July 21, 2020 / 8:09 AM / 18 days ago

Barclays, Handelsbanken lead initiative to help UK cut carbon emissions

LONDON (Reuters) - Five lenders led by Barclays and Handelsbanken have become founding members of a group that aims to offer financial support to businesses working to help Britain deliver a carbon-neutral economy.

FILE PHOTO: A Barclays bank building is seen at Canary Wharf in London, Britain May 17, 2017. REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth/File Photo

The Bankers for NetZero initiative, which also includes Triodos, Ecology Building Society and digital lender Tide, will explore ways to help businesses reduce risks involved in shifting to greener and more sustainable practices.

The British government has committed to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050.

“Banks have been a bit late to the game on climate action,” said Nigel Topping, the government’s High Level Climate Action Champion for the COP26 climate talks, welcoming the launch of the banking initiative.

The group held an inaugural webinar meeting on July 16 that focused on retrofitting the built environment, a major source of carbon emissions, and on support banks could offer.

Insurer Legal & General, one of Britain’s top real estate investors, urged the government this month to legislate to improve transparency on how much energy commercial buildings use and to help businesses switch to renewable energy.

Bankers for NetZero hopes to set out recommendations, or a white paper, this year on accelerating Britain’s transition.

Bankers for NetZero is run in partnership with Volans, a research and advisory firm, the All Party Parliamentary Group on Fair Business Banking and Re:Pattern, a strategy consultancy specialising in sustainable finance.

The initiative is engaging with the Bank of England, the Financial Conduct Authority and the Competition & Markets Authority. It is backed by the U.N. Environment Programme Finance Initiative and Britain’s Green Finance Institute.

“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,” Barclays Chairman Nigel Higgins said.

Reporting by Sinead Cruise; Editing by Edmund Blair

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