Barclays Shareholders Reject Second Climate Change Resolution

For the second year in a row, Barclays Plc shareholders rejected a proposal that would require the bank to wind down its lending to the fossil-fuel sector.

Only 14% of shareholders gave their support to the idea at the bank’s annual general meeting on Wednesday, Barclays said in a statement. A group of individual investors coordinated by Australian nonprofit Market Forces filed the resolution in February that called on Barclays to bring its financing for coal, oil and gas companies in line with the goals of the Paris climate agreement.

Adam McGibbon, U.K. campaign lead at Market Forces, said the low support for this year’s resolution meant institutional investors had “some serious questions to answer about their commitment to climate change action.”

As Europe’s biggest fossil-fuel banker, Barclays has come under fire from environmentalists and some investors for its role in bankrolling some of the largest emitters of greenhouse gases. Last year, 24% of shareholders backed a similar call on climate goals by nonprofit ShareAction, prompting the bank to announce its own plan to cut its net greenhouse-gas emissions to zero over the next three decades.

“Having seen Barclays’ climate policies fail to rein in its investments in fossil fuels in the last year, to have investor support for climate change action drop this year compared to 2020 smacks of either indifference or incompetence from many major investors,” McGibbon said.

Since the Paris climate agreement was signed in December 2015, Barclays has helped arrange $95.7 billion of bonds and loans for energy companies, excluding solar, wind and other renewable producers, more than any bank in Europe, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. That’s more than any other bank in Europe, though U.S. lenders JPMorgan Chase & Co., Wells Fargo & Co. and Citigroup Inc. have been the biggest funders of corporate emitters, the data show.

“We agree with the nature of the climate challenge, and we agree -- and I hope we’ve made this very clear over the last year or so to shareholders -- that we see a continuous need to raise the bar, and improve policies as time goes on,” Barclays Chairman Nigel Higgins said at the virtual meeting, where all other resolutions passed with over 90% support. “We totally agree that this has to be about action, and not just words.”

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