Commonwealth Bank

AUSTRALIA’S BIGGEST LENDER TO FOSSIL FUELS


Commonwealth Bank

Australia’s biggest lender to fossil fuels

$0 billion
loaned to dirty fossil fuels globally since 2016

Commonwealth Bank has loaned more than $12 billion to the dirty coal, oil and gas sectors since January 2016, shortly after committing to help limit global warming in line with the Paris Agreement. This is more than three times its lending to renewables.

Worse still, over the same timeframe CommBank has loaned to new fossil fuel projects that, over their lifetimes, would enable 5.4 billion tonnes of CO2. That’s enough to cancel out the gains made by Australia’s emission reductions target more than 12 times over, more than for any other big four bank.

However, public pressure on CommBank is finally starting to work. In August 2019, CommBank became the first of Australia’s big four banks to formally announce a Paris-aligned 2030 exit date for exposure to thermal coal. CommBank also requires any new fossil fuel projects seeking finance to show compliance with the Paris goals, another first among our major banks. Read our analysis of Commbank’s policy.

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Has CommBank kept its Paris climate pledge?

In late 2015, Commonwealth Bank publicly committed to taking action to support the Paris Agreement, which includes the goal of limiting global warming to less than 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. But as our scorecard shows, CommBank’s activity has been completely inconsistent with that commitment.

The 1.5°C warming limit has stark implications for the world’s energy system meaning we cannot accommodate any new or expanded fossil fuel projects, including supply (coal mines and oil & gas reserves) and power plants.

After years as a climate laggard, CommBank’s new Environmental and Social Framework released in August 2019 puts it ahead of Australia’s other big four banks. CommBank is the first bank to formally announce a Paris-aligned 2030 exit date for exposure to thermal coal – spelling a stark warning to industry and policymakers that coal has no place in the country’s future.

Furthermore, the policy states that new fossil fuel projects seeking finance from CommBank must also show compliance with the Paris goals – another first among our major banks. Read our analysis on CommBank’s policy.

Now we need to keep CommBank to account. In August 2019, CommBank loaned over $76 million to the Permian Highway Gas Pipeline, based in Texas, USA. Market Forces estimates this pipeline would enable the release of more than 1 billion tonnes of CO2 over its lifetime, almost double Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions in calendar year 2019.

Learn more about the role of financial institutions in holding global warming to 1.5 degrees

Scorecard since Paris Agreement commitment:

  • total lending to fossil fuels
  • $0 million
  • lending to companies with business plans consistent with the failure of Paris Agreement
  • $0 million
  • Total lending to expansionary projects
  • $0 million
  • fossil fuel vs renewables lending ratio
  • $3.73 : $1

  • Total emissions enabled
    (tonnes CO2)
  • 5.4 billion

  • Plans to exit thermal coal by 2030, consistent with Paris Agreement?
  • Yes

  • Plans to phase out all fossil fuel exposure in line with the Paris Agreement?
  • No

  • Explicitly rules out funding new or expansionary fossil fuels?
  • No

  • Explicitly rules out funding companies whose business plans are consistent with the failure of the Paris Agreement?
  • No

How is CommBank expanding fossil fuels?

CommBank leads the big four banks in terms of its climate change policy, but has backed some of the biggest and dirtiest projects since 2016:

  • August 2019: CommBank helped fund the 692km Permian Highway Pipeline in Texas, which will transport up to 2.1 billion cubic feet per day of climate-wrecking gas. CommBank’s funding of the pipeline appears to have breached its commitment to only finance new gas projects if they’re “in line with the goals of the Paris Agreement”.

  • CommBank funded the Sabine Pass and Corpus Christi liquefied natural gas (LNG) projects in Texas to the tune of $523 million across deals in Feb 2016, May 2018 and May 2019: Market Forces estimates these projects would enable the release of over 2.4 billion tonnes of CO2 over their lifetime, over four times Australia’s entire emissions in 2019.

  • Commbank contributed to a US$4.3 billion deal (Feb 2016) and US$5 billion deal (Jun 2018) to help unlock over 2 billion barrels of oil in the Norwegian Continental Shelf. Market Forces estimates that if combusted, oil and gas from the Johan Sverdrup field would enable the release of 966 million tonnes of CO2.
  • A blatant case of CommBank’s disregard for a safe climate future was the $49 million loan in November 2016 to a new deepwater oil drilling project – the Heidelberg field located 225km off Louisiana’s coast. It’s near the Horizon Deepwater oil project, where a 2010 explosion caused one of the worst environmental disasters in history.
Expansionary fossil fuel projects funded by CommBank since 1 Jan 2016

CommBank’s funding of expansionary fossil fuel projects since 1 Jan 2016

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Find out more about the extent and impacts of banks financing fossil fuels, compare the lending positions of different banks and learn more about how to switch to a bank that aligns to your values.

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Funding Climate Failure

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