A guest blog from our partner Christian Aid
Sometimes it’s easy to fill in a petition, put your name on a postcard or hashtag away on social media and wonder if you’re making any impact. Does anyone on the receiving end really take any notice?
Last year campaigners from Wolverhampton were one of many groups around the country to collect signatures for our pig-shaped Big Shift petition. The poster petition was handed into a local bank, with a letter to the CEO, demonstrating how many people in their area cared enough to sign the poster.
Theirs was just one of hundreds of these posters. Hundreds more people sent letters, and thousands of people sent postcards (yes, Greenbelters, you too!) and emails.
Now we know for sure our message is being received because a few weeks later, Brenda, Sharon and David from Wolverhampton received a letter inviting them to HSBC headquarters for a face to face meeting!
The Wolverhampton campaigners were the ones to receive the invite, but we know this wouldn’t have happened without the thousands of other messages sent to the biggest banks from across the UK – including the 3,000+ campaign postcards signed and collected at Greenbelt 2017.
The Wolverhampton group had a constructive conversation with Daniel Klier, Head of Strategy and Global Head of Sustainable Finance, about why HSBC is still funding fossil fuel companies. HSBC put forward their point of view while the group were given the opportunity to explain why they want HSBC to make the Big Shift.
For Sharon, the meeting motivated her to keep on working as part of the Big Shift movement;
“It made me feel that there’s a lot more we can do. It made me stronger, more confident and feel glad to be part of Christian Aid. I’m really proud of our supporters in Wolverhampton.”
A few weeks later, on the day of their AGM, HSBC released a new energy policy. It notes that most fossil fuels will need to stay in the ground if we are going to limit temperature rise. It’s great that they have recognised this, but the crucial thing is what they do about it!
The new policy rules out direct funding for new coal plants… almost. The exception is that HSBC will continue to fund new coal plants in Indonesia, Vietnam and Bangladesh if the evidence suggests that there are no alternatives. The Financial Times reported this new policy as a ‘Big Shift’ and described its timing as an attempt to ‘seek to head off criticism from pressure groups.’ This means they are listening!
However, these three countries are all particularly vulnerable to a changing climate. We firmly agree that millions of people around the world have a right to energy access that they are currently without — but coal is not the solution. These countries have massive potential for renewable energy, and various studies indicate that renewables will be cheaper, cleaner and more secure than fossil fuels.
There’s plenty more to do, but we know that the banks are listening, thanks to you. Let’s keep it up until the positive words are matched by significant action.
You can keep up the pressure on the banks by emailing them now, and replying to their standard replies. In these messages, they try to assert that they are doing all they can to tackle climate change. They are not. Here are some tips on what to say to each of the four banks.