Almost 100 Barclays branches across the UK shut down due to Greenpeace protests on Monday. From London to Manchester, environmental activists blocked bank entrances by installing pop-up exhibitions.
These displays depicted climate disasters that occurred throughout the UK. On-goers also saw slogans such as “Stop funding the climate emergency” emblazoned across these displays.
This protest was a direct attack on Barclays’s generous donations to the fossil fuel industry. Greenpeace, and many other climate campaigners, are urging the bank to instead convert to renewable energy.
With this disruptive display, it seems like Greenpeace’s message to Barclays is clear: if change doesn’t occur soon, change will be demanded.
Why is Greenpeace Protesting Barclays?
“Behind every fossil fuel company is a bank,” Greenpeace wrote in an online news release. “And Barclays is the worst in Europe.”
In recent years, Barclays established itself as a world leader in bank financing for the fossil fuel industry. A 2019 study found Barclays poured more than $85 billion into fossil fuel companies between 2016 to 2018. The study produced a “Dirty Dozen” list, which comprised of the “Worst Banks Since the Paris Agreement.”
Barclays earned a 6th place status for fossil fuel financing. It also received 9th for funding 100 companies aimed at “aggressively expanding” fossil fuels. On the list, Barclays followed major North American banks like JP Morgan and Wells Fargo.
Greenpeace UK campaigner Morten Thaysen said this protest was an urgent demand for Barclays to stop “funding the climate emergency.”
“It’s time Barclays pulled the plug and backed away from funding fossil fuels for good,” he said.
“Banks are just as responsible for the climate emergency as the fossil fuel companies they fund, yet they’ve escaped scrutiny for years. We’ve shut down branches across the country to shine a spotlight on Barclays’s role in bankrolling this emergency.”
Barclays’s Other Recent History with Climate
This isn’t the first time Barclays has been under pressure for its stance on fossil fuels.
Back in January, shareholders urged Barclays to cut fossil fuel funding. A dozen pension and investment funds have filed a resolution against the major bank. This includes Jupiter Asset Management, which owns almost 1.2% of Barclays’s shares, which just recently backed the campaign. Even before Jupiter joined, the other 11 investors managed nearly $171 billion.
Investors demanded Barclays make decisions more aligned with the Paris Climate Agreement. Some targets include phasing out funding for fossil fuel projects to further the Paris Agreement’s goal of reaching net-zero by 2050.
Investment responsibility group ShareAction spearheaded this pledge. Voting for it will take place at Barclays’s annual investor meeting on May 7th.
Brunel Pension Partnership is among the eleven shareholders co-filing this resolution. Its chief executive, Laura Chappell, emphasized the powerful role banks have in the climate crisis.
“The lending practices of many banks pose a serious threat to the goals of the Paris agreement,” she said. “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.”
She added, “We hope the Barclays board formally supports this resolution.”
In response to Greenpeace, a Barclays spokeswoman said it recognized climate change as one of the world’s greatest threats.
“[We are] determined to do all we can to support the transition to a low-carbon economy, while also ensuring that global energy needs continue to be met,” she said.
Barclays released a similar message in response to the ShareAction’s resolution, claiming progress. This resolution came days after the outgoing Bank of England governor Mark Carney warned firms about fossil fuel investment. Carney said such actions could render their assets “worthless.”
After being labeled as the worst “climate offender in Europe,” it’s evident Barclays will continue to be under fire for their current financing plans. Unless it makes a significant change and actively converts to renewable energy, it’s highly likely Barclays will continue to face the heat.