Fossil Fuels, HSBC, and China | National Review

Fossil Fuels, HSBC, and China | National Review

A branch of HSBC bank is seen in central London, August 3, 2009
(Stefan Wermuth/Reuters)


HSBC Holdings Plc promised to “phase down” its financing of the fossil fuel industry, sending a warning to oil and gas clients as the bank works toward its target of net-zero emissions.

The step is in line with “what is required to limit the global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius,” HSBC said on Wednesday.

Like most of its top-tier banking peers, HSBC is looking for ways to cut emissions without losing business. For now, it remains one of the major funders of big oil and gas. HSBC helped fossil-fuel companies raise about $52 billion from selling bonds since the Paris climate agreement was announced at the end of 2015, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Among European banks, only Barclays assisted in underwriting more debt for the oil, gas and coal industries.

HSBC said it will continue to work with energy sector clients “who take an active role in the energy transition and who apply good industry practices around environmental, social, and governance issues.”

Ah, ESG.

Meanwhile, the Congressional-Executive Commission on China has a few questions:

A bipartisan group of members of the bipartisan and bicameral Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC) today released a letter to HSBC, a British multinational investment bank and financial services company, inquiring specifically about the freezing of accounts of Hong Kong media and civil society groups and restrictions placed on the accounts of American citizens at HSBC branches located in the United States.

The Commissioners also asked HSBC whether its business practices contribute to the “inability of the people of Hong Kong (a) to enjoy freedom of assembly, speech, press, or independent rule of law; or (b) to participate in democratic outcomes,” as stipulated under the Hong Kong Autonomy Act of 2020 (Public Law No. 116-149). Under this legislation, financial and other sanctions can be levied on any individual or entity complicit in undermining human rights and democracy in Hong Kong…

Oh, yes, there’s this via the Independent (January):

HSBC bank holds more than £2 million in shares for a subsidiary of a Chinese paramilitary company that has been accused of human rights abuses against Uyghur Muslims, it has been revealed.

The UK’s biggest bank bought £2.2 million worth of shares for Xinjiang Tianye, a chemicals and plastics company, for an anonymous client last year while continuing to act as a custodian meaning it pockets money while holding the shares, the Sunday Times reported.

And this via CNN (January):

Late last month, HSBC received approval from Chinese regulators to take full control of its life insurance joint venture, which was created in 2009 in equal partnership with a Chinese company under rules that were rolled back in 2020. The bank said the move underscored its “commitment to expanding business in China.”

HSBC has, of course, a long history in China, and China (including Hong Kong) is an extremely important part of its business. That’s the firm’s choice to make, but it should not insult the rest of us with “socially responsible” investment talk while either investing directly, or encouraging investment, in a state now operating on, broadly speaking, fascist lines.

ESG. China. Choose one.

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About the Author

Tony Beasley
Tony Beasley writes for the Local News, US and the World Section of ANH.