The Lord Mayor of the City of London today called for bankers to take “bold” action to tackle climate change, as new figures reveal British lenders are still giving billions to businesses in the fossil fuel sector.
William Russell, the 692nd Lord Mayor, said: “This is the time to be bold. The stakes will be high, as well as the risks and the returns. But private finance cannot afford to hold back. There is no road to prosperity through high emissions – for the financial world or for anyone else.
“Money talks, and its message is ‘go green or go home’.”
The comments came during a speech at the Green Horizon Summit in Glasgow, an event for CEOs and financiers organised alongside the COP26 gathering.
Bankers and investors are discussing how to best use private sector cash to avert irreversible climate disaster. The Lord Mayor said firms with $100 trillion under management were now backing the Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero, an initiative set up by ex-Bank of England governor Mark Carney to drive cash towards tackling climate change.
Activists say banks and other financial institutions are still moving too slowly. A report published today by campaign group Market Forces said three major UK banks had helped fossil fuel businesses borrow $15 billion so far this year. Barclays provided the most funding, with $5.6 billion going towards oil and gas projects.
Market Forces’ Mia Watanabe said: “The science is clear - banks that keep funding fossil fuels can’t be climate leaders.”
A spokesperson for Barclays said: “We are aligning our entire financing portfolio to support the goals of the Paris Agreement - significantly scaling up green financing, directly investing in new green technologies and helping clients in key sectors change their business models to reduce their climate change impact.
“By 2025, we will reduce the emissions intensity of our power portfolio by 30%, and reduce absolute emissions of our energy portfolio by 15%.”
Barclays has pledged to make its lending portfolio net zero by 2050.
Many banks and investors argue that they are helping dirty businesses to transition away from fossil fuels and other unsustainable business practices. They argue that funds only go to companies with credible net zero and climate plans.