Barclays feels investor pressure on fossil fuel financing

A shareholder proposal has been filed ahead of the bank’s next AGM


A group of investors in Barclays who collectively manage some £130bn of assets have filed a shareholder resolution calling on the bank to cease financing fossil fuel companies.

In an announcement on Wednesday, responsible investment charity ShareAction – the organisation co-ordinating the resolution – said that the submission is backed by 11 institutional investors and 100 individual shareholders.

It is understood that the resolution will be the first climate change focussed resolution at a European bank and asks that Barclays publishes a plan to cease backing companies in the energy sector who are not aligned with the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement. Specifically, this includes project finance, corporate financing and underwriting.

The resolution is to be subject to a shareholder vote at the annual general meeting in May 2020.

“The message is clear: piecemeal changes in energy policy will no longer cut it,” said Jeanne Martin, campaign manager at ShareAction.

“For too long, minor policy improvements have provided cover for the banking sector, while failing to halt fossil fuel financing. We know what needs to happen. Banks must align their lending with the science. If Barclays supports the Paris Agreement, it will support this resolution.”

Natasha Landell-Mills, partner and head of Stewardship at Sarasin & Partners, which manages over £14 billion, added: “Continued financing of harmful fossil fuel activities puts this target at risk, with potentially devastating consequences for us all. And yet, this is precisely what is happening today, and Barclays is amongst the most prolific bank financiers globally of such activities. 

“It is therefore vital that Barclays’ Board ensures that it no longer supports – whether through direct lending or underwriting – any activities that run contrary to the Paris Agreement.

“Failure to act leaves directors open to charges that they have failed to meet their obligations under the UK Companies Act. It also exposes the bank and its shareholders to heightened capital risks as decarbonisation accelerates. At a time of economic uncertainty, the Board should not be taking on additional risks.”


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