BRIEFING: Health impacts of coal-fired power projects with HSBC equity stakes

Through its equity holdings, HSBC has a stake in at least 137 coal-fired power plant units under development, in 11 different countries, based on an April 2021 investigation by Market Forces (2021). We assessed the likely health impacts of the air pollutant emissions from these projects, assuming they are all completed and brought into operation.

The key findings are:

  • The new coal units would emit more deadly air pollutants (sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and particulate matter) than all coal-fired power plants in the EU and the UK combined in 2019, assuming they all follow national emissions standards in the countries where they are built.
  • The air pollutant emissions would be responsible for an estimated 18,700 deaths from air pollution per year (95% confidence interval: 13,000–25,600), as well as 29,000 emergency room visits due to asthma, 25,000 preterm births and 14 million days of work absence per year.
  • The economic costs of the health impacts amount to 6.2 billion USD per year (95% confidence interval: 4.2–8.6) due to lost economic productivity, health care costs and welfare losses.
  • The projected health impacts are largest in India (8,300 deaths per year), followed by China (4,200), Bangladesh (1,200), Indonesia (1,100), Vietnam (580) and Pakistan (450).

HSBC has announced its intention to draw up a new coal policy by the end of 2021, and has committed to coal financing exit dates for the first time. However, HSBC’s proposed new policy will exclude its asset management arm, allowing continued investments in companies building new coal plants. This study shows the human and economic impact of those new coal plants.

Read the full briefing.

Projected increase in annual mean PM2.5 level from the studied plants.