Barclays shareholders filed Wednesday a landmark resolution asking the bank to phase out the financing of energy companies “driving the climate crisis”, a pressure group coordinating the action said.
A total of 11 institutional investors managing more than £130 billion ($170.6 billion, 153 billion euros) have joined forces with more than 100 individual shareholders for the resolution to be voted on at the British bank’s annual general meeting in May, ShareAction said in a statement.
“Today a group of shareholders, coordinated by ShareAction, have taken formal action at Barclays, asking the bank to phase out its financing of fossil fuel companies that are active agents in driving the climate crisis,” it said.
UK-based ShareAction added that “the first climate change resolution filed at a European bank requests that Barclays publishes a plan to gradually stop the provision of financial services… to companies in the energy sector, and to gas and electric utilities that are not aligned with the goals of the Paris climate agreement”.
Companies are under increasing pressure to help cut carbon emissions after Swedish wunderkind Greta Thunberg last year helped to drag the climate emergency into the mainstream.
And Bank of England head Mark Carney, soon to become UN special envoy on climate action and finance, recently urged companies to move faster.
In a December interview with a BBC programme guest-edited by Thunberg, Carney said the world of business needed to step up action, including on the disclosure of climate risk from their operations.
The 2015 Paris agreement saw nations commit to limiting global warming to two degrees Celsius (2.7 Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels.
– ‘Working to help climate change ‘
On Wednesday, ShareAction said that since the Paris Agreement, Barclays had financed fossil fuel companies and high-carbon projects with more than $85 billion.
“This makes it the world’s sixth largest backer of fossil fuels, and constitutes the highest level of fossil fuel financing of any European bank, exceeding its peers by over $27 billion,” the investor pressure group added.
In a brief response to ShareAction’s statement, 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 11 institutional investors who co-filed the resolution comprise Arcus Foundation, As You Sow, Brunel Pension Partnership, the Central Board of the Methodist Church, Falkirk Council Pension Fund, Folksam, Jesuits in Britain, Lankelly Chase, LGPS Central, Merseyside Pension Fund, and Sarasin & Partners.
“The lending practices of many banks poses a serious threat to the goals to the Paris agreement,” said Laura Chappell, chief executive of Brunel Pension Partnership, which manages £30 billion.
“As such, we welcome ShareAction’s call to the world’s largest banks to integrate climate change risk assessment and to set and disclose adequate phase-out targets in response. We hope the Barclays board formally supports this resolution,” she added.