A string of famous names, including Stephen Fry, Emma Thompson and Mark Rylance, have joined campaigners and businesses in calling on Britain’s Big Five banks to stop funding further oil, gas and coal expansion.

Make My Money Matter, a campaign set up by Richard Curtis, the writer, director and co-founder of Comic Relief, has written to the CEOs of HSBC, Barclays, Santander, NatWest and Lloyds urging these banks to “stop funding fossil fuels expansion”.

Curtis said he wanted to raise awareness about “the dangerous relationship between UK banks and the fossil fuel industry”.

Members of the public are invited to join forces with celebrities, politicians, activists and business leaders by signing the open letter.

The call comes days after research indicated that banks and financial institutions that had signed net-zero pledges were still investing heavily in fossil fuels.

Make My Money Matter pointed to a report in February 2022 by campaign group ShareAction, which claimed that in 2021, HSBC, Barclays, Santander, NatWest and Lloyds, together, provided nearly $16 billion ($12.9 billion pounds sterling) in financing to the 50 largest oil groups. and the gas companies that were increasing their production.

Curtis’s group said this was “despite clear guidance from the International Energy Agency that we cannot develop new oil and gas fields if we are to limit global warming to less than 1 .5°C”.

The ShareAction report also said that between 2016 and 2021, the five UK banks financed the top 50 oil and gas expansion companies to the tune of $141bn (£114bn).

This despite surveys that have indicated growing public demand for banks to act on the climate crisis.

Almost a third (29%) of HSBC, Barclays, Santander, NatWest and Lloyds customers surveyed by Make My Money Matter said they would switch banks if they found out it was funding fuels expansion fossils. Meanwhile, 86% believe their bank is not doing enough to address the climate emergency.

In addition to Fry, Thompson and Rylance, high profile signers included musician Brian Eno, naturalist and presenter Chris Packham and Green MP Caroline Lucas. Companies, activists and charities that signed up included Just Stop Oil, Greenpeace UK, Save the Children UK, Ecotricity, Ella’s Kitchen and Triodos Bank.

The signatories pledge not only to campaign for change, but also to turn to banks that do not fund fossil fuel expansion.

Curtis said: “We hope this weird and wonderful coalition of activists and actors, companies and brands, celebrities and climate champions will set the banks on fire to stop them from setting the world on fire. “

In recent months, some UK banks have taken steps to limit funding for fossil fuel expansion.

HSBC said it announced restrictions on oil and gas financing last month, and the bank said Make My Money Matter was cited in a BBC News report apparently supportive of the policy.

An HSBC spokesperson said: “HSBC aims to reduce emissions in line with a 1.5°C pathway to net zero while promoting energy security, affordability and access. Our 1.5C-aligned funded emissions targets and updated energy policy mean we will no longer provide new funding or advice for new oil and gas fields or related infrastructure, or for the most oil-intensive assets. in carbon.

“Helping customers in high-emitting sectors decarbonize will have the most significant impact on reducing emissions in the real economy and accelerate an orderly transition to net zero.”

Lloyds had announced in October that it would not support direct financing to develop new oil and gas fields. It has updated its climate policy to effect change.

A NatWest spokesperson said: “We no longer lend or guarantee coal, major oil and gas producers, unless they have a credible transition plan consistent with the Paris Agreement, which led us to commit to phasing out nearly £1 billion of fossil fuels. fuel financing. Our lending to the oil and gas sector has decreased significantly…with exposure to the sector now representing less than 1% of our total lending.

Barclays said it was one of the first banks to set an “ambition” to become net zero by 2050. A spokesperson said: “Many oil and gas companies are actively engaged and essential to the transition, committing significant resources and expertise in renewable energy. We believe we can make the biggest difference by helping these customers transition to a low-carbon economy, facilitating the financing needed to change their business practices and scale green technologies. Where carbon-intensive businesses are unable or unwilling to reduce or eliminate their emissions, we will reduce our support over time.

A Santander spokesperson said: “We are fully committed to supporting the transition to net zero and have set 2030 emissions reduction targets across a range of material-emitting sectors in our lending portfolio, including the power generation, thermal coal and energy (oil and petroleum). gas). Our lending policies prohibit the financing of new upstream oil customers and projects, among other restrictions, and over the past 10 years we have consistently been one of the largest providers of renewable energy project financing in the world.

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