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Climate change activists dressed as chimney sweeps protested outside the HSBC branch on Royal Avenue, Belfast ahead of today’s AGM in Birmingham. Dressed in Victorian clothing to symbolise coal’s connection to the past, they are campaigning against the bank’s policy of funding new coal-fired power plants in Bangladesh, Indonesia and Vietnam. Later they handed a letter into the branch, addressed to Chief Executive John Flint.

The Belfast action is among dozens of similar actions held across the UK, photographs of which are being presented to shareholders attending today’s HSBC AGM in Birmingham.

Christian Aid organiser, Helen Newell said:

“HSBC claims to be a leader on climate change but they are continuing to fund coal-fired power plants in three countries most vulnerable to the effects of climate change: Bangladesh, Indonesia and Vietnam. Coal is the dirtiest of the fossil fuels, contributing most to climate change as well as to local air pollution. In the developing world, climate change is already making poor people even poorer.”

Christian Aid is urging the bank to stop financing new coal plants, and to publish a plan for phasing out fossil fuel finance and increasing finance for renewable energy.

Referring to the recent school strikes for climate change, Ms Newell said:

“While young people demand action on climate change, banks like HSBC continue to pour money into coal companies that endanger our future. HSBC’s strapline is ‘together we thrive’ but by keeping the finance tap flowing for coal companies, the bank’s actions could lead to quite the opposite. The fact is that climate change is making it hard for millions of people to simply survive.”

Christian Aid is calling for HSBC to stop financing companies that make more than 30% of their money from coal mining or coal power.