Last month Standard Chartered (the bank) announced a global ban on financing coal. Yep, they are no longer going to support the coal industry. Hurray, I hear you shout.
Yes, this is a win but it’s a victory which is being undermined by the actions of others.
HSBC hosted a ‘Make My Money Green’ event last week as part of ‘Green GB Week’. Brilliant, you might think? Unfortunately not.
They’re massive hypocrites.
HSBC are pulling back massively on their coal investments around the world but continue to claim that more coal is required to address the ‘developmental needs of Asian countries’.
What this means in practice is that HSBC are preaching about moving away from fossil fuel investments in one place and in the same breath not ruling out huge investments in the coal industries of a handful of Asian countries.
They’re saying one thing to the people who want to hear it here in the west and doing the complete opposite on the other side of the world.
Nguy Thi Khanh, from Vietnam, is the founder of the ‘Green Innovation and Development Centre’. In a recent Christian Aid report (seriously, read this) she dismantles HSBC’s claims that more coal power is needed with evidence and clinical logic.
“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."
Helen Collinson, Christian Aid’s Campaign Lead, added: "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.”
So, HSBC...over to you.