National Trust urges Barclays to act on climate after calls for charity to cut ties

23 Aug 2023 News

Irises in the Old Garden, Hidcote, Gloucestershire, National Trust.

Sarah Davis, National Trust

The National Trust has called on Barclays to act on its financing of the fossil fuel industry after it came under pressure to end its relationship with the bank.

In a report by the Financial Times this week, Dominic Acland, the grandson of one of charity’s largest donors, said his grandfather was an environmentalist who would be “horrified that the National Trust is banking with Barclays”.

Acland told the paper he had written to the National Trust’s finance director three times in the past year and that the charity had said in response that there were a lack of banks big enough to cater to its needs while also meeting high climate standards.

National Trust is not conducting a formal review into banking arrangements with Barclays, but said “banks, including Barclays, need to do much more to address the financing of the fossil fuel industry”.

A resolution regarding banking at the last charity’s AGM which called upon the National Trust to conclude all banking, financial arrangements and ties with Barclays Bank was not carried.

The charity has met with Barclays several times over the last year to discuss environmental commitments and plans.

Christian Aid recently announced it is to stop banking with Barclays, over concerns about the bank’s financing of fossil fuels. The international development charity’s board of trustees has approved a plan to transition to Lloyds over the “next few months”. 

According to the FT report, Barclays held a roundtable to try to reassure charity clients about its environmental commitment earlier this year.

National Trust: ‘We know we can help influence change’

Earlier this year National Trust’s director-general, Hilary McGrady, told Civil Society News that National Trust has reduced its fossil fuel holdings by 98% since announcing plans to completely disinvest in 2019.

As a result, the charity missed its target to completely disinvest by 2022 but it plans to sell the remaining fossil fuel investments “at the earliest opportunity”.

A spokesperson for the charity said: “The National Trust is working hard towards being carbon net zero by 2030. As part of our sustainability goals, we work with partners and suppliers who are committed to reducing their climate impact.

“The approach we take with key suppliers is to assess the plans they have in place to address the climate and nature crises and to look at their track record of delivery. We also consider how the National Trust can best effect positive and lasting change.

“We very much understand the strength of feeling around the banking sector’s impact on the climate crisis. We are clear that banks, including Barclays, need to do much more to address the financing of the fossil fuel industry.

“As a big charity, we know we can help influence change within the banking sector.”

The charity said it is a member of the Institutional Investors Group on Climate Change, adding “through this group, as well as other forums, we will continue to use this leverage with Barclays and other banks, pressing them to accelerate their commitments to tackle the climate emergency”.

Barclays: ‘Many oil and gas companies that are critical to the transition’

A Barclays spokesperson said: “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, focusing on facilitating the finance needed to change business practices and scale new green technologies.

“This includes many oil and gas companies that are critical to the transition, and have committed significant resources and expertise to renewable energy. Where companies are unwilling to reduce their emissions consistent with internationally accepted pathways, they may find it difficult to access financing, including from Barclays.

“As one of the first banks to set an ambition to become net zero by 2050, we are 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. We have set a target to facilitate $1trn in Sustainable and Transition financing between 2023 and 2030 and we have set a mandate to invest £500m of our own capital into global climate-tech start-ups by the end of 2027.”

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