Top Stories

December 15, 2021


Green groups worry HSBC's new coal exit policy “full of loopholes”

British bank HSBC has published its first official thermal coal financing exit policy with goals to reduce its exposure to thermal coal financing by at least 25% by 2025, increasing to 50% by 2030. In 2022, it will also draw up and publish a science-based emissions reductions target for its coal activities, in line with the Paris Agreement’s 1.5ºC pathway. However, activist investors like ShareAction and other green groups argue HSBC’s approach is too weak. They warn the policy only applies at the client level, meaning it excludes mergers and acquisitions and may indirectly keep supporting corporate groups developing new coal capacity or extending production post-2030 or post-2040. Additionally, HSBC has not stated a time-bound commitment to divest from companies with no or poor-quality transition plans. (edie)


Unite Students to pursue net-zero emissions by 2030

Leading provider of student accommodation Unite Students has committed to achieving net-zero emissions across its operations and developments by 2030, with any residual operational or development emissions planned to be removed by certified carbon offsets. The company’s carbon reduction targets have been validated by the UN-backed Science Based Targets Initiative (SBTi). Key to achieving Unite Student's overarching net-zero goals is a target to slash operational energy intensity by 28% over the next decade, in line with the Carbon Risk Real Estate Monitor (CRREM) 1.5ºC energy reduction pathway. The accommodation provider expects to invest around £10 million in energy initiatives a year, having identified £100 million of investment opportunities to help achieve its net-zero goals. (Business Green)


Google tells US staff to get vaccinated or face losing job

Tech giant Google has told its US staff they must be vaccinated against Covid-19 by the middle of January 2022 or face serious repercussions including a pay cut and ultimately the loss of their job. Employees were told they must declare their vaccination status and upload proof of it, or to apply for a medical or religious exemption. Employees who miss a deadline to comply with the rules will initially be placed on “paid administrative leave” for 30 days, followed by six months of “unpaid personal leave”. In the final step, Google will terminate the employment of not-exempt unvaccinated workers. Google is one of several large US employers to have adopted a “no jab, no job” policy for its workforce, a practice shown to be less common among British counterparts. (The Guardian)


Equinor and Cadent fire up plans for first UK hydrogen town

Gas giants Equinor and Cadent have partnered to explore the potential to convert a town near the Humber to run on low-carbon hydrogen gas, in the race to develop the UK's first hydrogen town. Specifically, the companies plan to develop a range of technical assessments and concepts that would detail how hydrogen production, storage, demand, and distribution could provide heat for an entire town. The project could draw on hydrogen produced at Equinor's proposed H2H Saltend project on the Humber, and then be distributed through Cadent's gas network in the region. Converting the gas networks of a town from natural gas to 100% low carbon hydrogen would drastically reduce the carbon emissions linked to home heating and could bring down overall emissions in the town by around 25%. (Business Green)


New York City set to ban natural gas in new buildings

The New York City Council is expected to vote to ban natural gas in new buildings, following in the footsteps of dozens of other smaller US cities seeking to shift from fossil fuels to cleaner forms of energy. Should the law pass, new buildings in the city of 8.8 million residents – the largest in the United States – will have to use electricity for heat and cooking. In the long-term the state also plans to stop using fossil fuels to generate electricity. The law would apply to new buildings under seven stories high at the end of 2023 and those over seven stories in 2027. Until now, the most populated US city that has banned natural gas in new buildings is San Jose in California with about 1 million residents. (Thomson Reuters Foundation)


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B4SI Annual Review 2021