Whether you’re emailing your bank or talking to staff working in the branches, it helps to have a few good points lined up to make a solid argument. Use these nine conversation starters as a reminder of the key reasons that Barclays and HSBC need to end their fossil fuel investments.
Do be polite when getting your points across. Even though it’s outrageous that the banks are complicit in the climate crisis, reasonable arguments work far better than anger. And the staff you’ll speak to aren’t responsible for the bank’s actions, but they can be persuaded to raise the problem internally.
1. Banks are still pumping billions each year into fossil fuels
This is despite the scientific consensus that our use of coal, oil and gas needs to end as soon as possible to avoid the climate crisis becoming even worse. The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change – which provides regular scientific assessments on the climate crisis – has said we need to cut carbon emissions in half by 2030 – that’s less than 10 years away. Fossil fuels are the biggest contributor to human-made emissions, so they have to go now.
2. UK banks are among the biggest funders of fossil fuel companies
Since 2015, when the Paris agreement to reduce carbon emissions was signed, and 2019, Barclays has channeled nearly £91bn to fossil fuel companies, making it the seventh largest fossil fuel investor in the world. HSBC is close behind, providing over £66bn and ranking 12th in the world. Royal Bank of Scotland and Standard Chartered have also spent billions on the climate crisis.
3. Banks can choose to use their investments more responsibly
Fossil fuel companies need banks – without financing, none of the exploration or infrastructure (coal mines, pipelines, refineries) would be possible. But banks don’t need fossil fuel companies, they could happily survive without their business. They can choose to finance in companies and projects that don’t put our future in peril, such as clean energy.
4. Banks can help fund recovery from the pandemic to build back better
Following the social and economic disruption of the pandemic, Barclays and HSBC should be prioritising investment in building a better world. Financing for companies and projects that provide secure, well-paid jobs and develop clean energy sources will help bring about a fairer, safer future for everyone.
5. Banks say they back reducing carbon emissions, even though they keep funding fossil fuels
Both Barclays and HSBC say they’re aligned with the Paris agreement to keep global temperature rises below 1.5ºC. But financing fossil fuels goes completely against the Paris agreement, and investment in fossil fuels has grown since 2015 when the agreement was signed. It also flies in the face of more recent evidence that we need to stop using oil, coal and gas right now.
6. Banks are just as responsible for the climate crisis as fossil fuel companies
By financing and profiting from oil, gas and coal, banks like Barclays and HSBC are fueling the climate crisis. This makes them no better than BP, Shell and every other fossil fuel company.
7. UK banks have a responsibility to take the lead
The UK is a major financial centre, setting the pace for change in the industry, so UK banks should be showing the way and ditching fossil fuels from their portfolios. The UK is also hosting the UN climate conference – Cop26 – in November 2021 so the UK as a whole (including its banks) must set an example to the rest of the world.
8. The UK government won’t fund any more fossil fuel projects overseas
From 2021, public money will no longer be used to fund oil, gas and coal developments in other countries. There’s much more the UK government should do, but banks need to follow this example and pull private finance out as well.
9. Banks have produced climate plans, but they’re bad
Both Barclays and HSBC have published plans to become ‘net zero carbon’ businesses. Ahead of the UK hosting the UN climate conference in 2021, they want to be seen to be doing the right thing. But these plans aren’t worth the paper they’re written on. They’re vague, complicated and – most importantly – don’t mention moving out of fossil fuel funding. Becoming net zero carbon is impossible without doing so.