UK banks prominent in new coal financers global hall of shame

UK banks prominent in new coal financers global hall of shame

Date: 29 October 2014

For two years now, we have exposed the dirty fossil fuel secrets of the major UK banks. We’ve shown how big banks plough billions of pounds into coal, oil and gas, threatening dangerous climate change. We’ve also exposed the terrible things some of the big coal mining companies they fund are doing in the name of corporate profit. But throughout our campaign the banks have worked hard to defend their already tattered reputations.

Whenever we have pointed out the huge sums they put into coal, they have argued that, despite having funded such companies in the past, they are “improving”. They concoct new policies that supposedly make it harder for them to invest in coal. One bank even promised to become ‘carbon neutral’ (a meaningless term if you’re a bank). They show us charts supposedly showing they are reducing their involvement in fossil fuels.

Today’s new joint report released by BankTrack and a group of organisations in the network including WDM has shown this claim to be misleading at best.

Far from improving, two UK banks, RBS and Barclays, now take 3rd and 4th place respectively in the coal financing league of shame. RBS’s funding for coal has actually risen compared to when this study was last taken. Since 2005, RBS and Barclays have together helped finance the coal industry to the tune of £28 billion.

Only two big American banks have funded more coal mining or coal-fired power stations than these two banks. HSBC comes further down the list in 17th place.

And even this isn’t the whole story.

The report only includes about 53 per cent of the coal industry. The real figure for how much money goes into coal from banks is almost certainly higher than the €373 billion figure mentioned in the report.

Among the companies that have passed the ‘responsible’ investment criteria used by RBS and Barclays are fossil fuel giants BP, Shell and BHP Billiton. We have started a petition to stop BHP Billiton opening coal mines in Borneo, which threaten to devastate  huge swathes of rainforest and destroy the livelihoods of local indigenous people.

These oil, gas and mining companies are bad, but the banks hold a lot of responsibility for funding them in the first place.

Unless, the banks start pulling out of coal or the government takes regulatory action to force them to, we are truly staring a climate catastrophe in the face.

Watch our online, interactive documentary exploring how UK banks are financing coal mining in Indonesia.