Barclays is one of the major UK banks targeted in a new letter campaign against new fossil fuel financing. Dinendra Haria/SOPA Images/LightRocket/Getty Images
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Between 2016 and 2021, the five biggest UK banks invested a total of $368bn in fossil fuels and gave $141bn to the top 50 companies to expand oil and gas over the same period.
Now famed writer-director Richard Curtis wants them to stop their dirty spending habits, and is recruiting some big names into his campaign, including actors Stephen Fry, Emma Thompson and Mark Rylance.
“We hope this weird and wonderful coalition of activists and actors, companies and brands, celebrities and climate champions will light the banks to stop them from setting the world on fire,” Curtis told The Guardian.
Curtis is best known as the writer behind such romantic comedy classics as Four Weddings and a Funeral, Notting Hill, and Bridge Jones’s Diary, as well as the writer-director of Love Really. However, he recently turned his attention to climate activism with the Make My Money Matter campaign, which focuses on greening UK pension funds.
The campaign’s most recent effort is a letter to the chief executives of the country’s five largest banks – HSBC, Barclays, Santander, NatWest and Lloyds – asking them to stop funding fossil fuel expansion.
“Do you think we will support you by financing a climate catastrophe? Don’t rely on it,” the letter concludes.
The letter cites the International Energy Agency’s (IEA) conclusion that new oil, gas or coal developments are incompatible with limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and avoiding the worst impacts of the climate crisis. Those developments will not be possible without money, so the letter targets the banks with three demands:
- No more funding for new fossil fuel projects.
- Give clients an ultimatum to stop the expansion of fossil fuels.
- Customers cut that do not stop expanding fossil fuel developments.
So far the letter has been signed by almost 5,000 organizations and individuals, including Fry, Thompson, Rylance, Brian Eno, naturalist Chris Packham, Green Member of Parliament Caroline Lucas, Just Stop Oil, Greenpeace UK, Save the Children UK , Ecotricity, Ella’s Kitchen and Triodos Bank, The Guardian reported.
The campaign is based on figures from the 2022 Banking on Climate Chaos and Oil and Gas Expansion: A Lose-Lose Bet for Banks and Their Investors reports. The first found that the world’s 60 largest banks had funneled $4.6 trillion into fossil fuels after the adoption of the Paris agreement. While internationally, US banks JPMorgan Chase, Citi, Wells Fargo and Bank of America are the biggest offenders, contributing a quarter of all fossil fuel financing during the study period, Barclays was the top funder of Fossil fuels in Europe. The latter reports that the five UK banks gave the top 50 expanding fossil fuel companies nearly $16bn in 2021 alone.
The letter also comes as another report, released in January, found that banks and financial institutions that had signed a net-zero emissions deal were still investing in fossil fuels, as The Guardian reported. The Glasgow Finance Alliance for Net Zero (GFANZ) emerged from the COP26 UN climate conference in 2021 and saw members agree to make investment decisions in line with the goal of limiting temperature rise to 1.5 degrees. . However, the Reclaim Finance report found that members were still pumping hundreds of billions of dollars into coal, oil and gas expansion. Both Barclays and HSBC were on a list of the top 20 bankers of the largest expanding fossil fuel companies.
In response to the letter, the banks in question told The Guardian that they were making progress. Santander said it had set emissions reduction targets for 2030, NatWest said it did not lend to fossil fuel companies that did not have a credible climate plan and that such loans were less than 1 percent of the bank’s current loans. Barclays touted its commitment to net zero emissions by 2050, but also said fossil fuel companies could play a role in the energy transition.
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“Many oil and gas companies are actively involved in and critical to the transition, committing significant resources and expertise to renewable energy,” a spokesperson said, The Guardian reported. “We believe we can make the biggest difference by supporting these customers in the transition to a low carbon economy, facilitating the financing needed to change their business practices and scale green technologies. When carbon-intensive companies are unable or unwilling to reduce or eliminate their emissions, we will reduce our support over time.”
HSBC announced in December that it would no longer finance new oil and gas fields, as BBC News reported at the time. This was not acknowledged in the letter, but Make My Money Matter applauded it at the time.
“It’s another nail in the coffin for fossil fuel expansion, and a massive signal to other UK banks that the game is up with the new oil and gas,” Make My chief executive told BBC News. Money Matter, Tony Burdon.
Lloyds announced a similar commitment in October, which is mentioned in the letter.
“Lloyds has started by ending direct financing of new oil, gas and coal projects; but the 5 must ensure that they take climate action by following the three steps above, otherwise we will find a new bank,” the signatories of the letter promised.
The commitment to green banking is becoming increasingly popular with UK customers. In a Make My Money Matter survey, 29% of customers at the five banks said they would move their money if their banks financed new fossil fuel projects, while 86% said they thought their bank should do more to address the climate crisis. according to The Guardian.