HSBC secretly funding German coal mine despite green funding pledge

The largest bank in Britain, HSBC, has been secretly funding a controversial coal mine in Germany, despite pledging to stop financially supporting coal projects.  

It was only three months ago HSBC made this commitment, but this has already been broken, according to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism which uncovered a $340m loan to energy company RWE.  

Internal communication shows that senior figures at the bank asked for their involvement in the project to not be publicised.  

brown wooden door with glass panelProtesters are currently occupying the village of Lutzerath, the planned site for the coal mine, with two even reportedly building a tunnel to avoid being moved on by police.  

The nearby Garzweiler mine produces about 25 million tonnes of coal each year, a particularly dirty fuel which the International Energy Agency (IEA) recommends should be phased out globally by 2040.  

An anonymous HSBC banker told the Bureau: ‘We’re saying, ‘We don’t want our name to be associated with it, but here are the funds and please don’t tell anyone that we gave you the funds.’ I acknowledge that this approach is questionable.’  

At first, the deal was linked to sustainability goals and required RWE to hit some climate targets by 2025, but the penalty was only a minimal increase to the amount of interest it was paying back.  

HSBC has previously been accused of greenwashing and for funding environmentally damaging projects under the guise of ‘sustainable finance.’  

The bank told the Bureau: ‘Details of this [deal] and all its participating banks are in the public domain, as is normal. We have processes to ensure our financing aligns with our policies, which include an expectation on clients to produce and implement credible transition plans.’ 

Police continue to face off with protesters at the coal mine who are refusing to abandon the former village.  

‘If we want to save lives, if we don’t want this to keep happening, we need to save every bit of coal, every bit of fossil fuel in the ground,’ protester Dina Hamid told the BBC. 

Photo by Erik Mclean


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