cop26: is your bank easing or exacerbating the climate crisis?
© Getty

Extinction Rebellion activists protest in Edinburgh as the Cop26 climate conference takes place in Glasgow

– Getty

All eyes are on the climate, with accusations financial firms are still piling billions into fossil fuel projects. But what is in place to curb this behaviour, and how can you find out if your bank is one of those financial firms?

The Cop26 climate summit is in full swing and a spotlight has been shone on the financial industry, with claims that institutions are still funding industries fuelling the climate crisis.

By 2023 big UK firms and financial institutions will have to publish details of how they will hit climate crisis targets, under Treasury proposals announced during the summit.

This fits into the UK’s 2050 net zero target, and a panel of experts will be set up to scrutinise these plans. However, many have criticised the move beause any commitments made won’t be mandatory.

Green groups have slated the announcement as greenwashing because it won’t be legally binding.

Veronica Oakeshott, head of forests policy and advocacy at Global Witness, said: “Many banks have already made commitments to align with the Paris climate agreement and have environmental and no-deforestation policies, yet their financing of climate-wrecking activities have continued apace.

“It’s crucial that the UK government follows up the announcement with binding legislation that holds the City of London to account for its climate impacts. Otherwise, banks’ net zero plans won’t be worth the paper they are written on and UK financiers will continue bankrolling fossil fuels and deforestation with impunity.”

To understand what needs to change, it’s important to look at the current situation.

Financial institutions are accused of funding fossil fuel companies and businesses promoting agriculture practices that harm the environment, while at the same time signing up to net zero commitments to publicly give the impression they are helping to solve the problem.

But is this an industry standard or is it possible to put your money somewhere without worrying about making the climate crisis worse?

There are many studies and reports naming and shaming big financial companies and, most recently, Barclays, HSBC and Standard Chartered have been marked as some of the worst offenders.

Research from climate campaigners Market Forces says these banks have put more money into fossil fuel projects than any other big UK banks this year.

The reports says Barclays financed $5.6bn (£4.1bn) new fossil fuel projects between 1 January and the start of Cop26. It was closely followed by HSBC at $5.3bn (£3.9bn) and Standard Chartered, at $4.3bn (£3.1bn).

The study accuses the banks of extending financing to fossil fuel projects despite publicly committing to net zero targets.

A spokesperson for Market Forces said: “By continuing to finance the expansion of the fossil fuel industry, banks such as Barclays, HSBC and Standard Chartered are sticking two fingers up to the goal of net zero emissions by 2050 – a goal all three banks have committed to support.

“Fortunately, there are plenty of options available to people who don’t want their money with a bank financing climate destruction. We don’t push people towards one bank over another, but sites like SwitchIt list the likes of Triodos, The Co-operative Bank and Nationwide among those that aren’t going to turn your deposits into more coal, oil and gas pollution.”

Earlier this year a report, Banking on Climate Chaos, was published naming a host of other UK banks with details of how much they are spending on fossil fuel projects. It said the UK’s five biggest banks have increased the amount they invest in environment-damaging firms since the Paris Agreement in 2015.

One of the problems with banks and the climate crisis is that there is no single standard for consumers to show them how their bank is acting. There’s no universal energy rating, for example, linked to how much is being invested in climate-harming firms, and there’s also little pushback for companies still doing this.

Publicly, a bank may be ticking all the boxes when it comes to tackling the climate crisis but how can you find out if they are following through with these commitments?

There are several tools to point you in the right direction, founded by campaigners using a variety of different reports and research.

SwitchIt, for example, shows you a score for all UK banks linked to the amount they invest in fossil fuel projects. It’s not all bad either, Nationwide and Triodos, for example, are two picked out for avoiding dirty energy firms.

The B corps certificate also names firms that are measuring their environmental and social impact, and publishes this online.

In response to the Market Forces report, an HSBC spokesperson said: “HSBC is firmly committed to aligning its provision of finance to net zero by 2050 or sooner. We have committed to phase out thermal coal financing by 2030 in EU and OECD markets and by 2040 globally, and to set out short and medium-term transition targets for the oil and gas and power and utilities sector. We expect to provide between $750bn and $1 trillion towards the net zero transition by 2030.”

A Barclays spokesperson said: “We are aligning our entire financing portfolio to support the goals of the Paris Agreement – significantly scaling up green financing, directly investing in new green technologies and helping clients in key sectors change their business models to reduce their climate change impact. By 2025, we will reduce the emissions intensity of our power portfolio by 30 per cent, and reduce absolute emissions of our energy portfolio by 15 per cent.

“Barclays has already facilitated £46bn of green finance. We are one of the only banks globally investing our own capital – £175m – into innovative, green start-ups. By deploying finance in this way, we are accelerating the transition to a low-carbon economy and will become a net zero bank by 2050.”

A spokesperson for Standard Chartered said: “We have announced ambitious new targets to reach net zero carbon emissions from financed activity by 2050, including interim 2030 targets for the most carbon-intensive sectors. We believe that a just transition to a net zero economy has huge potential to drive inclusive growth and innovation across the emerging markets where we operate.”

From news to politics, travel to sport, culture to climate – The Independent has a host of free newsletters to suit your interests. To find the stories you want to read, and more, in your inbox, click here.

TECH NEWS RELATED

Throwback Thursday: Sanvenero 500 GP Racer

Sanvenero GP is an Italian tale of bankruptcy, small victories and wild engineering. Alan had the chance to ride one of the very rare 500s... Test: Alan Cathcart Photos: Kel Edge, AC Archive

View more: Throwback Thursday: Sanvenero 500 GP Racer

Classic Custom: Class C Racer “Captain America”

Class C is one of the purest forms of classic racing, the Captain America is the perfect example of a raw and well done class C racer. Words & Photos: Knackers BDP/Paul Bailey...

View more: Classic Custom: Class C Racer “Captain America”

Feature: Racer and Engineer, Harald Bartol

Harald Bartol started young, aged 19 when he built the 50cc Puch special he began racing with in 1966, finishing second in his first-ever race before gradually carving a reputation for himself by using his skills to tune the bikes he raced with some distinction... Words: Alan Cathcart Pics: Kel Edge

View more: Feature: Racer and Engineer, Harald Bartol

Throwback Thursday: 1956 Moto Guzzi 500 V8 GP Racer

This year it is Moto Guzzi's 100th Birthday and to help celebrate, we bring you a very special test on the most famous Guzzi of all time, the 500 V8 GP Racer... Test: Alan Cathcart Photography: Kyoichi Nakamura

View more: Throwback Thursday: 1956 Moto Guzzi 500 V8 GP Racer

Throwback Thursday! Bartol 250cc GP Racer

The Harald Bartol designed and built rotary valve 250 GP was a nightmare for Aussie Jeff Sayle, however, almost 40-years on it is sorted. Too late for Jeff but not for Sir Al... Photography: Kel Edge

View more: Throwback Thursday! Bartol 250cc GP Racer

The driver turned sim racer turned driver competing for a cause

From the age of 6, James Merrills was destined to race. He grew up karting – spending most of his childhood on the track, but his ultimate goal of vaulting the notorious leap to cars looked all but attainable. Hence Merrills began sim racing competitively in 2018 alongside continuing his ...

View more: The driver turned sim racer turned driver competing for a cause

2022 Formula E Gen3 racer detailed with twin motors, hardcore brake regen

Formula E and the Federation Internationale de l’Autombile (FIA) have teased the upcoming third-generation Formula E all-electric racing car set to compete in the ninth season of the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship. Presented to a group of Formula E manufacturers, teams, drivers and partners, the FIA President described ...

View more: 2022 Formula E Gen3 racer detailed with twin motors, hardcore brake regen

Nissan reveals Ariya-inspired, single-seat EV racer concept

One-off racer has been developed using insights from Formula E and is styled to match new SUV

View more: Nissan reveals Ariya-inspired, single-seat EV racer concept

Check Out Yamaha’s Police-Ready Tracer 9 GT

Acer ConceptD 5 (2021)

Hidden Away For Decades, 1955 Chevy Bel Air Racer Looking At Restoration

Formula E Teases All-Electric Gen3 Car, Will Be the Fastest, Most Powerful Racer

2018 Yamaha Tracer 900 first ride review

Trailblazing Flat Track Racer Shayna Texter-Bauman Joins Indian Motorcycle for 2022

How Much Power Does the 2021 Yamaha Tracer 9 GT Make?

Gear Review: Rokker Urban Racer Lady Boot

How Harley Got Its Mascot: The Story Of Racer Ray Weishaar

The World's Fastest Female Motorcycle Racer's Next Record Attempt

Go Play In The Sand With This Bad-Ass Lady Racer

Acerpure cool C2 and Acerpure Pro P2 air purifiers launched in India : Price, features and more

OTHER TECH NEWS

;