UK banks slammed over 'hollow' climate stance on coal

London (AFP) –


Britain's biggest banks have made "hollow" carbon-reduction pledges and are key financiers of coal, a campaign group said in a report Tuesday ahead of the UK hosting a climate summit.

Barclays, HSBC, Lloyds, NatWest and Standard Chartered provided $56 billion (46 billion euros) to coal firms over two years to late 2020, according to Reclaim Finance.

The British government, which will host UN global climate change summit COP26 in Glasgow in November, has itself pledged to hit net zero carbon emissions by 2050 to help meet its commitments under the Paris climate accord.

Britain's biggest banks must meanwhile back up their zero-carbon ambitions with concrete measures including an end to coal finance, Reclaim argued.

"While net zero announcements from UK financial institutions are multiplying, the coal sector is still attracting billions in financial support from UK banks and investors," read the report compiled along with German NGO Urgewald.

"When placed alongside the brutal reality of the climate and health impacts of the coal sector, these net zero pledges ring hollow."

London is the third biggest coal finance hub after New York and Tokyo, according to the report which used earnings and other publically available information.

"The findings of this report should serve as a wake up call to UK regulators, and financial company clients and shareholders, of the need for a renewed push to get UK financiers out of coal," the report added.

"UK banks, insurers and asset owners and managers need by the Glasgow COP26 in November to adopt robust coal exit policies."

Barclays topped the list of UK banks with more than $27 billion of coal sector finance over the last two years.

HSBC and Standard Chartered were also singled out for their heavy involvement.

Barclays countered that much of the research was out of date.

"The majority of the period covered in this research took place before we set our net zero ambition and before we started work to align our financing portfolio to the goals of the Paris Agreement in March 2020," it said.

HSBC said it would publish a plan later this year to outline its exit from the financing of all coal-fired power and thermal coal mining.

"Our policies prohibit the financing of new thermal coal mines and new customers dependent on thermal coal mining, and we have not provided project finance for new coal-fired power plants since early 2018," HSBC added.

Standard Chartered said it had made "major strides" in its coal policy in recent years and was continuing to review its positions "in light of shareholder feedback".

NatWest and Lloyds did not immediately respond to requests for comment.