NAB’s renewable energy commitments under scrutiny

The latest Sustainability Report from National Australia Bank (NAB) noted a bigger emphasis on renewable energy and less of a focus on coal. However, some of its commitments have already fallen under criticism from both sides of those participating in the climate change debate.

Renewable pipeline threatened by NEG says Smart Energy Council.

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The Sustainability Report 2019 mentioned a number of priorities for NAB, highlighting several big investments:

  • Increasing financial support for NAB’s environmental efforts from $55 billion to $70 billion by the year 2025.
  • Shifting its original renewable energy goal for operations across the company from 50 per cent to 100 per cent, by 2025.
  • Make it to the list of RE100 members.
  • Eliminate financing or support towards any current coal-fired power generation projects, unless the technology being used is designed to reduce emissions.
  • Cap thermal coal mining exposures at the existing levels.
  • Decrease the amount of thermal coal mining financial support by 50 per cent, by 2028. The company is looking to then make this percentage a 0 by 2035.
  • No thermal coal mining customers that are ‘new-to-bank’ will be taken on board.

It’s important to note here than in 2017, NAB stated it would no longer provide any financial support to new thermal coal mining projects.

Currently, the company’s renewables sit at 69 per cent of its exposures, which is an increase from 43 per cent in September 2015. Of these renewable sources, the combination is made up of:

Wind 29%
Hydro 14%
Mixed fuel 16%
Coal  2%
Gas 13%
Other/mixed 15%

The current portfolio from the bank currently sees renewable energy projects carrying a total of 10,516MW in generation capacity. In 2019, NAB financially backed 2,520MW of renewables, which included both wind and solar energy projects. These spanned across Australia, the US and the UK.

 

Where the criticism comes in

However, not everyone’s happy with NAB’s efforts. Liberal’s Craig Kelly labelled the actions as “blackballing” thermal coal mining.

“Anyone with half a brain understands that if [it] stops it’s thermal coal exports, countries like China and India will only use more of their low-quality domestic coal, and CO2 emissions will rise,” said Kelly in a recent Facebook post.

However, it’s important to note that if Aussie coal were taken off the table as an export, the price of coal would rise in general, making renewable energy more attractive across the board. This could potentially pressure other countries into adopting a similar, greener approach, doing their part in the great debate of climate change.

Beyond Kelly, Market Forces – an environmental finance group – were also less than impressed with NAB’s commitments. They noted that the 2035 goal to cut thermal coal completely (less than five years away) is five years more than what the COmmonwealth Bank had committed to in earlier 2019.

Additionally, the organisation scrutinised the commitment of boosting environmental financial support to $70 billion by 2025. They noted that more than half of it is ‘earmarked’ for mortgages towards six-star housing.

To read the full analysis from Market Force, click here.