Barclays AGM hit by climate protests

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Barclays’ annual general meeting has been hit by climate protesters angry at the lender’s financing of fossil fuel projects.

A group from People & Planet – which describes itself as a student network campaigning on world poverty, human rights and the environment – interrupted chief executive Jes Staley’s speech, calling for Barclays to “tell the truth”.

Demonstrators linked arms and shouted: “What do we want? Climate justice. When do we want it? Now.”

People & Planet claims that Barclays has lent to more to fossil fuel companies and projects than “any other European bank”.

Heledd Parry, one of the students, said: “The Paris Agreement calls for lending to be consistent with reducing carbon emissions, but Barclays and other big banks are pouring money into fossil fuel expansion. They are banking on climate chaos.”

It came a day after a group of Barclays investors wrote a letter urging the bank to stop funding companies involved in coal mining and oil sands exploitation.

The letter was written by the likes of Hermes EOS, Edentree, Boston Common and Sarasin & Partners as part of a campaign organised by ShareAction.

It marks the latest in a series of climate protests in London, most of which were spearheaded by Extinction Rebellion.

Protesters were removed from the venue in Westminster by police and security personnel.

Mr Staley said in his speech to investors: “Barclays is determined to do what we can to support the transition to a low-carbon economy, while also ensuring that global energy needs continue to be met.

“We are already doing a considerable amount to support that transition to a low-carbon economy.

“We have ruled out financing oil or gas exploration in the Arctic, we no longer finance greenfield thermal coal-mining activity, and we have introduced new enhanced checks on all transactions related to the exploration, extraction, transportation or processing of oil sands output.”

He added that Barclays has established a taskforce to consider and act on the environmental and social impact of the company.

During the meeting, the bank’s board faced a barrage of questions on climate change from the likes of Greenpeace, Christian Aid and individual shareholders.

In response, outgoing chairman John McFarlane said: “Your comments aren’t in vain. You can see we are changing and accommodating the way we do things.”

He also pledged that the bank’s position will “evolve in a direction that you want us to go”.

Mr Staley added: “We share the concern about the climate and very much support the efforts around the world to raise awareness of the climate change challenge.”

He reiterated the bank’s support for the Paris Climate Agreement as well as the Bank of England’s recent warnings over the financial risk of climate change.

The American claimed the firm is winding down its relationships with any companies whose business is highly dependent on coal, and has enhanced its due diligence to prevent funding fracking in the Arctic.

But the student group said Barclays’ new energy policy does not go far enough as it does “not rule out funding tar sands, oil or gas, nor lending to the companies behind coal”.

Lise Masson, climate campaigner at BankTrack, said: “To finance companies planning to dig more oil, gas, and coal out of the ground is simply unacceptable. Barclays needs to take responsibility and end its reckless support for fossil fuels.”

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