Westpac bank needs to put its money where its mouth is on climate change

350 Aotearoa welcomes Westpac’s announcement to end its financing of thermal coal projects by 2030, and not establish new relationships with new thermal coal customers in the interim. However, the bank needs to extend its phase-out of fossil fuel finance to oil and gas companies to support its commitment to limit climate change to 1.5C and achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement.

350 Aotearoa campaigner Erica Finnie said “Westpac bank’s updated climate change position statement is a small step in the right direction. As the most-polluting energy source, there is no place for thermal coal in the world’s transition to a low-carbon society. This announcement from Westpac brings it in line with over 100 significant banks and insurers that have announced their divestment from coal.”

“While Westpac’s plan to phase out thermal coal finance should be acknowledged, cutting ties with coal is the low-hanging fruit for banks to claim climate action. Westpac’s failure to make a direct commitment to not finance any new oil and gas projects in this period contradicts its claim to support the Paris Agreement. Any bank that continues to finance new and existing oil and gas projects is compromising the world’s ability to align with climate scientists’ recommendations to limit climate change to 1.5C.” said Finnie.

Research by Market Forces shows that since Westpac pledged to support the goals of the Paris Agreement, the bank has loaned AUD $5.4 billion to coal, oil and gas projects including AUD $846 million to projects that expand the scale of the fossil fuel industry. Since 2016, Westpac has loaned 2.7 times as much money to fossil fuels as to renewable energy.

“The science is clear that if we have any chance of limiting warming to 1.5°C, fossil fuels need to stay in the ground and we need a fast transition to 100% clean energy. This warming scenario gives us the best hope to keep islands and coastal cities above water and reduce the likelihood that deadly heat waves and wildfires become more common. Our banks must step up and acknowledge their vital role in keeping fossil fuels in the ground, by cutting off the finance that enables coal, oil, and gas projects to continue.”

Currently, no bank operating in Aotearoa has committed to a policy that rules out all future investment & lending in coal, oil, and gas companies.