People of faith were part of “human chain” protests at National Australia Bank (NAB) headquarters in capital cities on Wednesday 31 May, and some even joined those who blockaded the entrance door.

Concerned about the climate crisis, Christians, Buddhists and a Muslim sought to challenge the bank after revelations that NAB is Australia’s most regressive bank, having actually increased its financing for fossil fuels in the last two years.

Retired Uniting Church Minister, Rev Dr Chris Walker, said, “The National Australia Bank is funding coal and gas mining and infrastructure at a time when all major scientific bodies, the United Nations and senior religious leaders such as Pope Francis are warning that there can be no new fossil fuel extraction opened if we are to stay under 1.50 of warming.”

“I cannot stand by silently and let NAB continue funding fossil fuels while so many are already losing their lives, their livelihoods and homes because of climate impacts and while the course we are on could lead to drastic changes to life on earth as we know it.”

A report just published by Market Forces called Banking Climate Failure showed that the big four banks, ANZ, Commonwealth Bank, NAB and Westpac, have collectively lent $57.5 billion to fossil fuel-intensive industries since 2016.

NAB has loaned $3.3 billion to coal mining, in spite of a climate policy that says the bank seeks to align itself with the goals of the Paris Agreement. The bank boasts that 73% of its lending to power generation projects is to renewable energy but is quietly known as the “bank of choice” for fossil fuel companies.

NAB’s policy says that it doesn’t lend to fossil fuel “projects” as such, which is technically true, but in practice the bank funds the companies that build those projects.

“It’s this deception that we want to be publicly known,” said participating Muslim, Fahimah Badrulhisham.

“We’ve created a human chain today,” she said, “hoping to create a chain reaction among NAB’s executives after the release of this damning report. Our slogan is ‘We won’t let NAB work whilst they work for fossil fuels’. You can’t claim to be aligned with the Paris agreement and yet continue to give billions of dollars to the coal industry. That’s hypocrisy.”

“I’ve spent many months trying to communicate with NAB through ‘proper’ channels and have been ignored. My action today is a natural escalation in order to make our message clear: ‘NAB must stop funding coal’,” she said.

Ms Badrulhisham added, “Whitehaven Coal is currently in negotiations with NAB to renew its rotating loan facility so that it can continue to open up new coal mines. NAB must immediately end their toxic relationship with Whitehaven Coal and start transitioning away from coal, something they should have done 7 years ago when they committed to the goals of the Paris Agreement.”