In just a few weeks, HSBC shareholders will vote on a climate resolution at the bank’s AGM. If it passes, HSBC will be committed to putting plans in place to end its fossil fuel funding.
Even though this is welcome news, there’s still a long way to go before we can say job done on getting HSBC to take its money out of fossil fuels. That’s why advertising spaces around the country have been hacked in recent days with posters calling out HSBC’s role in the climate crisis.
Here are five reasons why HSBC still needs to feel the pressure to end fossil fuel funding.
1. HSBC isn’t committed to anything yet
Coming forward with the resolution is a big shift from where HSBC was only a few months ago. Chair Mark Tucker said in January that getting out of coal was “not a good option” for either the environment or those communities currently reliant on it. Now, HSBC is proposing to end coal funding by 2040 at the latest and that’s a direct result of immense pressure from people around the world, demanding an end to fossil fuels.
But it’s still just a proposal. Until the resolution is voted through, HSBC won’t be obliged to do anything. Even then, there’s still a long way to go.
2. HSBC needs to come up with a strong plan
If and when the resolution passes, HSBC has said it will produce a plan to put its new commitments into practice. It’s said it will do so by the end of this year, and it remains to be seen just how good that plan will be.
The resolution talks about exiting coal by 2030 in OECD countries and 2040 in other regions. It’s a good start, but it doesn’t go far enough. For instance, how quickly will HSBC reduce its investment in coal? Will the divestment plan include companies involved at any point in the production and burning of coal, or just those directly involved in mines and power stations? Will it commit to dropping clients that don’t change their businesses to align with the target of keeping global heating below 1.5ºC? It’s this kind of detail that HSBC needs to produce
3. HSBC hasn’t said much about oil and gas
HSBC has already floated those key dates for ending coal financing – coal is the worst fossil fuel so it makes sense to start there. But what about oil and gas?
The resolution states that HSBC’s plan will be in line with the Paris agreement across all sectors, but what will that look like? Will it be ambitious enough to help keep global heating below 1.5ºC? It’s all down to the detail in that forthcoming plan.
4. HSBC has to deliver
If the resolution goes through and if HSBC develops a robust plan, it still needs to deliver on those commitments. Until it does, it will still be one of the biggest fossil fuel funders in the world. HSBC executives need to know that there’s a global movement ready to hold them to account.
5. HSBC isn’t the only fossil fuel funding bank
The latest research shows that 60 banks have pumped $3.8 trillion into fossil fuels in the last five years, so there are plenty of other banks that also need to ditch their investments. We need to show them that making ambitious promises is just the start, and we won’t give up until they deliver.
For a bank that has been so resistant to eliminating its exposure to fossil fuels, HSBC’s climate resolution is a step in the right direction and one for our movement to be proud of. But there’s still a lot to be done so, now more than ever, HSBC needs to feel under pressure to end fossil fuel funding.