Climate activists block Amsterdam highway in protest against ING

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) -Climate activists blocked a major highway in Amsterdam on Saturday to demand an immediate end to the financing of fossil fuel projects by the country’s largest bank, ING.

Hundreds of activists walked onto the A10 highway to the south of the city at about noon (1100 GMT), police said, after road authorities had shut the road down to avoid casualties.

Organised by the Extinction Rebellion group, the protest took place at the site of the former headquarters of ING, which the climate activists said is the main financer of fossil fuel projects in the Netherlands.

ING said earlier this month it would stop financing oil and gas exploration and production by 2040 and triple new lending to renewable energy over the next two years as part of an updated climate strategy.

But the protesters said this was not enough, calling on the bank to immediately ditch all fossil projects.

ING called those demands “radical and unrealistic” and said Extinction Rebellion’s actions were “unacceptable”, as it referred to prior protests at ING offices where the bank said employees had been intimidated.

“The capacity and infrastructure to quickly switch to 100% renewable energy simply is not there yet,” ING said. “We want to be part of the solution, instead of opting for the easy way out of fossil fuels.”

Images on local TV station AT5 showed protesters including children and elderly people peacefully sitting and walking on the highway, waving banners and flags.

Police said in a statement they were looking for a way to peacefully end the demonstration.

Amsterdam’s city council had banned the A10 protest, instead allocating a nearby field for the demonstration, but protesters climbed up the embankment and onto the highway.

(Reporting by Bart MeijerEditing by Sharon Singleton and Helen Popper)