Civil society to banks: get off fossil fuels!

Over 100 civil society organisations and prominent Australians have signed an open letter, published today, that calls on Australia’s major banks to live up to their climate change commitments.

The letter, signed by environmental and faith-based groups, unions, artists, writers, academics, health professionals, climate change scientists and some of Australia’s most respected musicians calls on the banks to back up their support last year for the Paris climate agreement with action that actually matches this ambition.

The letter, sent directly to each of the major banks, calls for the following:

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.

Commitments made, more emissions enabled.

In late 2015, all four of Australia’s big banks came out in support of the goal to help hold global warming to below two degrees. But since then, they have issued loans to the fossil fuel sector worth $5.6 billion and none of the banks have demonstrated the first step: ending support for new fossil fuel projects. Market Forces has calculated that over 3 billion tonnes of carbon emissions could be created from new projects financed by the big four Australian banks.

Many of the signatories to the open letter have put in their own words how unacceptable this ongoing support for fossil fuels is.

Cheryl Kernot, Associate Professor at the Centre for Social Impact, UNSW, and former leader of the Australian Democrats said:

“There is no Corporate Social Responsibility where banks invest in fossil fuels. No responsibility and no social license to operate.”

The Hon. David Murray AM QC, former judge of the Supreme Court of Victoria, said:

“Fossil fuels imperil the future of all children everywhere – and the generations beyond. For their sake, investment in these fuels must cease.”

Alongside the open letter, Market Forces is organising a Divestment Day of action across Australia on the 7th and 8th of October. Customers of the major banks can use this opportunity to leave in protest over their bank’s ongoing funding of the fossil fuel industry. Australians young and old can join the call: if the big banks choose fossil fuels, we’ll choose another bank!

Click here to learn more about Divestment Day and get involved.