Barclay announces ambition be a ‘net zero bank’

Barclays plans to be ‘net zero’ bank by 2050, following investor criticism on its climate policies

Barclays has announced plans to be ‘net zero’ bank by 2050, following investor criticism on its climate policies

In a statement released this morning, Barclays said it plans to cut carbon emissions to zero over the next three decades and will also only provide financing to projects aligned with the Paris Agreement climate goals.

It is tabling the new resolutions for shareholders to vote on at its annual general meeting on 7 May, while also committing to reporting on the group’s progress regularly from 2021.

Pressure group ShareAction said this is a “milestone announcement” from Barclays and reflects the bank’s willingness to listen to shareholders and other stakeholders. Since January, investors such as Amundi and Jupiter Asset Management have publicly committed support to ShareAction’s resolutions for stronger climate change policies.

Wolfgang Kuhn, Director of Finance Sector Strategies at ShareAction said: “Voting for both these resolutions will cement the bank’s new high-level climate commitment while at the same time insisting on the near-term ambition needed to deliver the results everyone wants.”

ShareAction urged investors to vote in favour of the new climate policies but also highlighted there is still work to be done as Barclays has provided more than £100bn to the fossil fuel industry since the Paris agreement was signed, making it Europe’s largest fossil fuel financier.

Kuhn added: “Today’s news from Barclays is a win for investor stewardship in the UK. Nevertheless, announcing a 30-year ambition is arguably the easy bit. The test is now on investors who are serious about climate change to translate this ambition into a strong fossil fuel phase-out plan by supporting both climate resolutions on 7 May.” 

Dominic Burke, investment director at Lankelly Chase, a co-filer of ShareAction’s resolution, also commented: “We need commitment not just ambition from a bank that only last year increased financing for oil, gas and coal companies by £2.9 billion. If a net-zero ambition does not involve phasing out fossil fuel financing, then what does it mean? Investors should ask what Barclays’ ambition will amount to if it doesn’t encompass at the very least a timescale for phase-out. The time has passed for carefully drafted position statements. Investors must support the original resolution and show they intend to hold Barclays to account for its response to the climate emergency.”  

Natasha Landell-Mills, head of stewardship at Sarasin & Partners, said Barclays has sent a “powerfiul message” in today’s announcement.

“Continuing to finance activities that undermine planet stability is not in anyone’s interests, and certainly not shareholders. This is ground-breaking and the board deserves to be commended.

What matters now is that the board sets robust nearer-term targets that leave no doubt about its determination to deliver net zero emissions by 2050. Shareholders should underline their support for this by supporting not just Barclays’ resolution, but also the shareholder-initiated resolution at Barclay’s forthcoming AGM.

“At a time when the world is grappling with a life-threatening pandemic, we are more aware than ever of our own vulnerabilities. Action to defuse the forthcoming climate crisis – and associated human suffering – must be scaled up quickly. Other banks should follow Barclay’s lead.”


Natalie Kenway

Natalie is editor in chief at MA Financial covering ESG Clarity, Portfolio Adviser and International Adviser. She was previously global head of ESG insight for ESG Clarity and has been an investment journalist...