Campaigns

NAB

Australia’s most regressive bank on climate

$14.1 billion

Loaned to dirty fossil fuels globally since 2016

NAB is Australia’s most regressive bank when it comes to funding fossil fuels, having provided a total of $4.5 billion in 2021 and 2022. This almost matched Australia’s biggest fossil fuel lender ANZ’s $4.6 billion.

Despite claiming to support the climate goals of the Paris Agreement, NAB has now provided a total of $14.1 billion to the coal, oil and gas industries in the seven years since that agreement was signed. 

NAB’s prolific financing of the industry amidst the climate crisis is a major concern for customers and the wider community. At a time where banks around the world are increasing their climate ambition, NAB is trending in the wrong direction. This is not a bank that takes climate action seriously.

Last updated: March 2024

Take action

Tell NAB that its Paris Agreement pledge means no new fossil fuels!

2023 AGM season

ANZ, NAB and Westpac continue to undermine their commitments to the Paris Agreement by financing companies that are expanding the fossil fuel industry.

People-powered campaign drives NAB out of Australian coal giant, Whitehaven

NAB, as part of a syndicate of 13 banks, loaned $110 million to Whitehaven as part of a $1 billion corporate loan in February 2020. This money was loaned despite Whitehaven planning to spend around $4.5 billion on three new coal mine expansions: Vickery, Narrabri Stage 3, Winchester South, and more recently, Blackwater South. When emissions from digging up and burning the coal are added, over their lifetimes these three mines would unleash over 3.6 billion tonnes of carbon emissions, the equivalent of more than 7.5 Australia’s annual emissions. 

An enormous grassroots campaign worked tirelessly for months to stop NAB and other banks involved in the loan from renewing the $1 billion facility to Whitehaven Coal, and in July 2023, Whitehaven revealed it had been unable to complete its refinancing. Read more about this massive people-powered win here

NAB, whose team are you on?

NAB, proud sponsor of the AFL, continues to finance companies expanding the fossil fuel sector. NAB’s failure to rule out further finance to these climate wreckers undermines the bank’s pledge to align with the Pris Agreement and impacts the very communities NAB aims to support. 

How NAB is still funding massive new fossil fuel developments

While NAB’s carefully worded policy means it can’t fund new fossil fuel projects directly, the bank is still pouring billions of dollars into companies whose sole purpose is to expand the fossil fuel industry.

Fossil fuel funding since Paris

The chart shown right shows NAB’s year-on-year lending to different fossil fuel sectors since January 2016. The charts shown below include lending to expansion projects and lending to companies with fossil fuel expansion plans. 

We have included NAB’s own reported exposures to fossil fuels as a further demonstration of the bank’s trends.

The chart shown right shows NAB has loaned a total of $14.1 billion to fossil fuels since 2016, this includes: 

 

  • $3.27 billion to coal,
  • $4.3 billion to gas (exc. LNG)
  • $2.69 billion to LNG
  • $3.83 billion to oil

Funding for new fossil fuel projects

Since 2016 NAB has loaned $2.2 billion to new fossil fuel projects, including:

  • $167 million to new coal projects,
  • $1.1 billion to new gas projects (exc. LNG)
  • $797 million to new LNG projects
  • $105 million to new oil projects

In total, these projects would result in 6 billion tonnes of CO2-equivalent.

 

Funding for companies with expansion plans

Since 2016 NAB has loaned $4.6 billion to companies with fossil fuel expansion plans through ‘corporate finance’ debt facilities.

See our ‘Corporate finance’ section below to find out more about how NAB’s corporate finance policy is enabling it to fund fossil fuel expansion.

 

 

 

Expanding fossil fuels  

NAB is trying to establish itself as a climate leader in Australia. NAB proudly states in its Climate Report, “NAB is seeking to act as a catalyst for climate action.” The reality is that NAB is a climate laggard. Beyond the greenwashing spin, you’ll find a bank consistently willing to hand over its customers money to companies building new and expanded fossil fuel projects.

In recent years we’ve seen an ongoing trend of lending to some of the worst climate-wrecking companies. Check out some of these examples below.

NAB’s customers – case studies

Scarborough/Pluto 2 LNG

In March 2022, NAB loaned $290 million to Global Infrastructure Partners as part of a $4.6 billion deal to purchase 49% of the Pluto 2 LNG project, enabling Woodside to go ahead with Pluto 2 and its associated new Scarborough gas field. The gas from the entire Scarborough-Pluto 2 project will facilitate an estimated 637 million tonnes of CO2-e lifetime emissions when combusted, more than Australia’s entire annual emissions in 2021.

Santos

In August 2022, NAB loaned $72 million to Santos as part of a $1.8 billion loan. This loan was related to the highly controversial Barossa gas field Santos is currently developing, a project that is disputed by traditional owners of the Tiwi Islands, the waters of which is where the project is located.

In September 2022, Tiwi Islands traditional owners won a federal court challenge against Santos’ Barossa project. The court ruled that Santos had failed to adequately consult Tiwi Islands Traditional Owners about the project. Santos challenged the ruling, but its appeal was rejected by the Federal Court in December. Despite the ruling and the Munupi people of the Tiwi Islands declaring “Munupi people don’t want any fossil fuel activities off the coast line of the Tiwi Islands”, Santos remains adamant that first gas will be achieved from Barossa in the first half of 2025.

Santos’ own lawyers argued in court that Traditional Owners’ connection to sea and country was more like a personal interest, “in the sense of a past time or a hobby” than a genuine legal interest. That Santos considers traditional owners’ interest in the land to be a “hobby” shows a complete disregard for the rights of Indigenous Australians.

This loan in particular was mired in controversy due to the appalling fact that it occurred whilst the Barossa gas project was being disputed by Tiwi Islands Traditional Owners. In April 2023, NAB received a human rights complaint for its involvement in the loan from six people from the Munupi, Malawu and Jikilaruwu clans on the Tiwi Islands, and one from Larrakia country in Darwin, assisted by Equity Generation Lawyers. The complaint demands that NAB withdraw from its current loan to Santos and to not finance the associated Darwin LNG project, which would process Barossa gas. Read all about this loan in our blog post.

The complaint was effectively dismissed by NAB without consultation with Tiwi Traditional Owners. This prompted Traditional Owners to travel thousands of kilometres to attends the bank’s 2023 AGM, where they confronted the NAB board over the lack of engagement regarding the complaint. You can watch their passionate addressed here. NAB CEO Ross McEwan was invited to visit the Tiwi Islands and engage with the complaints about the impacts of Barossa on their Land and Sea Country, but was non-committal in his response. As of March 2024, NAB is the only big four Australian bank that has not committed to engaging with the Tiwi Islanders on country.

The urgency of this case was further demonstrated in January 2024 when Santos was re-granted its environmental approvals for Barossa after the project was delayed for sixteen months due to the Federal Court’s ruling in September 2022. Santos is targeting first gas from Barossa in the third quarter of 2025.

Whitehaven Coal

In a worrying display of just how damaging ‘general corporate finance’ can be in the hands of climate wrecking companies, on Friday 21 April 2023, Whitehaven Coal announced it intended to fast-track mining of its new Vickery thermal coal deposit. The scheduled Vickery open-cut thermal coal mine will begin withh a ‘box-cut’, producing 1 million tonnes of thermal coal per annum in 2025. Despite its climate commitments, this coal expansion was going ahead with the financial backing of the National Australia Bank.

Whitehaven wanted to refinance its $1 billion loan, likely in no small part because of its multi-billion dollar coal expansion strategy. But in a huge win for people power, on 17 July 2023, Whitehaven announced to the market that it had been unable to secure a refinance of the $1 billion corporate loan.

In November 2023, NAB announced it no longer has any corporate or project lending to pure play thermal coal mining companies, a position it intends to maintain into the future. This is a significant development that proves that people-powered movements can drive finance out of fossil fuels!  

Whilst it’s welcome that NAB has exited from undiversified thermal coal miners without transition plans, it still remains exposed to Glencore, which despite being a diversified company is one of Australia’s biggest producers of thermal and metallurgical coal. Glencore also has expansionary metallurgical coal mines in its pipeline. We’ll save commending NAB until it has no involvement with climate-wrecking coal expansion plans.

Coastal Gaslink Pipeline
In July 2022, NAB was involved in refinancing a loan to the climate wrecking Coastal Gaslink Pipeline. According to financial subscription sources, Coastal GasLink had to refinance and increase its previous loan by a whopping CAD $1.669 billion (approx. AUD $1.861 billion) due to significant cost blow-outs in the construction phase. NAB’s involvement in the increased loan exposes it to this destructive and controversial project for a further two years until 2029, when the debt matures.

Based on conservative estimates, this pipeline would enable the release of 610 million tonnes of CO2 over its lifetime, more than 80% of Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions in 2020. In no way is this project in line with the goals of the Paris Agreement or consistent with the International Energy Agency’s Net Zero Emissions by 2050 scenario.

As well as being incompatible with limiting warming to 1.5°C, the pipeline is also currently being constructed on the unceded lands of the Wet’suwet’en First Nations people. The hereditary chiefs of the Wet’suwet’en Nation fiercely oppose the project and have not provided their free, prior and informed consent. Coastal GasLink’s gas pipeline crosses approximately 625 rivers, creeks, waters, streams and lakes on its route across British Columbia.

Dirty Bonds
As recently as November 2022, NAB was involved as a bookrunner in arranging a bond for the Sabine Pass LNG facility in Louisiana, USA.

Sabine Pass is a giant LNG facility, with a capacity of producing 30 million tonnes of LNG per year – equivalent to one-third of Australia’s entire LNG industry. But it also has plans to add an additional 20 million tonnes of LNG production capacity through the Sabine Pass Stage 5 Expansion Project. We estimate that such an expansion would export gas with a potential to release at least 820 million tonnes of CO2 over its lifetime.

Corporate finance – the massive loophole enabling fossil fuel expansion

In May 2021, the IEA published its Net-Zero 2050 Scenario, which clearly stated there is no room for new fossil fuels in a world that hopes to keep global warming to 1.5C. These findings have been upheld even amidst a global energy crisis in 2022, with the IEA declaring its 2022 World Energy Outlook:can justify a wave of new oil and gas infrastructure in a world that wants to reach net zero emissions by 2050”

In late 2022, a UN High Level Expert Group stated that:

“Non‑state actors cannot claim to be net zero while continuing to build or invest in new fossil fuel supply”

Corporate finance for ‘general corporate purposes’ is a massive loophole enabling banks to continue to fund companies developing new fossil fuel supply whilst claiming to not fund new projects.

Unfortunately, money is fungible and if a company does nothing but extract fossil fuels, and has plans to extract even more, whatever kind of debt facility they have is enabling them to do both these things. A report by Global Energy Monitor published in October 2022 found that 80% of finance for new coal projects is coming from corporate finance. The report ‘Banking on Climate Chaos‘ has found that 96% of fossil fuel companies’ funding since 2016 has been ‘general corporate’ finance.

In 2022, NAB loaned $746 million to companies with expansion plans, after loaning $975 million in 2021. And NAB’s current policy enables this continue happening until at least October 2025. In November 2023 NAB announced that from 1 October 2025 it will require the majority of fossil fuel extraction companies to have Paris-aligned climate transition plans in place in order to provide additional lending. While a welcome, and well overdue, development, the long-lead time means that NAB can keep providing corporate finance to climate wreckers without any plans to reduce their emissions until October 2025. This gives these companies even more time to push ahead with their destructive projects with the financial support of NAB. NAB needs to require this of all of its fossil fuel customers today, and refuse finance to any company developing or enabling new coal, oil and gas. This is something that even NAB’s shareholders recognise as in the best interests of the bank – with a whopping 28.3% voting in favour of a shareholder resolution at its 2023 AGM in favour of the above.

CommBank

NAB Climate Scorecard

since January 2016

Total lending to fossil fuels

$14,093 million

Lending to companies with expansion plans

$4,564 million

Lending to expansionary projects

$2,215 million

Total emissions enabled from expansionary projects
(tonnes CO2)

6 billion

The data in this section covers the timeframe 1 Jan 2016 – 31 Dec 2022

NAB policy scorecard

New and expanded fossil fuels Project finance policy wdt_ID Corporate finance policy Bonds policy Financing examples - companies and projects (2021-2023)
Thermal coal mines (greenfield and mine expansions/extensions) X 80 Doesn’t rule out companies building new or expanded thermal coal mines, but has stated it does not intend to provide further finance to companies whose primary activity is thermal coal mining. Doesn’t rule out companies building new, expanded or extended thermal coal mines
Coal power plants (greenfield and expansions) X 82 Doesn’t rule out companies building new or expanded coal power plants Doesn’t rule out companies building new or expanded coal power plants
Gas fields Rules out new (greenfield) but not expanded (brownfield) gas fields 84 Doesn’t rule out companies building or expanded new gas fields Doesn’t rule out companies building or expanded new gas fields Santos
Beach Energy
Cooper Energy
Gas power plants Doesn't rule out new or expanded gas power plants 85 Doesn't rule out companies building new or expanded gas power plants Doesn't rule out companies building new or expanded gas power plants
LNG projects Doesn’t rule out new or expanded LNG projects 86 Doesn’t rule out companies building new or expanded LNG projects Doesn’t rule out companies building new or expanded LNG projects Pluto 2 LNG Train
Santos
Sabine Pass LNG Facility (Bond)
Oil fields Rules out new (greenfield) but not expanded (brownfield) oil fields 87 Doesn’t rule out companies building new or expanded oil fields Doesn’t rule out companies building new or expanded oil fields Santos
Metallurgical coal mines (greenfield and mine expansions/extensions) Doesn’t rule out new (greenfield) or expanded (brownfield) or extended metallurgical coal mines 88 Doesn’t rule out companies building new, expanded or extended metallurgical coal mines Doesn’t rule out companies building new, expanded or extended metallurgical coal mines Olive Downs Metallurgical Coal Mine
BHP
Glencore
Oil and gas field pipelines Doesn’t rule out pipelines that service new or expanded oil and gas fields 89 Doesn’t rule companies building pipelines for new and expanded oil and gas fields Doesn’t rule companies building pipelines for new and expanded oil and gas fields APA Group
Appendix

Market Forces report lending differently to the banks

Each of the big four banks report their fossil fuel exposures based on their lending portfolio to the industry. However, the banks use different reporting methodologies, with some reporting in more detail than others in terms of total exposures to the fossil fuel supply chain.

Market Forces reports on the lending that banks participate in each year, including refinancing of existing deals. We consider each refinancing a conscious decision by a lender to continue supporting a company or project, and lending groups can and often do change upon refinancing and we want to capture this.

In addition, through refinancing existing loans for a new fixed term, a bank is making money available to a fossil fuel company that it otherwise would not have if the bank had decided to not refinance.

When banks report on exposure however, refinancing will not show up as ‘additional exposure’ unless the bank decides to commit more money, as that money is already on the bank’s books. Whilst this approach is legitimate, we believe it doesn’t capture the extent of support the banks provide to companies by refinancing, which is essentially to provide more money to fossil fuel companies for longer periods of time.

NAB's reported fossil fuel exposure

NAB reports its fossil fuel exposure to:

Oil and gas extraction, thermal coal mining, metallurgical coal mining, gas-fired power generation and coal-fired power generation.

NAB’s exposure has been simplified below into ‘coal’ and ‘oil and gas’ exposures.

Campaign news

17 June, 2024
International banks no longer involved with Santos’ Barossa gas project
7 June, 2024
NAB responds to shareholder warning on fossil fuel funding
7 February, 2024
Will the funders of Santos’ Barossa project live up to their human rights commitments?
16 November, 2023
Big four banks make strides, but action still dangerously slow in a climate emergency

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