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by Allison Raphael
Thursday, Feb. 21, 2002 at 4:47 PM
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Published on Wednesday, February 20, 2002 by OneWorld/US
Citibank Targeted by Wave of Student Protests
by Alison Raphael
One of the world's largest full-service banks will be targeted by protests across the United States this week, as students urge their peers to dump student loans and credit cards from Citibank which they accuse of investing in environmentally-harmful projects.
Beginning Tuesday, Citibank branch offices will be the sites of demonstrations, street theater, and deliveries of wood chips and frying pans--symbolizing the destruction of rainforests and global warming--from students at about 60 universities across the country.
Casey Sullivan of New York University says Tuesday's "Student Outrage" action will focus on helping college-goers to switch their student loans to other banks. "NYU is huge, and the school suggests Citibank for loans, so we want to show them how much they stand to lose if they don't change their practices," said Sullivan.
Students and environmental groups are trying to convince Citibank's parent company, Citigroup, the largest U.S. financial network, to stop investing in projects which help fuel climate change and start supporting environmentally beneficial investments, such as solar financing.
Campaigners point to the group's Camisea Project, in Peru, which involves construction of a gas pipeline through a remote part of the country's Amazon region that would, activists say, threaten the survival of two indigenous tribes and endanger 800 bird and tree species in one of the most biologically diverse areas of the world.
Citing other, similar investments in Ecuador and India, the Rainforest Action Network (RAN) charges that "Citigroup has rightfully earned a Triple A credit rating as the world's most destructive and corrupting bank."
Mark Von Topel of Powershift, an environmental lobby group working with the students, says that Citigroup should focus on the US billion market for solar energy instead of fossil fuels.
Powershift wants Citibank to include the extra costs of domestic solar energy in mortgage packages, so that homeowners can absorb the expense gradually as it is balanced out by longer-term savings. "This would make solar power the cheapest and cleanest form of power overnight," said Von Topel.
Although the technology which allows heating by solar energy adds US,000 to the cost of a home, it can save homeowners US,000 a year in energy bills, and each solar-heated home will save the planet from 10,000 pounds a year of carbon-dioxide emissions that contribute to global warming.
A statement published by Citigroup on its website says, "Citigroup analyzes the potential environmental impacts of its business activities and takes action to either reduce environmental risk or promote benefits."
The "Not with My Money, Citi" Campaign will culminate in further protests in late April, according to RAN and Powershift.
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