharma recalled the climate protests of the 1990s.
He compared financiers and politicians to Dan Hooper, nicknamed Swampy, who became a household name in 1996 after his fierce campaigning to stop new road projects.
Mr Sharma 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.”
He continued: “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.
“That means finance is increasingly flowing to climate action. Delivering the Paris Agreement requires nothing short of aligning all financial flows with clean and resilient development, and of course we know that the devastation caused by the pandemic makes this all the more urgent.”
Swampy himself is currently spending his 20th day in a tunnel in Wendover, Buckinghamshire, in an effort to block the progress of the HS2 rail project, and was unavailable for comment.
However, fellow campaigner Dr Larch Maxey, who is currently on bail for alleged offences relating to his protests against HS2, told the PA news agency: “Unfortunately everyone is not down that tunnel with Swampy.”
He continued: “To say we are all Swampys is appropriation, it is attempting to take resistance, to take the truth and commercialise it and commodify it for the corporate agenda.
“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.”
Dr Maxey said world leaders were still trying to “coax and cajole” big industry into action, rather than leading by example.
“(Mr Sharma’s speech) is trying to say ‘everything is OK, folks, you just trust us, the experts, the bankers, the politicians, and your future is safe’,” he said.
“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 was sceptical that the targets of the Paris Agreement could be met without radical action.
He said: “Sixty per cent of all emissions have been emitted during the Cop era, and so Cop is fundamentally predisposed to try and keep business as usual going.”
“We are still not seeing enough action, and obviously (Mr Sharma’s) speech is trying to coax finance people into action, but I don’t think it’s going to be enough – words to get people into action are not going to be enough.”
He added: “Thirty years ago we were in the space of coaxing and cajoling – now (climate change) is an existential threat and the science says what we do in the next three to four years will determine whether humanity survives or not.
“This is how serious it is, and I don’t see many people addressing this with the level of urgency and severity that it requires.”
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