Australia

Federal government accuses ANZ of 'virtue signalling' for adopting carbon targets as a condition of lending

Agriculture Minister David Littleproud speaks to the media during a press conference at Parliament House in Canberra, Friday, October 16, 2020. Source: AAP

Michael McCormack and David Littleproud say the move unfairly penalises farmers.

Australia's two most senior Nationals politicians have slammed a "virtue signalling" and "out of touch" ANZ after it introduced new measures to lower its carbon footprint.

The banking giant said on Thursday it would adopt carbon targets as a condition of lending and impose low carbon deadlines for the agriculture, food and beverage, building, energy and transport sectors. 

Nationals leader Michael McCormack criticised ANZ for bowing to "shareholder activists" and said the move was "pure virtue signalling".

"With many farming families experiencing one of their best seasons in recent memory, the banking sector’s entire focus should be on supporting our agricultural producers, not adding an extra layer of administration," he said.

"Imposing largely Euro-centric standards to satisfy shareholder activists while our nation recovers from a global pandemic is grossly unfair."

In his own scathing statement, Agriculture Minister David Littleproud said regional Australians should consider boycotting banks that impose “crippling new carbon targets and penalties” on farmers.

“While ANZ has confirmed with me this morning that this will not impact family farms, this policy is disgraceful,” he said. 

“Banks are not and should not try to become society’s moral compass and arbiter – the Australian people decide that by who they elect." 

ANZ executive Mark Whelan said reducing carbon emissions is a shared responsibility for every sector of the economy and the bank understood the impact its financing has on climate change.

"We are in a unique position, through our lending decisions, to support customers and projects that reduce emissions as well as support economic growth,” he said.

ANZ has a long history of supporting Australia’s farmers and producers and the bank is committing to the allocation of $1 billion for disaster recovery and resilience, he added.

But Mr Littleproud said banks should not interfere in markets.

“When so much of our nation’s wealth is generated in the regions, penalising these industries and destroying livelihoods just to get the warm and fuzzies is pure insanity,” he said.

“It shows just how out of touch ANZ is about how our regional communities live and work." 

Earlier this year, the National Farmers’ Federation, Australia’s peak farm body, threw its support behind a target of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

A survey of Australians’ attitudes on climate change released on Wednesday found eight in ten want coal-fired power stations phased out.

The Australia Insititute's 2020 Climate of the Nation snapshot also found 71 per cent of respondents want Australia to be a global leader in fighting climate change and 68 per cent want it to set a goal of achieving net-zero emissions by 2050.

That came after Prime Minister Scott Morrison spoke with his British counterpart Boris Johnson on Tuesday night, where they discussed climate action.

Mr Johnson stressed the need for "ambitious targets" to reach net-zero emissions and said driving economic growth and reducing emissions could go hand-in-hand, a spokesperson said.

A spokesperson for Mr Morrison adopted a slightly different tone in their summary of the phone call, with no mention of reaching net-zero emissions.  

Stay up to date with SBS NEWS

  • App
  • Subscribe
  • Follow
  • Listen
  • Watch