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WESTPAC

Backing Australia’s worst climate wreckers

$9 billion

Loaned to dirty fossil fuels globally since 2016

Westpac has provided a total of $9 billion to the coal, oil and gas industries in the seven years since the Paris Agreement was signed.

Westpac has shown no sign of letting up on its climate-wrecking lending spree either. Fossil fuel lending jumped in 2022 to $1.7 billion, its highest annual figure since 2016.

But the most concerning aspect is who the bank continues to provide or arrange finance to. Just in 2022, Westpac handed over its customers’ money to some of Australia’s chief climate wreckers Woodside and Santos, and to Global Infrastructure Partners in a loan for the Pluto 2 LNG Train, one of Australia’s dirtiest new fossil fuel projects. Westpac was still exposed to Whitehaven Coal, Australia’s largest undiversified coal miner, until 31 July 2023, from a loan given in 2020.*

Westpac carried on with its concerning behaviour in 2023. Westpac acted as co-placement agent for a $1.3 billion bond for Santos and participated in a $2.3 billion loan to massive Japanese gas producer, trader and power company, JERA, a company with several gas projects in its near-future plans. To cap off its 2023, Westpac loaned $80 million to APA Group, the first choice pipeline company to unlock the carbon bomb Beetaloo Basin. 

Last updated: March 2024

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Tell Westpac 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.

Progress on paper but dodgy deals undermine credibility

In November 2023 Westpac announced a host of fossil fuel finance restrictions that will further limit the projects and companies the bank can fund.

Westpac brought forward its planned exit from thermal coal (meaning companies that earn >15% of revenue from thermal coal mining) by five years to 30 September 2025. Westpac’s previous sole commitment was a complete exit from the sector (defined then as companies that earn >5% of revenue from thermal coal) by 2030, which also still stands. Effective from the announcement date (November 2023), Westpac won’t be providing corporate finance loans or bond facilitation for any company over this threshold.

Westpac has also ruled out project finance for new (greenfield) metallurgical coal mines, new and expanded oil and gas fields and associated dedicated infrastructure which includes pipelines and LNG projects (gas processing plants). It is the first of the big four Australian banks to rule out funding new LNG projects and metallurgical coal mines.

From October 2025, Westpac will require 1.5°C-aligned climate transition plans from its upstream oil and gas customers in order to continue funding them. That means that Santos and Woodside will have to be cut off as their enormous oil and gas expansion strategy is completely out of line with a 1.5°C warming pathway.

But despite looking good on paper, Westpac’s financing behaviour still remains a serious concern. In this respect, it’s trending towards being a climate laggard instead of a climate leader. In 2022 alone, Westpac funded two of Australia’s dirtiest companies, Santos and Woodside. See case studies below.

Westpac also provided $290 million to Global Infrastructure Partners in a $4.6 billion loan for acquisition of a 49% stake in the Pluto 2 LNG project in 2022. This project will be used to process gas from Woodside’s Scarborough gas field off the coast of Western Australia. Conservative estimates have placed emissions from Scarborough’s combusted gas at 687 million tonnes of CO2. Independent analysis has concluded the project represents a “represents a bet against the world implementing the Paris Agreement”.

Westpac’s fossil fuel lending since Paris  

The chart shown right shows Westpac’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 Westpac’s own reported exposures to fossil fuels as a further demonstration of the bank’s trends.

The chart shown right shows Westpac has loaned over $9 billion to fossil fuels since 2016, this includes: 

  • $1.7 billion to coal,
  • $2.3 billion to gas (exc. LNG)
  • $2.9 billion to LNG
  • $2.1 billion to oil

 

Westpac’s funding for new fossil fuel projects since Paris 

Since 2016 Westpac has loaned $1.2 billion to new fossil fuel projects, including:

  • $35 million to new coal projects,
  • $101 million to new gas projects (exc. LNG)
  • $1 billion to new LNG projects
  • $20 million to new oil projects

In total, these projects would result in 3 billion tonnes of CO2-equivalent. These expansion projects include: 

  • Ichthys LNG
  • Barossa gas project
  • Elk-Antelope gas fields 
  • Pluto LNG 2 (Scarborough)
  • Curragh coal mine expansion 
  • Tanami gas pipeline

 

 

Westpac’s funding for companies with expansion plans

Since 2016 Westpac has loaned $3.8 billion to companies with fossil fuel expansion plans through ‘corporate finance’ debt facilities.

Westpac is currently still exposed to three of Australia’s worst climate-wrecking companies with corporate finance loans:

  • Santos
  • Woodside
  • APA Group

Westpac’s customers – case studies

Santos

In August 2022, Westpac loaned $65 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, Westpac 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 initially dismissed by Westpac, and in September 2023, Westpac had a hand in arranging even more money for Santos, acting as a co-placement agent for a $1.3 billion bond. This prompted Traditional Owners to travel thousands of kilometres to attend the bank’s 2023 AGM, where they confronted the board over the lack of engagement regarding the complaint. You can watch their passionate addresses here. Immediately after the meeting, Westpac CEO Peter King agreed to visit the Tiwi Islands to hear their concerns firsthand. 

Whitehaven Coal

Westpac, as part of a syndicate of 12 banks, loaned Whitehaven $1 billion in 2020. It was exposed to Whitehaven Coal until July 2023. On Friday 21 April 2023, Whitehaven Coal announced it will fast-track mining of its new Vickery thermal coal deposit, with construction taking place as early as June this year. The scheduled open-cut thermal coal mine will begin with a ‘box-cut’, producing 1 million tonnes of thermal coal per annum as early as 2024, which Whitehaven plans to rapidly upscale to produce 10 million tonnes of coal per annum in 2025. It was a clear demonstration of the damage climate-wreckers can do with the financial backing of major banks.

Off the back of an enormous grassroots campaign, on July 17 2023 Whitehaven Coal announced it had failed to renew its $1 billion corporate loan. This loan was first inked in early 2013, meaning this failure to renew marked the end of ten years of financial backing from major Australian banks. Westpac is no longer exposed to Whitehaven Coal, and Whitehaven Coal no longer has the financial backing of any of Australia’s big four banks.

After finally dropping this climate pariah from its books, Westpac brought forward its planned exit from thermal coal (meaning companies that earn >15% of revenue from thermal coal) by five years to 30 September 2025. Westpac’s previous sole commitment was a complete exit from the sector (defined then as companies that earn >5% of revenue from thermal coal) by 2030, which also still stands. 

Westpac dealt another death blow to the thermal coal industry, stating that effective immediately Westpac will not provide any new corporate lending or bond facilitation to thermal coal mining companies (>15% revenue from thermal coal). With Westpac accelerating its transition away from thermal coal, it’s up to ANZ, CommBank and NAB to apply more restrictions to their thermal coal customers, such as Glencore, to ensure they don’t enable the expansion of the coal sector with their customers’ money.

Woodside

In July 2022, Westpac loaned $126 million to Woodside as part of a $1.76 billion general corporate loan.

Woodside is Australia’s largest producer of gas, and is pursuing massive expansion plans completely out of line with global climate agreements. Woodside’s business plans would see it bring on five new oil and gas projects currently in its pipeline. By 2028, the company is aiming to increase production by 24 per cent, and if it gets its way, their proposed projects would see an estimated 2 billion tonnes of harmful CO2 entering the atmosphere.

In May 2021, the International Energy Agency released the first Net Zero by 2050 Scenario and concluded that no new oil and gas fields could be developed in a world hoping to limit global warming to 1.5°C. Since then, Woodside has sanctioned a giant new gas project, the climate-wrecking Scarborough/Pluto 2 LNG project in November 2021, and followed this up in June 2023 by sanctioning the new Trion oil field in the Gulf of Mexico.

JERA

In October 2023, Westpac loaned $101 million  to JERA Global Markets as part of a $2.3 billion loan related to the company’s liquefied natural gas (LNG) business. JERA is actively pursuing significant expansion in the LNG sector, including projects such as Barossa in Australia, Freeport LNG in the US, and approximately five LNG import terminals and LNG to power projects with nameplate capacity of 11.6GW in Bangladesh and Vietnam. 

By sponsoring massive LNG projects JERA is increasing its carbon footprint, locking Asian countries such as Vietnam and Bangladesh into fossil fuels rather than having them develop renewable energy.

In April 2023, JERA also signed a 20-year Sales and Purchase Agreement with Venture Global for gas from the proposed giant Calcasieu Pass 2 LNG Terminal in Louisiana, USA. The project will have more than double the processing capacity of Woodside’s monstrous Scarborough/Pluto 2 LNG project.

APA Group

In November 2023, Westpac loaned $80 million to APA Group, as part of a $1.25 billion loan. While part of this loan will be used to fund APA’s acquisition of Alinta Energy’s existing Pilbara gas assets, it will also be used for ‘general corporate purposes’. The loan will not mature in full until 2033. 

In 2023, APA Group signed preliminary agreements with the leading developers of the Beetaloo Basin, Empire Energy and Tamboran Resources, to construct pipelines that would unlock the carbon bomb Beetaloo Basin. Analysis on the Basin estimates that it would create 1.2 billion tonnes of CO₂-e over its lifetime, more than double Australia’s annual emissions in 2021.

Despite the fact that Westpac has ruled out project finance for gas pipelines that unlock new or expanded gas fields, it has no policy restricting corporate finance to the companies building them. Unlike Westpac’s upstream oil and gas clients, pipeline companies like APA will not even be expected to produce emissions reductions (climate transition) plans in order to continue receiving funding. This is a massive loophole considering the infrastructure APA intends to build will unlock those fields and bring the gas to markets where it will be burned.

Westpac

Westpac Climate Scorecard

since January 2016

Total lending to fossil fuels

$9,013 million

Lending to companies with expansion plans

$3,789 million

Lending to expansionary projects

$1,180 million

Total emissions enabled from expansionary projects
(tonnes CO2)

3 billion

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

Westpac 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 X

X
Coal power plants (greenfield and expansions) Rules out new (greenfield) coal power plants but not expansions 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 Doesn’t rule out new or expanded gas fields 84 Doesn’t rule out companies building or expanded new gas fields Woodside
Santos
Beach Energy
Gas power plants Rules out 'gas processing plants' for new and expanded gas fields 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 Snapper Point Gas-Fired Power Plant
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
JERA
Oil fields Doesn’t rule out new or expanded 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
Woodside
Metallurgical coal mines (greenfield and mine expansions/extensions) Rules out new (greenfield) metallurgical coal mines, but not expansions or extensions 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 BHP
Oil and gas field pipelines X 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.

Westpac's reported fossil fuel exposure

Westpac reported fossil fuel exposures include:

Oil and gas extraction and exploration, metallurgical coal mining and metallurgical coal in diversified miners, thermal coal miners, LNG terminals, coal rail, coal ports, gas-fired electricity generation, black and brown coal-fired electricity generation, ‘liquid fuel’ for electricity generation, oil and gas refining, oil and gas distribution and retail.

Westpac updated its exposure reporting in 2020 in the current format, prior to 2020, Westpac reported on oil and gas extraction, coal and gas-fired power generation.

Campaign news

17 June, 2024
International banks no longer involved with Santos’ Barossa gas project
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
10 November, 2023
NAB commits to future fossil finance restrictions, business as usual for next two years

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