Follow The Money: The fight to #StopAdani brings banks and super funds into focus

The #StopAdani campaign ramped up last weekend with protesters crashing Westpac’s 200th birthday party in Redfern on Saturday night.

Adani Coal Mine Protest - Westpac

Politicians and CEOs, including treasurer Scott Morrison and former Queensland Premier Anna Bligh, got more than they bargained for at the ritzy black tie gala dinner.

A crowd of concerned citizens welcomed guests with chants and signs demanding that Westpac join other major Australian and international banks by ruling out funding the controversial Carmichael mine in Queensland’s Galilee Basin.

Adani Coal Mine Protest - Westpac

One protester, Shaun Murray, made his way inside to the main hall, climbed scaffolding and locked on. He disrupted the evening’s proceedings for 90 minutes, criticising Westpac’s lack of leadership on the issue of lending to coal.

Adani Coal Mine Protest - Westpac

"Westpac, unlike many other major banks, haven’t yet distanced themselves from this morally and environmentally bankrupt project. Because they have thus far refused to do so, the Stop Adani Alliance is escalating actions against the bank," Murray said in an interview with BuzzFeed News.

“At what point do our major institutions say ‘enough is enough’ and stop investing in climate change?”

Banks and Super Funds in the Spotlight

It takes money to make a mine. More often than not, that money comes from ordinary Australians via the banks and super funds we use every day. 

Despite paying lip service to helping Australia transition to a low carbon economy, banks are propping up the polluters causing climate change.

The big four banks have lent over $36 billion to the fossil fuel industry since 2008, according to research by NGO Market Forces. In 2016, they invested $10 billion in the fossil fuel industry, three times the amount that went to renewable energy.

Fossil fuel vs Renewable energy
Image source: Market Forces

However, it's not just banking you've got to look out for. Super funds are in the spotlight, too.

Australian super funds invest in fossil fuels and the banks that fund them. The Asset Owners Disclosure Project has estimated that up to 55% of global pension funds could be exposed to high-polluting assets, with only 2% invested in low carbon assets like renewable energy.

Even super funds with an 'ethical' label invest in banks that fund fossil fuels (Market Forces' SuperSwitch tool is a useful way to discover a super fund's exposure to fossil fuels). Future Super stands alone as the only super fund to take a strong stance and exclude banks on the basis of their lending to the harmful fossil fuel industry.

In response, thousands of Australians have been wielding their consumer power by switching to fossil free banks and Australia's first 100% fossil fuel free super fund, Future Super.

Banking on a Better Future

Banks and super funds that fund fossil fuels are ignoring climate reality. 

Over 80% of current fossil fuel reserves must to stay in the ground for a chance to halt warming at 2 degrees. Meanwhile, renewable energy is becoming cheaper and more effective. Economists, energy experts and APRA, Australia’s finance industry watchdog, have warned that fossil fuels risk becoming ‘stranded’ (i.e. worthless) assets.

If you’re concerned about the impact fossil fuels are having on our planet and our future, consider making the switch to fossil free banking and super.

Find out more information about fossil free banking at www.marketforces.org.au

Compare super fund exposure to fossil fuels at www.superswitch.org.au

About the author:
Michael Bones
Michael is Head of Growth at Future Super. He writes about the intersection between climate change, finance and ethics. Michael is a recipient of the Thomson Reuters Prize for his studies in Climate Law, and previously worked in communications for Canada's leading renewable energy social enterprise, Bullfrog Power.
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Michael Bones
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