LONDON (Reuters) - A group of Barclays (BARC.L) shareholders coordinated by responsible investment lobby group ShareAction want the bank to phase out financing fossil fuels, stepping up pressure on one of Europe’s biggest funders of the sector.
Eleven institutional investors have filed a resolution to be voted on at Barclays’ annual meeting in May, requiring the bank to set out plans to stop providing all financial services to firms not aligned with the Paris climate agreement.
The pressure on Barclays comes at a time when shareholders, prompted by activists and mounting public concern, are increasingly urging the companies they invest in to do more to combat the climate crisis.
Up to now, investors have largely focused their collective efforts on big oil and gas companies responsible for producing fossil fuels, with resolutions at companies including Royal Dutch Shell (RDSa.L), BP (BP.L) and Equinor (EQNR.OL).
The Barclays resolution will mark the first time a European bank has faced such shareholder action on fossil fuel financing. It calls on Barclays to go further than its previous public commitments to combat climate change by forcing it to set specific targets.
The move comes just days after outgoing Bank of England governor Mark Carney said the financial services industry had been too slow to cut investment in fossil fuels.
Carney is set to leave the BoE at the end of January to take up a position as the United Nations special envoy for climate action. He has previously warned that global warming could lead to a sharp reassessment of the value of every financial asset.
The eleven investors publicly backing the Barclays resolution collectively manage some 130 billion pounds ($171.39 billion) and include Brunel Pension Partnership, LGPS Central, Sarasin & Partners and Folksam.
“The lending practices of many banks pose a serious threat to the goals of the Paris agreement,” said Laura Chappell, Chief Executive of Brunel Pension Partnership.
“We hope the Barclays Board formally supports this resolution.”
One of the bank’s 20 biggest shareholders told Reuters they could also back the proposals.
“We’ve said to Barclays we would be minded to support this type of resolution, so you’d better take it seriously,” the investor said.
A formal vote on the measures at the May meeting might not be needed if the bank announces measures beforehand that satisfy the investors’ demands.
“We are working to help tackle climate change, and we meet with ShareAction and other shareholders regularly to update them on our progress,” a spokesman for Barclays said.
Reporting by Lawrence White and Simon Jessop. Editing by Jane Merriman