Westpac called on to quit fossil fuels at its AGM

Melbourne, 13 December 2013

After two major new coal and gas projects were approved in the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area this week, activists have unfurled two giant banners at the Westpac annual general meeting, calling on the bank to end investments in the fossil fuel industry.

The 7 x 5 metre banners, addressed to CEO Gail Kelly, bear the names of over three thousand Australians who have signed an open letter, calling for Westpac to divest from the fossil fuel sector for the sake of protecting the climate.

Among the letter’s signatories are former political leaders, climate change and environmental scientists, academics including Peter Singer and Robert Manne, writers such as Peter Carey and Nobel Laureate John Coetzee, and musicians including Mark Seymour, Clare Bowditch and Felix Riebl of The Cat Empire.

Felix Riebl was in attendance to deliver the letter, and said “Westpac calls itself an environmental leader – now is the time to prove it. With the Australian government approving massive new coal and gas projects in the Great Barrier Reef, it’s vital that big banks fill this leadership void. Westpac needs to publicly declare that for the sake of the climate and for the health of the Great Barrier Reef it will not fund these destructive projects”.

Since January 2008, Westpac has loaned over $1.1 billion to coal and gas export projects, many of them inside the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area. Market Forces and 350.org are behind the open letter project, which is aimed at all of Australia’s big four banks and calls on them to:

  1. Place an immediate prohibition on loans to new fossil fuel extraction projects and the infrastructure required to enable them.
  2. Sell down all stakes held either directly or through third parties in companies engaged in fossil fuel extraction.

Market Forces Lead Campaigner, Julien Vincent, said “We are at a moment in time where bold, decisive action is prevent the massive expansion plans of the fossil fuel industry and give the world a chance of avoiding catastrophic climate change. Westpac needs to send a strong signal to the rest of the finance sector and acknowledge that it is unacceptable to be funding new coal and gas projects in this climate crisis.”

350.org Campaigns Director, Charlotte Wood, said “As the world, led by China, moves toward a low-carbon economy, Westpac’s fossil fuel assets are at major risk of becoming stranded, in turn diminishing shareholder value and ratcheting up major financial losses for the Bank”.

The groups plan to continue building the letter as they prepare to deliver it to the other three major banks, ANZ, Commonwealth Bank and NAB.

For footage of the activity click here