DESPITE “warm words” on climate action during COP26 in Glasgow, HSBC’s continued investment in fossil fuels is “unbelievable”, climate groups have said.

Environmental activist group Market Forces has said it has obtained figures which show HSBC is continuing to finance oil and gas deals in 2022.

The group claims this flies in the face of the goal to reach net zero by 2050, which it says HSBC has signed up.

Market forces says that since January 1, HSBC has "acted as a bookrunner for a $1.5 billion bond for the Korea National Oil Corporation, the state-owned oil company of South Korea” and “acted as a lead arranger for a $290 million loan to China Oil and Gas Group, a Hong Kong-based oil and gas company that is involved in oil and gas exploration and liquified natural gas (LNG) production”.

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Adam McGibbon, UK Campaign Lead at Market Forces, said: “HSBC goes into the new year continuing to make its own ‘net zero by 2050’ goal impossible by financing companies that are expanding the fossil fuel industry.

“Real climate leadership means an immediate end to financing for any companies expanding the fossil fuel industry. Anything else just amounts to more empty words.”

In December, the bank released a long-awaited policy on financing thermal coal, saying it expected all its clients to have a plan in place to exit the fossil fuel by the end of 2023.

But climate groups accused HSBC of not going far enough or acting with sufficient “urgency” on the climate crisis.

The National: RETFORD, UNITED KINGDOM - NOVEMBER 30:  The coal fuelled Cottam power station generates electricity on November 30, 2009 in Retford, Nottinghamshire, United Kingdom. As world leaders prepare to gather for the Copenhagen Climate Summit in December, the

Climate change groups have called out HSBC for its financing of fossil fuel projects across the world

Sally Clark, divestment campaigner with Friends of the Earth Scotland, told The National: "HSBC is one of the biggest funders of climate-wrecking fossil fuels in the world and it is shocking that the bank is continuing to invest in coal, oil and gas projects that are devastating communities and making the climate crisis worse.

"The past seven years have been the hottest on record and if we are to have any chance of keeping global temperature rises below 1.5 degrees and avoiding the worst impacts of climate breakdown, it is essential that banks like HSBC stop funding the fossil fuel companies that are driving the climate emergency.”

Ben Margolis, director at the Climate Coalition told The National: “At the close of 2021 polling of public opinion showed concern about climate change to be at its highest levels ever.

“It is crucial that financial institutions rapidly shift their investments to ensure they are aligned with the transition needed to keep global heating below 1.5 degrees.

“Despite their public commitments to moving away from fossil fuels, it is very concerning that HSBC are continuing with a business as usual approach which is already devastating lives across the world.”

The National: Climate activists protesting during the official final day of the Cop26 summit in Glasgow. Picture date: Friday November 12, 2021. PA Photo. See PA story ENVIRONMENT Cop26. Photo credit should read: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire

Campaigners said HSBC offered 'warm words' during the COP26 climate summit but did not match the rhetoric with action

Margolis said the overwhelming majority of people want to see greater action on climate change, whether that be from private businesses or governments.

“Moreover,” he said. “While we’re experiencing a surge in the cost of energy bills hitting the pockets of households across the UK, it’s unbelievable that investment is going into damaging fossil fuels, rather than clean energy that will bring down prices and not cost us the Earth.”

The COP26 climate talks ended in November in Glasgow with an agreement to get countries to strengthen their emissions-cutting targets for 2030 by the end of next year in a bid to limit dangerous warming.

Ministers and negotiators at the UN summit sent a signal on the shift away from the world’s dirtiest fuel, with a deal calling for efforts to escalate the “phase down” of unabated coal, as well as the phasing out of inefficient fossil fuel subsidies.

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The Glasgow Pact was watered down at the last minute – following a push by India and China – from escalating the “phase out” of unabated coal, to “phase down”, prompting angry responses from European and vulnerable countries.

But it is the first explicit mentions of fossil fuels in a UN climate agreement.

The deal aims to keep limiting global warming to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels “alive” or within reach, in the face of a huge gap between the action countries are taking and what is needed to meet the goal.

A HSBC spokesperson said: "In December 2021, HSBC set out a detailed plan to phase out the financing of thermal coal-fired power in EU and OECD countries by 2030, and worldwide by 2040.

"We will publish targets to align financing for the Oil and Gas and Power and Utilities sectors with the goals and timelines of the Paris Agreement in our 2021 Annual Report and Accounts on 22 February 2022."