Greenpeace, which occupied a branch of Barclays on Wednesday morning and erected signs branding it “The Dirty Bank”, said 30,000 customers signed a petition calling on the lender to pledge never to fund controversial tar sands projects.
Of those who signed the petition, 6,000 told the environmental group that they were ready to close their accounts if Barclays did not heed their warning, while some said they had already done so.
“Moving your bank account is quite a big undertaking, so we were genuinely surprised when people started doing it without us even suggesting it,” said the Greenpeace oil campaigner Hannah Martin.
“This new information shows that the opposition to Barclays funding dirty tar sands projects isn’t just broad but deep.
“People are prepared to put themselves through a bit of bureaucratic hassle to try to persuade their bank to do the right thing.”
Six Greenpeace campaigners arrived at a branch of Barclays on Wednesday morning disguised as window cleaners but were prevented from creating an “oil spill” in front of the branch.
The organisation is protesting against pipelines being built across Canada and the US to bring oil to market from Alberta’s tar sands.
Environmentalists say tar sands – which contain deposits of viscous, heavy hydrocarbons – produce fuel that is particularly dirty when compared to renewable sources or even other fossil fuels.
At the bank’s annual meeting earlier this year, the non-executive in charge of reputation, Mary Francis, said the bank was reviewing its investments in “extreme fossil fuels” – typically including tar sands, coal and deep water Arctic oil – with an update due before the end of the year.
A spokesman for Barclays said it was “not currently providing any project finance to oil sands pipeline projects”.
However, the Guardian understands it was providing finance to Canada’s $4.5bn Trans Mountain project before it was nationalised.
It also extends credit finance to organisations involved in two other pipelines, something that would be precluded under a policy adopted by rival HSBC.
HSBC is among a clutch of lenders, including Crédit Agricole and BNP Paribas, to have already put in place policies preventing tar sands investment.
Greenpeace claimed that if the tar sands were fully exploited and burned, it would take up 15% of the world’s carbon budget if governments are to meet the Paris accord goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees.
This article was written by Rob Davies, for theguardian.com on Wednesday 5th December 2018 14.26 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010