Banks can't blame APRA for knocking back coal projects

FINANCIAL institutions that have refused to fund thermal coal projects were not acting under the direct advice of the financial regulator, Australian Prudential Regulation Authority, the federal Joint Standing Committee on Trade and Investment Growth heard on Friday.
Banks can't blame APRA for knocking back coal projects Banks can't blame APRA for knocking back coal projects Banks can't blame APRA for knocking back coal projects Banks can't blame APRA for knocking back coal projects Banks can't blame APRA for knocking back coal projects

Dawson MP George Christensen is chairing the Joint Standing Committee on Trade and Investment Growth inquiry.

This was in spite of the committee's chairman George Christensen claiming banks had said they were only obeying APRA's orders in rejecting thermal coal projects requests for funding.

APRA çhairman Wayne Byres said the regulator only sought to canvas a spectrum of risks that might include climate change with regulated institutions in order to prepare them for any such eventuality. 

"One issue that may be of particular interest to the committee is APRA's work on the financial risks of climate change," he said in his submission.

"Since the Australian government became party to the Paris Agreement in 2016, APRA has been ensuring financial institutions are aware of, and alert to, the risks arising from a changing climate, and the responses to it.

"Against that backdrop, APRA has recently released for consultation some proposed guidance to banks, insurers and superannuation trustees on managing the financial risks of climate change."

The draft Prudential Practice Guide CPG 229 Climate Change Financial Risks is designed to help APRA-regulated manage climate-related risks and opportunities as part of their existing risk management and governance frameworks.

"APRA developed CPG 229 in response to requests from industry for greater clarity of regulatory expectations in relation to how climate-related risks should be considered within existing risk management requirements CPS220, and examples of better industry practice," Byers said.

Christensen asked whether lack of funding for thermal coal mining projects was a concern for APRA?

"The Australian thermal coal sector is profitable," he said.

"The IEA predicts that coal will bounce back to 2019 levels.

"Does APRA specify which sectors should not invest? Does it specify that financial institutions should not invest in thermal coal?"

Byres replied: "The answer is no".  

Christensen said he knew of a thermal coal mining company that would run out of money in a month.

Byres said APRA's guidance covered its view of sound practice in areas such as governance, risk management, scenario analysis and disclosure.

"The draft practice guide does not create new requirements or obligations on financial institutions and is designed to be flexible in allowing each institution to adopt an approach that is appropriate for its size, customer base and business strategy," he said.