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Activists unfurl ‘Exxon Knew, Make Them Pay’ banner outside meeting of fossil fuel CEOs steps from UN climate summit

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“People are here in front, making it clear—#ExxonKnew about climate impacts and still put profit over people.”

A group of climate activists on Monday unfurled a massive banner that read, “ExxonKnew: Make Them Pay” outside a meeting of fossil fuel CEOs and government representatives at the Morgan Library and Museum, just blocks away from the U.N. Climate Summit in New York.

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“People are here in front, making it clear—#ExxonKnew about climate impacts and still put profit over people,” tweeted 350.org, which organized the protest alongside watchdog group Corporate Accountability.

Environmentalists holding the banner surrounded Morgan Library, where executives from ExxonMobil, Chevron, Shell, and other fossil fuel giants attended an event organized by the industry-led Oil and Gas Climate Initiative (OGCI).

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Taylor Billings, a spokesperson for Corporate Accountability, denounced the OGCI forum as “nothing more than an opportunity for some of the world’s biggest polluters to greenwash.”

“By holding this event just steps from the U.N. summit, the OGCI is attempting to appear as part of the solution and gain further influence over policymaking,” Billings told The Guardian. “Until governments and the U.N. realize that trying to put the fire out with the arsonists in the room will not work, we risk letting another year go by without adequate action on climate change or supplanting real solutions with fossil fuel industry-driven schemes.”

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In an op-ed for Common Dreams on Monday, Patti Lynn, Nnimmo Bassey, Lidy Nacpil wrote that “the industries that have fueled this crisis should have no part in dictating the solutions—rather, they should be made to pay to address the massive damages they have caused and to finance real solutions to the crisis.”

“There is a groundswell of support in the U.S. and beyond to make the fossil fuel and other polluting industries pay for the damages they have caused,” they added. “Holding these industries liable can unlock hundreds of billions of dollars to help finance the most ambitious, most equitable, and most just solutions we have.”

Ahead of Monday’s forum, fossil fuel executives dined with government officials at the Gramercy Park Hotel in New York Sunday night, just two days after four million people took to the streets around the world for the youth-led climate strikes.

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Dozens of protesters rallied outside the invite-only event and several youth activists unsuccessfully attempted to infiltrate the meeting by disguising themselves as hotel staff.

Activists also projected, “Make Polluters Pay, Make Big Oil Pay” onto the hotel:

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Edric Huang of the environmental group SustainUS said in a statement that the fossil fuel executives driving the climate crisis “should not be throwing dinner parties.”

“While communities have to abandon their homes—while U.S.-based youth of color have to bear the brunt of environmental racism every day—these fossil fuel industry executives wine and dine their way to profit,” said Huang. “We are here to expose them and make them pay.”

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2020 Election

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