Divestment campaigners set their sights on UK banks

Activists put pressure on banks to pull out of fossil fuel companies in demonstrations outside HSBC, Barclays and RBS

HSBC has some £17 billion invested in coal, oil and gas extraction (Pic: Flickr/Move Your Money)

HSBC has some £17 billion invested in coal, oil and gas extraction
(Pic: Flickr/Move Your Money)

By Megan Darby

British banks are being urged to pull their money out of polluting fossil fuels, in the latest twist of the divestment movement.

The UK’s five biggest banks have more than £66 billion invested in coal, oil and gas extraction, according to a report by European Greens.

One in three people want banks to stop investing in fossil fuels, according to a recent survey by One Poll for a renewables company.

Activists this week descended on branches of HSBC, Barclays and RBS in London as part of a campaign by Move Your Money.

Charlotte Webster, campaign director, said: “Fossil fuel investment has never been environmentally acceptable. It is now no longer socially acceptable. It is fast becoming economically unacceptable too.”

The pressure group is inviting individuals to write to their banks and demand they reveal plans to withdraw from dirty energy investments.

Alternatively, it recommends ethical funds that are committed to putting money into clean energy and environmentally friendly projects.

Campaigners outside Barclays on Tuesday (Pic: Flickr/Move Your Money)

Campaigners outside Barclays on Tuesday
(Pic: Flickr/Move Your Money)

Meanwhile, the Guardian reported Green MP Caroline Lucas called on the £487 million parliamentary pension fund to join the divestment movement.

A number of organisations worldwide including universities, cities and churches have already committed to take their cash away from fossil fuel companies.

The first UK university to join the movement, Glasgow, prompted a backlash from engineering and geology professors.

They warned the university would lose millions of pounds in research funding from the oil sector as a result, according to the Times.

ANALYSIS: The “carbon bubble” goes mainstream

The campaign is based on the principle that the majority of the world’s fossil fuel resources cannot be burned if global temperature rise is to be kept in check.

Continuing to exploit these resources is financially risky, the argument goes, because efforts to prevent dangerous climate change will destroy demand.

This idea is gaining traction in financial institutions. Bank of England governor Mark Carney  warned earlier this month “the vast majority of reserves are unburnable”.

But analysts say green investment options need to be massively scaled up to compete with the US$5 trillion oil sector.

Read more on: Climate finance | Divestment |