Climate conflicts and the big four Australian banks

The big four banks in Australia have all made commitments to align their lending with the goal of limiting climate change to 1.5 degrees – but according to Market Forces, they have provided more than $35 billion in funding to fossil fuels between 2016 and 2019.

We wanted to find out if the most powerful decision-makers in the big four banks – the board of directors – have systemic conflicts of interest that are holding them back from ruling out fossil fuels for good.

What we uncovered

We commissioned UK environmental investigators DeSmog to conduct research into the boards of Australia’s big four banks and their ties to fossil fuel companies.

According to the DeSmog analysis:

  • 21% of the directors of the big four banks had past or current ties to the fossil fuel sector, through ties to oil, gas, infrastructure and electricity companies.
  • Comparison between the big four bank boards and the boards of major banks in the US, UK, EU and globally found that Australia had the second highest number of past and current ties to the fossil fuel industry after the UK (21% and 23% respectively).
  • When taking into account ties to all major polluting industries and the world’s largest financiers of fossil fuels, 79% of the big four bank directors have current or past ties that can be classified as “climate conflicted.”
  • Two out of nine NAB Directors have past or current ties to fossil fuel mining or energy.

The research was covered in the Australian Financial Review, as part of our campaign calling on NAB to rule out lending to oil and gas projects.

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