— Barclays staff are speaking out on the loopholes in Barclays’ new fossil fuel policy. Share your thoughts confidentially HERE

What did Barclays just release?

After 3 years of waiting, Barclays just released their new energy policy which lays out what Barclays wants to do with the billions of dollars they’re funnelling into the world’s worst fossil fuel companies like Shell and Exxon.

Whilst there are a few notable changes, the plan seems to be more of the same. That means more of Barclays being Europe’s #1 fossil fuel funder since 2016. More billions for drilling in untouched natural habitats. More billions for abusing human rights. And more billions for accelerating floods, droughts, climate refugees and climate breakdown across the world.

What does the policy say and what does it mean?

The entire policy and comprehensive analysis is out there for anyone wanting to deep dive into each policy. Here are the headline policies and what they mean in reality:

“No direct financing of new oil and gas projects”

This means Barclays will stop providing billions to new fossil fuel projects like drilling for new oil and gas. It sounds like a big step, but it’s a bit of language trickery because Barclays doesn’t really fund fossil fuel projects. It funds the fossil fuel companies creating the projects and there’s no real restriction on funding to most of the companies.

Cutting out funding for “new fossil fuel projects” affects well less than 10% of the money going to fossil fuels. It doesn’t change the billions Barclays is continuing to funnel into the likes of Shell, Exxon and Total – including their human rights abuses, nature destruction and misinformation campaigns. Barclays are the 17th out of 24 European banks to take this minimal step.

“Constraining funding for pureplay companies”

Pureplay companies are companies that only work in oil and gas, they have no other income streams, so it’s impossible for them to genuinely transition away from oil and gas. The good news is that restrictions on pureplays is a no brainer and Barclays has done it, meaning they’ll pull billions in financing out of some small fossil fuel companies (hooray!).

But it wouldn’t be a Barclays policy without a massive loophole. It’s not an outright ban on pureplays, Barclays can just decide to fund a pureplay “by exception” if it wants to. Plus it places absolutely no restrictions on pureplays engaged in new projects with a so-called “short lead time”. This helpfully includes one of the most dangerous and poisonous methods of fossil fuel extraction, fracking, for which Barclays is one of the biggest funders in the world.

Putting fossil fuel companies “on notice”

Barclays will put some fossil fuel companies engaged in expansion on notice and put them through an annual review to figure out if they’re transitioning. This is a good thing as it will include Barclays’ biggest fossil fuel clients like Shell, BP and Exxon.

However Barclays were sheepish about what the annual review would look like, and what a fossil fuel company would have to do to disqualify it from funding. Given that Shell is axing its green division, Exxon is doubling down on oil and gas expansion and BP are dialing back their weak climate pledges, it would be surprising if they haven’t crossed a red line. However it would also be surprising for Barclays to do the right thing and cut off the world’s most damaging companies.

What do Barclays need to do?

In light of Barclays’ new policy, it can still:

  • Hand over no-strings-attached financing to Shell, Exxon and BP with as much money as they want.
  • Fund fracking which is poisoning the water of thousands of people in the US.
  • Know that major fossil fuel companies will not transition, but decide to funnel them financing anyway
  • Bankroll human rights abuses around the world, as long as the perpetrator of the human rights says they’re not doing it and Barclays turns a blind eye to human rights abuse reports.

Barclays is Europe’s biggest funder of the fossil fuel industry since 2016. Barclays has the power to stop this, to be a leader, and to stop piling cash into the most damaging, murderous and criminal companies of our age. Barclays needs to step up now.