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Christian Aid ditches Barclays over fossil fuel links

by Heather Preston

Major charity Christian Aid has decided to move its banking away from Barclays over its ties to oil and gas investments.

On Tuesday one of the UK’s largest development charities cut ties with Barclays – known to be one of Europe’s leading funders of fossil fuels, after eight years. The Board of Trustees approved plans to move its banking provider to Lloyds.

According to a 2023 Rainforest Action Network report,the bank has provided £148 billion in fossil fuel financing, making it the world’s seventh largest funder of fossil fuels globally between 2016 and 2021.

Christian Aid has said the move away from Barclays could further impact the UK bank’s reputation, which has been slammed by climate advocacy groups for its links to oil and gas projects.

Martin Birch, Christian Aid’s chief operating officer, said: “Whilst Barclays was able to provide banking services to fragile contexts, their record on fossil fuel finance, and their weak commitment to future improvements in this area meant that we had to seek a more suitable provider.

“Christian Aid has ambitious environmental commitments over the next few years, as set out in our recently launched Environmental Policy.”

The bank has been called to publish a policy to stop extending all types of financing to all potential coal, oil and gas clients.

Barclays has provided specialist banking support for NGO’s, non-profits and charities for 20 years and claims to be one of the first banks to set a net zero target for 2050. The bank has also set a target to reduce real-world emissions by 40 per cent by 2030 which climate advocacy groups argue lacks “a coherent policy” to achieve its goal. Meanwhile competitors HSBC, Lloyds and Natwest have taken steps to stop direct financing of new oil and gas projects.

A Barclays spokesperson said it is “clear that addressing climate change is an urgent and complex challenge.”

“We are using our entire franchise to support new green technologies and infrastructure projects that will build up low-carbon capacity and capability, having provided over £87bn of green finance since 2018.”

Barclays has also set a target to facilitate $1trn in sustainable and transition financing between now and 2030 and has set a mandate to invest £500m of its capital into “global climate-tech start-ups by the end of 2027.”

“We believe that Barclays can make the greatest difference as a bank by working with customers and clients as they transition to a low-carbon business model, focussing on facilitating the finance needed to change business practices and scale new green technologies,” a Barclays spokesperson added.

Former Archbishop of Canterbury and former Chair of Christian Aid, Dr Rowan Williams has welcomed the move saying: “It is essential that banks like all public and corporate bodies be held accountable for the use of their resources in the context of our global emergency.”

Other climate agencies including Christian Climate Action and Operation Noah have applauded the non-profit for its bold “trend-setting” move hoped to encourage others to put similar pressure on Barclays to divest from fossil fuels.

Rev Helen Burnett, a member of Christian Climate Action and volunteer fundraiser for Christian Aid, said: “There are many other charities still banking with Barclays. It’s untenable that charities can say that they stand against climate change, and the suffering it means for vulnerable people around the world, while at the same time banking with the biggest funder of fossil fuels in Europe. If you fund climate change, you fuel climate change.

Rev Darrell Hannah, Chair of Operation Noah, a Christian climate charity said: “The recent deadly heatwaves across Europe and the breaking of global temperature records should serve as a reminder of the danger posed by Barclays and the companies they bankroll. Christian Aid is to be congratulated for this momentous and, hopefully, trend-setting decision.”

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