HSBC Plans to Close Asian Coal Plants to Curb Emissions – While Also Investing £80 Billion in Fossil Fuels

Bank accused of greenwashing ahead of COP26 for backing scheme while being world’s 13th biggest funder of fossil fuels
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HSBC
HSBC building in Liberty Square, Markham, Canada. Credit: Raysonho @ Open Grid Scheduler / Grid Engine (CC0 1.0)

Plans by HSBC to buy and close coal plants in Asia have been dubbed a “cynical” attempt to clean up the bank’s image before the COP26 climate conference by “one of the world’s top financiers of fossil fuels”. 

This week HSBC joined a scheme led by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) to buy coal-fired power plants in Asia and then close them within 15 years to help cut carbon emissions. 

HSBC, however, is the 13th biggest funder of fossil fuels in the world, according to the Rainforest Action Network. The bank has invested $110.74 billion (or nearly £80 billion) in fossil fuel projects since the Paris Agreement in 2015.

This comes after analysis by environmental campaign group Market Forces released in April which found that HSBC has stakes in coal companies in Asia – mostly China and India – planning 73 new plants that will emit 15 billion tonnes of CO2 over their lifetimes.

The plants could cause an estimated 19,000 air pollution deaths per year, according to a study by the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air. 

DeSmog research has also found that over 86 percent (13 out of 15) of HSBC’s board of directors have current or past ties to polluting companies and industries. These include Shell, Nestle, Unilever, and Chinese Light and Power (CLP) Holdings Ltd. 

Market Forces this week called HSBC’s joining the ADB scheme a “cynical” piece of greenwashing ahead of COP26.  

Adam McGibbon, UK campaign lead at Market Forces, said: “HSBC has been leading the charge for decades on funding climate disaster and continues to do so to this day.

“This coal buy-out plan is designed to present HSBC as climate saviours ahead of UN climate talks in Glasgow — but as one of the world’s top financiers of fossil fuels, they’re still the villains.” 

He added: “This initiative will only have meaning if HSBC commits to no longer finance the expansion of the fossil fuel industry and phases out its fossil fuel financing in line with the goals of the Paris Agreement. 

“Otherwise, this is just HSBC trying to make money from both ends of the climate catastrophe.”

HSBC has been contacted for comment but has not replied at time of publication. 

Adam Barnett pic
Adam Barnett is DeSmog's UK News Reporter. He is a former Staff Writer at Left Foot Forward and BBC Local Democracy Reporter.

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