A direct message to HSBC investors has appeared in the Financial Times, asking them to back a shareholder resolution which will commit the bank to phase out coal financing. Over 20 groups from across Asia have placed a full-page advert in today’s paper, as well as adverts on the FT website, to challenge claims by HSBC that countries in the region need coal.
The groups want investors to vote in favour of the resolution – brought forward by a group of major shareholders – at the upcoming AGM. If it passes, the resolution will set HSBC on a clear course to end its financing of coal companies and projects, many of which are in Asian countries. The adverts are cunningly timed to take advantage of increased eyeballs generated by coverage of the budget.
HSBC’s current coal policy is really weak, and the bank is one of the biggest funders of fossil fuels in the world. Bank chairman Mark Tucker defended the policy, saying that “[coal] divestment is not the best option for the environment or the people”. Quite how he figures that is anyone’s guess, but he’s clearly ignoring the severe impacts coal production and power have on both people and the environment.
Coal is, of course, the most polluting fuel we have. It’s a major cause of the climate crisis which is hitting lower-income countries hardest – the very countries HSBC claims to be helping by investing in coal. On top of that, mines and power stations pollute the air and water supplies, and the knock-on effect on people’s health blights their lives and risks pushing them into extreme poverty. Again, the exact opposite of what HSBC says coal power is able to do for these countries.
On the other hand, renewable energy such as solar and wind power is cleaner, cheaper and much more appropriate for communities without reliable connections to a national grid. So the myth that coal is essential for economic development needs to be overturned.
By voting in favour of this resolution, HSBC investors can show they know that coal has to be consigned to the history books and the future lies in investing in renewable energy.