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Public backlash highlights CommBank’s toxic fossil fuel problem



Customers abandoning bank over environmentally damaging lending.

Sydney, 23 June 2017: Community backlash against the Commonwealth Bank’s support of fossil fuels is now so severe that the bank has been forced to set up a special taskforce to handle customers threatening to close their accounts.

 

The revelation comes after continued pressure by customers and concerned community members who have staged numerous protests outside CommBank branches across the country and peppered the bank’s Facebook page with messages pleading for the bank to “dump coal” and “stop supporting the fossil fuel industry”.

 

“Despite clear proof that fossil fuel investments are toxic, the Commonwealth Bank would rather create a PR team than deal with their customers’ concerns,” Greenpeace Climate and Energy Campaigner, Nikola Casule, said.

 

“Customers started out angry that the bank they trusted with their money is investing in fossil fuels that are damaging the environment and killing the Great Barrier Reef and now they are furious that those concerns are being ignored.

 

“The only substantial thing CommBank have done since their customers started telling them they wanted action on climate change has been to set up a team of people to try to convince people not to take their business elsewhere,” Dr Casule said.

 

The Commonwealth Bank made a public commitment to take action to limit global warming to no more than two degrees in late 2015, but last year lent a massive $3.886 billion to coal, gas and oil mining and infrastructure projects, making it the biggest funder of dirty fossil fuels in Australia in 2016.

 

Under questioning at a parliamentary inquiry in March, CEO Ian Narev was unable to provide a single example of the bank’s climate policy affecting lending decisions and last month it was revealed that CommBank had been secretly working with Adani to facilitate the construction of the Carmichael megamine. It has still not ruled out providing finance to the proposed mine.  

 

A new international study into 37 banks’ fossil fuel lending policies by BankTrack yesterday put the Commonwealth Bank at the bottom of the pile because of its failure to evidence any policies to restrict coal, gas or extreme oil projects.

 

“I have been a CommBank customer for over 20 years. I have several mortgages and a business account,” Cabarita resident and business owner, Michael Rahme, said.

 

“Investing in new coal mines  and coal fired power stations has clearly and undoubtedly become an investment risk, a social risk, and an environmental risk that can no longer be ignored. The individuals on the Board of CommBank would be morally and ethically bankrupt to continue to do so.

 

“If Commbank do not publicly declare that they will no longer fund or lend or invest in new coal fired power stations, I will be leaving the bank and never coming back.”

 

Close to 85,000 people have signed a petition calling on CommBank to stop funding new coal, and over 4,500 CommBank customers have indicated they are considering changing banks over their support of dirty coal, oil and gas projects.

 

“Instead of action to address the concerns of their customers all we have seen is more empty repetition of the same PR rhetoric and spin in direct letters and emails to customers,” Dr Casule said.

 

“The Commonwealth Bank talks up the need to address climate change, invest in renewables and help us transition to a low-carbon economy, but they are not living up to their word.”

 

For interviews contact:

Rachael Vincent, Media Campaigner rachael.vincent@greenpeace.org 02 9263 0354 | 0413 993 316

 

Notes

Market Forces’ research shows CommBank is Australia’s dirtiest bank, lending $3,886 million to fossil fuels in 2016 and a total of $20.5 billion between 2008 and the first half of 2016 (including $4.523 billion to coal mines, coal fired power plants and coal ports).