HSBC responds to #QuitCoal

April 11, 2016

Last month, we launched our Quit Coal campaign. HSBC have clearly felt the heat, because they’ve already begun to reply to people taking the action. Their response is below. Read our breakdown and riposte here.

One thing is for sure, there is every reason to continue applying pressure. HSBC are openly acknowledging that they’re consulting on their new Mining and Metals Policy right now and that our emails are demonstrating the “depth of feeling” people have with regards to coal mining. So if you haven’t emailed Stuart Gulliver yet, do it now!

Thank you very much for your email to HSBC’s Group Chief Executive, Stuart Gulliver, on whose behalf I am responding.

HSBC agrees that climate change is one of the most serious threats that the world faces today.  Banks have a role to play in combating climate change, and HSBC will certainly play its  part.  We have reduced our own absolute carbon dioxide emissions by  22% over the last four years (2011-2015), and we have a target to achieve 25% of our electricity bought from renewable sources by 2020.

In parallel, we have increased our support for low-carbon sectors such as renewable energy.  We have also restricted finance for the two sectors with the highest emissions.  To combat deforestation, HSBC introduced a Forestry Policy in 2004 which we have progressively tightened. The 2014 version is rated in the top eight of 500 analysed in the independent Forest 500 report.  And we have exited 60 forestry and 104 palm oil clients who were unwilling or unable to meet the standards we expected by the end of 2014.  We are ending banking relationships with them as soon as contractual obligations allow. To combat global warming from fossil fuels, HSBC was the first international bank to restrict lending to new coal-fired power stations under our 2011 Energy Policy.

But there is no room for complacency.  More needs to be done if the world is to keep global warming  well below 2oC.  Last December’s Paris Agreement between governments allows for some flexibility of approach –  for example, developed countries should continue to take the lead, and, while there is no specific ban on coal (which currently generates 40% of global electricity), the direction of travel is clear.

HSBC will continue to tighten its own approach to climate change accordingly.  We started a review of our Mining and Metals Policy after the Paris Agreement.  We are looking closely at the impacts of coal mining, as well as at other potential impacts, such as on human rights.  We consult widely with interested stakeholders, such as customers and non-governmental organisations.  The revised policy will be finalised when that consultation is complete.

We therefore appreciate you taking the time to approach HSBC on this subject.  It helps us to understand the depth of feeling which people hold on climate change.  That, in turn, contributes to the review that HSBC is undertaking.

At HSBC, we know how important it is that banks, corporations and other organisations play a positive role in the economies and communities they serve. We believe that a corporation which adopts ethical, sustainable and responsible values secures the confidence of investors, customers and employees, and will be more successful in the long term by balancing social, environmental and economic considerations.

I hope this goes some way to assuring you that HSBC takes climate change seriously.

Thank you for contacting us.

Kind regards
Brendan McNamara
Group Public Affairs
HSBC

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