On the hottest February day in the UK since records began, anti-fracking campaigners staged a protest outside HSBC in Manchester’s St. Ann’s Square. The peaceful demonstration formed part of a larger series of protests against the bank and its financial backing of the fossil fuel industry.

HSBC is a major shareholder in IGas Energy, a company which is attempting to drill for shale gas at Misson Springs in South Yorkshire. HSBC is also reported to provide financial services to Cuadrilla, the corporation who were first to reattempt fracking after it was halted in the UK in 2011, due to concerns about earth tremors.

Hydraulic fracturing, more widely known as fracking, is a relatively new form of energy extraction which involves blasting high-pressure water, sand, and chemical ingredients into shale rock underground to crack the rock and release the gas inside. It has become increasingly controversial due to its proven links to small earthquakes, as mentioned above. Furthermore, there is speculation and some recorded cases of chemical by-products or methane gas escaping into underground water-supplies, thereby polluting the environment directly.

Allan Challenger, of Frack Free Greater Manchester highlights the connections and structure of banks to corporations in their support of fossil-fuel industry and its expansion:

“Fracking companies don’t exist in isolation. For the industry to survive they need access to our land, our water and our sand. It needs its drills, diggers and lorries. It needs money, spin-doctors and politicians in its pockets. FFGM is taking this action in solidarity with local communities and campaigners at Preston New Road, where Cuadrilla has its operations, and Ellesmere Port. IGas is appealing against Chester and Cheshire West Council’s refusal of planning permission for their application to proceed with gas exploration there.”

Although the issue of fracking is one which appears to only directly effect the regions and shires, the evidence of the continued burning of fossil fuels and release of CO2 was clear in the fact that the end of February has seen record high temperatures. In central Manchester as the protest took place, the temperature hit 20 degrees Celsius.

In what has been dubbed ‘Fabuary’, the national mood has been one of surprise over the sunny heat over the last few days of February. It has prompted some to criticise the positive coverage it has received in weather and news broadcasts. Caroline Lucas, Green Party MP, Tweeted out:

“Hoping media will soon dial down ‘celebration’ of ‘basking in the sun’ and start asking more serious questions – 9 of 10 hottest years on record [have occurred] since 2005, temperatures in Arctic earlier this month were 28 degrees warmer this month, and last year England had its hottest summer.”

According to the National Centres for Environmental information, Manchester in February should see an average high temperature of 7 degrees, and a low of 2 degrees.

Additional alarming news, and vindication of the HSBC protest, was the shocking sight of Marsden Moor on fire. Last year during summer, several hills and Moorlands around Greater Manchester blazed for days and weeks, with evacuations even being carried out. The fact that these fires appear to be an increasing occurrence, and especially now it has happened during winter in Northern England is even more devasting.

It also serves to show that, although an increase in temperatures is a terrible consequence of climate change, it is the knock-on effect of them which will cause the damage to human life. For because of the fires burning on Marsden Moor – near Saddleworth, which saw an even worse blaze last year – the smoke was able to reach towards urban centres and worsen the already problematic air pollution crisis.

Ash Hewiton of the campaign group Reclaim The Power summarised the situation in terms of how the HSBC connection is just part of a broader societal problem which needs a fast resolution before it is too late:

“Fracking sees the UK government attempting to establish an entirely new fossil-fuel industry, despite overwhelming public opposition and unprecedented urgency to de-carbonise our energy systems. Fracking relies upon a web of corporate-interests to function, not least external funding from banks like HSBC. It’s time to expose the web of fossil gas interests that are ripping us off and sending us on a path to climate breakdown.”

Lucas Jones