A group of bushfire survivors has penned an open letter to the big four banks, calling on the financial institutions to stop funding fossil fuel projects and to divest from coal, oil and gas.
The Bushfire Survivors for Climate Action has urged the major banks to commit to dates for cutting off their exposure to the coal, oil and gas sectors, in line with the 1.5 degrees of global warming goal set by the Paris Agreement.
The letter, telling banks to “stop funding the climate crisis”, was published as a full-page advertisement in the Australian Financial Review on Friday, funded by donations from supporters.
“Millions of people have had their homes, livelihoods and health destroyed or impacted by fire and smoke and over a billion animals have died, bringing many ecosystems and species to the brink of extinction,” the letter read.
“As bushfire survivors we have faced these and previous fires and borne the brunt of their unprecedented ferocity. We know deeply, personally, what is at stake if humans continue to emit greenhouse gases at levels which are damaging the climate. Our jobs, homes and lives are on the line.
“We all need to do our part to bring global warming under control, but our major banks are failing to do theirs.”
Westpac in particular is currently in the process of updating its climate policies. According to activist group Market Forces, the bank has given $5.4 billion to coal, oil and gas projects and companies since the Paris Agreement was signed.
Market Forces has asked the public to print out the Bushfire Survivors’ open letter and mail it to the bank, in lieu of a standard rally outside Westpac’s offices.
The group said due to the COVID-19 outbreak, a standard protest would not be safe.
“Even after the Paris Agreement was signed, you have loaned billions of dollars to coal, oil and gas companies and projects, allowing their expansion and supporting the generation of carbon emissions that have helped get us to this point,” the letter said, addressing the banks.
“Your actions are delaying the necessary shift to renewable energy. Instead, your support for fossil fuels is fuelling the problem, making you partly responsible for the fires which have ravaged Australia in the last few months.
“This cannot continue. Too much is at stake.”
At the end of January, Friends of the Earth Australia and three bushfire victims teamed up to launch a claim against ANZ under international law, accusing the bank of funding the climate crisis through its fossil fuel investments.
Friends of the Earth reported the bank had increased investment in coal by 34 per cent over the last two years and was the largest fossil fuel financier of the big four.
Since the Paris Agreement, it said ANZ had lent $8.76 billion to the fossil fuel sector and expansionary projects, enabling emission of 2.8 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide.
Sarah Simpkins is a journalist at Momentum Media, reporting primarily on banking, financial services and wealth.
Prior to joining the team in 2018, Sarah worked in trade media and produced stories for a current affairs program on community radio.
You can contact her on [email protected].