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Banking giant HSBC rules out financing controversial Keystone XL pipeline

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Banking giant HSBC rules out financing controversial Keystone XL pipeline

Barclays left isolated among UK Banks on tar sands pipeline funding

HSBC, Europe’s biggest bank, has today confirmed that it will no longer provide project finance for new tar sands projects including the construction of any tar sands pipelines.

This policy would exclude HSBC from providing project financing for the Keystone XL and Line 3 Expansion pipelines

HSBC also stated that its overall exposure to tar sands will reduce over time.

HSBC’s move, disclosed in its new Energy Policy, is the most recent in a series of decisions by international financiers to distance themselves from the controversial pipelines in North America. French banks BNP Paribas and Natixis, and insurance and investment giant Axa, as well as Dutch bank ING, and Sweden’s largest pension fund, AP7, all made similar announcements in 2017. [1]

Greenpeace is now calling on Barclays, the only other major UK-based bank providing loans for tar sands pipelines, to rule out financing new tar sands pipelines in North America.

Oil from tar sands is one of the most carbon-intensive fuels on the planet because of the large amount of energy needed to extract it. The proposed pipelines are key to the expansion of the tar sands fields in Alberta, Canada. Estimates show Keystone XL alone could potentially add nearly a million barrels of oil per day to current capacity, as well as an estimated 175 million additional tonnes of CO2 per year. [2]

Commenting on the announcement, John Sauven, Executive Director of Greenpeace UK said:

“This latest vote of no-confidence from a major financial institution shows that tar sands are becoming an increasingly toxic business proposition. It makes no sense to expand production of one of the most polluting fossil fuels if we are serious about dealing with climate change in a post-Paris world. HSBC has got the message. Now Barclays need  to decide if it wants to be the only UK bank offering project finance to tar sands pipelines.”

Annie Leonard, Executive Director of Greenpeace USA, said:

“The world has changed dramatically since these controversial tar sands projects were first proposed. In the US, we’ve seen record floods, hurricanes and wildfires super-charged by climate change. We’ve also seen a powerful, diverse, and growing movement step up to stop new fossil fuel infrastructure like the Keystone XL pipeline. This move by HSBC is the most recent indication that the financial community has begun to see the increasing risk in funding pipelines. We now expect banks like the US  giant JPMorgan Chase and Barclays, who have backed tar sands pipelines in the past, to cease their funding of these dirty projects.”

HSBC has previously participated in revolving credit facilities for TransCanada (the company building KXL) and Enbridge the company building the Line 3 expansion.

HSBC has also ruled out funding new coal fired power stations all around the world with the exception of three countries  – Bangladesh, Indonesia and Vietnam where funding may continue until 2023.

HindunMulaika of Greenpeace South East Asia said:

“By ruling out new coal funding by the end of 2019 in many countries, HSBC has taken a step in the right direction. However, by singling out Indonesia, Vietnam and Bangladesh as exceptions to their coal policy, they are creating a loophole in the countries that are most aggressive in their coal power planning and condemning their citizens to a lifetime of air pollution impacts. HSBC must close this loophole as soon as possible and turn their financial support to accelerating a transition to clean energy.”

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Bitcoin, ether hit fresh highs

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Bitcoin, ether hit fresh highs 1

SINGAPORE (Reuters) – Bitcoin hit a fresh high in Asian trading on Saturday, extending a two-month rally that saw its market capitalisation cross $1 trillion a day earlier.

The world’s most popular cryptocurrency rose to an record $56,620, taking its weekly gain to 18%. It has surged more than 92% this year.

Bitcoin’s gains have been fuelled by evidence it is gaining acceptance among mainstream investors and companies, such as Tesla Inc, Mastercard Inc and BNY Mellon.

Ether, the second-largest cryptocurrency by market capitalization and daily volume, hit a record $2,040.62, for a weekly gain of about 12%.

Ether is the digital currency or token that facilitates transactions on the ethereum blockchain. In the crypto world, the terms ether and ethereum have become interchangeable.

Ether futures contracts launched on derivatives exchange CME earlier this month.

(Reporting by Vidya Ranganathan; Editing by William Mallard)

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World Bank pushing for standard vaccine contracts, more disclosure from makers

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World Bank pushing for standard vaccine contracts, more disclosure from makers 2

By Andrea Shalal

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The World Bank is working to standardize COVID-19 vaccine contracts that countries are signing with drug makers, and is pushing manufacturers to be more open about where doses are headed, as it races to get more vaccines to poor countries, the bank’s president said on Friday.

World Bank President David Malpass told Reuters he expected the bank’s board to have approved $1.6 billion in vaccine funding for 12 countries, including the Philippines, Bangladesh, Tunisia and Ethiopia, by the end of March, with 30 more to follow shortly thereafter.

The bank is working with local governments to identify and fill gaps in distribution capacity, after they purchase vaccines under a $12 billion World Bank program, and also to standardize the contracts they are signing with manufacturers, he said.

The bank’s International Finance Corp, its private financing arm, has $4 billion to invest in expanding existing production plants or building new ones, including in developed countries, but needs more data on where current production is headed, he said.

“We are eager to be investing in new capacity, but it’s hard to do because you don’t know how much of the existing capacity is already committed to the various off-takers,” Malpass said in an interview with Reuters. New or expanded plants could be used to produce other types of vaccinations in the future, he said.

The bank’s funds could be used to expand plants in advanced economies, if the production was earmarked for developing nations, he said.

Malpass welcomed Friday’s pledge by the Group of Seven rich countries to intensify cooperation on the pandemic, saying it could help jump-start deliveries of vaccines to poorer countries, which are lagging far behind rich countries in getting shots in arms.

Data compiled by Our World In Data, a scientific online publication, showed Israel was leading the world in COVID-19 vaccinations, with nearly 82 of 100 people vaccinated, while India and Bangladesh reported less than one person per 100, Many African countries have not started at all.

Malpass said he was heartened by news about new vaccines coming down the road, and about Pfizer Inc and BioNTech SE seeking permission to store their vaccine at higher temperatures, which would ease another obstacle to deliveries in lower-income countries.

(Reporting by Andrea Shalal; Editing by Heather Timmons and Leslie Adler)

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Google to evaluate executive performance on diversity, inclusion

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Google to evaluate executive performance on diversity, inclusion 3

By Paresh Dave

(Reuters) – Alphabet Inc’s Google will evaluate the performance of its vice presidents and above on team diversity and inclusion starting this year, the company said on Friday in one of several responses to concerns about its treatment of a Black scientist.

Timnit Gebru, co-leader of Google’s ethical artificial intelligence research team, said in December that Google abruptly fired her after she criticized its diversity efforts and threatened to resign.

Alphabet and Google Chief Executive Sundar Pichai ordered a review of the situation. While Google declined to share specific findings, the company announced on Friday it will engage human resources specialists during sensitive employee departures.

Pichai in June said that by 2025, Google aims to have 30% more of its leaders come from underrepresented groups, with a focus on Black, Latinx and Native American leaders in the United States and female technical leaders globally. About 96% of Google’s U.S. leaders at the time were white or Asian, and 73% globally were men.

As a result of the investigation, the company also expanded a commitment announced in June to devote more resources to retaining and promoting existing employees, including by expanding a team addressing disputes among workers and their managers.

The diversity component of executive performance reviews was not previously announced, and the company did not immediately share details about what would be measured and how pay would be affected.

Alphabet for years had rejected proposals from shareholders and employees to set diversity goals and tie executive pay to them.

Irene Knapp, a former Google employee who advocated for one such proposal at a 2018 shareholder meeting, said on Friday, “I am pleased that they met our demand from 2018, which was a bare minimum that should have been easy to do immediately.”

Evaluating managers on diversity goals is becoming more commonplace. McDonald’s Corp on Thursday tied executive bonuses to diversity.

(Reporting by Paresh Dave; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

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