Banking giant HSBC is under fire from major investors over its funding of fossil fuels as carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere are set to hit 50 per cent higher than before the Industrial Revolution. Meanwhile, Asda is to trial a new vegan butcher counter – ‘Veelicious’ – as a record 500,000 people sign up to Veganuary, a new poll reveals the majority of UK banking customers want greener financial services, and Alok Sharma is to stand down as business secretary to focus full-time on his role as president of the UN COP26 climate talks. It’s the Good With Money weekly news brief.
HSBC under fire for funding fossil fuels
Banking giant HSBC is under fire for financing the fossil fuel industry after a group of investors filed a climate resolution ahead of the bank’s annual meeting in April.
The lender announced in October that it would become a “net zero” carbon emissions bank by 2050. However, some of Europe’s biggest investors – including Amundi and Man Group – said it was failing to take climate change seriously and has made no specific commitments to reduce funding for fossil fuels.
The resolution, which was filed by 15 institutional investors with $2.4 trillion (£1.7 trillion) in assets, and 117 individual shareholders, called on HSBC to publish a strategy and targets to reduce its exposure to fossil fuel assets.
Responsible investment charity ShareAction, which brought the shareholders together, said the bank is Europe’s second-largest financier of fossil fuels after Barclays.
Carbon levels 50% higher than before Industrial Revolution
Global carbon dioxide levels will be 50 per cent higher this year than before the start of the Industrial Revolution, according to a new forecast that reveals the rapid pace at which humans are polluting the atmosphere.
It took more than 200 years for the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere to grow 25 per cent by the end of the 1980s. The remaining 25 per cent has happened in the last 30 years as the pace of deforestation and burning of fossil fuels picked up rapidly.
The concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere – which varies throughout the year, peaking in May – is set to exceed 417 parts per million for several weeks this year, according to the new Met Office report.
While the pandemic caused a sharp drop in greenhouse gas emissions in 2020, CO2 stays in the atmosphere for hundreds of years. This means any emissions pumped into the air will have an effect for generations. A separate report, published in Nature Climate Change, reveals that the amount of greenhouse gases already released into the atmosphere by humans will likely warm our planet beyond the limits set out under the Paris climate agreement.
Meanwhile, Chinese scientists have begun using blankets to protect vulnerable glaciers from melting amid rising temperatures.
Asda trials vegan butcher counters
Asda is to introduce a vegan butcher counter – named Veelicious – in its stores.
The new counter will offer products including ‘facon’, bean burgers, meat-free meatballs, vegan cheeses, ready-to-eat meal kits and other vegan staples. Like it’s meat and fish equivalents, the counter will be manned by a vegan butcher who will help customers to choose vegan products.
Veelicious, a concept created by Kbox Global, will be trialled for six months at Asda’s Watford store, with plans to roll it out nationwide if it proves a success.
Asda’s Chief Strategy Officer Preyash Thakrar stated: “The demand for vegan products is on the rise and we have seen a surge in people seeking out ways to easily enjoy a plant-based lifestyle.”
Asda already stocks a large range of vegan products in its stores and has now expanded its own plant-based range. The brand has added 22 more products to the range, which include Steakless Bakes and Vegan Chicken Nuggets.
Meanwhile, restaurant chain Leon has introduced a vegan subscription service and ‘LOVe Burger At-Home Kit’ to help consumers choose vegan foods during the new lockdown.
This year, a record 500,000 people have signed up to the Veganuary challenge to eat only plant-based foods for a month.
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Bank customers demand greener financial services
Banks that finance fossil fuels other environmentally destructive activity are running the risk of losing customers, according to recent poll.
More than 60 per cent of some 1,250 British adults polled by consultancy giant Deloitte said they would leave their bank if they discovered it was linked to environmental or social harm, even if it had the best financial offer available.
Nearly half of respondents chose ‘financing of fossil fuels’ as a reason they would switch banks, with seven in 10 people saying they would be more likely to choose a bank that had a positive social and environmental impact.
The Better Banking Survey also reveals that the majority of customers are satisfied by their banks’ environmental and social commitments, with 61 per cent of respondents reporting they thought their bank was “strongly committed” to such issues.
Deloitte says the findings reflect growing calls from investors, regulators, and customers for the banking sector to reduce its exposure to climate risk.
COP26: Alok Sharma leaves business job to focus on climate role
Alok Sharma is to stand down as business secretary to focus full-time on his role as president of the UN COP26 climate conference in November.
The Glasgow event is expected to be the biggest summit the UK has ever hosted. Mr Sharma, who will remain in the cabinet, said he was “delighted to have been asked by the PM to dedicate all my energies” to the position.
Kwasi Kwarteng replaces him as business secretary while Anne-Marie Trevelyan becomes the new energy minister.
The government says a successful summit will be critical if the UK wants to meet the objectives set out by the Paris Agreement and reduce global emissions.