AMBROISE JEAN-LÉON – The Specter of Foreign Forces in Haiti – The Elephant

The so-called ‘Haitian crisis’ is primarily about outsiders’ attempts force Haitians to live under an imposed order and the latter’s resistance to that order.
What actually happened on the nights of October 6th and 7th, 2022, remains unclear. What reverberated was the rather loud rumor of the resignation of Haiti’s acting prime minister  Ariel Henry. He was a member of President Jovenel Moïse’s pro-US Pati Ayisien Tèt Kale (PHTK) party. (Moïse was assassinated in July 2021.) Had Henry truly resigned? Or was it just a well-propagated rumor? Could it have perhaps been both at the same time: that Henry might have indeed resigned but had been coerced to stay, thus making the news of his resignation spread like gossip that the governmental communication machine had fabricated for public consumption?
Nevertheless, we witnessed the following the next day: in Henry’s address to the nation, he first requested the intervention of foreign military forces in Haiti. He then made a formal request to the United Nations. This call was picked up by international organizations, particularly the Secretary General of the United Nations, António Guterres. In the media coverage of the events, no relationship was established between the (rumored) resignation of the de facto Prime Minister and his request for military intervention. Was it a way to keep our minds occupied while waiting on a response from the international community? Or was the military intervention a promise made by the international community to Henry for the withdrawal of his letter of resignation?
Media coverage has seemingly obscured what happened on October 6th and 7th by choosing to focus solely on the request for military intervention, obscuring a chain of events in the process. Was the same request addressed to the UN and the US administration? Or were these two distinct approaches: one within a multilateral framework and the other within a bilateral framework? Supposing it was the latter, what does this tell us about the Haitian government’s domestic policy, about US foreign policy toward (or against) Haiti, or even about geopolitics (as part of a white-hot world order)—especially in light of US Assistant Secretary of State Brian Nichols’ visit to Haiti, his ensuing meetings, and the presence of US Coast Guard ships in Haitian waters?
At least one thing’s for sure. Since the request for formal intervention and the presence of the US in the form of its warships and its emissary, the question of military intervention has been swiftly framed as a discourse on the supposed “consensus between Haitians.” In reality, it refers to the convergence of interests between the representatives of the de facto Haitian government; the representatives of the Montana Accord (agreed on between civic and political groups in the wake of Moise’s assassination); and the president, Fritz Jean, and prime minister, Steven Benoit, agreed on as part of that accord. The message is clear: If you do not want a military intervention, side with Ariel Henry, who initiated the request himself. Any posture of self-determination must undergo review by Ariel Henry and his crew.
In these circumstances, there can be no self-determination. It is as though those truly responsible for the military intervention (which was already underway) aren’t those who asked for it, but rather those who were unable to thwart it by finding an agreement with the former group. In this sense, the “nationalist” label (the current catchall term which, among other things, is being made to include any praxis refuting the colonial apparatus) refers to doing everything possible to avoid military intervention—and that means doing exactly what the representatives of the “Colonial Capitalist Internationale” want.
American presence in Haiti—in the form of warships and a high-ranking emissary—takes after historical colonial endeavors such as the Napoleonic expedition for the reestablishment of slavery (1802) and King Charles X’s fleet, sent to demand ransom for Haiti’s independence (1825). Yet, in this case, the point is not to put pressure on those who hold the keys to institutions, but rather to avoid losing control in a context where those in government are not only misguided, but also display the greatest shortcomings in managing the lives of the population for the better. The US’s current presence thus more closely echoes the language of the English warship HMS Bulldog, sent to shell the city of Cap Haitien to support President Geffrard against the anti-government insurrection of Salnave.
The Henry government uses the same grammar as its tutelar powers to discuss the current situation. Much has been made of “efforts deployed by the United States and Canada”: they have consisted in flying police equipment into Haiti on Canadian and US military cargo aircraft. Henry and the Haitian National Police offered warm, public thanks for material paid for with Haitian funds some time ago; indeed, these deliveries have come very late, and only thanks to pressure from Haitian civil society actors. More problematic still, the presence of foreign military planes at the Toussaint Louverture Airport in Port-au-Prince has served both as evidence of an ongoing military intervention and as a subterfuge to obtain such an intervention.
This request for intervention, while it seeks to obfuscate this fact, nevertheless exposes the political illegitimacy of the Henry government—made up of members of Henry’s PHTK and former members of the opposition. Its illegitimacy doesn’t rest on the usual discussion (or lack thereof) and confrontation between the governors and the governed, nor on the classic power play between the political opposition and the authorities in place; rather, it is the result of the absolute rejection on the part of Haitians of an order controlled and engineered by the PHTK machine in Haiti for over 10 years with one purpose in mind: defending the neoliberal interests and projects of the Colonial Capitalist Internationale. The request for intervention reveals the fact that the rejection of the PHTK machine is but one part of a broader rejection of the neoliberal colonial order as it has manifested itself in various anti-popular economic projects, which themselves were made possible by many attempts at reconfiguring Haiti socially and constitutionally: consider, to name but a few, the financial project of privatization of the island of Gonâve, the referendum to replace the 1987 Constitution, and others.
For the first time since the US military intervention of 1915 (the centenary of which was silenced by the PHTK machine), we are witnessing a direct confrontation between the Colonial Capitalist Internationale and the Haitian people, as local political go-betweens aren’t in a position to mediate and local armed forces (whether the military, the militias, or the armed gangs) aren’t able to fully and totally repress unrest. In this colonial scenario—drafted in the past five years, maintained and fueled by the geopolitics of “natural disasters,” epidemics, pandemics, and the presence of gangs (simultaneously functioning as the armed extensions of political parties and materializing “disorder”)—the only possible solution to chaos is military intervention by foreign forces.
Yet one cannot pretend that such an intervention will help the Haitian people, and no agreement crafted in the language of the colonial system can stifle popular demands and aspirations which, in the past twelve years, have built what Haitian academic and activist Camille Chalmers calls a real “anti-imperialist conscience.”
What of late has breathlessly been labeled the “Haitian crisis” must instead be identified as the highest point of the contradiction which has brewed throughout the PHTK regime: between the International Colonial Capitalists’ will to force us to live under an imposed order and our resistance to that order.

This post is from a partnership between Africa Is a Country and The Elephant. We will be publishing a series of posts from their site once a week.
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Ambroise Jean-Léon is the director of the l’institut Yves Déjean in Haiti.
The Assassination of President Jovenel Moïse and the Haitian Imbroglio
Haiti: The Struggle for Democracy, Justice, Reparations and the Black Soul
Haiti: Symbolism and Scapegoating in the Americas
Whether or not Twitter survives should be irrelevant to those committed to building a democratic public sphere.
Elon Musk finally bought Twitter. Although everyone expected the move to quickly prove foolhardy, the speed of the implosion has been impressive. The latest gaffe is a failed attempt to monetize verification by requiring paid subscriptions for them, which has led to all manner of comical impersonations (one macabre highlight was a “verified” George W. Bush account tweeting “I miss killing Iraqis. “Tony Blair” responded with “Same tbh”). Some are watching with shock and horror and wondering if Twitter can be saved. But, when sulfur and fire rains, it is best not to look back.
Africa Is a Country managing editor, Boima Tucker, put it best some years ago: “Contrary to the utopian dreams of the early internet, the idea of a more democratic communications space has given way to a system of capitalist exploitation.” The thing to reckon with is the extent to which we have exaggerated the emancipatory potential of networked communication and social media, partly owing to our own psychic overinvestments in it. Which is not to deny that it has never shown democratic and egalitarian potential, but that’s never been what Twitter is forThere can be no right platform in the wrong world.
What was Twitter for then? In the New York Review of Books, Ben Tarnoff describes it as a “network of influence.” In a world characterized by the economization of everything, social media is the place to commodify the self, to transform one’s unique traits and personality into a product for public display. The main imperative online is to “stay on brand,” to cultivate an appealing enough persona in the endless “production of new genres of being human.”
The key contradiction of social media use, of course, is that even though these platforms appear to us as complete products that we participate in and consume, we are the ones responsible for ensuring their possibility in the first place. As the media scholar Christian Fuchs notes, “Digital work is the organization of human experiences with the help of the human brain, digital media and speech in such a way that new products are created. These products can be online information, meanings, social relations, artifacts or social systems.” Thus, it is us who create the value of these platforms.
In a better world, these digital communications platforms would be democratically owned and operated. But one also wonders if in a better world they would be as necessary. Perhaps, when we are less socially disaffected, living in societies with social provision, an abundance of recreational public goods and less exploitative, dignifying work, then we would all have less reason to be online. For now, the question is: in a time when this ideal is nowhere close to being within view, how best can we use platforms like Twitter as tools to get us to that world?
The possible answers here are murky. Twitter seems like a critical piece of infrastructure for modern political life. Musk is not alone in thinking of it as a marketplace of ideas, as something like a digital town square. Yet, and especially in Africa, Twitter is not as popular a platform, and even on it, a minority of Twiteratti exert an outsized influence in terms of setting the discursive agenda. But setting aside the question of who is excluded from the digitalized public sphere of which Twitter is a cornerstone, the important question is whether the quality of political debate that takes place is healthy or desirable at all. Granted, it can be fun and cathartic, but at the best of times, amounts to hyper-politics. In Anton Jager’s explanation, this:
can only occur at a discursive level or within the prism of mediatic politics: every major event is scrutinized for its ideological character, this produces controversies which play out among increasingly clearly delineated camps on social media platforms and are then rebounded through each side’s preferred media outlets. Through this process much is politicized, but little is achieved.
We would lack critical self-awareness if we did not admit that Africa Is A Country is a venue whose existence greatly benefits from an online presence—so it goes for every media outlet. Tarnoff points out that “… if Twitter is not all that populous in absolute terms, it does exert considerable power over popular and elite discourses.” To lack an online presence is to reconcile oneself to irrelevance. Although, the news cycle itself is a disorienting vortex of one topic du jour to the next. It makes difficult the kind of long, slow, and sustained discourse-over-time that is the lifeblood of politics, and instead reduces everything into fleeting soundbites.
Nowhere is the modern phenomenon of what Polish sociologist Zygmunt Bauman called “pointillist time” more apparent than on Twitter. For Bauman, pointillist time is the experience of temporality as a series of eternal instants, and the present moment’s connection to the past and future “turns into gaps—with no bridges, and hopefully unbridgeable.” The consequence of this, is that “there is no room for the idea of ‘progress.’” Living through a mode where everything seems to be happening all at once, is both to experience time as what Walter Benjamin called “a “time of possibilities, a random time, open at any moment to the unforeseeable irruption of the new,” but curiously, at the same time, for everything to feel inert, and for nothing to seem genuinely possible.
For a while, notions of historical progress have been passé on the left, associated with Eurocentric theories of modernity. Now, more than ever, the idea is worth reclaiming. The Right today is no longer straightforwardly conservative, but nihilistic and anti-social, thriving on sowing deeper communal mistrust and paranoia. These are pathologies that flourish on Twitter. The alternative to media-fuelled hyper-politics and anti-politics is not real politics per some ideal type. Politics, in the first instance, is not defined by content, but by form. The reason our politics are empty and shallow is not because today’s political subject lacks virtues possessed by the subjects of yore. It’s because today’s political subject is barely one in the first place, lacking rootedness in those institutions that would have ordinarily shaped an individual’s clear sense of values and commitments. The alternative to digitized human association, as noted by many, is mass politics: only when the majority of citizens are meaningfully mobilized through civic and political organizations can we create a vibrant and substantive public sphere.
AIAC editor Sean Jacobs observed in his book, Media In Post-apartheid South Africa: “the larger context for the growing role of media in political processes is the decline of mass political parties and social movements.” Whether Twitter dies or not, and if it does, whether we should mourn it or not, should be beside the point for those committed to building a world of three-dimensional solidarity and justice.

This post is from a partnership between Africa Is a Country and The Elephant. We will be publishing a series of posts from their site once a week.
The distribution of global pandemic deaths ignored existing country vulnerability assessments and dealt some of the heaviest blows to the best prepared countries in the world
As COP 27 in Egypt nears its end, I find it difficult, almost impossible, to talk to my children about climate change. The shame of our monumental failings as a global community to address the greatest crisis our planet has consciously faced weighs too heavy. The stakes have never been higher, the moral quivering of political leaders has never been more distressing.
“All animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others,” goes the famous commandment from George Orwell’s political allegory Animal Farm. It applies with particular acuity to international negotiations, where each country has a seat, but seats hold very different weights. The outcome of the Sharm-El-Sheik conference will in large part depend on what Western governments are willing to commit to and follow up on. Rich European and other Western countries are historically responsible for the bulk of carbon emissions. The moral case for them being the first-movers and the biggest movers on cutting emissions is crystal clear, and genuine commitments on their part may hold the key to opening up the floodgate of policy innovation towards decarbonization in other countries.
In this context, viewed from the Global South, recent events in the country that still held the COP presidency until it was handed over to Egypt appear as signs of the madness that grips societies before a fall. In her short time as head of government in the UK, Liz Truss spoke as if she lived on another planet that did not show signs of collapsing under the battering of models of economic growth birthed under the British Empire, gleefully pronouncing that her three priorities for Britain were “growth, growth and growth.” Her successor, Rishi Sunak, announced that he would not attend the COP 27 climate summit because he had to focus on the UK economy. The silver lining is that Truss did not last long and Sunak was shamed into reversing his decision. In a scathing rebuke, the Spanish environment minister called the shenanigans of British political leaders “absurd” and pointed out that elections in Brazil and Australia show that voters are starting to punish leaders who ignore climate change.
I see another silver lining. Last week, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) announced that Europe was warming twice as fast as other parts of the world. A similar report was not issued for North America, but other studies indicate faster than average temperature increases across the continent’s northeastern coast, and its west coast was home to one of the most striking heat waves last year, with a memorable summer temperature peak of 49.6°C recorded in British Columbia, Canada.
Professor Petteri Taalas, the WMO secretary-general, emphasized that the findings highlighted that “even well-prepared societies are not safe from impacts of extreme weather events.” In other words, the report should make Europeans think it could happen to us, with “it” being devastating floods on the scale of what Pakistan and Bangladesh recently experienced, or the hunger-inducing droughts afflicting Madagascar and the Horn of Africa. While some may find it dismal that human beings remain relatively unmoved by the plight of other human beings considered too distant or too different, this is a part of human nature to reckon with. And reckoning with it can turn a sentiment of shared vulnerability into an opportunity for the planet.
Climate negotiations have repeatedly floundered on the unwillingness of rich countries to pay developing countries loss and damages to fund their transitions to greener energies and build crucially needed climate adaptability to limit deaths. Underlying such a position is a centuries-old smug belief that Europe and North America will never need to depend on solidarity from other parts of the world. The WMO report calls into question such hubris, as did the Covid 19 pandemic before that.
The distribution of global pandemic deaths ignored existing country vulnerability assessments and dealt some of the heaviest blows to the best prepared countries in the world. Europe and North America, where barely 15% of the world population resides, accounted for more than half of COVID deaths. Turning the normal direction of disaster statistics upside down, high- and upper-middle-income countries accounted for four out of five Covid deaths globally. While some scientists still pose questions over the real death toll in low-income countries, I was grateful to not live in the West during the pandemic. In Burkina Faso, Kenya and Senegal where I spent most of my pandemic months, I often encountered “COVID refugees,” young Europeans who had temporarily relocated to work remotely from Africa to escape pandemic despair at home.
We are at a point in our failures to fight climate change where fiction writers and other experts of human nature are often more useful than scientists in indicating what our priorities should be. Many fiction writers have turned their focus on what will be necessary for humans to remain humane as societies crumble. Before we get to that stage, let us hope that political leaders and delegates keep remembering that climate disaster could very concretely befall them personally at any time. Let us hope that the sense of equal—or more cynically, unpredictable—vulnerability instills a sense of global solidarity and a platform to negotiate in true good faith. Let us hope that we can start talking to our children again about what we adults are doing to avert the disaster that looms over their futures.

This post is from a partnership between Africa Is a Country and The Elephant. We will be publishing a series of posts from their site once a week.
The East African Crude Oil Pipeline has been thrown into the spotlight as investors raise concerns about environmentally damaging companies issuing debt labelled “sustainable”.
In the Campos basin off the south-east coast of Brazil, two ships contracted by a major energy corporation will be used to mine vast quantities of oil in a project that could generate more than 1 billion tonnes of CO2 emissions.
In east Africa, an engineering company is preparing to start work on the construction of an environmentally devastating oil pipeline that threatens to derail vital targets set out in the Paris Agreement. And in the north of India, one of the world’s largest cement companies – which last year emitted more CO2 than Greece – has applied to clear a large swathe of forest less than a kilometre away from a wildlife sanctuary.
All these companies’ operations have not only been facilitated by HSBC – which claims it is “helping to lead the transition to a more sustainable world” – but have benefited from deals that the bank has labelled sustainable finance.
HSBC has committed to contribute up to $1 trillion in sustainable financing and investment by 2030. However, the Bureau can reveal that billions of dollars being counted towards this target are in fact helping to fuel the climate crisis.
Central to the issue is a relatively new financial product known as a sustainability-linked bond (SLB). SLBs are an ostensibly green type of debt, designed for companies to raise money to fund their transition to more sustainable activities.
Companies that raise funds through SLBs do not face tight restrictions on how that money is used; instead they agree to certain targets related to sustainability. But these targets are often remarkably weak and the penalties for failing to meet them can be paltry – leaving SLBs as a way for companies to give the appearance of environmental concern while continuing to worsen the climate crisis.
For instance, the cement company applying to clear woodland in India is UltraTech, which has faced strong opposition in the country over environmental damage caused by its operations and was recently fined for breaching air pollution limits. HSBC has helped UltraTech borrow $400m via an SLB, according to data provided by Refinitiv, with a target for the company to cut emissions by 22% per tonne of cement produced by March 2030.
But should UltraTech fail to meet that target, the penalty would be an increase in the rate of interest on the bonds of less than 1%. And because the assessment date is just six months before the debt is due to be repaid, the total sum would be just $3m – or 0.05% of the company’s revenues last year.
An analysis of the bonds HSBC counts towards its sustainable finance target found at least $2.4bn worth of deals for companies that are worsening the climate crisis. Whether in the form of “green bonds” or SLBs, the bank is helping raise money to fund the expansion of fossil fuels, air travel and deforestation – and labelling it as sustainable finance.
Sean Kidney, chief executive of the non-profit Climate Bonds Initiative, told the Bureau that companies find SLBs particularly attractive because they are easier to issue than green bonds: “Treasurers will try anything that reduces their cost of capital,” he said, adding that the SLB market is “deeply compromised” and bank targets for sustainable finance are “flaky as hell”.
HSBC is already under pressure over greenwashing after a series of adverts about the bank’s environmental initiatives was banned by the UK advertising watchdog. The Advertising Standards Agency said HSBC had misled customers and had to ensure that any future claims did not “omit material information” about its contribution to the climate crisis.
Ulf Erlandsson, chief executive of the Anthropocene Fixed Income Institute, a research body, said sustainable finance is used like a “papal indulgence you buy for your sins”.
He added: “You might subsidise the sustainable part of your business and push on that for your green statements while continuing to be involved with a large oil corporation.” He points to HSBC’s longstanding relationship with Saudi Aramco, the world’s most polluting company, for which the bank is reported to have facilitated billions of dollars in loans.
As well as its heavy carbon emissions, UltraTech has been repeatedly criticised for its impact on the local environment. People living near its mines in Gujarat say dust from the operations have damaged their crops. Some houses are just 50 metres from UltraTech’s stockyard, which is piled high with surplus cement.
The company’s permit requires it to settle the cement dust with water but local residents say this rarely happens. Those who live closest to the plant sweep up mounds of dust every day and have noted a rise in cases of lung disease in recent years.
UltraTech told the Bureau all of its cement manufacturing units are operating in full compliance with all applicable environmental norms and regulations.
Another bond HSBC counts towards its sustainable finance target was raised by Worley, which does most of its business in fossil fuels and petrochemicals. Worley borrowed more than $600m via a sustainability-linked bond last year with the help of HSBC. Under the terms of the bond, Worley has committed to cutting the emissions of its operations and its energy suppliers. But this pales in comparison to the emissions the company facilitates through its work expanding oil and gas production and coal mining.
For example, the company is the engineering contractor for the East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP) – an environmentally ruinous project that will slice through elephant and giraffe habitats and is expected to generate 33m tonnes of CO2 each year. EACOP is expected to pump 216,000 barrels of oil per day from new oil fields in Uganda, a country at the frontline of the climate crisis.
‘We need more rules so in a year’s time, HSBC will find it much harder to put in crap bonds. At the moment it’s an absolute mess’ – Sean Kidney, Climate Bonds Initiative
“Climate change is really a major concern when you look at a project like EACOP,” said Diana Nabiruma from the Africa Institute for Energy Governance, an NGO focused on promoting clean energy. “We are already experiencing climate change and we are one of the least prepared countries to address its impacts.”
More than half a million people are starving in Karamoja, in the north-east of Uganda, a famine that experts blame in part on the harsh drought and damaging floods that have battered the region. Ugandan MP Faith Nakut broke down when describing a recent visit. “A whole family died because they had no food,” she said. “So I came back really heartbroken because … I never imagined we would be at the level where people die because they were lacking food.”
EACOP’s 1,400km route crosses a number of nature reserves and one third of the pipeline runs alongside the vast Lake Victoria, which more than 40 million people depend on for their livelihoods. An Oxfam-commissioned review of its environmental assessment warned that oil spills “will occur” as a result of the project. Erlandsson said he would be wary of any sustainable finance product linked to EACOP because it is so controversial.
Worley, which did not respond to our request for comment, is working on several other projects expanding fossil fuels around the globe. One is the Nigeria-Morocco gas pipeline that will extend to Europe – an estimated $25bn project due to be completed in 2046, just four years before the world is supposed to achieve net-zero emissions according to the Paris Agreement.
The International Energy Agency has said that for global emissions to fall to net zero by 2050, and to limit global heating to 1.5C, new investments in oil and gas need to stop now.
That message has not filtered through to Yinson, a Malaysian company that contracts out FPSOs – vast ships converted into floating oil rigs. It has leased two of its ships to Brazil’s state-controlled energy group, which is amassing the world’s largest fleet of FPSOs, to mine the Campos basin – a project that has been described as a “carbon bomb”. Yinson raised $240m with an SLB arranged by HSBC with targets to reduce the carbon emitted by these ships and increase its production of renewable power.
If it fails to meet these targets, the maximum penalty Yinson will face is just $600,000 – or 0.07% of last year’s revenues. What’s more, the agreement covers the carbon emitted by the ships – but makes no mention of the vast increase in emissions from burning the oil that the vessels will help extract. Yet the money will still be labelled by HSBC as sustainable finance and counted towards its green goals.
Gustavo Pimentel, chief executive of NINT, an ESG research and advisory company, said calling this debt “sustainable” is greenwashing. “Somehow the market converged to call everything ‘sustainability-linked’ and I think this does a poor job of informing investors and society in general of what each transaction actually contributes to society,” he said.
A large part of the problem with SLBs lies in the fact that the second-party opinion providers, which assess the bonds’ sustainability credentials, are hired by the very companies issuing the bonds.
The consultancy hired by Yinson to assess its bonds, ISS, found the targets to be “relevant, core and material”. ISS came to this conclusion despite noting that Yinson’s “decarbonisation roadmap” appears to involve the company providing FPSOs for oil and gas production until 2050, while the International Energy Agency has called for major reductions in oil and gas production much earlier than that.
Yinson declined to comment.
HSBC’s sustainable finance target can also be met with green bonds, some of which are fuelling the climate crisis and would be considered greenwashing by one of its own senior bankers.
“For me, greenwashing is an issuer [of a green bond] financing an initiative that’s ultimately not aligned with the Paris Agreement,” Farnam Bidgoli, then head of HSBC’s sustainable bonds group in Europe, told Capital Monitor last year. “The assessment shouldn’t just be on the use of proceeds, but the whole company profile. It’s much more about the holistic issuer strategy.”
HSBC, however, helped the Airport Authority of Hong Kong raise $1bn via a green bond that can be used to fund the expansion of the airport. The proceeds can be put towards various ostensibly sustainable projects – such as developing “green buildings” – but the deal fails to account for the dramatic increase in carbon emissions from the extra flights that will result from the airport’s near doubling of capacity.
HSBC also helped Etihad Airways raise $600m with an SLB, with targets for the company to reduce the CO2 it emits per flight. The second-party opinion provider – paid for by the airline – said Etihad Airways’ 2025 targets were not in line even with the less ambitious 2C scenario target set by the Paris Agreement, but approved them anyway.
Etihad Airways told the Bureau: “By issuing a sustainability-linked [bond], Etihad is voluntarily adding to its existing commitments.” It said the proceeds of the bond will be used to fund investments in its transition to becoming a net-zero company by 2050. Vigeo Eiris, which evaluated the target, said the bond aligned with international standards and that the assessment was accurate at the time it was published.
Other bonds that HSBC puts towards its sustainable finance target include those raised by energy giants Enel, which is expanding the capacity of its gas-fired power stations; and Repsol, which was responsible for an oil spill that has been called Peru’s worst ever environmental catastrophe. Proceeds of the green bond raised by Engie, a French energy company, can be used to convert two power plants from burning coal to burning wood instead. Many scientists say power stations that burn wood add two to three times as much carbon dioxide to the air as those burning fossil fuels.
Enel told the Bureau its overall electricity output is expected to grow but that the proportion generated by burning gas and other fossil fuels will decrease by 2024, in line with its path to net zero by 2040. Repsol declined to comment. Engie disputes the scientists’ analysis of emissions from burning wood for energy compared with fossil fuels.
Elsewhere, HSBC helped raise $600m via an SLB for a financing arm of John Deere, which provides credit lines for buyers of its own heavy machinery. This has been linked to the illegal deforestation of the Amazon, according to a recent report.
John Deere told the Bureau: “We do not condone the use of our machinery in illegal activities on protected or preserved land. Such activity violates John Deere’s values and policies which aim to create sustainable solutions for all customers. John Deere Financial in Brazil meets and/or exceeds all federal regulations for reviewing and approving financing applications.”
HSBC also worked with China Construction Bank (CCB) to raise an SLB with a target that it may have already reached at the time the bond was issued. CCB last year helped thermal coal companies raise $34bn, according to the Global Coal Exit List.
The Beijing-based Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), meanwhile, issued several bonds that will go towards HSBC’s sustainable finance target. AIIB has pledged not to support coal-related infrastructure but in practice the bonds could be used to fund any of its ongoing projects. These include the upgrade of a major coal transport route in Bangladesh that uprooted hundreds of homes and businesses, and the development of a floating offshore gas carrier to be contracted out to BP.
Neither CCB nor AIIB responded to our requests for comment.
Kidney of the Climate Bonds Initiative said so-called sustainable finance warrants serious scrutiny from media and NGOs. “We’ve got to put up more guidance and more rule sets, then we’ll start shooting people down more aggressively, including the banks. So in a year’s time, HSBC will find it much harder to put in crap bonds. It is, at the moment, an absolute mess.”

This article was first published by The Bureau of Investigative Journalism.

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