• Atmospheric CO2 /Parts per Million /Annual Averages /Data Source: noaa.gov

  • 1980338.91ppm

  • 1981340.11ppm

  • 1982340.86ppm

  • 1983342.53ppm

  • 1984344.07ppm

  • 1985345.54ppm

  • 1986346.97ppm

  • 1987348.68ppm

  • 1988351.16ppm

  • 1989352.78ppm

  • 1990354.05ppm

  • 1991355.39ppm

  • 1992356.1ppm

  • 1993356.83ppm

  • 1994358.33ppm

  • 1995360.18ppm

  • 1996361.93ppm

  • 1997363.04ppm

  • 1998365.7ppm

  • 1999367.8ppm

  • 2000368.97ppm

  • 2001370.57ppm

  • 2002372.59ppm

  • 2003375.14ppm

  • 2004376.96ppm

  • 2005378.97ppm

  • 2006381.13ppm

  • 2007382.9ppm

  • 2008385.01ppm

  • 2009386.5ppm

  • 2010388.76ppm

  • 2011390.63ppm

  • 2012392.65ppm

  • 2013395.39ppm

  • 2014397.34ppm

  • 2015399.65ppm

  • 2016403.09ppm

  • 2017405.22ppm

  • 2018407.62ppm

  • 2019410.07ppm

  • 2020412.44ppm

  • 2021414.72ppm

  • 2022418.56ppm

  • 2023421.08ppm

News & Views

Money talks: investors turn their focus to fossil fuel funders

With the AGM season drawing to a close, Net Zero Investor assesses how investors have switched their engagement focus from oil firms to banks

This year's AGM season has seen increased headwinds for investors' stewardship efforts at oil and gas giants. Therefore, rather than engaging with fossil fuel firms directly, many investors have decided to target their key source of financing, the world's largest banks. 

So far this AGM season, UK banks, including HSBC and Barclays, faced investor pressure over climate. Barclays AGM was hit by climate protests, with an investor coalition of $1.24trn of assets putting pressure on the British lender to implement restrictions on financing companies exclusively focused on fossil fuel extraction at the meeting.

Elsewhere in Europe, French banks including BNP Paribas faced investor questions over their participation in the issuance of bonds to the oil, gas and coal sectors, which resulted in BNP Paribas committing to cease the underwriting of fossil fuel debt.

In the US, global pension funds backed shareholder proposals, filed by the Comptroller of the City of New York, at the AGMs of Bank of America, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley calling for them to disclose their annual clean energy financing ratio.

Even climate campaigners such as Make My Money Matter are focusing their efforts on banks, urging them to stop financing fossil fuel expansion.

While at the AGM of oil and gas supermajor, BP, not one climate resolution was filed, with little environmental activism seen. Despite this, large environmental shareholder activism is expected at the AGMs of Shell, Exxon and Glencore.

However, the above instances do show an increased target on financial institutions' role in funding fossil fuels.


Largely there has been a greater and growing industry focus [on banks], not just by asset owners but also by asset managers and data providers.

Samantha Chew, stewardship lead, Aegon UK

Banks ‘lagging behind’

Samantha Chew, stewardship lead at Aegon UK, with £88bn investment assets under management, tells Net Zero Investor that since last year the asset owner has been increasing its engagement focus in respect of banks. It has expanded its list of focus companies to 100, which includes both US and European banks.

Aegon has chosen this focus as banks constitute one of our largest sector holdings presenting significant climate risk, with their approach to the environment lagging behind what we have seen in other sectors, Chew states.

“We are prioritising our focus on banks because we think this area is ripe for development given its materiality to our portfolio. Around 21% [c£8bn] of our default funds are in financial services, a key component of which are banks.

90% of fossil fuel firms’ external financing comes from debt, a significant component of which is bank loans. However, we are not seeing as much progress on climate by banks compared to what we are seeing in other sectors such as energy,” she states.

Recent research by the Banking on Climate Chaos, which analysed the world’s top 60 banks, revealed that banks have given $6.9trn in financing to oil, coal and gas companies since the Paris Agreement. Nearly half of this funding went towards fossil fuel expansion.

Growing focus on banks

Currently, Aegon, which provides pensions, savings and investment solutions to over 4m customers, engages with its portfolio companies through its asset managers.

Chew says: “Largely there has been a greater and growing industry focus [on banks], not just by asset owners but also by asset managers and data providers. This is reflected by an increase of shareholder climate resolutions being filed at banks, but also the increase of data points or guidance available to investors to evaluate banks’ assessments, like the Transition Pathway Initiative, the Institutional Investors Group on Climate Change and the Net Zero Benchmark for Banks.”

Aegon’s climate engagement focus with banks will revolve around three areas: transparency of their financial exposure to high emitting assets, reporting on green financing and climate policy engagement, Chew explains.

“At the end of the day, you not only need the likes of the energy supply companies to decarbonise, you also need the fossil fuel financiers, like banks to play their part,” she adds.


We’re seeing some encouraging progress by banks, particularly in Europe. I think it's harder to do the same in the US, given the regulatory and cultural environments.

Samantha Chew, stewardship lead, Aegon UK

CoE switch in focus

Similarly, the Church of England Pensions Board, which has £3.3bn of assets under management, has switched its engagement focus from oil firms to fossil fuel financiers following its divestment from fossil fuel companies not aligned with the Paris Agreement and specifically UK oil major Shell last year.

The UK pension fund backed clean energy shareholder proposals at the 2024 AGMs of the Bank of America, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley. In addition, the Pensions Board also supported investor pressure at the AGMs of Barclays and HSBC.

Commenting on the fund’s support of shareholder resolutions at the three US banks, Laura Hillis, director of climate and environment at the Church of England, said that: “Banks are key to the transition to net zero – and we are concerned they’re simply not transitioning away from fossil fuel financing quickly enough. Despite all the risks inherent in a disorderly transition to net zero, fossil fuel lending from these three banks remains among the highest in the banking sector.”

‘Deep in coal’

Alongside investor pressure on banks for funding oil and gas, Katrin Ganswindt, head of financial research at non-governmental organisation Urgewald, stated that asset owners and managers have also been increasing their pressure on financing coal.

“While many investors – especially in Europe – are actively phasing out their investments in coal, commercial banks channelled $470bn into the coal industry over the past three years.

“Investors need to exert pressure on banks to take real climate action and stop bankrolling an industry, which is rapidly pushing us beyond 1.5°C,” Ganswindt tells Net Zero Investor.

According to a report published by Urgewald this month, only 140 out of 638 banks assessed in the research have significantly decreased their lending and underwriting services for the coal industry since 2016. “Eight years after Paris, most commercial banks are still deep into coal,” Ganswindt adds.

New challenges

However, how successful will increased investor pressure on banks help decarbonise the fossil fuel industry?

There are examples where banks have started to change their behaviour towards fossil fuel funding, the most recent being BNP Paribas confirming that it had ceased to participate in the issuance of bonds by the coal and gas sector at its AGM this week.

Bonds play a key role in the financing of the fossil fuel industry. Since the signing of the Paris Agreement, banks have helped with the issuance of more than £1trn in loans to oil and gas companies.

BNP Paribas confirmed yesterday that it had changed course in response to investor questions at its AGM. The French bank has so far been one of the key lenders to the industry.

In addition, following shareholder pressure, Barclays also confirmed that it would no longer fund new oil and gas projects at the beginning of this year.

However, Lindsey Stewart, director of investment stewardship for Morningstar, stated that engagement with banks of fossil fuel funding is a “complex matter”, “because even though the oil and gas companies require bank financing to fund their operations, the banks also need to make loans to hit their own revenue and profitability targets”.

“Besides that, the largest oil and gas companies have a lot of options besides bank loans that they can pull to finance their operations. Within whatever parameters are acceptable to their investors, they can choose to lever up by issuing their own debt directly or throttling back on dividends or share buy-backs,” he adds.

In addition, Chew highlights that there has been some global disparity in the progress of bank engagement.

“We’re seeing some encouraging progress by banks, particularly in Europe. I think it's harder to do the same in the US, given the regulatory and cultural environments.

“But, we believe that all banks should be clear on what they say and do when it comes to managing one of the most important risks in our portfolio, which is climate,” she states.

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