The Commonwealth Bank and NAB today have committed to keeping global warming to less than 2 degrees Celsius, ahead of the Paris climate talks in December.
In a statement the Commonwealth Bank said: “International efforts to limit global warming to two degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels will require a transition from traditional economic models, and the world’s current energy mix, to low carbon and renewable alternatives.
“As a financial institution, we play a role in supporting the transition to a low carbon economy and will continue to actively seek opportunities to lend to, invest in and support innovative technologies and businesses that decrease dependence on fossil fuels and mitigate the effects of climate change.”
The bank said it knew its decisions could have “direct and indirect impacts on the environment”.
“Our objective is to ensure that we meet our responsibility to both safeguard the environment and support economic growth and development.”
NAB said: “NAB believes an effective United Nations agreement will provide both context and a framework for national actions and policies, facilitate international cooperation, and address the challenge of climate change. This includes supporting the globally agreed goal to limit global warming to less than 2°C above pre-industrial levels, as well as giving regard to science-based reduction targets and the policy and market mechanisms necessary to assist in achieving greenhouse gas reductions.”
The bank also called for a price on carbon.
350.org welcomed the announcements, but said a 2°C limit necessitated the banks halting investment in and lending to fossil fuel companies.
“Any bank that says it is committed to keeping warming to less than 2 degrees and calling for a price on carbon… is effectively saying that they are committed to phasing out their support for fossil fuels,” 350.org Australia chief executive Blair Palese said.
“The science is clear: to keep dangerous climate change below two degrees, we must keep fossil fuels in the ground.”
Ms Palese said the Commonwealth Bank was currently Australia’s second largest lender to coal and gas and the smallest lender to renewables out of the big four banks.
“Under the statement unveiled today, we hope to see the specifics of how the bank will instigate a transition from dirty to clean energy over the coming months across the whole of its business.”
She also said NAB’s commitments to increased finance for clean energy and support for carbon pricing sent a strong message to the government that the business sector was taking climate action, and that the government should follow.
“Statements like these from our major banks are exactly what’s needed ahead of the Paris climate talks,” Ms Palese said. “It’s now time for the banks to walk the walk and put their commitments into practice by developing serious plans to phase-out fossil fuels.”