Home > Big four banks loan $10.7 billion to coal since Paris Agreement

Big four banks loan $10.7 billion to coal since Paris Agreement

10 May 2023

10 May 2023

Market Forces’ new analysis shows Australia’s big four banks – ANZ, Commonwealth Bank, NAB and Westpac – have loaned a combined $10.7 billion to the coal industry since the Paris Agreement was signed, with ANZ ($3.6 billion) and NAB ($3.3 billion) the worst offenders.

In recent years, all of Australia’s big four banks –  ANZ, Commonwealth Bank, NAB and Westpac – have committed to a complete exit from the thermal coal industry by 2030, but what are they doing in the meantime? 

Whilst the big four claim they won’t lend to new thermal coal projects directly, they’re still open to funding the companies developing those projects.

For example, Whitehaven Coal has just announced it will fast-track mining at its new Vickery coal project, aiming to start construction in June this year. The project will begin with an initial ‘box-cut’, producing 1 million tonnes of thermal coal per annum as early as next year, with Whitehaven then wanting to rapidly ramp up to 10 million tonnes of coal per annum with the full Vickery development.

And the company is pursuing these plans with the financial backing of two of Australia’s biggest banks: NAB and Westpac. 

How do the banks stack up on coal lending?

Market Forces tracks the fossil fuel financing activity of ANZ, Commonwealth Bank, NAB and Westpac. As shown below each bank continues to lend millions to the coal industry each year, with ANZ and NAB making up the lion’s share of this dirty lending.

*Figures below are reported in $ AUD millions.

Bank wdt_ID 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020 2021 2022
ANZ 80 431 547 1,119 380 393 369 367
Commonwealth Bank 82 423 246 749 107 335 257 19
NAB 84 307 410 1,116 296 439 554 148
Westpac 85 191 162 527 193 442 107 38

The banks’ own reported exposure 

Each of the big four banks report their fossil fuel lending portfolio exposures. However, the banks use different reporting methodologies, with some reporting in more detail than others. That makes a like-for-like comparison on the banks’ own reported figures impossible. 

For instance, both Commonwealth Bank and Westpac report on their exposure to ‘Coal terminals ‘ and ‘Coal ports’, and Westpac also reports on its exposure to ‘Coal rail’. NAB and ANZ, do not report exposure to midstream coal infrastructure (terminals, ports or rail). The only coal categories the banks consistently report on are ‘Coal mining’ and ‘Coal power’. 

The below figures therefore do not exactly reflect each bank’s actual coal exposure. Westpac’s looks higher than the others but $0.79 billion of this exposure is ‘Coal rail’, which none of the other banks report on. Commonwealth Bank’s 2016 exposure was not reported.

The figures below are in AUD $ billions, as they are reported by the banks.

Bank wdt_ID 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020 2021 2022
ANZ 80 1.76 1.36 1.54 1.65 1.39 1.05 0.73
Commonwealth Bank 82 1.86 1.47 1.49 1.41 0.93 0.90
NAB 84 0.95 1.10 1.01 1.63 1.38 0.96 0.78
Westpac 85 1.50 1.10 1.88 1.11 1.56 1.37 1.85

The banks have now all published their half year results for the 2023 financial year, with updated exposures. The exposures reported on are limited to ‘Coal mining’ for all banks, with NAB also reporting on coal power which it has no direct exposure to. Commonwealth Bank also reports on all exposure to ‘black-coal’ mining, including within diversified miners, which ANZ and NAB do not report on. Due to the differences in reporting exposures, like-for-like comparisons are again difficult. Below are the results. 

ANZ: $0.9bn ($0.30 – Thermal) ($0.60 – Metallurgical) 

Commonwealth Bank: $0.8bn (Breakdown not provided) 

NAB: $0.63bn ($0.37 – Thermal) ($0.26 – Metallurgical)

Westpac: $0.5bn (Breakdown not provided)

*Note: Commonwealth Bank’s reported exposure to coal mining (and subsequently retrospective exposure) increased in the reporting period due to reclassification of an existing client from metals mining to coal mining. 

Regarding coal mining exposure, Commonwealth Bank also stated the following in its 2023 Half-Year results, “Includes all exposure with black coal mining as the ANZSIC classification. Includes 100% of CBA’s exposure to diversified miners that derive the largest proportion of their earnings from black coal mining. Total includes non-black coal mining related exposures within these diversified miners.” 

ANZ and NAB do not report on exposures within diversified miners, and Westpac did not provide a definition of inclusions/exclusions for total coal exposure. This likely inflates Commonwealth Bank’s exposure compared to the others, given it includes total exposures from diversified miners including non-black coal mining related exposure. 

ANZ: “This exposure is to the ANZSIC code 1102, ie those customers for whom thermal coal mining is their predominant activity. It does not include other thermal coal mining exposure to diversified miners, which will be captured under other ANZSIC codes”

NAB: “Thermal coal exposures includes direct exposure (including lending and guarantees) to customers whose primary activity is thermal coal mining. Includes performance guarantees for the rehabilitation of existing coal mining assets. Excludes metallurgical coal mining and diversified mining customers”

Westpac: Did not provide a definition in its half-year results.


ANZ is Australia’s largest institutional bank and comes in as the biggest coal lender since January 2016, having handed over $3.6 billion to the dirty coal industry in that timeframe. ANZ also lent the most in the 2022 calendar year, giving $367 million to the coal industry.

In October 2021, ANZ took part in a $566 million loan to United Tractors, a company involved in building a new 2 x 1000 MW extension of the Tanjung Jati B coal-fired power station in Central Java Province, Indonesia. At a time where global experts including the United Nations, IPCC, and IEA are imploring the world to move away from coal-power, ANZ is still funding companies adding more climate wrecking coal-fired power to the mix.

In March 2021, ANZ, Commonwealth Bank and NAB all took part in a giant $16.7 billion loan to Australia’s biggest coal-miner, Glencore. Glencore currently operates 17 coal mines across New South Wales and Queensland, and has three new or expanded proposed coal mines currently under assessment – including the greenfield Wandoan mine, Glendell expansion, and the Hunter Valley Operations expansion, which would see coal mines operating beyond 2050 – completely out of line any Paris-aligned scenario.  ANZ also participated in a loan to the Dalrymple Bay Coal Terminal, the parent company of which is planning a massive expansion for the terminal which would lift capacity from 84.2 million tonnes of coal per annum to 99.1 million tonnes.


NAB has come in as a close second for banking partner of choice to the coal industry, lending $3.3 billion since January 2016, just behind ANZ. ANZ and NAB’s latest half year results have ANZ still leading the way on exposure to coal mining $0.9bn vs. $0.63bn, but NAB has a higher reported exposure to thermal coal with $0.37bn against ANZ’s $0.3bn. 

NAB’s lending to the coal industry has been under fire recently, particularly its relationship with Whitehaven Coal. Of the big four, NAB has lent the most to Whitehaven Coal since 2016, committing $268 million to the climate wrecking coal company. Whitehaven’s latest development in Vickery is set to come online soon, and NAB has still not ruled out refinancing and giving more money to Whitehaven! 

In March 2021, NAB took part in a giant $16.7 billion loan to Australia’s biggest coal-miner, Glencore, alongside ANZ and Commonwealth Bank.

In December 2021, NAB took part in a $361m project finance loan to the new Olive Downs Metallurgical Coal Mine in Queensland. NAB’s policy doesn’t restrict finance for new metallurgical coal mines, despite the fact that the combusted emissions estimated from the Olive Downs mine will be a whopping 1.7 billion tonnes of CO2. For reference, that’s more than three times Australia’s 2021 annual emissions

NAB proudly declares on its website that it hasn’t financed any new thermal coal mining projects since 2015. However, in December 2018, ANZ and NAB were among lenders that provided $600 million to New Hope for purposes including the proposed New Acland Stage 3 coal mine in Queensland, a project which would produce 80.4 million ‘product tonnes’ of coal. New Acland received final approval from the Queensland Government in October 2022. 

This is a bank with historical and current deep ties to the coal industry, from terminals like Port of Newcastle and Dalrymple Bay to coal power producers like Berkshire Hathaway Energy (who want to operate coal plants until 2049) and coal miners like Glencore and Whitehaven. 

NAB must cut off finance to all companies expanding the coal sector.

Commonwealth Bank

For its part, Commonwealth Bank has significantly reduced lending to the coal industry in recent years. In 2022, Market Forces tracked only $19 million of lending from CBA to the coal industry.

Commonwealth Bank was the first of the big four to commit to exiting thermal coal by 2030, which set a precedent that the other three have since followed. 

Commonwealth Bank still participated in the $16.7 billion loan to Glencore in March 2021, which again demonstrates that its current policies are inadequate to stop more finance going to coal expanding companies. Whilst Commonwealth Bank has still provided the third most to the industry since the Paris Agreement, the bank’s lending figures have it tracking in the right direction. We need to see this trend matched by a policy commitment to prohibit finance going to companies developing new coal projects.

Now is the time to put the pressure on Commonwealth Bank.


Our research has found that of the big four banks Westpac have given the least to the coal industry since 2016, with $1.7 billion lent. Westpac gave $38 million to the coal industry in 2022, third most of the big four. 

However, Westpac is still exposed to Whitehaven Coal through a $1 billion loan provided back in February 2020. Westpac gave $110 million to Whitehaven as part of a 12 bank lending syndicate. The most concerning part of this is that Westpac still hasn’t ruled out giving Whitehaven more money and its current loan is due to be refinanced in July 2023! Westpac cannot give Whitehaven more money to proceed with its dirty new coal mines. 

Whilst Westpac’s overall downward lending trends are encouraging, we need to see a firm commitment from the bank to rule out any further finance for climate-wrecking coal companies like Whitehaven Coal.

Policy scorecard

Restricting corporate finance is key

Each of the banks has restricted project finance for new thermal coal mines and coal-fired power stations, but this doesn’t stop the banks from providing corporate finance to the companies building them. 

This is a major loophole allowing billions to flow from the big banks into the expansion of the coal industry. A report from Global Energy Monitor published in October 2022 found that almost 80% of global finance for planned coal projects comes from corporate finance loans. A recent report released in March 2023 found that 96% of global fossil fuel companies’ debt (given between 2016 and 2022) is corporate finance. 

Corporate finance is an avenue which allows the banks to conduct business-as-usual operations with their coal-sector clients and it’s leading to climate disaster.

‘Transition’ to more coal?

None of the big four expect their clients to have published transition plans until 2025, and it’s still not clear for the banks what a ‘credible transition’ plan looks like for customers in the coal industry. 

The climate time bomb is ticking and it’s time the banks ended their relationship with dirty coal companies that have no intention of transitioning. No ‘transition’ plan that allows for any new or expanded coal projects can be considered credible.
The amount of committed fossil fuel infrastructure in the world is enough to push us beyond the 1.5°C threshold. The banks cannot continue to give money to companies developing new coal projects in a world hoping to have a safe climate.

Bank Link wdt_ID Policies Assessment
ANZ https://www.anz.com.au/content/dam/anzcomau/about-us/anz-climate-change-commitment-2023.pdf 80 "Our exposure to thermal coal will continue to decline in line with our existing commitments, which includes no longer onboarding any new business customers with material thermal coal exposures, or directly financing new thermal coal mines or power plants" Policy rules out project finance for new thermal coal projects but not corporate finance for companies developing them.

Policy does not rule out project finance for new metallurgical coal mines, or corporate finance for the companies developing them.
Commonwealth Bank https://www.commbank.com.au/content/dam/commbank/about-us/download-printed-forms/environment-and-social-framework.pdf 82 "provide no project finance to new or expanded Thermal Coal Mines, nor to new coal-fired power plants"

"reduce our existing project finance exposure to Thermal Coal Mines and coal-fired power plants to zero by 2030"

"reduce our corporate and trade finance exposure to existing Clients who derive 25% or more of their revenue from the sale of thermal coal to zero by 2030."

"only offer corporate or trade finance to existing oil and/or gas producing, metallurgical coal mining or coal-fired power generation Clients after an assessment of the environmental,
social and economic impacts. From 2025, we will expect these Clients to have published Transition Plans."
Policy rules out project finance for new thermal coal projects but not corporate finance for companies developing them.

Policy does not rule out project finance for new metallurgical coal mines, or corporate finance for the companies developing them.
NAB https://www.nab.com.au/content/dam/nab/documents/reports/corporate/2022-climate-report.pdf 84 “NAB will not finance new thermal coal mining projects or take on new-to-bank thermal coal mining customers”

“NAB recognises that currently there are no readily available substitutes for the use of metallurgical coal in steel
production. NAB will continue providing finance to its customers in this segment, subject to enhanced due diligence which further considers underlying environmental, social and governance risks."

“NAB will not finance new or material expansions of coal-fired power generation facilities.”
Policy rules out project finance for new thermal coal projects but not corporate finance for companies developing them.

Policy does not rule out project finance for new metallurgical coal mines, or corporate finance for the companies developing them.
Westpac https://www.westpac.com.au/content/dam/public/wbc/documents/pdf/aw/ic/Net_Zero_2030_Targets_and_Financed_Emissions_our_methodology_and_approach.pdf 85 “Zero lending exposure to companies with >5% of their revenue coming directly from thermal coal mining by 2030. We updated our thermal coal mining definition to align with the NZBA guidelines on the required scope of target setting for thermal coal mining.” Westpac’s 2021 Sustainability Supplement stated “We will limit support for thermal coal mines or projects to existing basins”. The latest policy update does not mention this, but Westpac says its latest position statement sets a higher bar than its previous approach.

Policy effectively rules out project finance for new thermal coal projects but not corporate finance for companies developing them.

Policy does not rule out project finance for new metallurgical coal mines, or corporate finance for the companies developing them.