February 29, 2024

Hundreds of students from leading British universities have a “career boycott” of Barclays on its climate policy, warns that the bank will miss out on top talent unless it stops financing fossil fuel companies.

More than 220 students from Barclays’ top recruiting universities, including Oxford, Cambridge and University College London, have sent a letter to the high street lender saying they will not work for Barclays and raising the alarm over its funding of oil and gas firms including Shell , TotalEnergies, Exxon and BP.

“Your ambitious targets for decarbonisation are discredited by your absence of action and the listing of fossil fuel companies on your books,” the letter said. “You can say you’re working with them to help them transition, but Shell, Total and BP all rowed back.”

Major oil companies have started to water down climate commitments, including BP, which originally pledged to cut emissions by 35% by 2030, but is now targeting a 20% to 30% cut instead. Meanwhile, ExxonMobil has funding quietly withdrawn for plans to use algae to create low-carbon fuel, while Shell announced it will not increase its investments in renewable energy this year, despite earlier promises to slash its emissions.

The letter calls on Barclays to end all financing and underwriting of oil and gas companies – not just their projects – and to significantly boost financing of companies behind wind and solar energy.

In May, more than 500 students and recent graduates made a similar promise aimed at insurers which they said supported controversial fossil fuel projects. That letter was addressed to the world’s largest insurance market, Lloyd’s of London, and addressed to individual firms including Beazley, Hiscox, Chaucer and Tokio Marine Kiln.

“New recruitment of the younger generation will be another headache for Barclays as long as it continues to finance companies building new oil and gas infrastructure, as it relies heavily on Stem [science, engineering, technology and mathematics] applicants from Oxbridge and other top universities,” said Michelle Hemmingfield, a representative of Students Organizing for Sustainability UK, who led the letter.

The career boycott is the latest headache for Barclays, which has been targeted by climate campaigners at its AGM in May and under pressure about his sponsorship of Wimbledonas well as about his ties with the National Trust. The lender has also been hit by grassroots campaigns, including by a pensioner who refused to pay her council tax because of a link to the bank.

A Barclays spokesperson said: “In line with our ambition to be a net zero bank by 2050, we believe we can make the biggest difference by working with our customers as they transition to a low carbon business model , reducing their carbon-intensive activity, while scaling low-carbon technologies, infrastructure and capacity.

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“We have set 2030 targets to reduce the emissions we finance in five sectors with high emissions, including the energy sector, where we have achieved a 32% reduction since 2020. In addition, to scale the necessary technologies and infrastructure , we have provided £99bn of green finance since 2018, and have a target to facilitate $1bn in sustainable and transitional finance between 2023 and 2030.

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