UK banks face climate conflicts of interest: study

London, March 9 (AFP/APP):British banks face potential conflicts of interest over climate change because almost 80 percent of board members have links with high-polluting sectors, a study showed on Tuesday.
DeSmog, an investigative climate campaign group, revealed the main finding of its research into UK banks’ management.
A majority of 50 out of the top 64 directors at the five biggest UK banks — Barclays, HSBC, Lloyds, NatWest and Standard Chartered — have past or present links to major polluters, DeSmog said in a statement.
And one quarter of directors have, or have had, direct links with the carbon-intensive fossil fuel sector, it added.
“The analysis … shows many of the banks’ directors have close ties to polluting industries and their financial backers, either as current directors, advisors or previous employees,” DeSmog concluded.
“This could affect their ability to be impartial judges of shareholder resolutions trying to push the banks to actually end financing of fossil fuels.”
Standard Chartered declined to comment. Barclays, HSBC, Lloyds did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
A NatWest spokesperson stressed it had made operations net carbon zero by the end of 2020 — and planned to make them climate positive by 2025.
HSBC has previously stated that it aims to achieve net-zero carbon emissions across its investments by 2050.
Both Barclays and HSBC meanwhile face shareholder motions to curb or phase out exposure to fossil fuels.
“Banks have a significant role to play in addressing the climate crisis by cleaning up their portfolios, and removing support for environmentally damaging industries,” said Rachel Sherrington, DeSmog’s lead researcher for the study.
“Public support for scientifically-led action on the climate crisis is high, and the directors of the UK’s banks have the chance to put themselves on the right side of history.”
The corporate world faces mounting demands to respond to climate change.
Oil giants BP and Royal Dutch Shell have both vowed to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 — but both faced criticism from green campaigners over a lack of detail.
The British government, which has committed to reaching net zero carbon emissions by 2050, will host the UN climate gathering COP26 in Glasgow in November.

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