For months HSBC has been telling us to hold 22 February in our diaries. This is the date it was planning to publish its targets for reducing the billions of dollars it is pouring into oil and gas companies, who are fuelling the climate crisis.

That day has come and HSBC has announced its targets not with a bang, but with a whimper. Their policies aren’t strong enough. And it’s more proof that we can’t trust a bank to cut their investments themselves. They MUST be told to do it properly by law.

HSBC’s targets are weak. They’re only aiming to reduce funding to oil and gas companies by 34% by 2030. This is on total emissions (“absolute”) rather than an average (“intensity”), which is a good thing.

However, HSBC is ignoring the bulk of the money it gives out – for example by underwriting of bonds – which ShareAction finds makes up 60% of the money it gives fossil fuel companies. This puts it behind competitor Barclays which is not ignoring things like bonds and underwriting from their targets two years ago.

Jeanne Martin, Senior Campaign Manager at ShareAction, says this “should raise questions about the credibility of [HSBC’s] strategy. We consider this omission to be a breach of the spirit of the agreement that was reached with HSBC, ShareAction and investors in March 2021.” See ShareAction’s full statement here.

Adam McGibbon, UK Campaign Lead at Market Forces, said: “HSBC knows what needs to be done, but can’t bring themselves to break their dirty habit. If the bank truly believes in its own ‘Net Zero by 2050’ target, then it must follow the International Energy Agency’s pathway and immediately end its financing for the expansion of the fossil fuel industry”. See Market Forces’ full statement here.

HSBC also disappointingly tip-toed around the idea of asking its clients for transition plans. It provided no details on what it expects from its largest fossil fuel clients Exxon and Saudi Aramco, which have refused for decades to transition, nor any consequences for their non-compliance.

These details matter when we’re talking about Europe’s largest financier of oil and gas expansion in Europe. And while the bank is clearly responding to pressure from investors, the climate movement, and sings from regulators, it’s just no way near good enough.