A report from environmental groups Reclaim Finance and Urgewald published today said the City of London and Barclays, in particular, had substantially increased lending to the coal industry since the Paris climate agreement in 2015.
According to the report, which backs up other similar research in the area, annual backing to the coal sector by UK banks since 2015 had increased by over 40% to US$30.3bn last year while UK investors held assets worth US$47bn in coal-based businesses.
The UK overall is the third-largest debt provider to coal groups, behind the US and Japan, but within that Barclays is by far the largest source of lending said the report.
The bank has lent or underwritten equity raises worth US$27bn over the past two years, making it one of the top five coal lenders globally.
HSBC was in second place among the British banks, having supplied US$15bn, while Standard Chartered has provided US$4.7bn and is a significant lender to coal plant developers.
Barclays was already under pressure to amend its coal lending policies.
A resolution has been tabled for a second year running at its shareholders’ meeting that the bank commits to phasing out lending to oil, gas and coal companies.
The resolution, coordinated by environmental organisation Market Forces, has over a hundred co-filers.
Pressure is also mounting from institutional investors. Last week a group of 16 investment firm speaking for US$4trn of funds wrote to chief executive Jes Staley urging him to scale back its lending to fossil fuel-based businesses.
In response, Barclays said that most of its lending highlighted in the report took place before March 2020, when it started to align its policies with those laid down in Paris.
“The board continues to believe that Barclays can make the greatest difference by supporting the transition to a low carbon economy, rather than by simply phasing out support for some of the clients who are most engaged in it,” the bank said in a statement.