HSBC has been accused of greenwashing by Christian Aid as the charity publishes a new report highlighting the bank’s refusal to rule out coal financing in Vietnam, Bangladesh and Indonesia.
HSBC hosted a Make My Money Green event as part of Green GB Week, and yet in its flagship energy policy it keeps the door open to financing the dirtiest fossil fuel in parts of Asia.
Last month fellow bank Standard Chartered announced a global ban on financing coal, undermining HSBC’s claims to be a sustainable leader that is concerned about climate change.
The report dismantles HSBC’s claims that more coal power is needed to address the developmental needs of these countries, drawing on independent evidence from a variety of sources and the views of local people. Nguy Thi Khanh, from Vietnam, is founder of the Green Innovation and Development Centre. She said:
“Remarkably HSBC’s commitment excluded my own country, along with Indonesia and Bangladesh. My daughter, along with the rest of Vietnam, it seems, doesn’t have the right to breathe clean air like the rest of the world.
“’Too poor, too foreign, let them breathe sulphur dioxide and smog’, the policy might as well read. ‘They’re only Vietnamese.’
“Such lazily racist double standards are made all the more galling by the bank’s attempt to hide its greed behind a thin veneer of condescending concern for the provision of ‘cheap’ power in Vietnam.
“The argument that Vietnam needs more coal is nonsense. According to the recently launched Blueprint for Vietnam’s Clean Energy Future, if all the health and environmental costs of coal power are factored in, renewables are already cheaper than coal in Vietnam.”
The report points out that in light of the recent report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, warning of the consequences of global warming exceeding 1.5C, financing brand new coal plants in countries like Vietnam is not only reckless and irresponsible but will not address poverty either.
Helen Collinson, Campaign Lead at Christian Aid, said:
“For people without access to energy in these countries living far from the grid, renewables offer a much cheaper, less damaging and future-proof form of electricity.
“The cost of renewables has fallen faster than not just the predictions of the International Energy Agency but even those of Greenpeace as well. The clean energy systems of the future are what these countries need, not yet more polluting fossil fuel infrastructure of the past.
“If not investing in coal is good enough for the rest of the world, why isn’t it good enough for Vietnam, Bangladesh and Indonesia? A number of charities and policy institutes have provided evidence to HSBC demonstrating that coal is not needed to tackle energy poverty and yet they refuse to close this loophole.”
“If HSBC really cared about ‘making their money green’ they could start by ruling out new coal financing in every country, like Standard Chartered have done.”
World Bank President Jim Kim said in 2016:
“If Vietnam goes forward with 40GW of coal, if the entire region implements the coal-based plans right now, I think we are finished…That would spell disaster for us and our planet.”
It is exactly this kind of disaster that HSBC is facilitating by keeping the door open to funding new coal projects in this region.