The AGM season of British financial players opened with Barclays, Europe’s largest financier of coal and fossil fuels. For the second successive year, the bank came under pressure from shareholders asking it to go much further and faster on climate. In 2020, Barclays reacted by committing to reach carbon neutrality by 2050. This year, immediate measures envisaging a reduction in financing to fossil fuels are expected.
Given that we have only nine years left to drastically reduce our emissions, adopting long-term net zero commitments is not enough to respond to the climate emergency. According to our new report published yesterday (see below), all UK banks and most investors have pledged to achieve net-zero by 2050 but none of them have pledged to end support to coal developers. This is in stark contrast with the situation in France where robust coal exit policies outnumber net-zero 2050 commitments.
Adopting a robust coal phase-out policy has become the litmus test for assessing how serious and sincere financial institutions are about contributing to the biggest fight humanity has ever faced. With COP26 looming, it’s high time UK financial institutions caught up with best practices and demonstrated climate leadership. A failure to deliver will not only undermine their climate credibility, it will also make them easy targets for the climate movement on the way to Glasgow.