Barclays told to end fossil fuel financing

Barclays must put a stop to the 17 billion dollars a year it sends to finance fossil fuel companies and stop funding coal mines and controversial tar sands exploration, a group of shareholders have said.

Eleven institutional investors, including the Jesuits in Britain and several pension funds, will table a resolution asking the bank to phase out its financing of companies that are “active agents of driving the climate crisis”.

The investors, who own a small number of Barclays’ shares, will ask their peers at May’s shareholder meeting to vote on a motion to gradually stop project finance, corporate finance and underwriting of projects not aligned with the Paris climate agreement.

ShareAction, the co-ordinator behind the initiative, promised it was the first in a “series of actions” this year.

“Piecemeal changes in energy policy will no longer cut it. For too long, minor policy improvements have provided cover for the banking sector, while failing to halt fossil fuel financing,” said Jeanne Martin, a campaign manager at ShareAction.

The group that brought the action – the first, it claimed, at a European bank – said that Barclays has since 2015 provided over 85 billion euro (£72 billion) in financing to fossil fuel companies and projects such as tar sands and Arctic exploration. It makes it the most active bank in Europe on the front, the group said.

Tar sands, or oil sands, is much more carbon intensive than regular oil to produce.

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

The investors are understood to own less than 1% of the shares in Barclays, however will hope they can get other shareholders, or even the board, to back them.

Last year, investors in South Africa’s Standard Bank voted down a shareholder resolution to force it to report the climate risk in its business. However they passed another resolution, forcing coal disclosure.

Investors have been worried, not only about the impact on the planet that climate change would bring, but also the impact on the companies they own stakes in.

“Climate change poses significant risks to global financial stability and could thereby create climate-related financial risks to our own business operations, portfolios and client partner funds, unless action is taken to mitigate these risks,” said Laura Chappell, the chief executive of Brunel Pension Partnership, which manages £30 billion in assets.

The board of Barclays will recommend that shareholders reject or accept the resolution before the meeting in May.

Barclays has committed to getting 0% of its energy from renewable sources by 2025 and last year facilitated £27.3 billion in green bonds and renewable financing.

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