The prominent charity Christian Aid has chosen to break all connections with Barclays, a major bank notorious for its substantial investments in the fossil fuel industry.
After an eight-year partnership with Barclays, the charity’s Board of Trustees has given their approval to transition their banking services to Lloyds, marking a significant shift in their financial dealings.
This decision comes in response to growing concerns about the bank’s significant financing of fossil fuel projects, as revealed in a 2023 report by the Rainforest Action Network.
According to the report, Barclays provided a staggering £148 billion in fossil fuel financing between 2016 and 2021, making it the seventh-largest funder of fossil fuels globally. This financial support for the oil and gas industry has attracted criticism from climate advocacy groups, tarnishing Barclays’ reputation as they continue to link the bank to projects that contribute to climate change.
Christian Aid’s Chief Operating Officer, Martin Birch, cited Barclays’ insufficient commitment to improving its stance on fossil fuel finance as a compelling reason for the charity’s decision. Birch emphasized Christian Aid’s ambitious environmental commitments outlined in their recently launched Environmental Policy, which necessitated a shift to a more suitable banking provider.
Barclays has historically offered specialized banking support to NGOs, non-profits, and charities for two decades and claims to be one of the first banks to set a net-zero target for 2050. They have also pledged to reduce real-world emissions by 40% by 2030. However, climate advocacy groups argue that their approach lacks a coherent policy to achieve these goals, unlike competitors HSBC, Lloyds, and Natwest, who have taken steps to halt direct financing of new oil and gas projects.
In response to Christian Aid’s decision, a Barclays spokesperson acknowledged the urgent and complex challenge of addressing climate change. The bank asserted that it is utilizing its entire franchise to support green technologies and infrastructure projects, with over £87 billion of green finance provided since 2018. Barclays has set an ambitious target of facilitating $1 trillion in sustainable and transition financing by 2030, along with a mandate to invest £500 million of its capital into global climate-tech start-ups by the end of 2027.
Former Archbishop of Canterbury and former Chair of Christian Aid, Dr. Rowan Williams, praised the charity’s move and stressed the importance of holding public and corporate bodies accountable for their use of resources amid the ongoing global climate emergency.
The decision by Christian Aid to divest from Barclays’ fossil fuel ties has been met with applause from other climate agencies, including Christian Climate Action and Operation Noah. They view the charity’s bold move as trend-setting and hope it will encourage other organizations to exert similar pressure on Barclays to divest from fossil fuels.
Rev. Helen Burnett, a member of Christian Climate Action and a volunteer fundraiser for Christian Aid, highlighted the inconsistency of charities opposing climate change while continuing to bank with the largest funder of fossil fuels in Europe.
Similarly, Rev. Darrell Hannah, Chair of Operation Noah, commended Christian Aid for their momentous decision and emphasized the pressing need to address the environmental risks posed by banks funding fossil fuel companies.