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'Laughtivists' The Yes Men claim responsibility for Bank of England climate hoax

Daniel Levinson, left, and Mike Bonanno, center, of the social activist group "The Yes Men," wear suits as they were joined by others who marched down Broadway to Wall Street, the New York Stock Exchange and the Charging Bull to call attention to the Occupy Wall Street movement in New York, Monday, Oct. 24, 2011. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
Daniel Levinson, left, and Mike Bonanno, center, of the social activist group 'The Yes Men,' marching through New York to call attention to the Occupy Wall Street movement on October 24, 2011. Photo: AP Photo/Kathy Willens

A group of New York-based activists have claimed responsibility for posing as the Bank of England (BOE) and issuing a fake press release.

The BOE was forced to issue an official denial on Monday after a spoof press release was circulated claiming the central bank would stop buying fossil fuel-linked bonds as part of its quantitive easing programme. The fake notice was sent to the media and posted on a highly realistic cloned Bank of England website.

The Yes Men, an American-based group of activist pranksters, claimed responsibility for the hoax in a press release.

“We wanted to show how it would feel — even for a split second — if a central bank took steps to protect against climate calamity," Jeff Walburn of the Yes Men said in the statement.

"Andrew Bailey and other heads of the Bank of England have acknowledged that the threats are clear, but rather than walk their talk on climate risk, they keep dragging their well-heeled feet."

People stand outside the Bank of England, in the City of London, Thursday, Oct. 15, 2020. London will be moved into a coronavirus Tier 2 lockdown as part of the British governments new alert system for rising case numbers, starting midnight local time on Friday night into Saturday. The new restrictions will include stopping different households from mixing indoors and people should aim to avoid public transport if they can. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)
People stand outside the Bank of England, in the City of London, Thursday, October 15, 2020. Photo: AP Photo/Matt Dunham

The Yes Men is a group of social and political activists that first emerged in the early 2000s. The group practices a brand of activist it calls “laughtivism” according to its website.

“The theory is, we’ll laugh bloodsuckers into oblivion and thus save the world,” the group’s website reads. “It doesn’t always work — the world still needs some saving — but, you know, the arc of history bends towards justice, even when it seems to be breaking.”

READ MORE: Bank of England considers legal action over green bonds hoax

The Yes Men typically impersonate people or groups they are targeting in order to highlight an issue. Past targets have included George W. Bush, McDonald’s, and BlackRock chief executive Larry Fink. The group has produced three films over the past 20 years focusing on activism around the World Trade Organisation, oil companies, and climate change. As well as mounting direct action, the group offers advice and training to others to spread their methods and ideas.

The targeting of the Bank of England comes ahead of the publication of the central bank’s Financial Stability Report on Friday. The biannual report sets out the biggest threats to the UK’s financial system and the action the Bank is taking to address them.

READ MORE: Bank of England told to 'put its money where its mouth is' on climate change

“It shouldn’t be left up to activists to put these words in Andrew Bailey’s mouth,” Anna Vickerstaff, UK campaign lead at 350.org, a climate group, said in the statement issued by The Yes Men.

“Ditching carbon bonds would be a bare minimum, common-sense move for the economy and the climate.”

Vickerstaff called for the Bank of England to stop “finance flowing into climate-wrecking fossil fuels” and instead invest in clean energy. Almost 50,000 people have signed 350.org’s petition calling for the Bank of England to “stop funding the climate crisis,” according to the group’s website.

The Bank of England has been contacted for comment. In its statement on Monday, the central bank said it would investigate the hoax and consider legal action.

WATCH: Quarter of Brits believe coronavirus conspiracies