Increased fossil fuel lending out of line with Westpac’s climate commitments

8 November 2019

There is a clear disconnect between Westpac’s pledge to help curb the climate crisis and their subsequent decision to increase lending to fossil fuel projects. 

Though Westpac’s exposure to fossil fuels may have decreased from one September to the next, this does not capture the full extent of its lending to the industry year to year.

Our analysis shows that Westpac increased lending to the fossil fuel sector by 8% between 2017 and 2018. If Westpac’s lending continues at the rate seen for the first half of 2019, this will be Westpac’s biggest fossil fuel lending year since its Paris Climate Change Agreement pledge in 2015. In total, Westpac has sunk at least $4.7 billion into the fossil fuel industry across 67 deals since that pledge. 

A huge $111 million Westpac loan went to Woodside Petroleum in October 2019 for its planned expenditure on projects such as Pluto LNG. Woodside is ramping up massive gas builds, including the $20.5 billion Browse project which it calls “Australia’s largest untapped conventional gas resource.”

On top of ongoing lending to fossil fuel projects that are already operational, Westpac has invested in projects that expand the scale of the fossil fuel industry, which is out of line with the Paris Agreement.

Though Westpac led the big four banks in 2017 when it launched a Climate Change Action Plan, its increase in fossil fuel investments since then contradicts its sustainability sentiment. According to our research, Westpac has lent at least $3 billion across 38 deals to the fossil fuel industry following the release of their Climate plan, without including the huge lend to Woodside in October 2019. 

According to our research, Westpac has lent at least $3 billion across 38 deals to the fossil fuel industry following the release of their climate plan

Market Forces

Westpac’s ongoing support for the fossil fuel industry undermines findings published in the world’s foremost scientific journal, “that little or no new CO2 emitting infrastructure can be commissioned, and that existing infrastructure may need to be retired early… in order to meet the Paris Agreement climate goals.”

Westpac’s rise in coal mining exposure from $0.58 billion in 2017 to $1.4 billion in 2018 was a major red flag for its commitment to the goals of the Paris agreement. Our research this year showing an 8% year on year fossil fuel lending increase, including investments in new projects, confirms the disconnect between the bank’s public statement on climate action and their ongoing funding of this dangerous industry.

TAKE ACTION! Tell Westpac to make a commitment that will actually hold it to the goals of the Paris agreement which means:
  • No thermal coal exposure by 2030
  • Not financing projects that expand the scale of the fossil fuel industry
  • Not financing clients whose business strategies are based on the failure of the Paris Agreement

More massive deals

  • Westpac struck an unusually large deal, providing $360 million to Coronado Global Resources coal project in October 2018. This extends the previously predicted closure date well beyond the investor-backed 2030 deadline for OECD countries to phase out coal power. 
  • In June 2018, Westpac helped coordinate a $3.8 billion loan to Origin Energy, the company powering the push to open up the Northern Territory to dangerous gas fracking, trashing indigenous land rights and threatening remote communities’ access to precious water resources. 
  • In February 2019, Westpac loaned $278 million to Indian Oil Corp, one of the largest oil and gas businesses in the country.
  • Westpac also continued its support for the massive APLNG gas export project in Queensland $423 million in lending in February 2019.

In October 2019, Market Forces lodged a resolution that will be voted on at Westpac’s annual general meeting, calling for the bank to reduce lending to the fossil fuel sector, consistent with the goals of the Paris Agreement on climate change. 

Take Action! Tell Westpac to make a commitment that will actually hold them to the goals of the Paris agreement.

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