15 year-old climate disaster survivor Chris Black this morning interrupted NAB CEO Ross McEwan’s opening address at the AFR Banking Summit at the Hilton in Sydney. Chris narrowly survived Cyclone Seroja’s devastation of Kalbarri in WA last year, is active with the School Strike 4 Climate movement and is one of four young Australians to lodge a formal human rights complaint to the United Nations on climate change grounds.
Today Chris disrupted Mr McEwan’s keynote address and handed him a personal letter and a scorecard detailing the Big Four banks’ failure to align with the International Energy Agency’s net zero by 2050 pathway.
Chris was given a microphone (video here) and told Mr McEwan his story of survival from a freak cyclone, before calling on him to cease funding new fossil fuel projects in line with the IEA. Mr McEwan responded that “we’re not funding new ones,” despite the current NAB policy allowing loopholes for fossil fuel funding including corporate loans, infrastructure, and greenfield gas projects in Australia when underpinning “national energy security”.
According to Chris Black, “I almost died last year in a freak cyclone. Every day I have to deal with climate anxiety. My school flooded twice this year, and Lismore’s been devastated. It’s outrageous that our major banks keep adding fuel to the fire by funding new fossil fuel projects. Are they crazy? Can’t they see what’s happening?”
Outside the summit, a protest of around 50 people organised by 350.org heard from a bushfire survivor, a Pacific Climate Warrior and a youth leader from School Strike 4 Climate all opposing the big 4 banks’ continued funding of fossil fuels.
The protest also marks the release of a scorecard showing that all of the big 4 banks are out of step with the International Energy Agency’s net zero by 2050 pathway for oil and gas lending.
According to Joseph Sikulu, Managing Director of 350.org Pacific and Pacific Climate Warrior, “Financial institutions that continue to invest in dirty fossil fuel projects are also investing in the destruction of our islands and our homes. If Australia truly are reliable neighbours of the Pacific, Australian institutions need to stop bankrolling the climate crisis.”
According to Jann Gilbert, Bushfire Survivor and Marine Ecologist from Malacoota,“As a Bushfire Survivor for Climate Action I want the four major banks to commit wholeheartedly to no further funding of fossil fuel projects. To continue to do so totally undermines any emissions reduction strategy and the gains we could make.”
According to 350.org Australia CEO Lucy Manne, “Banks that are still funding oil and gas expansion are committed to greenwashing, not the Paris Agreement. The only credible way banks can play their part in reducing emissions in line with what science demands is to stop funding fossil fuel expansion.”
Lucy Manne: 0417 387 516 firstname.lastname@example.org
A video of Chris Black interrupting Ross McEwan’s speech is available here: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1mKO0EPDUD0Mx7w9FAnc6Ix7q8SNT6mpR/view?usp=sharing
The full 350.org Australia scorecard is available here: https://350.org.au/how-do-the-big-4-banks-stack-up-to-the-iea-net-zero-emissions-scenario/
Chris Black’s full letter to Ross McEwan:
May 31 2022
Dear Mr McEwan,
My name is Chris Black, and I am a 15 year-old climate disaster survivor. I’m in Year 9, and I live in Forestville, and I am very concerned about the climate crisis. For me this is a very personal issue, which is literally a fight for my future.
I wanted to personally deliver a letter to you today because despite all expert opinion (and a lot of community pressure), NAB is still actively making the climate crisis worse by funding new fossil fuel infrastructure and funding the worst fossil fuel companies who show no signs of supporting Net Zero.
These decisions are having real consequences for people all around the world. Over the last two years I’ve personally had some terrible experiences relating to the climate crisis that I wanted to tell you about, so that you could see the sorts of impacts that ordinary Australians like myself are having to endure now.
This is my story:
I started getting really worried about climate change when my family holiday house in the Blue Mountains almost burnt down in the Black Summer bushfires. The fire came within 100 metres of our house. We were lucky, but lots of people did lose their homes and even their lives. Heaps of animals died too and lots of forest burnt down.
After that I started reading more about the climate crisis and getting active with a few local groups. That helped me with the anxiety that I was feeling, and to feel like I was making a difference. But then in April last year, when I was on a holiday with my family in WA, we got caught in the middle of Cyclone Seroja. It flattened 80% of the town, and the hotel that we were sheltering in was basically destroyed. Tragically, a man was electrocuted and died just a few metres away from me. It was a terrifying experience that I’ll never forget.
We had to fly out of there and leave our car behind because the roads were far too damaged to drive. Having a birds eye view of the damage and destruction that had occurred really moved me. That was when it really started hitting me about how bad climate change is, and that it is happening right now. I had loads more mental health problems after that which really impacted my daily life. But I realised that I just needed to take more action, so that’s when I joined School Strike 4 Climate.
This year we’ve had all the terrible floods, and Lismore was hit really badly. My school flooded twice too, so I couldn’t go to school for three days. Climate disasters are getting worse and worse, and happening all of the time now. My climate anxiety wears me down, and almost everyone I know has some sort of mental health problems relating to climate. I’m trying to show them that we can do something if we speak up, and that we need to get our government and business leaders to listen to us.
So I hope you can understand more why ordinary Australians like myself are demanding urgent climate action. .
Last November, you denied engaging in greenwash and said on SBS that you had aligned NAB’s lending practice with the International Energy Agency. This is simply untrue Mr McEwan. We don’t buy your spin and greenwash. We’re sick of all your half measures and empty promises.
Students from School Strike 4 Climate also met with you earlier this year and asked you to step up and lead on climate. We’re sick of asking you Mr McEwan. Now we’re demanding that you take the Paris Climate Agreement, the International Energy Agency, and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change seriously and act immediately to:
- Stop funding all new fossil fuel projects and infrastructure.
- Stop funding fossil fuel companies that are not urgently transitioning (e.g. Whitehaven, New Hope, Santos and Woodside).
- Divert this money to funding more renewable energy solutions instead.
These changes would affect a tiny portion of NAB’s portfolio, but are critically important for avoiding catastrophic climate impacts.
I’m personally sick and tired of of all your companies negligible tactics to “mitigate climate change” and your blatant greenwashing. I firmly believe that you should be prioritising the safety of peoples lives over your own profit. That being said taking real action on climate change would have almost no economic impact on your company what so ever and would benefit NAB in the long run.
I would really appreciate hearing back from you about this.