Greta Thunberg targets Standard Chartered over coal financing

Oscar Williams-Grut
·Senior City Correspondent, Yahoo Finance UK
·3-min read
Climate activist Greta Thunberg. Photo: Markus Schreiber/AP
Climate activist Greta Thunberg. Photo: Markus Schreiber/AP

Teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg has launched a new pressure campaign targeting one of the UK's biggest banks.

Fridays for the Future, the climate group founded by Thunberg, has launched a campaign targeting FTSE 100 (^FTSE) bank Standard Chartered (STAN.L) over its financing of coal. Activists affiliated with the group sent an open letter to the bank's chief executive Bill Winters on Thursday, calling for him to withdraw financial support from companies involved in fossil fuels.

"Standard Chartered is still one of the world's largest coal-financing banks, fueling the climate crisis," activists wrote in the letter. "Mr. Winters, funding destruction, killing the planet, and contributing to the death of its inhabitants must stop."

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READ MORE: Investors pressure HSBC to ditch coal

Standard Chartered is headquartered in London but works in emerging markets. The letter highlighted the environmental and social impact of companies that Standard Chartered finances in Indonesia and the Philippines.

"We are standing against your business until you take the necessary measures," the letter said. "We no longer allow your money's debris to fall on our countries."

Thunberg tweeted a link to the campaign, citing figures claiming Standard Chartered had lent $24bn (£17bn) to coal, oil, and gas businesses since the Paris Agreement on climate was signed in 2016.

Bill Winters, group chief executive officer of Standard Chartered Bank. Photo: Denis Balibouse/Reuters
Bill Winters, group chief executive officer of Standard Chartered Bank. Photo: Denis Balibouse/Reuters

A spokesperson for Standard Chartered said: "We made a firm commitment in 2018 not to fund new coal mines or coal-fired power plants and followed up in 2019 with a plan to support clients in drastically reducing their percentage of revenue from coal.

"We have also committed to reducing the full range of financed emissions in line with the Paris Agreement and have been highly transparent about our thinking and progress.

"We continue to review our positions and methodologies in light of stakeholder feedback and intend to remain leaders in articulating a path to net zero by 2050, alongside our commitments to funding green infrastructure and renewable energy."

READ MORE: MPs call for Bank of England to stop buying fossil fuel bonds

Banks are coming under increasing pressure over the environmental footprint of their financing activities. Last year Barclays was the target of a successful pressure campaign on coal financing and HSBC is facing a shareholder resolution on the issue at its upcoming AGM.

The world of high finance is committed to going green and sees it as a major investment opportunity. However, financiers and climate activists are divided when it comes to methods. Climate activists want banks and money managers to immediately withdraw support from companies involved in fossil fuels. Financiers argue this would cause chaos and instead believe it is better to help finance the transition of "dirty" companies and industries towards clean energy. Activists believe this more gradual transition will lead to irreversible climate change and loss of biodiversity.

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