Story at a glance

  • A group of shareholders are demanding Barclays stop lending to firms not aligned with the Paris Climate Agreement.
  • The resolution is backed by 11 institutional investors and 100 individual shareholders.
  • The move is coordinated by investment lobby group ShareAction, which says Barclays was responsible for $85 billion of fossil fuel funding since 2015.

Multinational investment bank Barclays is being pressured by shareholders to phase out the financing of fossil fuel firms and projects in an effort to tackle climate change.

A group of shareholders have filed a resolution requiring the bank, which is one of Europe’s biggest funders of the fossil fuel sector, to implement plans to stop providing financial services to firms that are not in accordance with the Paris Climate Agreement. The agreement requires carbon emissions to reach net-zero by 2050. 

The resolution is being spearheaded by investment lobby group ShareAction and has been backed by 11 institutional investors and 100 individual Barclays shareholders. The group says it’s the first ever climate-related shareholder resolution issued to a European bank.

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“Last year saw record high emissions, and this year is expected to follow suit. This is at a time when the science warns us the next decade is critical in bending the emissions curve and delivering a low-carbon transition. Such a transition will cost trillions. Banks have a vital role to play in financing it, and are at a huge risk if they don’t,” the ShareAction group said in a statement.

The group says banks pump billions of dollars into companies at the forefront of the climate crisis, and Barclays alone was responsible for $85 billion of such funding since 2015. ShareAction says that makes it the sixth largest backer of fossil fuels in the world and the worst “climate offender in Europe.” 

Barclays says it’s “working to help tackle climate change, and we meet with ShareAction and other shareholders regularly to update them on our progress.” 

The move comes just days after outgoing Bank of England governor Mark Carney said the financial services industry has dragged its feet in cutting investment in fossil fuels. 

The resolution is set to be voted on in May at Barclays’ annual meeting, but it may not be needed if the institution rolls out measures beforehand to satisfy the investor’s demands.

Published on Jan 08, 2020