Climate groups picket Swiss National Bank’s shareholder meeting over its investments

By Thomson Reuters Apr 26, 2024 | 2:26 AM

By John Revill

BERN (Reuters) – Climate campaigners picketed the Swiss National Bank’s shareholders meeting on Friday to protest against the central bank’s investments in companies they say damage the environment and carry out fracking.

The demonstration follows a decision this month by Europe’s top human rights court that Bern was not doing enough to protect its citizens against rising temperatures. There was also a protest at the UBS AGM on Wednesday.

Switzerland recorded its two hottest years ever in 2022 and 2023, and snow levels in the Alps are retreating.

Around 50 activists attended the meeting in Bern to demand that the SNB sell its shareholdings in fossil fuel and fracking companies or use them to change the companies’ behaviour.

Protesters held up placards saying “Stop Fracking Investments End Fossil Finance” and “No Financial Stability Without a Stable Climate” outside the normally sedate event, which saw tightened security to prevent disruptions.

“We want a climate and environmentally friendly monetary and investment policy from the SNB,” Asti Roesle, campaigns director at the Swiss Climate Alliance. “The SNB can play a strong role because of the size of its investments.”

The SNB owns stakes in companies including oil majors Chevron, Shell, and Exxon Mobil as part of its 700 billion Swiss francs of foreign currency investments.

Its investments were linked to 12 million metric tons of carbon emissions last year, according to its sustainability report.

The SNB declined to comment on the protests or its investment strategy ahead of the AGM, but has previously ruled out using its shareholdings to influence environmental policy.

“The SNB says dealing with climate change should be a matter for political institutions, but this is an emergency,” said Roesle.

(Reporting by John Revill; Editing by Hugh Lawson)