Poll reveals high expectations for banks to avoid fossil fuels

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17 September 2016

A new survey has shown strong support, especially among customers of the major banks, for action to avoid financing fossil fuel projects that damage the environment and worsen climate change.

The poll, conducted by Essential Research for Market Forces, asked over 1,000 Australians about their attitudes towards their bank’s behaviour and found the majority wanted to see their bank act in a way that avoids activities that harm the environment and worsen climate change.

In late 2015, each of the big four banks came out in support of the goal to hold global warming to below two degrees and acknowledged their own role in helping to meet this critical target. Customers clearly welcome this move, with 71% of survey respondents supporting the decisions .

Views and expectations regarding environmentally friendly investing

Important that my bank doesn't invest in projects that harm the environment / worsen climate change
Supports the major banks' commitments to help hold global warming below two degrees
Expects the banks' two degrees commitments would mean they stop funding projects that expand the fossil fuel industry

These results were slightly higher for customers of the big four banks. Customers of Westpac, whose CEO Brian Hartzer said last year that:

“Westpac is committed to operating, both directly and indirectly, in a manner consistent with supporting an economy that limits global warming to below two degrees.”

agreed at a rate of 67% that Westpac would now be expected to stop lending to projects that expand the scale of the fossil fuel industry, with 27% strongly agreeing.

This expectation is a long way from the reality. Since the banks made their commitments to help hold global warming below two degrees they have loaned another $5.6 billion to fossil fuels, including to several new projects that would increase the amount of CO2 entering the atmosphere by 3 billion tonnes.

Civil society calls on the big banks to stop funding fossil fuels

The polling results arrive as Australians in their thousands join civil society groups and prominent community members in an open letter, calling on the big banks to stop funding fossil fuels.

View and sign the open letter

Market Forces Lead Campaigner, Julien Vincent, said of the results:

Here we are with 72% of Australians saying it is important that their bank doesn’t finance projects that harm the environment and contribute to climate change, when less than 20% of Australians can actually say that of their bank. 

Its important at Australians become informed about the role their bank plays – especially ANZ, CommBank, NAB and Westpac – in financing dirty coal, oil and gas projects that are putting the environment, health and the climate at risk. 

Millions ready to make the switch

When asked how likely they would be to consider moving to another bank if their current bank was found to be funding projects and activities that harmed the environment and contributed to climate change, almost half said they would be more likely to consider changing. 12% said they would be much more likely to make the switch, suggesting that well over 2 million Australians would be much more likely to leave the big banks over their lending to fossil fuel projects.

Here’s how the questions about preparedness to switch banks were responded to.

Would switch banks over investments in environmental / climate damage
Would switch banks over investments in coal and gas projects in the Great Barrier Reef
Would switch banks over investments in unconventional gas near farming communities

Take action – join Divestment Day!

On the 7th and 8th of October, Market Forces is coordinating a Divestment Day of action where customers of the big banks will close their accounts in protest over their bank’s support for dirty fossil fuels.

Divestment Day is for everyone so click the button below to sign up and help us send a message to the banks: If they choose fossil fuels, we’ll choose another bank!