Don’t Bank On It: Calling on the UK’s high street banks to stop funding fossil fuels
It’s been clear for a long time just how critical the financial sector is to helping the world avoid climate catastrophe.
And yet, despite lofty pledges to protect the environment, some of the world’s most influential banks are continuing to route investment to the very sector that is causing unprecedented harm: fossil fuels.
To call out the ‘dangerous relationship’ banks are in with the fossil fuel industry, Make My Money Matter, the campaign founded by filmmaker and activist Richard Curtis, has written to the CEOs of the UK’s ‘Big Five’ high street banks - HSBC, Barclays, Santander, NatWest and Lloyds Banking Group - asking them to stop financing new oil, gas and coal expansion.
The campaign group is joined by celebrities, politicians, NGOs and businesses – including Greenhouse Communications – to raise awareness of the dangerous relationship between our banks and fossil fuel companies.
Big banks reneging on climate pledges
When the UK hosted the COP26 UN climate conference in Glasgow in 2021, one of the most celebrated achievements was the launch of the Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero (GFANZ) initiative, championed by Mark Carney, the former Governor of the Bank of England.
450 financial organisations, spanning 45 countries and with combined assets of more than $130tn, signed up to the GFANZ pledge, committing to align their investments with the aim of limiting global temperature rises to 1.5 degrees.
Since then, however, a host of these banks and other financial institutions that committed to net zero pledges have continued to funnel investment into expanding fossil fuels – putting the future of the planet at extreme risk.
In fact, recent data compiled by Reclaim Finance shows that at least 56 of the biggest banks in the net-zero banking alliance grouping have provided $270bn to 102 fossil fuel companies to fund their expansion; in direct contradiction to their promises, and against the advice of the International Energy Agency – the world’s most influential energy body – which has stated that there should be no investment in new oil, gas, or coal if we are to meet the Paris Climate Goals and tackle the climate emergency in a meaningful way.
Banking for a better future
In response, Make My Money Matter’s open letter calls on UK banks to stop financing new fossil fuel expansion in three steps:
1. Stop directly financing new fossil fuel expansion activity.
2. Put existing clients on notice that they must stop their expansion plans or face financing consequences.
3. End relationships with those clients who do not stop fossil fuel expansion.
The campaign also calls on individuals to lend their support by signing the open letter to the CEOs, and switching to a bank that does not finance fossil fuel expansion.
Switching who we bank with is a simple and impactful decision we can all make to promote a fairer, more sustainable future.
One of the strongest examples of banking for positive change is Triodos Bank UK, which has been financing renewable energy projects for over 35 years, and is 100% transparent about the companies it invests in.
In 2022 Triodos was awarded the coveted ‘Best Buy’ status for personal current accounts by Ethical Consumer magazine – the only bank to do so – alongside joint Best Buy status for its savings accounts.
“Banks not only have a critical role to play in shaping our future, they have a choice: either to invest in the solutions needed to deliver a more sustainable world, or continue funding harmful fossil fuels and other industries that are destroying the planet,” says Bevis Watts, chief executive of Triodos Bank UK.
“The financial sector can, and must, do better. Operating with core values of sustainability, fairness and openness is entirely possible, and the world desperately needs more banks to follow this example by investing in a greener future.”
Challenging the world’s biggest banks to change their business practices may seem like a mammoth task; but the power of individuals taking collective action cannot be underestimated. By switching your current account, savings, investments and pension to a sustainable provider, you can not only ensure your cash isn’t funding fossil fuels, but is being used to invest in projects and businesses that deliver positive impact – be that supporting community businesses, or investing in renewable energy.
Greenhouse is a communications agency with a mission to power positive social and environmental change.
We work exclusively with ethical organisations, developing communications campaigns that have positive impact and add real value to the company. If you are a sustainable business looking for communications support, get in touch: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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