The policy, which comes as the bank also reported an unaudited full-year net profit drop of 40 per cent, commits the bank to exit thermal coal by 2030.
Under the 10-year strategy, ANZ has committed to stop directly financing any new coal-fired power plans or thermal coal mines including expansions by 2030.
It will also “wind down” existing direct lending to coal-fired plants and thermal coal, and help existing customers with more than 50 per cent exposure to thermal coal create diversification strategies by 2025.
ANZ group executive Mark Whelan told investors via its blog Bluenotes that the new approach committed the bank to “taking strong action to support the Paris Agreement”.
The big four bank has pledged to no longer provide services to any new business that makes more than 10 per cent of its revenue from thermal coal.
The bank also made changes to how it would finance the construction of large-scale office buildings, saying loans would only be provided if the buildings were highly energy efficient and had a 5-star energy rating.
Activist group Market Forces said in a statement ANZ’s plan to tackle climate change meant “no major Australian bank or insurer is willing to back thermal coal beyond 2030, except for NAB”.
“However, the bank’s policies remain woefully inconsistent with the Paris Agreement, allowing it to fund companies which continue to expand the fossil fuel industry, such as those exploring and exploiting new oil or gas fields,” the statement said.
Market Forces criticised ANZ’s plan for coming five years after the Paris Climate Agreement: “ANZ has given coal companies a further five year window to plan business diversification.”
Research coordinator for Market Forces, Jack Bertolus, said the policy was “underwhelming”.
He said ANZ allowing customers with more than 50 per cent of operations linked to thermal coal another five years to diversify gave “highly polluting companies another five-year free pass to continue with business as usual”.
“It barely even brings ANZ into line with announcements made by the other big four banks on thermal coal,” he said.
The Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) also said ANZ had taken “baby steps on climate”.
The group acknowledged the bank’s “positive steps away from financing thermal coal” but said the withdrawal from coal was “too slow”.
“The crippling drought and bushfires Australians endured over the last 12 months are a stark reminder that global heating is hitting our nation and economy hard, and the clock is ticking on climate action,” said ACF’s chief executive Kelly O’Shanassy.
“Financing coal, gas and oil is fuelling climate disasters; Australia’s banks are responsible and must be accountable.”
O’Shanassy criticised the bank for remaining “firmly invested in companies that it acknowledges have material exposures to thermal coal”.
Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack released a statement on Thursday condemning ANZ’s policy for being “sheer virtue-signalling”.
McCormack said banks should be focused on “supporting our agricultural producers, not adding an extra layer of administration”.
“Imposing largely Euro-centric standards to satisfy shareholder activists while our nation recovers from a global pandemic is grossly unfair,” he said.
ANZ chief executive Shayne Elliott told investors via Bluenotes on Thursday afternoon the bank was not shifting support away from farmers.
“ANZ’s climate change statement is focused on the top 100 carbon emitters, and will have no impact on the bank’s farmgate lending practices,” Mr Elliott said.
He said the policy was about the bank’s “major agribusiness customers” becoming more energy efficient and was “not about family farms”.
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