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Banks provide $10bn in fossil fuel financing

By Killian Plastow
3 minute read

Australia’s big four banks provided a cumulative $10 billion in financing to fossil fuels in 2016, according to research by Market Forces.

The four big banks have "breached their promise" to support the transition to a low carbon economy by funding fossil fuel related projects, argues environmental lobby group Market Forces.

In a statement released yesterday, Market Forces said all four of Australia's big banks have publicly pledged to support "the transition to a low carbon economy" and keep the planet from warming a further 2 degrees.

“It’s nonsense to suggest funding the expansion of the fossil fuel industry is compatible with a 2 degree world, yet that is exactly what the banks are expecting us to swallow,” said Market Forces executive director Julien Vincent.

“What’s more, by continuing to prop up fossil fuels, Australia’s banks are bucking trends which have seen renewable funding sky-rocket.”

Market Forces did however note that most of this financing was targeted at gas-related projects, and financing towards new coal projects had “ground to a halt”.

“It seems the banks have belatedly got the picture that coal is no longer a viable funding proposition, both environmentally and economically,” Mr Vincent said.

A spokesperson for the Australian Bankers’ Association (ABA) said that while banks had a role to play in the shift to a low carbon economy, fossil fuels still played a significant role in Australia’s economy.

“Fossil fuels are a major source of jobs and income for Australia and a big part of its current energy mix, so banks continue to support these industries,” the ABA spokesperson said.

“Banks are aware of evolving community attitudes on climate change. Many banks provide information on their environmental activities and commitments in their annual reports and engage with stakeholders, both domestically and internationally, on climate change policy.”

The ABA spokesperson said banks “invest heavily in reducing their own carbon footprint” and consider a range of social, environmental and economic impacts when making lending decisions.

“The Australian Bankers’ Association recognises that climate change is a global issue that requires a sustainable global solution. The physical impacts and the regulatory responses to climate change will present both risks and opportunities for the banking and finance industry,” they said.

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