Activists have today descended on a Barclays branch in London, in protest against the bank providing billions of pounds to coal, the most polluting fuel, since UN scientists warned we have 10 years left to avert the worst consequences of the climate crisis.
A dozen activists took socially-distanced, non-violent action outside the Piccadilly Circus Barclays branch on Wednesday morning to raise awareness of Barclays’ funding of the coal industry. Volunteers, under the Fund Our Future campaign and from Fossil Free London, dressed as Barclays-branded bankers-cum-coal miners, held replica coal smokestacks. They brandished a banner which read “Barclays Coal: UK’s #1 Coal Bank’.
All participants complied with government guidance on social distancing, keeping two metres apart where possible and wearing face masks.
A new report out today, by the Europe Beyond Coal network, shows how the lender has funnelled over £1.5 billion into coal companies in Europe since November 2018 when climate scientists warned we have 10 years to take drastic and immediate action on the climate crisis, which must include phasing-out financing of fossil fuels.
The report, the most damning parts of which were read aloud inside the Piccadilly branch, shows how much banks like Barclays and HSBC have loaned to eight coal companies – including RWE, PGE and Fortum/Uniper – which make up half of all EU coal-based CO2 emissions. HSBC has been financing the European coal industry to the tune of £428.82 million.
Robin Wells from Fossil Free London says: “Barclays has a dirty habit and it has no urgency to quit. Barclays’ climate rhetoric is a distraction from the reality of the environmental damage it pays out through financially supporting the worst coal utility companies in Europe. Activists have today demonstrated that to have any chance of averting ecological disaster, the bank must wash its coal-dirty hands of the industry and should exclude all dirty energy from all its investments.”
Barclays has come under huge pressure in recent months not just from activists, but also customers who have threatened to take their business elsewhere, and its own shareholders backed by ShareAction, the responsible investment charity, who filed a shareholder resolution at its AGM requesting it to gradually stop providing financial services to oil and gas companies. The proposal drew significant support from nearly a quarter of the bank’s investors.
To try to fend off pressure, the bank announced an ambition to be net-zero by 2050, a move widely criticised as distant, vague, and lacking the short-term targets needed for real progress on tackling the climate crisis. Alongside this, it put out a coal policy which in theory would cut off financing for new coal clients, but contained an important loophole allowing the bank in practice to continue bankrolling coal companies.
Notes for editors:
- Photo credit: Ron Fassbender
- The report referenced can be found here
- Fund Our Future is a network of organisations and social movements that work together to have a bigger collective impact on securing a climate safe future for all. We are committed to pressuring the UK’s biggest financial players to aligning their business practices with a fair and habitable future.