C: Jose G. Ortega Castro – Unsplash

HSBC has pledged to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, and will aim to support its clients to make the transition towards net-zero operations in response to the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement.

On October 9th, the banking giant announced an ambitious plan for green finance that will provide between US$750 billion and US$1 trillion of financing and investment in ameliorating the carbon emissions from its portfolio of clients.

“As we enter a pivotal decade of change, we have a landmark opportunity to accelerate our efforts to build a healthier, more resilient and more sustainable future,” said Noel Quinn, CEO at HSBC. “Our net-zero ambition represents a material step up in our support for customers as we collectively work towards building a thriving low carbon economy.”

In addition, HSBC also promised to reach net-zero carbon emissions in its operations and supply chain by 2030, demonstrating its ambition to be a leading role in green finance.

However, the giant’s plan might not go smoothly.

C: Kit Suman – Unsplash

HSBC, Europe’s largest bank, is the second biggest financial backer of fossil fuel-linked companies.

Such a client portfolio might pose a dilemma between its zero emissions plan and its reliance on the coal sector for HSBC, and whether there is any leeway allowed to continue investment in fossil fuel clients and other environmentally harmful projects.

The London-based bank has also suffered growing pressure from activists, shareholders and politicians.

As a financial backer of fossil fuel companies, this factor has spurred the public’s condemnation of being an accomplice in climate change.

HSBC’s commitment to align its business activities to the goal is also criticized by campaigners for failing to make a firm standpoint.

Campaigners denounced HSBC’s plan for lacking credibility since the bank didn’t indicate a specific timeline for when it would begin to ease off aiding fossil fuel companies.

“A 550-word statement and not a single concrete commitment made by HSBC. This is zero ambition, not ‘Net Zero Ambition,’ commented Adam McGibbon, UK energy finance Campaigner, at Market Forces.

Becky Jarvis, coordinator of Fund Our Future UK, said: “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.”

In fact, the banking giant’s step to net-zero emission is considered a laggard compared to its peers such as BNP Paribas, a leader in moves towards carbon reduction, and JPMorgan, the heavyweight bank that has expanded investment in clean energy.

Obviously, HSBC is in a tougher position and faces the public’s queries.

In order to rebuild trust among stakeholders, HSBC has clearly stated that it would employ “a climate lens” to decisions and apply the science-based Paris Agreement Carbon Transition Assessment Tool to track and report its progress.

Besides the astronomical investment in guiding its clients to move towards low carbon economy, HSBC also targets the boosting of investment in clean technology and subsidizing climate innovation ventures and renewable energy sources, in line with its previous announcement.

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