A Stocking Full Of Coal
Everyone knows the story: Santa Claus writes a list, he checks it twice, and ultimately finds out who’s naughty and nice. The nice children receive presents. The naughty ones wake up on Christmas morning to a lump of coal in their stocking.
The heads of HSBC clearly don’t place much stock in such stories. If anyone’s in the running for receiving a lump of coal this Christmas, it is them.
See, they’ve recently decided that despite ruling out directly funding coal power almost everywhere, they will keep the door open to funding new coal projects in Vietnam, Indonesia and Bangladesh until 2023.
John Flint, HSBC chief executive, has said:
‘The reasonable position for us is to allow a short window for us to continue to get involved in financing coal there…if we think there is not a reasonable alternative.’
But there is nothing ‘reasonable’ about this decision.
How can it be reasonable to finance coal in three countries on the front line of climate change? Especially when research by the University of Oxford in 2016 demonstrated that to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement to limit temperature rise, no new plants can be built after 2017?
How is it rational to finance coal when air pollution is a silent killer? Is it reasonable that coal-related pollution is predicted to cause 70,000 premature deaths per year in Southeast Asia by 2030 if the coal power plants planned or under construction in the region go ahead?
The current stance of HSBC is summed up well by Nguy Thi Khanh, the founder of the Green Innovation and Development Centre in Vietnam:
‘“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.’
What’s more, there is ‘a reasonable alternative.’
When it comes to the electricity-poor, coal isn’t even the best source of energy. Most electricity-poor households live far from a conventional energy grid (84% are in rural areas.) As such, if scaled up appropriately, distributed renewable solutions like wind and solar will be the cheapest and quickest way of reaching more than two thirds of people without electricity.
No one wants to wake up on Christmas morning to find coal in their stocking or coal smog in their lungs. So why are HSBC still willing to fund it?
Let’s campaign to give humanity the greatest gift this Christmas. It’s time for a Big Shift.