Partial data on the involvement of the Barclays Group in the intensification of the climate crisis
At Barclays’ last AGM in May 2023, CEO Nigel Higgins made no attempt to hide the bank’s future ambitions: “At the moment, the world cannot function without fossil fuels, and we have no intention of withdrawing from this sector.”
Addiction to fossil fuels
Barclays is the number one European financier of fossil fuels, and the 7th worldwide, between 2016 and 2022 with a total of 190.5 billion USD, with the largest share going to Exxonmobil, of which it is the 4th largest financier with a contribution of almost 13 billion USD during the same period.
On coal, Barclays has committed to no longer providing financial services to mining and power companies that derive more than 50% of their revenues from thermal coal and to reduce its threshold to 30% by 2023 for mining, 2025 for power and 10% by 2030. This commitment to a reduction over time is a good approach, but the current and planned thresholds are far too high. According to data from the NGO Reclaim Finance, the bank will have invested €33 billion in the coal sector between January 2019 and November 2021.
When it comes to gas and oil, Barclays is also doing worse than most of its peers, by failing to provide at least for a halt to direct financing of expansion projects.
As a founding member of the Net-Zero Banking Alliance (NZBA), Barclays has committed to reducing the absolute CO2 emissions of its energy portfolio by 15% by 2025, and to adopting a global strategy to phase out the oil and gas industry, in line with a 1.5°C scenario. As a result, since the birth of the NZBA in April 2021 and up to August 2022, Barclays had invested more than 8 billion in expansionist companies.
Barclays and Adani: a toxic relationship
In February 2023, the Indian conglomerate Adani found itself at the heart of “the biggest scam in history”, according to the hedge fund Hindenburg. What is deeply troubling is the unwavering support Adani received from Barclays, which did not turn its back on the corrupt coal company and still regularly injects millions into it today. A report by Banktrack and Toxic Bonds even reveals that Barclays had the dubious distinction of being the largest underwriter of bonds for the Adani Group in the five years to 2021. Even more astonishing, Barclays has underwritten all of the dollar and euro-denominated bonds issued by Adani Group entities currently active in the market, for a staggering total of $8 billion.
From fossil fuels to meat production
The bank’s investments are not limited strictly to primary fossil fuel companies, but also to secondary companies: for example, over the last eight years, Barclays has been the main financial backer of the world’s largest greenhouse gas emitting meat company, JBS. By way of comparison, JBS’s GHG emissions in 2021 are equivalent to those of Spain.
A study conducted in May 2023 by Mighty Earth, Feedback and Banktrack estimates that Barclays provided more than $6 billion in financing to JBS between 2015 and 2022, despite Barclays’ commitment to becoming net zero by 2050 and its claim that it takes a “zero tolerance” approach to corruption. Indeed, not only is JBS an environmental scandal, it has also paid over $3.5 billion in fines for its involvement in multiple environmental, deforestation and corruption scandals over the same period. While several banks opted to withdraw, Barclays financed more than a quarter of the corporate loans identified and almost a fifth of the bond issues provided globally to JBS and its global subsidiaries, again during the same period.