The Guardian • Issue #2056

Greenwashing Overload

Anna Pha

“Our climate change commitment provides the framework for our strategy and our commitment to enable the transition by aligning our lending portfolio with net zero emissions by 2050,” claims ANZ in its 2022 annual report. This, it says, includes sustainable resource extraction in areas such as iron ore, lithium, nickel, cobalt, rare earths, copper and bauxite, and support for basic materials production including green steel and low-carbon aluminium production. Really? ANZ has been the biggest backer of the fossil fuel industry, lending it $18.6 billion since 2016, the year of the signing of the Paris agreement, and $4.6 billion between 2021 and 2022. The loans were for new projects and expansion of existing ones.

The NAB in its 2022 annual report notes that “Climate change is a significant risk to the planet and a major challenge for society to address. At the same time, considerable opportunities are emerging as the low carbon transition occurs. NAB is supporting customers as they decarbonise, build their climate resilience and help achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement.” Sounds great? But of the Big Four Banks, NAB is second only to the ANZ in its greenwashing, lending $9.5 billion between 2016 and 2020 to fossil fuel companies.

A similar sorry tale of greenwashing can be told about the other two major banks. In the last two years alone, the Big Four have lent the fossil fuel industry $13.1 billion. These loans are set to see an additional 2.4 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions – over 5 times Australia’s emissions in 2021. These loans are to some of the most climate destructive corporations in Australia including Woodside, Santos, Glencore, Whitehaven Coal, and the dirty Pluto 2 LNG project.

In June 2022, Tiwi Islands Senior Lawman Dennis Tipakalippa successfully launched a Federal Court lawsuit against Santos for failing to adequately consult with Traditional Owners prior to beginning development of the destructive Barossa gas field. Tipakalippa won his case and in December Santos also lost a subsequent appeal.

Traditional Owners said that the project risks disruption to songlines, sacred sites, and cultural practices, as well as spills and pipeline ruptures in the local marine and surrounding environments. The impacts of the Barossa gas field and associated Darwin LNG expansion project on the local environment and cultural heritage of the Tiwi Islands, Larrakia Country and surrounding sea country would be far-reaching and disastrous.

Tiwi Islands and Larrakia traditional owners lodged formal complaints against ANZ, Commonwealth Bank, NAB, and Westpac in April 2023 alleging that the banks breached their human rights commitments. These grievances are the first filed by traditional owners in Australia against financial institutions. They are demanding that the banks pull out of the existing loans to Santos and commit to not funding the proposed expansion of the Darwin LNG project, which would be used to process and export gas from Barossa.

If you bank with one of the four Big Banks, take action! Write to your bank demanding that they cease lending to the fossil fuel sector, or you will cease banking with them.

If new gas and coal projects continue to be approved and bankrolled as if there is no tomorrow, there will literally be no tomorrow.

Sources: Environmental Defenders Office and

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