October 12, 2022

Backlash to CommBank’s fossil fuel funding dominates Annual General Meeting, Chair commits to end finance by 2025 for companies without transition plans

12 October 2022: CommBank’s fossil fuel lending has caused significant backlash at the bank’s Annual General Meeting on Wednesday. 

Community outrage at the bank’s continued funding of fossil fuels was on display with a large rally outside the meeting, a number of shareholder questions to the bank, a shareholder resolution backed by Market Forces, a climate choir interrupting the Chair’s address, and a presentation of a “greenwashing award” interrupting the CEO.

In response to a number of questions from shareholders, CommBank Chair Paul O’Malley made a new commitment to end finance by 2025 for companies without transition plans.

Photos and footage can be found here

100 people including CommBank shareholders, customers, bushfire survivors, and representatives of the SAPNA South Asian climate solidarity network rallied outside the event, calling for an end to the bank’s fossil fuel lending. The rally was organised by 350.org Australia.

According to Jack Egan, a speaker at the rally, “CommBank is trying to make final fast-bucks from fossil fuels while at the same time professing to be a leader in getting to net-zero. My partner and I lost our home to the climate-driven megafires of 2019/20, and I’m calling on CommBank to immediately stop lending for new fossil fuel extraction projects or the expansion of existing ones.”

Inside the AGM, the event was also dominated by calls for CommBank to end its financing of fossil fuels. 

7 choir singers interrupted the Board Chair Paul O’Malley with renditions of ‘Oh my darling’ and ‘Pack up your troubles’ with new lyrics calling on CommBank to divest from fossil fuels.

Charles and Aleksa from the Chasers team then interrupted CEO Matt Comyn to congratulate him on winning the illustrious “Greenwashing Award” for bankers who have done an outstanding job marketing their fossil fuel lending as sustainable. 

Both groups were escorted from the building. 

The CommBank board and CEO also came under fire as it answered 15 questions from shareholders related to its continued funding of fossil fuels, including from 15 year old school striker Austin Caetano, who asked the Chair to meet with him, to which O’Malley agreed. 

Jack Egan, bushfire survivor from NSW asked how CommBank levels its at risk mortgage portfolio with its fossil fuel investments.

During the questions from shareholders, the CommBank Chair Paul O’Malley made a new commitment to end finance by 2025 for companies without transition plans.  

According to 350.org, CommBank is out of line with its own commitments to net zero emissions by 2050, and is one of the biggest lenders to fossil fuels of Australian banks.

According to Lucy Manne, “CommBank can’t claim to be committed to net zero emissions while at the same time lending billions to fossil fuel projects and companies: it’s that simple. As the CommBank board reviews their oil and gas lending policy, their customers and shareholders expect to see words met with action – no more financing of new or expanding fossil fuel projects and companies.” 

The backlash seen at the AGM came after CommBank failed to rule out funding new fossil fuel reserves in its latest Climate Report, published in August, and recently co-financed a $1.4 billion dollar deal to major Australian oil and gas expander, Santos, related to its Barossa gas project that is fiercely opposed by Tiwi Islanders. 

CommBank is currently reviewing its oil and gas policy, with an updated policy set to be released in 2023. 

Photos and footage can be found here

Media contact: Lucy Manne 0417 387 516, lucy@350.org.au