A divestment protest at Tufts University in the US.

Australia’s big four banks have gone against their 2°C commitments made at the Paris COP21 by funnelling $5.6 billion into fossil fuel projects since December 2015, Market Forces has said.

The financial activism and divestment group says its latest analysis, Fueling the Fire 2016, shows that the banks have “made a mockery” of their commitments to keep global warming below 2°C.

“For the world to hit the agreed target of staying under two degrees of warming, there is no conceivable room for the fossil fuel industry to expand,” Market Forces executive director Julien Vincent said. “Yet in spite of their commitments, that’s exactly what the banks are financing.”

The largest lender to the fossil fuel projects since COP21 was the Commonwealth Bank at $2.2 billion, followed by ANZ on $2.1 billion, Westpac on $900 million and NAB of $400 million.

“To claim they will play a role in helping meet the urgent goal of holding global warming to below two degrees and then enabling the fossil fuel industry to further expand is either incompetence or just cynical greenwash,” Mr Vincent said. “Either way, the banks’ policies and actions need to quickly fall into line with their two degree commitments.”

Market Forces’s report provides details of specific lending to fossil fuel projects, including NAB facilitating an intercompany loan between coal miner Peabody and its Australian subsidiary, which Peabody claimed would enable to expansion of the Hunter Valley’s Wambo coal mine.

However, NAB seems to have had the strongest turnaround, becoming the only bank to lend more to renewables projects than fossil fuel projects since COP21. Its fossil fuel to renewable lending ratio was $0.60:$1, whereas the worst was Westpac, which had lent $11.65 to fossil fuel projects for each dollar to renewables. ANZ didn’t fare much better with $10.10 for every dollar, and CommBank at $4.25.

“Australia’s banks are well behind the curve globally,” Mr Vincent said. “It’s extraordinary that while the rest of the world doubles down on renewables, ANZ and Westpac continue to invest ten times more money into fossil fuels than into clean energy.”

Market Forces is organising a divestment day on 8 October, calling on customers to leave their banks for more ethical alternatives.

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