Asia-focused bank HSBC announced Friday that it aims to achieve net-zero carbon emissions across its investments by 2050, but campaigners accused it of falling short on tackling climate change.
“HSBC has both the scale and global reach to play a leading role in guiding its customers through this transition and helping them to achieve this ambitious goal,” the lender said in a statement.
Its target is to “align its financed emissions — the carbon emissions of its portfolio of customers — to the Paris Agreement goal to achieve net zero by 2050 or sooner”.
“The bank also aims to be net zero in its operations and supply chain by 2030.”
Europe’s biggest bank added that it has earmarked between $750 billion and $1.0 trillion of finance and investment to assist the transition.
CEO Noel Quinn called the 2020s a “pivotal decade of change” towards “a healthier, more resilient and more sustainable future”.
The 2015 Paris agreement saw nations commit to limiting global warming to two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
London-listed HSBC meanwhile follows in the footsteps of rival Barclays, which committed in March to zero-carbon by 2050 under pressure from its shareholders to help tackle climate change.
Environmental campaign groups however gave a sceptical response to HSBC’s announcement on Friday, arguing that the bank should cease support for coal, gas and oil activities.
“HSBC’s net-zero commitment is a bit like saying you’ll give up smoking by 2050, but continuing to buy a pack a week, or even smoking more,” said Becky Jarvis, coordinator of campaign group network Fund Our Future UK.
“Any further financing of oil, gas, and coal expansion today is utterly at odds with a net-zero commitment by 2050. That’s just science, not finance.”
And Adam McGibbon, campaigner at Market Forces, argued that the HSBC statement was nothing but “fluffy marketing”.
“A 550-word statement and not a single concrete commitment made by HSBC. This is zero ambition, not net zero ambition,” McGibbon said.
“If you want to know what HSBC’s stance on climate change really is, look at what they fund, not their fluffy marketing.
“This is a bank that owns stakes in companies seeking to build enough coal power plants to emit carbon emissions equivalent to 37 years of the UK’s annual emissions.”
An increasing number of corporate giants, including oil titans BP and Shell, have recently declared their aim to meet the Paris climate agreement goal of net zero carbon emissions by 2050.
However, campaigners remain highly sceptical and have labelled the moves as “greenwashing” to boost their corporate image rather than protect the environment.