LONDON (Reuters) – HSBC HSBA.L will target net zero carbon emissions across its entire customer base by 2050 at the latest, and provide between $750 billion and $1 trillion in financing to help clients make the transition, its Chief Executive Noel Quinn told Reuters.
In the strongest statement by Europe’s biggest bank on climate change to date, its CEO outlined HSBC’s ambitions to align its activities with the Paris Agreement.
“COVID has been a wake-up call to us all, including me personally, we have seen how fragile the global economy is to a major event, in this case a health event, and it brings home the reality of what a major climate event could do,” Quinn told Reuters in a video interview.
HSBC aims to achieve net zero in its own operations by 2030, he added.
While other UK banks such as NatWest NWG.L have already set similar net-zero goals, HSBC’s aim to achieve it across its huge Asia-focused client base is one of the most significant pledges made by a global lender to date.
However, the bank will be closely watched for how quickly and fully it pursues its new goals, which are mainly stated as ‘aims’ rather than hard commitments.
It will also face scrutiny on whether it has allowed itself leeway to continue financing some fossil fuel-linked clients, especially in developing markets.
HSBC has come under increasing pressure from activists, shareholders and politicians who say it is contributing to climate change by financing fossil fuel and other environmentally harmful projects.
Quinn said the bank is focused on expanding its capital markets-focused carbon transition policies, to a broader one encompassing all its activities across financing,