Air pollution from planned new coal plants built by companies in which HSBC holds ownership stakes will cause an estimated 18,700 global deaths, close to half in India, from air pollution per year, a new research from the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air (CREA) said on Wednesday.
The air pollution from these coal plants, when they are completed, will also lead to 29,000 emergency room visits due to asthma, 25,000 preterm births and 14 million days of work absence per year.
The health impacts amount to $6.2 billion per year, with projected deaths highest in India (8,300 deaths per year), followed by China (4,200), Bangladesh (1,200), Indonesia (1,100), Vietnam (580) and Pakistan (450).
The study builds on an April 2021 investigation by environmental organisation Market Forces, which showed that HSBC holds ownership stakes in coal companies via its asset management arm.
These companies together plan at least 73 new coal plants (137 individual coal plant units), generating 99 gigawatts (GW) of energy from coal. CREA then used this data to analyse air pollution deaths caused per year when all 73 plants are completed.
HSBC has acknowledged that its plan to end coal financing by 2040 does not include its asset management arm.
The study by CREA used a well-established methodology for calculating air pollution impacts, and assumes that all the plants follow their respective national pollution standards.
Lauri Myllyvirta, Lead Analyst at the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air, said: “HSBC’s investments are perpetuating dependence on the dirtiest form of power generation, in countries that are already among the most polluted in the world.
“The tens of thousands of cases of death and disease that would result from HSBC-linked coal power plants underline the urgency of shifting investments to clean energy to protect public health and the global climate.”
Adam McGibbon, UK Campaign Lead at Market Forces, said: “As an investor in companies developing new coal power plants, HSBC has a financial interest in the failure of the Paris Agreement on climate change. Now we learn HSBC’s investment portfolio would also lead to hundreds of thousands of premature deaths, mainly in developing countries that should be getting priority access to clean, renewable energy.
“If HSBC plans to show its face at the COP26 climate talks in Glasgow this year, it had better clean up its act and disown any company trying to perpetuate the climate and human health crises brought about by fossil fuels.”