Shareholders dealt an embarrassing blow to Barclays’ climate credentials on Wednesday, with almost 20% rejecting the bank’s climate strategy as activists disrupted its annual meeting to protest against the bank’s financing of fossil fuels.
Barclays said on Wednesday that 19.19% of voting shareholders were against the bank’s climate strategy, which set out its plans and progress towards goals to reach net zero emissions by 2050.
Nearly 11% also opposed the bank’s pay policy, after influential proxy shareholder adviser Glass Lewis raised concerns over the pay packet for its new chief executive CS Venkatakrishnan, which includes fixed pay of £2.7m and a long-term incentive plan worth up to 140% of his salary (about £3.8m).
It capped an embarrassing annual meeting for the bank, where climate activist groups, including Extinction Rebellion and its offshoot, Money Rebellion, set off alarms and glued themselves to chairs in order to avoid being removed from the Manchester Central Convention Complex.
Shareholders also disrupted the annual meeting held by Standard Chartered in London, amid concerns over the banking group’s climate track record.
Barclays chair Nigel Higgins instructed security guards to remove protesters after he was interrupted multiple times, and forced to delay the start of the event for nearly an hour.
“Barclays Bank is morally bankrupt,” one activist shouted. “Barclays has ploughed $160bn [£128bn] into fossil fuel extraction,” another declared.
Campaigners at Extinction Rebellion claim Barclays has continued to invest heavily in fossil fuels – having put more than £15bn into the industry in 2021 – while protesters accused the lender of “greenwashing”.
Higgins, who became increasingly exasperated as interruptions continued, told protesters the bank would not promise to immediately halt investment in fossil fuels, but insisted Barclays was committed to hit net zero emissions targets.
“We get the point. We share the ambition and are aligning the IEA [International Energy Agency] scenarios with the targets that we are setting, but there’s a hell of a lot else that needs to be done to make that scenario come to fruition,” he said.
Barclays said there had been “extensive engagement with stakeholders around this issue ahead of the AGM and over the last 12 months and we greatly value the input and feedback provided … we are aware of a spectrum of views across the share register, but we are pleased the majority of shareholders have supported the resolution and we will continue to engage around this issue and look forward to providing an update on green financing later in the year”.