Protest outside Barclays

Student campaigners have called for five UK universities to refuse the return of Barclays branches to campuses. The students argue that the bank is fueling the climate crisis due to its continued funding of fossil fuel infrastructure.

According to a 2020 report, Barclays has been the largest funder of the fossil fuel industry in Europe over the last five years. Meanwhile, in the last six months, Barclays has closed branches on five university campuses as the company seeks to reduce its operating costs in light of the COVID-19 pandemic limiting in-store business.

Student activist network People & Planet has coordinated the call. The group sent an open letter to the Vice Chancellor’s of the five universities. In it, campaigners call for these universities to refuse future leases to the banking giant on their campuses.

The letter was sent to Vice Chancellors at Lancaster University, University of Leeds, University of Liverpool, University of East Anglia and University Of Sussex.

The letter read:

Barclays bank is the biggest fossil fuel funder in Europe, pumping over £100 billion into fossil fuel companies since the Paris Agreement was signed. There can be no disputing that this bank has no intention of responsible action in the face of a climate crisis locking us into devastation, regardless of rhetoric.

We need to send a message: our universities take the climate crisis seriously.

Release a public statement that you will not grant Barclays leases on university property until they cease funding fossil fuel infrastructure.

Student campaigner at University of Leeds, Jay Kerslake commented:

Universities should be spaces that respect scientific consensus and rational action. Barclays is pumping tens of billions into the companies most responsible for the climate crisis.

The only logical step is to make a clear statement against such destructive actions by refusing access to our spaces and our money. It is essential that Barclays are not given any more leases on UK university campuses, and this abandonment presents a clear opportunity to put that into policy.

The open letter is the latest development in People & Planet’s ‘Divest Barclays‘ campaign. The campaign seeks to pressure UK universities into cutting their ties from the bank. Alongside the open letter, People & Planet has launched a petition which calls on universities that do not currently have a Barclays branch on their campus to publicly commit to never having one in the future.

Students’ Unions at the University of Leeds, Lancaster University and University East Anglia have already passed motions in support of the campaign. These motions commit the Students’ Union to boycott Barclays, as well as lobby the universities they represent students at to also commit to an institutional boycott of the bank.

J Clarke, Co-Director of Climate Campaigns at the People & Planet said:

It’s not just these five universities that have a responsibility to ensure Barclays are not given leases in university spaces. Institutions with no Barclays branches on campus can take up proactive policies now, and those with current leases can adopt policies ensuring they are not renewed when they have reached their end.

The letter comes after a string of major victories for the student climate movement. The fossil free campaign – also coordinated by People & Planet – has forced three more institutions to cut their ties with the fossil fuel industry in the last few weeks.

On February 11, Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine announced it would be divesting from the fossil fuel industry. Similar commitments were made in the following weeks by Pembroke College and Trinity College, both part of Cambridge University.

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