In December 2015, the Paris climate talks saw 195 nations agree to limit global warming to well below 2°C, compared with pre-industrial levels. In the lead up to Paris, ANZ, CommBank, NAB and Westpac all publicly championed the two degree limit, committing to support the transition to a low carbon economy.

But since then, the big four banks have loaned a combined $17 billion to the coal, oil and gas sectors. Worst of all, the banks have continued to finance new fossil fuel projects, which have no place in any serious plan to stay within 2°C.

In fact, new fossil fuel projects that have been enabled by big four loans since Paris are expected to add 3.4 billion tonnes of CO2 to the atmosphere across their lifetimes. That’s enough to cancel out Australia’s emissions reductions commitment almost 3 times over!

Clearly the big banks still don’t understand their role in keeping warming below 2°C.

Banks actions since making their 2° commitments


Total lending to fossil fuels

$0 million
$0 million
$0 million
$0 million

Fossil fuels vs renewables lending

$6.80 : $1

$4.15 : $1

$1.60 : $1

$3.60 : $1

How long since last fossil fuel expansion deal?

70 days

164 days

183 days

245 days

Policy to reduce fossil fuel exposure?

Policy restricting fossil fuel lending?

Are the banks fulfilling their commitments?

Total lending to fossil fuels in 2016

  • $0 million
  • $0 million
  • $0 million
  • $0 million

2016 fossil fuels vs renewables lending

  • $6.80 : $1

  • $4.15 : $1

  • $1.60 : $1

  • $3.60 : $1

How long since last fossil fuel expansion deal?

  • 70 days

  • 164 days

  • 183 days

  • 245 days

Policy to reduce fossil fuel exposure?

  • FAIL

  • FAIL


  • FAIL

Policy restricting fossil fuel lending?


  • FAIL




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Commitments vs action

Commitment: “We support the goal of governments around the world seeking to limit the average global temperature rise to no more than 2°C above pre-industrial levels. ANZ as a responsible and sustainable business is playing its part to support the transition to a decarbonised economy.” – ANZ Climate Change Statement

Action since commitment: Australia’s biggest lender to fossil fuels!

Commitment: “International efforts to limit global warming to two degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels will require a transition from traditional economic models, and the world’s current energy mix, to low carbon and renewable alternatives… We play a role in supporting the transition to a low carbon economy and will continue to actively seek opportunities to lend to, invest in, and support innovative technologies and businesses that decrease dependence on fossil fuels and mitigate the effects of climate change.” – Commonwealth Bank Group Environment Policy

Action since commitment: Loaned $6 billion to fossil fuels.

Commitment: “NAB [supports] the globally agreed goal to limit global warming to less than 2°C above pre-industrial levels… NAB believes the financial sector has an important role to play in assisting the transition to a low carbon economy, through both the energy we purchase directly and through financing.” – NAB Climate Change Statement

Action since commitment: Financed three new gas power stations in the US.

Commitment: “Westpac is committed to operating, both directly and indirectly, in a manner consistent with supporting an economy that limits global warming to less than two degrees. Westpac will continue to evolve its frameworks, policies and position statements, linked to concrete action to ensure our lending and investing activities support an economy that limits global warming to less than two degrees, based on research into the carbon intensity of our activities.” – Brian Hartzer, Westpac CEO

Action since commitment: Has financed the development of a new oil field projected to add a total of 342 Mt of CO2 to the atmosphere over its lifetime.

2° means no new fossil fuels

The 2°C warming limit gives us a very strict carbon budget to work within, meaning around 80% all the world’s known fossil fuel reserves must stay underground to give us a fighting chance of meeting the Paris Agreement. If we can’t burn all the carbon currently claimed by fossil fuel companies, clearly there is no room for anything new.

Studies into the carbon budget add up to paint a very clear picture: 2°C means there is no room for new fossil fuel exploration, production, transport or combustion projects. Our banks cannot finance these activities if their own commitments to support the 2°C limit are to be taken seriously.

“If the 2°C target is to be taken seriously, then current and future [fossil fuel] assets will have to be written off before the end of their economically useful life”

Institute for New Economic Thinking, Oxford University

As early as 2011, the International Energy Agency (IEA) warned that, without strong global action to reduce emissions, “no new investment could be made after 2017 in new power generation… unless it were zero-carbon,” if we were to keep warming below 2°C.

That prediction has proven accurate, with the United Nations Environment Programme’s October 2017 Emissions Gap Report stating that no more new coal plants should be built if we are to keep warming below two degrees. This followed 2016 research from Oxford University telling us that to have just a 50% chance of keeping global warming below 2°C, “no new emitting electricity infrastructure can be built after 2017.” 

The IEA now says that in order to keep global warming to well below 2°C, the world must reach net zero emissions by 2060. New fossil fuel infrastructure projects often have planned lifetimes well beyond that date.

We’ve also been told Australia is on track to burn through our share of the 2°C carbon budget in less than 20 years. The safer limit of 1.5°C would require us to stop burning fossil fuels in the next six years. We simply can’t lock in decades of emissions by building new fossil fuel power infrastructure if we are to have any chance of meeting our Paris Agreement commitments.

It’s not just fossil fuel power stations that have no future in a less-than-2°C world. The potential carbon emissions from current fossil fuel extraction projects would take us beyond the 2°C warming limit. Even if we stopped burning coal tomorrow, fully exploiting the oil and gas fields that are currently producing would still drive warming past 1.5°C. Carbon Tracker has found that the world’s 69 biggest publicly-listed oil and gas companies stand to spend US$2.3 trillion on exploration and development projects that would not fit within a 2°C carbon budget.

Clearly, coal, oil and gas companies are operating completely out of line with what’s required to meet the Paris Agreement. The money our banks are pouring into these companies and their new fossil fuel projects is only going to delay or counteract meaningful action on climate change.

Big banks still supporting new fossil fuels

The big banks’ continued financial support for new fossil fuel projects shows they are not operating in line with their commitments. Below are some of the clearest examples of bank lending that is completely inconsistent with 2°C.

Oil Search expansion plans

In June 2017, some 18 months after the Paris Agreement, each of Australia’s big four banks contributed $73 million to a refinancing deal for Oil Search. The loan was to cover capital expenditure and equity commitments for project financing, amongst other purposes, meaning Oil Search could use the money to finance their plans to explore and develop new fossil fuel reserves. A recent Carbon Tracker study found that 50-60% of Oil Search’s projected capital expenditure would be out of step with the 2°C warming limit.

Oil Search’s gas expansion plans are out of line with 2°C, but still attracted almost $300m in finance from the big four banks.
Photo credit: Damian Baker.

Sabine Pass LNG Terminal

CommBank’s loan helped this massive LNG project in Louisiana, USA get off the ground. Likely to add over 1,600Mt of CO2 to the atmosphere over the course of it’s life, the Sabine Pass project is about the clearest example of a project that is completely inconsistent with keeping global warming below 2°C.

InterOil Elk-Antelope fields

In April 2016, Westpac and ANZ contributed to a refinancing deal for InterOil, with the money to be used to develop “one of Asia’s largest undeveloped gas fields, Elk-Antelope” in Papua New Guinea. The fields will provide gas for a new LNG facility, locking in decades of highly greenhouse gas-intensive LNG production.

Johan Sverdup Oil field

“The Johan Sverdrup discovery is one of the largest oil discoveries ever made on the Norwegian continental shelf and will prolong the life of the Norwegian oil industry for several decades” – Lundin Petroleum. Lundin’s ownership stake in the massive new oil field was financed by ANZ and Commonwealth Bank.

US Gas Power Stations

No less than six new gas power stations to be built in the US have been financed by CommBank and/or NAB since late 2016. These power stations are estimated to add 327 million tonnes of CO2 to the atmosphere over their lifetimes, cancelling out more than a quarter of Australia’s emissions reduction commitment from 2005-2030.

Climate impact of new fossil fuel projects

The big four banks have provided direct project finance for 13 new fossil fuel projects since committing to 2°C. During their lifetimes, these projects are expected to emit 3.4 billion tonnes of CO2 – enough to cancel out Australia’s emissions reduction commitment (2005-2030) almost three times over!

The table shows the estimated lifetime emissions of each new fossil fuel project enabled by the big banks since October 2015.

In calculating the emissions accounted for in this study, Market Forces has made a number of conservative assumptions. Details on how the emissions were calculated are as follows:

Sabine Pass LNG terminal

Noting that 88% (amounting to 19.5 mtpa) of the project’s first five trains is already contracted, and the Terminal is planned to reach a nameplate capacity of 27 mtpa, it was assumed that this facility would liquefy 20 mtpa (approx 75% capacity) of gas, on average, over 30 years. This amounts to 600 million tonnes of LNG over the lifetime of the project. Based on information sourced from Prometheus Energy, one tonne of LNG equals 621 LNG gallons, resulting in 372.6 billion LNG gallons processed over the lifetime of the project. The same source supplies a conversion factor of 1 LNG gallon = 82.6 cubic feet of gas. Therefore, 372.6 billion LNG gallons is equivalent to 30.77676 tcf of gas processed over the lifetime of the project. The US EIA supplies an emissions factor of 53.12 kg CO2/thousand cubic feet natural gas, resulting in the project processing enough gas to emit 1,634,861,491,200 kg CO2. Total: 1.63 billion metric tonnes of CO2 over its lifetime.

Note that these calculations do not account for emissions generated on site during the liquefaction process or upstream in the process of gas extraction or transport.

Johan Sverdrup oil field and Heidelberg Deepwater oil field

Net 2P reserves at Johan Sverdrup are 2,279 MMBoe. The field is 95% oil and 5% gas and natural gas liquids. This equates to 2,165 MMBo and 114 MMBoe gas. One barrel of oil releases 0.43 metric tons of CO2 when combusted. Therefore, emissions from the oil portion of the field are 2,165 MMBo x 0.43 = 931 million tonnes of CO2. 114 MMBoe is equivalent to 6.612×10^14 Btu or 6.612×10^9 therms. Natural gas releases 0.005302 tonnes CO2/therm when combusted. Therefore, emissions from the gas portion of the field are 6.612×10^9 x 0.005302 = 35 million tonnes of CO2. Total: 966 million tonnes of CO2

Elk-Antelope gas field

Average certified 2C resource at Elk-Antelope is 6.43 tcf of raw gas. One thousand cubic feet of natural gas releases 53.12 kg of CO2 when combusted. Therefore, Elk-Antelope facilitates emissions of approximately 6.43 x 53.12 x 10^9 kg of CO2. Total: 341.5 million tonnes of CO2

Westmoreland and Towantic CCGT plants

Assumed a 50% average capacity factor across a 30-year economic lifetime for both facilities. Used 920 lbs CO2 / MWh, indicated on the Westmoreland CCGT project website, across both facilities.  Converted 1 kg to 2.20462 lbs.

Westmoreland emissions = 925 (MW capacity) x 8760 (hours in the year) x 30 (years) x 0.5 (capacity factor) = 121,545,000 MWh = 111.821 billion pounds CO2 = 50,721,394,163 kg CO2.  Total: 50.7 million tonnes of CO2

Towantic emissions = 785 (MW capacity) x 8760 (hours in the year) x 30 (years) x 0.5 (capacity factor) = 103,149,000 MWh = 94.897 billion pounds CO2 = 43,044,642,614 kg CO2.  Total: 43.0 million tonnes of CO2

Other Gas Power Stations

Assumed a 50% average capacity factor across a 30-year economic lifetime. Assumed emissions intensity of 0.36 t CO2/MW – the lowest emissions intensity for this type of gas technology as reported in Emission Intensity Limit New Utility Scale Electricity Generation South Australia.

Black Point emissions = 550 (MW capacity) x 8760 (hours in the year) x 30 (years) x 0.5 (capacity factor) x 0.36 (t CO2/MWh emissions intensity) = 26,017,200 t CO2.  Total: 26.0 million tonnes of CO2

AES Corporation portfolio emissions = 1300 (MW capacity) x 8760 (hours in the year) x 30 (years) x 0.5 (capacity factor) x 0.36 (t CO2/MWh emissions intensity) = 61,495,200 t CO2.  Total: 61.5 million tonnes of CO2

CPV Fairview emissions = 1050 (MW capacity) x 8760 (hours in the year) x 30 (years) x 0.5 (capacity factor) x 0.36 (t CO2/MWh emissions intensity) = 49,669,200 t CO2.  Total: 49.7 million tonnes of CO2

Muara Karang emissions = 500 (MW capacity) x 8760 (hours in the year) x 30 (years) x 0.5 (capacity factor) x 0.36 (t CO2/MWh emissions intensity) = 23,652,000 t CO2.  Total: 23.7 million tonnes of CO2

Cricket Valley emissions = 1100 (MW capacity) x 8760 (hours in the year) x 30 (years) x 0.5 (capacity factor) x 0.36 (t CO2/MWh emissions intensity) = 52,034,400 t CO2.  Total: 52.0 million tonnes of CO2

Lackawanna emissions = 1480 (MW capacity) x 8760 (hours in the year) x 30 (years) x 0.5 (capacity factor) x 0.36 (t CO2/MWh emissions intensity) = 70,009,920 t CO2.  Total: 70 million tonnes of CO2

Jawa 2 emissions = 880 (MW capacity) x 8760 (hours in the year) x 30 (years) x 0.5 (capacity factor) x 0.36 (t CO2/MWh emissions intensity) = 41,627,520 t CO2.  Total: 41.6 million tonnes of CO2

Project name and locationAustralian Banks invovledLifetime CO2 emissions
Sabine Pass LNG Terminal, Louisiana, USACommonwealth Bank1,634 Mt
Johan Sverdrup offshore oil field, NorwayCommonwealth Bank, ANZ966 Mt
Elk-Antelope gas field, Papua New GuineaANZ, Westpac342 Mt
Lackawanna Energy Center (1430 MW gas-fired), Pennsylvania, USACommonwealth Bank70 Mt
Heidelberg deep water oil field, Gulf of MexicoCommonwealth Bank86 Mt
AES Corporation 1300 MW gas-fired portfolio, California, USACommonwealth Bank61 Mt
Cricket Valley Energy Center (1100 MW gas-fired), New York, USANAB52 Mt
CPV Fairview 1050 MW Energy Center (gas-fired), Pennsylvania, USACommonwealth Bank, NAB50 Mt
Towantic Energy 785 MW CCGT plant, Connecticut, USANAB43 Mt
Jawa 2 800 MW CCGT Power PlantANZ42 Mt
Westmoreland 925 MW CCGT plant, Pennsylvania, USACommonwealth Bank51 Mt
Black Point Power Station 550 MW additional gas-fired unit, Hong KongANZ26 Mt
Muara Karang 500 MW gas power plant, IndonesiaANZ24 Mt

Total lifetime emissions of new projects financed by each bank since 2°C commitments
2,832 Mt CO2
1,485 Mt CO2
427 Mt CO2
145 Mt CO2

Putting renewables lending in perspective

When challenged over their immense financial support for fossil fuels, banks often point to renewable energy lending as a defence. But lending to renewables does not excuse or cancel out funding for dirty alternatives. Every dollar to fossil fuels locks in more harmful emissions, which can’t be undone.

Even since their 2°C commitments, the big four have loaned three and a half times as much to fossil fuels as renewables. During that time, ANZ had by far the worst lending ratio of the big four, providing $6.80 to fossil fuels for every dollar loaned to renewable energy. Astoundingly, ANZ has loaned even more to coal than renewables since committing to 2°C.

CommBank’s lending ratio of $4.15 : $1.00 is completely inconsistent with it’s promise to “play a role in supporting the transition to a low carbon economy.”

Westpac has loaned over three and a half times as much to fossil fuels than renewables since it’s Paris commitment.

While NAB’s fossil fuels to renewables ratio was the best of the big four banks, it still favoured dirty power sources. What’s worse, the bank’s ratio has tipped further towards fossil fuels since we last conducted this comparison at the end of 2016.

Direct funding for new coal projects has dried up

Encouragingly, the banks haven’t directly financed a single new coal project since committing to support the 2°C warming limit. We’ve also seen a considerable drop off in lending to the coal sector in general over recent years. In 2015, more than $3 billion flowed from the big four banks to the coal sector, but that figure was cut in half in 2016.

From 1 January 2017 to 30 June 2017, the banks loaned just $99 million to coal projects and companies. But a huge refinancing for the Newcastle Coal Infrastructure Group (NCIG), which owns and the world’s biggest coal port at Newcastle, saw total 2017 lending to coal jump to $458 million in July.

It seems direct finance for new coal projects is a thing of the past, but money is still flowing from our banks to the coal industry. Existing coal mines, transport infrastructure, and power stations still have the emissions potential to push us beyond 2°C, while a number of coal companies are actively looking to expand their operations, often with the financial support of our big four banks.

These include the likes of Glencore, which is actively seeking to expand coal mining operations, and has received loans from all four big banks since their 2°C commitments.

Indian companies Rural Electrification Corporation and Tata Power are both trying to expand their coal power capacity, and have been financially supported by ANZ in the last 18 months.

Every deal that enables coal projects and their operators to extend their scale or lifetime, reduces our chances of meeting the Paris Agreement. So, on top of categorically ruling out any project finance for new coal ventures, we need our banks to end corporate financing for companies looking to expand their coal operations and actively manage down their exposure to existing coal projects.


Australia’s big four banks fall well behind their international peers when it comes to climate policies. Both Commonwealth Bank and NAB were given FAIL grades in all four categories of a June 2017 study into international banks’ fossil fuel lending policies.

Since then, NAB has updated its coal lending policy, confirming that the bank will no longer lend to new thermal coal projects.

With no publicly disclosed restrictions on lending to coal mining, coal power, LNG exports or extreme oil, CommBank remains at the bottom of a group of 37 international banks, receiving an F in all four categories.

Even Westpac’s coal policies, which at the time of the international study was the strongest of our big banks, scored C- grades in the report. The bank failed in the extreme oil and LNG categories.

ANZ’s weak extreme oil, coal mining and coal power policies received D-, D- and C- scores respectively, while the bank failed in the LNG category.

Four major international banks have ruled out any future finance for coal mines and coal power stations. A further 12 have some exclusions on those activities or the companies responsible for them, or have committed to reduce their exposure to coal sectors.

While we would argue that these policies should extend to rule out finance for any project or company that stands to expand the size of the fossil fuel industry, international banks are clearly miles ahead of our big four.

Click to learn more about each bank’s policies:
In October 2015, ANZ published a new Energy Policy with a carbon emission threshold to “ensure we only support new coal fired power plants that use advanced technologies and higher quality coal to significantly reduce emissions to at least 0.8 tC02/MWh”. This policy is so weak that it allows the bank to fund all but the least efficient modern coal plants. But it is at least effective, having forced the bank to withdraw from a financing deal for a Vietnamese coal power plant in February 2016. ANZ’s climate change commitments still allow the bank to:

  • Continue lending to new coal-fired power stations that have the worst emissions intensity of new coal power technology
  • Lend to new and existing coal mines anywhere around the world
  • Remain invested in any current coal fired power station provided there is a plan (the nature of which is not defined) in place for how emissions would fall beyond the lifetime of the power plant.
Released in August 2017, Commonwealth Bank’s Climate Policy Position Statement fell well short of its publicly-made two degree commitments. Consisting of a single page of text, the position statement failed to place any tangible constraints on lending to fossil fuels, leaving the door wide open for Commonwealth Bank to continue lending to projects that expand the scale of the fossil fuel industry.

In December 2017, NAB became the first of Australia’s big four banks to rule out lending to all new thermal coal mines or extensions! The bank’s updated risk appetite statement on coal mining states: “NAB will no longer finance new thermal coal mining projects.”

While this is a step in the right direction, NAB has no restrictions on lending to coal power plants or infrastructure. Nor does the bank have any policies limiting oil or gas lending.

Westpac’s climate change policy update, released in April 2017, states “for new thermal coal proposals we will limit lending to any new thermal coal mines or projects (including those of existing customers) to only existing coal producing basins and where the calorific value for that mine ranks in at least the top 15% globally”. This leaves the door open to funding some new coal mines, and also fails to cover extensions to existing mines.

In relation to power generation, the bank committed to:

  • Reduce the emissions intensity of its power generation portfolio
  • Only lend to new coal power stations that reduce the overall emissions intensity of the energy grid they will operate in
  • Not lend to existing coal power stations for the expansion or lifetime extension purposes, unless there is a reduction in emissions intensity

These are steps in the right direction, but leave far too much room for Westpac to finance more dirty power generation.

To Australia’s big banks,

You claim to be committed to strong action on climate change. It’s time to prove it. Holding global warming to below two degrees requires urgent action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Your actions and decisions are key to this outcome.

We demand that, as a minimum, you:

● Make no further investments that expand the size of the fossil fuel industry, and

● Reduce your exposure to the thermal coal sector to zero by 2020, and all fossil fuels by 2030.