Westpac pledges financial climate action

Australia’s second largest bank, Westpac, will today announce a new commitment to prevent climate change of more than two degrees.

AFR reported the bank would use its AGM today to make a formal commitment to “operating both directly and indirectly in a manner consistent with supporting an economy that limits global warming to below 2 degrees".

Financial activist group Market Forces lists Westpac as fourth highest in Australia for exposure to fossil fuel lending, with 5.9 billion loaned over 59 deals.

Market Forces lead campaigner Julien Vincent said the bank’s new position would make it “far more accountable than other banks on climate change action”.

In an address released to the ASX this morning, Westpac CEO Brian Hartzer said the bank had continued to assess its own efforts on climate change, and fully supported the objectives of the UN conference on climate change in Paris.

“Westpac is committed to operating, both directly and indirectly, in a manner consistent with supporting an economy that limits global warming to less than two degrees,” he said.

“Westpac will continue to evolve its frameworks, policies and position statements, linked to concrete action to ensure our lending and investing activities support an economy that limits global warming to less than two degrees, based on research into the carbon intensity of our activities.”

Last month NAB announced it would commit $18 billion in financing activities over seven years to help reduce climate change and support transition to a low-carbon economy.

In September NAB told AFR that it would not fund Adani’s Carmichael coal project, and that it wished to take a leading role in the development of renewable energy. [Correction: The article previously stated Westpac had made the comment to AFR.]

Getup! spokesperson Ellen Roberts said Westpac was still highly exposed to fossil fuel production.

“Westpac’s decision demonstrates that it understands where the world is going,” she said.

“It recognises that the costs of global warming are huge and represent a risk to many of its investments and assets.

“Currently, Westpac is Australia’s fourth leading lender to coal and gas companies. Many of these are losing value as the world moves to more renewable energy.

“We expect to see real leadership from Westpac in the next year as they actively choose to invest in clean energy projects over the dirty fuels of the past.”

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