Barclays Bank takes a leading role in tackling climate change by becoming one of the first banks to pledge to become a Net-Zero business by 2050.

The idea of ‘Net zero’ means that any atmospheric emissions should be balanced by absorbing an equivalent amount from the atmosphere. Banks that adhere to the notion are promising to fund projects that contribute to Britain’s conversion to a low carbon economy.

Barclays chairman Nigel Higgins said:

“The transition to a low carbon economy is one of the most complex challenges we face, and it will require close collaboration between both the private and public sector to get there. We hope that Bankers for Net Zero can make a significant contribution to that goal.”

The bank has promised to set transparent targets and to report its progress regularly from 2021.

“We have made a firm commitment to align our entire financing portfolio to the goals of the Paris Agreement,” the bank said.  “That means our own operations, and the financing we do for our clients, in every sector, will support the goal of limiting global warming.”

As well as committing to play its part in limiting global warming, Barclays said it would significantly increase its existing targets for green financing.

The London-based bank will “invest in green innovation, and partner with the Blue Marine Foundation to help protect and sustain the largest carbon sink on Earth: the ocean.”

The new climate policy covers both direct operations and finance allocated externally. Under the new collaborative initiative, the bank will now assist others in the net-zero transition.

“We’ve already started work on creating the new, open-source tools required to map the greenhouse gas emissions of our portfolio – building on and extending the work already done in the scientific community and across the financial services industry,” said Barclays.

Breaking down Net Zero

In order to meet the 1.5°C global warming target in the Paris Agreement, global carbon emissions should reach net zero around mid-century.

Climate science has shown that in order to halt climate change, carbon emissions have to stop – reducing them is not sufficient.

The eventual extent of global warming is proportional to the total amount of carbon dioxide that human activities add to the atmosphere.

So, in order to stabilise climate change, CO2 emissions need to fall to zero.

The longer it takes to do so, the more the climate will change. Emissions of other greenhouse gases also need to be constrained.

In the Paris Agreement, governments agreed to keep global warming ‘well below’ 2 degrees Celsius, and to ‘make efforts’ to keep it below 1.5ºC.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a report in October 2018 on the 1.5ºC target; it concluded that global emissions need to reach net zero around mid-century to give a reasonable chance of limiting warming to 1.5ºC.

UK’s net-zero carbon target of 2050

In June last year, the UK became the first major economy in the world to pass laws to end its contribution to global warming by 2050.

The target will require the country to bring all greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050, compared with the previous target of at least 80% reduction from 1990 levels.

A month earlier, in May 2019, UK government advisers on the issue, the Committee on Climate Change (CCC), had deliver its recommendations:

For the UK, the target: net-zero greenhouse gases by 2050 (up from the existing emissions reductions target of 80% from 1990 levels by 2050).

For Scotland, a net-zero date of 2045, ‘reflecting Scotland’s greater relative capacity to remove emissions than the UK as a whole.’

For Wales, a 95% reduction in greenhouse gases by 2050, reflecting it having ‘less opportunity for CO2 storage and relatively high agricultural emissions that are hard to reduce.’