Britain's HSBC firms up climate pledge after activist pressure

The HSBC bank logo is seen at their offices in the Canary Wharf financial district in London
The HSBC bank logo is seen in the Canary Wharf financial district in London, Britain, March 3, 2016. REUTERS/Reinhard Krause//
  • To align fossil fuel lending with 1.5 degrees
  • Will also reassess oil & gas, other policies
  • ShareAction-led investors pull AGM resolution

LONDON, March 16 (Reuters) - Britain's HSBC (HSBA.L) toughened its climate commitments and pledged greater openness about its progress on Wednesday after pressure from activists who said they would now withdraw a resolution slated for its next shareholder meeting.

HSBC said it would cut financing to the fossil fuel industry in line with the goal of capping global warming at 1.5° Celsius above the pre-industrial average, and from next year it would publish details of how it is implementing its goals.

HSBC, which has come under intense investor pressure, also said it will publish wider sector-specific data on how its clients are cutting carbon emissions, as Europe's second biggest lender by assets steps up efforts.

A group of investors coordinated by responsible investment NGO ShareAction said that as a result they were withdrawing a resolution calling on HSBC to close loopholes in its policy.

"Today's commitments are an important step for HSBC that showcase the impact of shareholder engagement," said ShareAction Chief Executive Catherine Howarth, citing the fossil fuel financing and pledge to update the bank's fossil fuel policies.

Scientists warn of irreparable damage if the world fails to hit its climate target and HSBC responded this year by saying it would assess all its policies to reflect best practice, including on oil and gas, the Arctic and the Amazon.

"As Europe's largest provider of financing to top oil and gas expanders, HSBC must act decisively," Howarth said.

HSBC said in February that it aimed to cut emissions associated with loans made to its oil and gas clients by 34% this decade, and would also set targets for its capital markets financing. read more

As part of the Climate Transition Plan to be published in 2023, HSBC would more closely link the targets to executive pay, the bank's sustainability chief Celine Herweijer told Reuters.

Reporting by Simon Jessop and Lawrence White; Editing by Alexander Smith

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.