Facts about Barclays

Statements from Barclays make the bank sound greener and greener - but the facts tell a different story

Whether on its website, in its annual Environmental Social Governance Report, via its Statements and policy positions, or elsewhere, Barclays misses no opportunity to present itself as a bank making strenuous efforts to help tackle climate change and ecosystem destruction. Under scrutiny, the claims begin to appear misleading, as shown in some examples below. (You can find similar information for other organisations at www.greenwash.earth/.)

Claim

“We have committed to aligning our financed emissions with the goals of the Paris Agreement, on the way to achieving our ambition to reduce those emissions to net zero by 2050.”
Environmental Social Governance Report 2020, Barclays PLC

Fact

Following that commitment, Barclays’ financing of fossil fuel firms increased.
Barclays fossil fuel financing increases despite ‘net zero’ pledge, City A.M.

Claim

“[Paris-alignment involves] selecting a reference scenario or set of reference scenarios against which to measure alignment […] We have chosen the IEA SDS scenario because it is Paris-compliant, reputable, open-sourced, and contains sufficient data to allow us to calculate targets for our financing portfolio.”
Our approach to net-zero, Barclays PLC

Fact

The so-called Sustainable Development Scenario (SDS) produced by the International Energy Agency (IEA) has been so heavily and roundly criticised
Nordic investors urge IEA to deliver Paris-aligned scenario, Expert Investor
The IEA and WEO 2019, Oil Change International
that even the highly-conservative IEA has introduced an alternative Net-zero Emissions (NZE) scenario in its 2020 World Energy Report (contrasted here). SDS failings include:


Basing a decarbonisation strategy on the SDS is a decision to pursue ‘business as usual’, and profits from fossil fuels, as long as possible, rather than taking climate change seriously.

Claim

“Last year, Barclays took decisive action to make a real contribution to tackling climate change. [...] As the frontier of what constitutes effective action to tackle climate change moves forward, our approach will naturally evolve with it, but we do not believe we should radically change course now from the path we have only just taken. ”
Board statement on why you should vote against resolution 29, Notice of Annual General Meeting 2021, Barclays PLC

Fact

In possibly one of the longest examples of greenwash on record, the Barclays board issued a 1,000-word statement urging shareholders not to vote for a resolution that would require the bank to take genuine action on climate change. The many misleading claims in the statement mean it needs a lengthy rebuttal, which is available here.

Claim

“We are working in partnership with the Blue Marine Foundation (BLUE) […] Through a three-year, £5m partnership, Barclays is working with BLUE to advance conservation of the world’s oceans.”
Environmental Social Governance Report 2020, Barclays PLC

Fact

Barclays is a major shareholder in the Bahamas Petroleum Company
Major Shareholders, Bahamas Petroleum Company
(a fact the bank prefers to obfuscate) who are pursuing oil offshore of Uruguay
Uruguay, Bahamas Petroleum Company
and the Bahamas
The Bahamas, Bahamas Petroleum Company
(and many more onshore wells). Offshore oil spills devastate the marine environment, and wells disrupt ecosystems even when running smoothly. If Barclays cared about our oceans, it would not invest in companies jeopardising them, and would find more than £5m over 3 years to protect them – a sum less than 0.3% of its loans to major EU coal utilities alone over a much shorter period.
New Beyond Coal briefing prompts bogus Barclays denials, Sharklays

Claim

“By 2025, we will no longer provide any financing to clients that generate more than 30% of revenue from thermal coal activities. [This] applies to the entity being financed, whether transacting with a group parent, subsidiary or joint venture.”
Barclays position on climate change, Barclays PLC

Fact

Applying a 30% revenue threshold to a parent entity excludes very few of Barclays’ existing mining and power clients – applicable to only 2 out of the 45 bond transactions undertaken in 2019, and only 9 of the 38 syndicated loans made in 2019.
Detailed analysis, ShareAction
Unlike some other banks, Barclays has set no final exit date for coal; in fact, between 2018 and 2020, it was the fifth largest lender in the world to the coal industry.
Groundbreaking Research Reveals the Financiers of the Coal Industry, CoalExit
Barclays' threshold-based restrictions - which amount to hardly any restriction at all - stand in stark contrast to the call to action from UN secretary-general António Guterres:

Today, I am calling on all governments, private companies and local authorities to take three steps [...] First, cancel all global coal projects in the pipeline and end the deadly addiction to coal. Second, end the international financing of coal plants and [...] third, jump-start a global effort to finally organise a just transition [for coal industry workers], going plant by plant if necessary.
Cancel all planned coal projects, says UN chief, The Guardian

Claim

“BlueTrack™ is Barclays’ methodology for measuring our financed emissions. [It] uses both an absolute emissions metric, and an emissions intensity metric [...] The Power sector, which is responsible for generating the world’s supply of electricity, is best measured initially using an intensity metric.”
Introducing BlueTrack, Barclays PLC

“Power portfolio emissions intensity will reduce by 30% by 2025.”
Our climate dashboard, Barclays PLC

Fact

Climate change can only be avoided by reducing overall CO2 emissions, that is, an absolute reduction. A reduction in power portfolio ‘intensity’ by no means entails an absolute reduction, and can instead simply be greenwash. Gas-fired power stations generally produced about half the CO2 per MWh as coal-fired power stations, so this can be shown with some before-and-after examples – for simplicity, considering power stations all of equal output.

Before After Intensity change CO2 change
A 1 coal power station 2 gas power stations -50% None
B 1 coal power station 1 coal power station, 2 gas power stations -33% +100%

In example A, financing 2 gas power stations instead of 1 coal power station achieves an intensity reduction of 50% - but the amount of CO2 emitted is unchanged. In example B, financing 2 gas power stations as well as a coal power station still achieves an intensity reduction of 33% - but twice as much CO2 is emitted. So, intensity reduction gives no real indication of what matters, absolute CO2 reduction. The only reasons to use intensity as a metric are 1. to make a small absolute reduction sound bigger, 2. to hide an absence of CO2 reduction, or even a CO2 increase. These reasons ideally fit the likely aim of BlueTrack for Barclays - to continue profiting from their existing customers' fossil fuel production and use, by 'transitioning' to extensive use of gas, particularly for power generation. Investing in gas infrastructure - tying countries into fossil fuel use for years to come - benefits fossil fuel companies and their banks, but is otherwise disastrous. For numerous reasons, gas “cannot form a bridge to a clean energy future”,
Burning the Gas ‘Bridge Fuel’ Myth, Oil Change International
as recognized in the EU's sustainable finance drafting.
Gas denied 'transition' fuel status, edie

Claim

“We will not directly finance projects involving fracking in the UK and Europe;
In addition, we will not provide any financing to companies primarily engaged in fracking activities in the UK and Europe;
Any financing for a company involved in fracking activities outside the UK and Europe, is subject to EDD [Enhanced Due Diligence]”
Barclays position on climate change, Barclays PLC

Fact

Most of the world's fracking activity takes place outside Europe. Between 2016-2019, Barclays provided US$17.5 billion of financing for fracking.
Banking on Climate Change 2020, Rainforest Action Network
Analysis of syndicated loan and bond data shows that Barclays was involved in transactions with 15 of the 30 largest fracking companies. Of these 15 companies, the majority are headquartered in the US, and all but one have operations in the US. This level of financing makes it the world’s fifth largest fracking financier over the period 2016 to 2019.
Banking on Climate Change 2020, Rainforest Action Network
In addition, restrictions on project financing — whether subject to EDD or not — do not affect projects like planned the Wink to Webster pipeline, which:

[...] would run 650 miles from the Permian Basin in West Texas to the Gulf Coast near Houston, carrying over one million barrels per day of fracked oil to refineries and export terminals. The project — a joint venture of ExxonMobil, Plains All American Pipeline, MPLX, Delek US, Lotus Midstream, and Rattler Midstream LP — would enable expansion in the world’s most prolific oil basin, locking in decades of overproduction and threatening the health of communities near the fracking sites. There is no project financing specific to this pipeline, meaning the banks that provide general corporate financing to the joint venture partners — like Barclays, Bank of America, and JPMorgan Chase — are helping to light the fuse to one of the world’s largest carbon bombs.
Banking on Climate Change 2020, Rainforest Action Network