What can we do about Barclays Bank?
Magazine article by Drew James, Co-ordinator for the National Trust Better without Barclays campaign
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A letter for Creationtide – 1 September to 4 October
Creationtide, or the Season of Creation is the period in the annual church calendar dedicated to God as Creator and Sustainer of all life. It is an opportunity for churches to renew their commitment to caring for our ‘one planet home’, and to take action.
We are dismayed by what we see unfolding around us and yet feel powerless to do anything. I find myself thinking: How can we bear to sing songs of praise to our Creator, and yet be bystanders while this beautiful world is trashed by the global festival of consumerism?
This year, I have been visiting National Trust lands around the country and have seen how it is dealing with the impact of climate change on its lands and buildings. It is universally respected and is a bedrock of what we like to think of as “civil society”.
It is little known that the National Trust banks with Barclays Bank. Since the 2015 Paris climate agreement Barclays has provided finance to companies that extract and exploit fossil fuels worth £137 billion1, mainly in the energy and power sectors.
Barclays also tops the list of banks that finance single-use plastic manufacture worldwide2. Research by the London School of Economics and others has found that between 2011 and 2020 Barclay Bank facilitated loans and underwriting to single-use plastic manufacturers worth nearly £4.5 billion.
The carbon and methane released from fossil fuels is the main driver of climate change, and right now the National Trust’s 780 miles of coastline is being littered with single-use plastics. It is ironic that any funds raised by the National Trust to pay for climate mitigation works will be banked with Barclays Bank.
So, how come Europe’s largest conservation charity banks with Europe’s largest bankroller of fossil fuels? What can we do to make Barclays do better?
Christian members of the Trust have taken action by tabling a resolution for the National Trust Annual General Meeting on 5 November. It requires a change of bank if Barclays fail to adopt a targeted plan to stop dealing with energy and power companies that get more than 10% of turnover from fossil fuels.
The Trust’s 5.5 million members are being balloted this autumn and votes for the resolution can be cast online or by post anytime before the 5 of November. If you are a National Trust member, please use your vote to make a difference. The resolution draws on our Christian understanding of redemption. We are inviting Barclays to enter a new relationship with the National Trust; to be global players in the drive for climate justice.
Another step you can take is to get behind the “Don’t Bank on Plastics” 3 campaign of the Ecumenical Council for Corporate Responsibility. It focuses on banks that finance the world’s biggest single-use plastic producers4.
Humankind has forgotten how to live with creation. We have forgotten that we are interdependent with each other, with all species, flora and fauna. Can we really believe that all this was solely for humanity to explore and exploit, no matter what the cost?
What Jesus suffered and achieved is astonishing. God outside time and history is watching for the whole of creation to be reconciled in pure, unselfish, boundless love. That love became real in the extraordinary person of Jesus, human yet divine; divine yet human.
Bishop John Pritchard writes that Jesus brought a counter-culture narrative, set against the prevailing wisdom of the times. He says: “Truly following Jesus gives Christians a wonderful mandate to be radically different…and an opportunity for Christians to be seen as distinctive alternatives to the atomized self-assertive lifestyles of today.”
This Creationtide let us be that distinctive alternative.
Drew James, Better without Barclays Campaign (National Trust), Liverpool, ForEveryoneAndForEver@gmail.com
Any opinion expressed in this letter are those of the author. Publication does not imply that the publisher agrees with the content.
- BOCC_2022_vSPREAD.pdf (bankingonclimatechaos.org)
- 20211105-Plastic-Waste-Makers-Index.pdf (minderoo.org)
- Don’t Bank on Plastics – ECCR
- Charity launches campaign calling on banks to stop financing plastic polluters (churchtimes.co.uk)
The campaign is looking for people to pledge their support and commit to urging National Trust members to use their vote when voting papers are circulated with the National Trust Autumn magazine.
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Comments on "What can we do about Barclays Bank?"
The National Trust has sent out a message of condolence to all its supporters. One can respond to this by saying that it is a matter of consistency of values and integrity that the National Trust uses a bank that respects the environment and people of the world, especially in countries most vulnerable to climate change, which Her Majesty expressed her concern. Without this action, expressions of sorrow, while genuine and heartfelt, lack sincerity and are hollow.