Shareholders revolt over ANZ’s climate destruction

Update: 10 am, Saturday 17 December

In news breaking this morning, ANZ’s CEO Shayne Elliott told media after the AGM that ANZ’s coal mining exposure was shrinking and he didn’t see a reversal of that trend, effectively ruling out funding for the Adani Carmichael project!


Australia’s biggest lender to fossil fuels, ANZ, faced hostility from shareholders today over the bank’s massive and continuing contribution to climate change and environmental damage.

Shareholders arriving at the Melbourne Convention Centre this morning for ANZ’s annual general meeting were greeted by protests over ANZ’s role as a major funder of fossil fuels, and the devastating impacts they have.

This theme continued inside the meeting, with a huge number of concerned shareholders taking the opportunity to question the board over ANZ’s support of fossil fuel projects. After struggling to answer the majority of climate-related questions, Chairman David Gonski went to the extraordinary step of cutting off a shareholder and shutting down all further questions on the topic. The board’s unwillingness to hear shareholders’ concerns was most evident when an attendee asked ANZ to consider the impact of disruptive fossil fuel projects on indigenous culture and connection to culture, but was cut off.

Another shareholder asked the board to apologise on behalf of the company for the terrible impacts of ANZ’s fossil fuel lending on communities and ecosystems in Australia and around the world. When Gonski failed to apologise, the questioner then offered his own apology, inviting other shareholders to join him. The astounding response from shareholders saw around 30 people stand in a demonstration of support.

Check out some more of the highlights (or, rather, lowlights) here:

Carbon budget

While ANZ has voiced its support for the goal of limiting global warming to below 2°C, it has so far failed to recognise the extremely tight carbon budget this limit implies, nor committed to decarbonise its lending portfolio accordingly.

Gonski today admitted the 2°C limit “of course” means the global economy must remain within a limited carbon budget, but suggested his bank’s policies, which exclude lending to only the highest emitting new coal power stations, were sufficient to ensure the budget is not exceeded.

The discrepancy between ANZ’s outlook and expert research, which suggests no new emitting energy infrastructure can be built after 2017 if the world is to have even a 50% chance of staying below 2°C, is striking. The bank clearly has its head firmly in the sand when it comes to understanding what the transition to a 2°C economy looks like.

Just transition for La Trobe Valley

A fair transition to a clean economy was also a matter of great concern by members of La Trobe Valley community group Voices of the Valley, who asked the ANZ board to commit to helping the traditionally coal-reliant community in its efforts to secure a just transition away from the outdated industry.

Having loaned hundreds of millions to Australia’s dirtiest power station, Hazelwood, as well as other La Trobe Valley coal power plants, ANZ has a responsibility to ensure the dinosaur polluters are closed as soon as possible, while workers, their families and the wider Valley community are fully supported throughout that process and into the clean economy future.

Adani Carmichael

As a signatory to the Equator Principles, ANZ is required to, amongst other obligations, ensure any project they finance has received the free, prior and informed consent from affected indigenous peoples. With this in mind, Gunditjmara man Chris Jakobi asked the bank to confirm that the ongoing legal challenges to the Adani Carmichael coal project in Queensland, run by the Wangan and Jagalingou Family Council, would this would render the project ineligible for financial support.

Gonski was unable to confirm this, merely stating ANZ would consider the issue and comply with its “legal requirements”. Hardly the resounding confirmation shareholders were looking for.

Unlike peer NAB, ANZ is yet to rule out funding Adani’s mega coal mine plans. This was clearly a concern for others, with further questions directed to the board on the topic throughout. But by this time, Gonski had by this time grown tired of trying to defend the bank’s poor climate credentials and flatly refused to even hear questioners out.

It seemed though that CEO Shayne Elliott was more willing to open up, telling media after the AGM that the bank’s current exposure to coal mining was $1.5 billion and shrinking, and he didn’t see that trend changing. It was a telling comment, because it all but closes the door for ANZ to create room for taking on any major new coal mining exposures, which Adani’s Carmichael mine would be the clearest example of.

Warming your world, our way

In a final protest against ANZ’s continued support for dirty fossil fuels, a group of shareholders stood up during the meeting and unfurled a banner reading “ANZ – Warming your world, our way”.

Another bank, another story

While ANZ’s board members were feeling the intense pressure, their peers at NAB were able to explain to shareholders the steps they were taking to bring NAB’s business into line with a low-carbon future.

At its AGM in Adelaide today, NAB confirmed it has no plans to be involved in financing Adani’s proposed Carmichael coal mine. They board also detailed NAB’s new climate change policy, which if taken at faced value, means the bank will no longer issue finance to companies or projects that expand the scale of the fossil fuel industry. NAB Chairman Ken Henry confirmed that NAB’s loan book will reflect the decrease in fossil fuels and corresponding increase in renewable energy required to hold global warming below the 2ºC limit.

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