7 October 2021
Banks called out over their failure to align policy and financing with net-zero by 2050 commitments.
Shareholder resolutions have today been lodged with ANZ, NAB and Westpac calling on the banks to end the billions of dollars of finance which continue to be poured into companies and projects expanding the fossil fuel industry.
The resolutions, supported by environmental finance organisation Market Forces, call for the banks to stop funding new fossil fuel projects and to reduce exposure to the coal, oil and gas sectors consistent with the global goal of net-zero emissions by 2050.
The resolutions follow a similar resolution lodged with the Commonwealth Bank in August, due to be voted on at its annual general meeting (AGM) next week (13 October).
The resolutions also land just weeks after Market Forces published analysis finding Australia’s major banks have continued undermining their net-zero commitments by lending billions to companies and projects expanding the fossil fuel industry.
Similar resolutions lodged in 2020 with ANZ and NAB received support of 28% and 26%, respectively, representing roughly a doubling of the support received in 2019.
NAB plans to release an updated oil and gas policy “in the coming months” and will be “measuring [itself] against” the conclusions of the IEA’s Net Zero by 2050 report. ANZ says it will update its climate policy by the end of 2021 and that this will “make reference to oil and gas”, while Westpac will wait until 2023 to “establish sector criteria” for oil and gas.
“Australia’s major banks have all committed to net-zero by 2050 but continue undermining that commitment through their financing activity,” said Market Forces Australian Campaigns Coordinator Jack Bertolus.
“The IEA’s Net Zero by 2050 report makes perfectly clear there’s no room for new coal, oil or gas supply projects, yet the banks continue funding these projects and the polluting companies pursuing them.”
“Continued large scale lending to fossil fuels is not only exposing these banks and their shareholders to increasing levels of climate risk, it’s also undermining our chances of getting the climate crisis under control.”
“These resolutions make crystal clear to ANZ, NAB and Westpac their commitments to net-zero by 2050 are meaningless without ruling out financing the expansion of the fossil fuel industry.”
According to Stuart Palmer, Head of Ethics Research at wealth management company Australian Ethical, “The message of the 2021 IEA and IPCC reports is clear: Banks cannot credibly claim they are enabling the net zero by 2050 transition when they make loans to companies expanding the coal, oil or gas sectors.”
Westpac’s reported fossil fuel exposure jumped from $5.32B in 2019 to $9.02B in 2020, as the bank revealed previously unreported exposure to sectors including LNG, coal transport, and oil and gas refining, retail and distribution.
ANZ’s exposure to oil and gas increased from $17.7B in FY16 to $19.9B in FY19, before declining to $17.6B in FY20. Despite this one-off decline, ANZ’s oil and gas exposure ($17.6B in FY20) rivals the total disclosed fossil fuel exposure of CommBank, NAB and Westpac: $21B in FY20.
NAB’s disclosure of fossil fuel exposure is far less transparent than each of its major competitors. Of what it does disclose, exposure to oil and gas extraction increased from $3.73B in September 2019 to $4.09B in March 2020, before declining to $2.76B in March 2021. Meanwhile, exposure to gas-fired power increased from $0.59B in March 2019 to $1.16B in March 2020, before declining to $0.78B in March 2021.