Over ten days in late March and early April, people from diverse religious traditions took part in almost 50 peaceful protests across Australia against the National Australia Bank (NAB), targeting the bank’s continued funding of fossil fuels.
Laws to strengthen Australia’s climate change response recently passed our federal Parliament. For the first time, there is a national policy in place to genuinely reduce greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels. This includes caps on emissions, constraints on the use of certain taxpayer funds for industry projects, restrictions on offsets, and pollution assessments for new fossil fuel projects.
It means that some fossil fuel projects that were otherwise likely to go ahead no longer will.
However, the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change shows that there can be no new fossil fuel projects if the world is to have a reasonable chance of avoiding the worst excesses of global warming, a goal agreed to by the world’s governments.
Stronger action is needed to keep fossil fuels underground.
On April 5, people from Muslim, Christian and Buddhist faiths prayed and meditated in the lobby and outside of the NAB headquarters in Sydney calling on the bank to stop funding fossil fuel projects, starting by ruling out any further funding of Whitehaven Coal’s coal expansion plans. Whitehaven Coal is seeking a renewal of NAB’s $110 million debt facility by the middle of the year.
The Rev. Dr Chris Walker, a retired Uniting Church Minister, said, “My concern about climate change arises from my Christian faith in God the Creator who calls us to care for and appreciate creation. It is imperative that action be taken now before it is too late to prevent serious climate warming and the devastating effects that it is already bringing.
“Coal is the worst offender. Coal export is Australia’s biggest contribution to the global climate crisis. We, people of faith, are distressed by NAB’s stubborn financing of fossil fuel extraction. All of us, wherever we live, will be subject to the negative consequences of climate change, yet it is people who have contributed least to the problem that are suffering the consequences most.
“Today we are joining with the Move Beyond Coal movement to call on Ross McEwan, NAB’s CEO, to explicitly rule out funding for companies like Whitehaven Coal – a company that has no transition plan, no climate policy and, if financed, their plans would lead to further climate catastrophe.”
Since January 2016, NAB has loaned $9.5 billion to fossil fuels, even while pledging to align with limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees.
Fahimah Badrulhisham, a Muslim architect who joined the pray-in, said, “I am currently observing Ramadan, a month where Muslims fast during the day to cleanse our body, mind and spirit. It is also the month where we remember and help the less fortunate, and level up our efforts in seeking justice. Which is why today, in this holy month, I am standing with Pacific Islanders, young people and climate-vulnerable communities of the Global South by taking a stand against NAB.”
The holding vigil refused requests by NAB management to leave the lobby. Police were called and removed the protestors.