(Bloomberg) -- HSBC Holdings Plc promised to “phase down” its financing of the fossil fuel industry, sending a warning to oil and gas clients as the bank works toward its target of net-zero emissions.

The step is in line with “what is required to limit the global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius,” HSBC said on Wednesday.

Like most of its top-tier banking peers, HSBC is looking for ways to cut emissions without losing business. For now, it remains one of the major funders of big oil and gas. HSBC helped fossil-fuel companies raise about $52 billion from selling bonds since the Paris climate agreement was announced at the end of 2015, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Among European banks, only Barclays assisted in underwriting more debt for the oil, gas and coal industries.

HSBC said it will continue to work with energy sector clients “who take an active role in the energy transition and who apply good industry practices around environmental, social, and governance issues.”

The bank has promised to publish a group-wide climate transition plan next year. That will include a comprehensive overview of its climate-related work, and will also show how HSBC plans to embed science-based emissions targets into its processes, policies and governance. 

ShareAction, a nonprofit, said the latest commitments from HSBC follow years of climate activism targeting the bank. “Importantly, HSBC has pledged to update the scope of its fossil fuel targets to cover capital markets activities by the fourth quarter of 2022, a key point omission in its recently published climate targets,” ShareAction said in a statement.

HSBC said it will also look at updating its wider financing polices in light of its net zero commitment, including those for conventional and unconventional oil and gas, methane emissions, and environmentally critical areas such as the Arctic and Amazon.

“We believe we can have the biggest impact on climate action by actively engaging our clients on their transition, focusing on the need for robust and credible transition plans, and by providing the financing and advisory solutions that help unlock the investments needed,” said Celine Herweijer, HSBC’s chief sustainability officer. 

“We know we need to transform the bank to achieve this,” she said. “And we want to demonstrate the actions we are taking to make this happen.”


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