The anti-coal protest outside Morgan Stanley’s 42-story tower in New York attracted only three people—four if you count the infant one of them happened to be baby-sitting.
The few bankers who walked outside to meet restaurant deliverymen appeared to barely notice as the activists sang, “Go tell it on the mountain. Your bank poisons us.” It was all over in 15 minutes.
The Nov. 19 demonstration hardly seemed like the kind of thing that would lead an investment banking behemoth to stop putting money into fossil fuels. But the movement that sponsored it is getting results.
Two weeks after the protest, Morgan Stanley declared it would cut funding for coal mining and promised to consider the perspectives of environmental groups in financing decisions. It declined to comment on the activists.
Eight other global banks have made similar commitments this year. That goes beyond what many pension funds and college endowments have done. Harvard’s president has dismissed students’ calls for coal, oil, and gas divestment.
“New coal mines and new coal-fired power plants can’t be built without the behind-the-scenes support of major financial institutions,” says Ben Collins, senior research and policy campaigner at the Rainforest Action Network.
“They’re aware that they’re exposed reputationally on this issue.”
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