Why this bank is putting the brakes on car loans

It's been a big week of climate news. Here's a wrap-up of what's happening – in three minutes or less.

The WfC Editors
August 24, 2022
3 min read
An overhead photo of a busy highway with a row of trees down the median strip

Each week, we provide a rundown of the most essential climate news from Australia and around the globe: the good, the questionable, and the conversation starters. Here's what's been going on.

There isn’t really an ‘upside’ to climate catastrophe, but it’s certainly keeping archaeologists busy. Over the last few weeks, extreme weather across Europe has dried up rivers and dams, revealing all sorts of interesting stuff, including a ‘Spanish Stonehenge’ dating back to 5000 BC and some very ominous ‘Hunger Stones’. This week we also saw solar take another leap forward in Australia, and Anthony Albanese got the ball rolling on the country’s first national Electric Vehicle Strategy. Better late than never, right?

The good news 😊

In another milestone for renewables, solar briefly overtook coal as Australia’s leading source of power across the entire energy market on Friday. It was only for 30-odd minutes, but it’s a glimpse of what a renewables-powered grid might look like. This isn’t the first time solar has come out on top, but it is the first time during what experts call “normal conditions” (i.e. not a heat wave, and not as a result of coal-fired outages).

Climate-conscious bank, Bank Australia, has promised to stop offering loans for new fossil fuel cars by 2025, which comes off the back of their recent pledge to be net zero by 2035 (you can read our chat with Bank Australia’s Head of Impact here). It’s hoped other banks will follow suit, and that this might encourage more Aussies to choose EVs. “We’ve chosen 2025 because the change to electric vehicles needs to happen quickly, and we believe it can, with the right supporting policies in place,” says Chief Impact Officer Sasha Courville. The move comes as Anthony Albanese invites state leaders to work together on the new national EV strategy.

On the radar 🧐

In awkward news, an Associated Press investigation found that the charity funded by Prince William, which coincidentally launched the Earthshot Prize, keeps its cash with J.P. Morgan Chase, one of the world’s biggest backers of fossil fuels. Not a great look. The Royal Foundation also places more than half its investments into a fund, advertised as ‘green’, that owns shares in companies linked to deforestation.

Just weeks after declaring she’d block Clive Palmer’s new coal mine, federal environment minister Tanya Plibersek has greenlit a controversial $4.5 billion fertiliser plant near ancient rock art on Western Australia’s Burrup Peninsula. Plibersek made the announcement after visiting the peninsula and talking with the local Traditional Owners’ organisation Save Our Songlines, who were originally against the development, but have since reached an agreement with plant operators Perdaman.

More good analysis on corporate sustainability targets from John Oliver this week. The Last Week Tonight host spent a good chunk of Sunday’s episode ripping ‘carbon offsets’ apart. You can watch the full clip here (skip to the 10:30 mark). “Exactly how offsets are bullshit is really interesting,” Oliver says, “because it’s easy to say that you are reducing carbon emissions, but it is much harder to prove it. There aren’t many checks and balances in place to prevent abuse.” If you’ve always had ‘vibes’ about offset schemes, but never understood why they’re problematic, this is the breakdown you’ve been looking for.

Water cooler chat 🗣️

The New York Times has published a fascinating breakdown of the Democrat’s new US climate legislation, and why it’s such a game changer. When the Supreme Court restricted the EPA from fighting climate change earlier this year, it said Congress had never given the agency enough authority to ditch fossil fuels. Thanks to this new legislation, that’s no longer the case. Read this if you enjoy the curious feeling of hope.

It's the big question: how much meat can we eat? Or at least, how much meat can we eat sustainably? According to the Atlantic and The Guardian, who both dived into our diets this week, not much. Animal-based foods account for 57% of agricultural greenhouse gases – versus just 29% for plants. Still, it’s not as cut and dry as you might think. New research suggests that an all-vegan world might actually have a larger environmental footprint. Food for thought.

Melbourne author Jeff Sparrow has joined a growing chorus of voices arguing that the whole individual-climate-responsibility thing is a bit of a scam. It’s not that we as individuals don’t contribute to climate change – we do. It’s more that corporations have trotted out ‘individual responsibility’ to distract from and diminish their own impact. “By getting people to look at their own individual responsibility for climate change, it meant that people stopped focusing on corporate responsibility,” Sparrow says. The lesson here? Don’t “cripple [yourself] with individualised guilt.” Find another way to fight back.

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