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?

165 days

259 days

278 days

340 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?

  • 165 days

  • 259 days

  • 278 days

  • 340 days

Policy to reduce fossil fuel exposure?

  • FAIL

  • FAIL


  • FAIL

Policy restricting fossil fuel lending?


  • FAIL




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Commitments vs action

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

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 Australia’s 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 its 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.

Project name and locationAustralian Banks involvedLifetime CO2 emissions
Sabine Pass LNG Terminal, Louisiana, USACommonwealth Bank1,634 Mt
Icthyus LNG, AustraliaANZ, Westpac1,131 Mt
Johan Sverdrup offshore oil field, NorwayCommonwealth Bank, ANZ966 Mt
Elk-Antelope gas field, Papua New GuineaANZ, Westpac342 Mt
Medco North Sumatra Block A PSCANZ295 Mt
Heidelberg deep water oil field, Gulf of MexicoCommonwealth Bank86 Mt
Lackawanna Energy Center (1430 MW gas-fired), Pennsylvania, USACommonwealth Bank70 Mt
AES Corporation 1300 MW gas-fired portfolio, California, USACommonwealth Bank61 Mt
Cricket Valley Energy Center (1100 MW gas-fired), New York, USANAB52 Mt
Westmoreland 925 MW CCGT plant, Pennsylvania, USACommonwealth Bank51 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
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 its 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 its 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.

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.