Barclays Likely to Stop Lending to Projects Based on Fossil Fuels

24% of shareholders voted to phase out financing for fossil fuels


During the annual general meeting (AGM) of Barclays, a British multinational investment bank, nearly 24% of shareholders voted for Share Action’s resolution asking the bank to phase out financing for fossil fuels and utility companies that are not aligned with the Paris climate goal.

Passing the 20% threshold means the bank will have to respond to its shareholders formally.

“Today’s voting results will send shockwaves through the banking industry. While Barclays is Europe’s largest fossil fuel financier, it is far from being the only bank to prop up companies that are driving the climate crisis.  We recently published evidence that no European bank is yet doing what’s needed to meet the Paris climate goals,” said Catherine Howarth, chief executive of ShareAction.

Blackrock, one of Barclays’ top three shareholders, voted against the shareholder-led resolution. According to the bank’s annual report, “The size and scale of our business mean that we can make a real difference in helping to accelerate the transition to a low-carbon economy.”

Barclays’ board filed its proposal (Resolution 29) to become a net-zero business by 2050, which will involve transitioning its portfolio in line with the goals of the Paris Agreement over the next 30 years. It received 99.93% support.

The bank states that it has halved its operational Green House Gas (GHG) emissions over the last two years through the procurement of green energy, and its residual footprint from the bank’s properties and business travel is fully offset.

“We are committed to going further. As a member of the RE100 initiative, we are committed to sourcing 100% renewable electricity. We are currently at 60% and are targeting 90% by 2021 and 100% by 2030 at the latest,” the bank stated.

To achieve its target of becoming a net-zero business by 2050, the bank wants to stress on the energy and power sectors.

“Over time, as the world makes the transition to a low-carbon future, we expect our financing to be re-weighted towards more renewable, low-carbon activity,” it added.

According to the bank, “We will align all of our financing activities to the goals and timelines of the Paris Agreement. We will start with our provision of financing to the energy and power sectors and extend this to our entire portfolio over time. We are now increasing restrictions on Arctic, coal, and oil sands financing and plan to make significant increases in green financing. We will seek the input of multiple stakeholders as we further develop our strategy and targets.”

In September 2019, Barclays joined 16 other banks in piloting the Paris Agreement Capital Transition Assessment (PACTA) – a leading tool developed by the 2˚ Investing Initiative.

The bank also announced that to accelerate the transition; it plans to launch a Sustainable Impact Capital Initiative to invest £175 million (~$217.9 million) over five years in the equity of innovative and environmentally focused private companies.

Several banks across the world are stepping back from financing coal-powered projects.

In April 2020, Mercom reported that Japan-based Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group Inc (SMFG) decided not to provide support to the newly-planned coal-fired power projects. The bank had stated that the policy change would come into effect from May 1, 2020.

In March 2020, U.S-based JP Morgan Chase announced that it had committed $50 billion (~₹3.59 trillion) towards green initiatives as part of a larger $200 billion (~₹14.37 trillion) commitment towards the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Previously, the European Investment Bank (EIB) announced that it would end financing fossil fuel-based projects by the end of 2021. The bank said it has plans to support €1 trillion (~$1.107 trillion) of investments for climate action and environmentally sustainable projects from 2021 to 2030.

Another British multinational banking and financial services company Standard Chartered also declined to support new coal-fired power projects across the globe.

Other banks that have decided to quit funding coal projects are United Overseas Bank (UOB), Oversea-Chinese Banking Corporation, Limited, (OCBC), DBS, Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation (HSBC), and Deutsche Bank.

The Unfriend Coal campaign shows how the insurance companies are exiting the coal sector because of the growing risk of unmanageable climate breakdown.

The organizations engaged in the campaign include Greenpeace, Urgewald (Germany), Rainforest Action Network (U.S.), the Japan Center for a Sustainable Environment and Society, Client Earth (U.K.), Market Forces (Australia), and the Sunrise Project (Australia), among others.