Why Josh left Commbank: fossil fuels

Josh WK

Josh joined a hundred people in November 2013 around Australia to close their Commonwealth Bank accounts in protest of the bank’s fossil fuel lending.

Letter from Josh Wyndham-Kidd to Commonwealth Bank:

I am writing to let you know why I decided to close my account with the Commonwealth. I have been with your bank since I opened my first Dollarmites savings account in early primary school. I remember the excitement of opening my first Keycard account at the branch in Crows Nest. Over the years, I’ve done most of my day to day banking with CBA.
 The damage done to our environment and to our climate by major fossil fuel projects across Australia started to worry me a few years ago. As I learned more about the issue and volunteered my time in campaigns to spread the word, I became aware of the extent to which many Australian banks – including the Commonwealth – are financing major fossil fuel projects in Australia. 
Unfortunately, your bank is a major supporter of the coal and gas sector. I cannot in good conscience leave my savings in the hands of a bank that is willing to loan billions of dollars to finance coal and gas export plans in the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area, as the Commonwealth has done.
These plans threaten so much of what we all hold dear that it’s hard to rationalise any policy that continues to finance them. Australia’s largest contribution to global climate change is our fossil fuel export sector, set to expand vastly unless you, and I, and everyone we know, do what we can in our own lives to make sure that huge mine and port expansions don’t go ahead. That is our responsibility as Australians, as guardians of one of the largest stocks of unburned fossil fuels in the world.
But not every Australian has equal power over such things. I don’t have the ability to deny approval to projects in the Galilee, the Bowen, the Surat, the Southwest, the Pilliga, the Leard or anywhere else – so I vote for people who I trust to act in Parliament to stop them.
Similarly, I don’t have final say over any multimillion dollar financial decisions – but I can decide where to put the little stock of savings and super that I’ve managed to put together over the last few years.
As a consequence, at the end of last year, I finally closed my Commonwealth account. I now bank with a community credit union that does not and will not finance coal and gas. I also plan to consolidate my super into a fund that does not invest in fossil fuels, before May 2 – the national day of divestment. I want to make sure that my own finances do not support an industry that is ruining our precious natural environment and the climate on which we all depend.
(All of this, of course, is not to mention the fact that investing in coal and gas is an unacceptable financial risk. Between policies aimed at curbing fossil fuel pollution, a rapidly changing regional energy market that will leave new coal projects struggling, and a rapidly growing global movement to divest from fossil fuels – they are far too risky for my liking.)
There is the argument that fossil fuel projects will go ahead anyway. I don’t buy that for a second. As we’ve seen countless times, even from the bevy of coal projects already ‘paused’ or cancelled on the Reef – the participation of major financial institutions in damaging projects is key to their success, and the decision of one bank can make all the difference.
So, I hope that the movement to divest keeps building as it already has in Australia and overseas, and I’ll be asking my friends to join me in closing their accounts with any bank that funds fossil fuel extraction and expansion. 
We’ll keep trucking along and asking people to divest until more banks join those that have already pledged to not invest in fossil fuels – and I very much hope that the Commonwealth will join in sooner rather than later!
I would be very interested in your response. Best of all would be an announcement from the Commonwealth that you will no longer finance fossil fuels – now that would be a real plus. I can see the posters now:
Which bank doesn’t fund the destruction of the Reef?
Join Josh in moving money away from banks that fund dirty fossil fuels by participating in Divestment Day on Saturday 3 May.