Wednesday 8 January 2020 12:01 am

Climate change: Barclays shareholders call on bank to stop financing fossil fuel firms

A group of Barclays shareholders have taken formal action against the bank, demanding it stops financing fossil fuel companies that are not aligned with the Paris Agreement’s climate change goals.

A group of 11 institutional investors managing over £130bn of assets, coupled with over 100 individual investors have launched the shareholder resolution – thought to be the first ever climate change resolution at a European bank. 

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Barclays is the largest financer of fossil fuels in Europe, and the sixth largest globally. Since the Paris Agreement was signed in 2015, the bank has provided over $85bn (£65bn) of finance to fossil fuel firms and high-carbon projects, according to investment charity Share Action, which coordinated the resolution.

The Paris Agreement outlines a goal of keeping global warming well below two degrees celsius compared to pre-industrial levels, and ideally limit it to 1.5 degrees. 

The resolution calls on Barclays to publish a plan to phase out the provision of financial services to companies in the energy sector not aligned with the Agreement.

“Piecemeal changes in energy policy will no longer cut it,” said Share Action campaign manager Jeanne Martin. “Banks must align their lending with the science.”

Institutional investors including the LGPS Central, Brunel Pension Partnership and Sarasin & Partners have put forward the resolution.

Natasha Landell-Mills, head of stewardship at Sarasin, told City A.M. the resolution represented an “escalation” in pressure on Barclays from shareholders that was “absolutely appropriate in light of the increasing urgency of the threats that we see from climate change”.

“The urgency of the problem we face is such that we don’t have lots of years to waste debating this,” she added.

A spokesperson for Barclays said: “We are working to help tackle climate change, and we meet with Share Action and other shareholders regularly to update them on our progress.”

European banks including BNP Paribas, Credit Agricole and Standard Chartered have all recently taken steps towards aligning their energy financing with the Paris Agreement’s goals. 

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In May last year, Share Action coordinated a letter from a group of Barclays investors to boss Jes Stanley, urging him to stop funding companies involved in coal mining or tar sands.

The charity also organised a similar letter to HSBC boss John Flint urging the bank to stop bankrolling coal-burning projects.