Three bushfire survivors have joined environment group Friends of the Earth in a claim against ANZ, accusing it of financing the climate crisis by funding fossil fuel projects.
The case, lodged under international guidelines agreed by members of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), demands the bank disclose its greenhouse gas emissions, including “scope three” emissions resulting from its business lending and investment portfolio, and set ambitious targets that align with the Paris climate agreement.
The claim was inspired by a successful complaint against ING bank in the Netherlands by Friends of the Earth, Oxfam and Greenpeace. Mediation following that complaint led to ING committing to measure and publish its indirect emissions, reduce its thermal coal exposure to near zero by 2025 and make its portfolio consistent with the Paris goal of keeping global heating well below 2C above pre-industrial levels.
The complainants in the ANZ claim include Jack Egan, who was approached by Friends of the Earth to join the action after his home near Batemans Bay, on the New South Wales coast, was destroyed on New Year’s Eve.
Egan said there was a clear link between ANZ and other institution’s ongoing support of fossil fuels and the extreme hot and dry conditions that exacerbated the fire that left him homeless. “We are not seeking damages or compensation from ANZ, I just want them to stop fuelling dangerous climate change,” he said.
Friends of the Earth announced the action at a protest outside ANZ headquarters in Melbourne’s Docklands. It lodged the claim with the federal government’s OECD national contact point, a section of the federal treasury responsible for hearing complaints of corporate wrongdoing under the OECD guidelines for multinational enterprises.
The national contact point’s initial role is to attempt to broker a mediation between the parties. If agreement cannot be reached, it can make recommendations, but cannot force parties to take action. ANZ declined to comment on Thursday.
The environment group alleges ANZ’s breaches of the OECD guidelines include misleading consumers by claiming to support the Paris agreement targets while continuing to invest in projects that undermine the meeting of those targets.
Emila Nazari, a legal officer with Friends of the Earth, said the bank had increased investment in coal 34% over the past two years as it lent $8.8bn to the fossil fuel sector. She said the bank was Australia’s largest financier of fossil fuel industries, and continued to invest billions of dollars in “climate wrecking projects” while bushfires raged across Australia.
“It is illegal for someone to light a bushfire, and we believe it is illegal for companies to finance the burning of our common home. This case is one of many to come against climate criminals,” Nazari said.
The other names attached to the action are Joanna Dodds, a Bega Valley Shire councillor and member of the group Bushfire Survivors for Climate Action, and Patrick Simons, a Friends of the Earth renewable energy campaigner whose family lost their home in NSW.