Brisbane, May 2nd, 2013
A new report has identified the heaviest lending banks to coal and gas export projects in the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area, as a new campaign calls on Australians to abandon banks that continue to invest in fossil fuel mines and exports.
The report, Financing Reef Destruction: How Banks are using our Money to Destroy a Natural Icon, by Market Forces and 350.org, makes clear that the ‘big four’ Australian banks – ANZ, Commonwealth, NAB and Westpac – play a critical role in enabling major fossil fuel project. Combined, these banks lent $3.8 billion to coal ports and LNG terminals in the Great Barrier Reef Word Heritage Area since January 2008.
The report also shows a clear trend of growing foreign investment, with institutions from China, India and the United States all lending multi-billion sums to fossil fuel projects in Australia. The single-biggest loan was an AU$2.8 billion US Export-Import Bank facility for the Australia Pacific LNG plant on Curtis Island in the Great Barrier Reef Wold Heritage Area. That loan has landed the Bank in court over an alleged breach of the US Endangered Species Act.
A series of new coal and gas export projects, including mines, overland transport and export terminals are planned that would increase fossil fuel exports along Great Barrier Reef coastline. Companies including GVK and Adani (India), Samsung (Korea) and the China National Offshore Oil Corporation are attempting to open up access to coal and gas reserves in Australia.
“The big banks are using the money of Australians who care about protecting the Great Barrier Reef to finance its destruction,” said Julien Vincent, Market Forces Lead Campaigner. “This is absolutely unacceptable, and as key decision-makers over new dirty coal and gas projects that would damage the Reef and drive global warming, the banks have to show leadership and refuse loans to these projects.”
350.org co-founder and author Bill McKibben, coming to Australia in June for a “Global Warming: Do the Maths” tour, said “We’ve got to wind down the fossil fuel era with great haste if we’re going to keep the planet from overheating. This report by Market Forces provides Australians with the information they need to make hard decisions about where their money is invested and if it’s helping or destroying the planet.”
The declining state of the Great Barrier Reef is making fossil fuel export projects more contested in Australia. Opposition to fossil fuel projects in the Great Barrier Reef escalated this week, with a series of television advertisements telling Queenslanders that they are going to have to fight for the Reef. After visiting the Reef in March 2012, UNESCO recommended a halt to coastal development that would impact the site’s Outstanding Universal Value and that the Reef be considered for inscription on the World Heritage In Danger list.
Recent reports have also highlighted the gulf between fossil fuel development and the amount of carbon that the atmosphere can hold if global temperatures are to have a chance at staying below 2?C. A report by CarbonTracker recently found that $674 billion was spent in 2012 developing carbon assets that may be unburnable if the world takes appropriate action to limit carbon emissions1.
“When you do the maths on avoiding the worst impacts of climate change, there simply isn’t enough room in the carbon budget for new fossil fuel projects,” said McKibben. “If new coal and gas projects amount to an exercise in digging up unburnable carbon, that makes the loans that enable these projects a massive economic gamble.”
Market Forces and 350.org are calling on customers of the big four banks to ask questions about what their money is being used for and ultimately to decide if they want to keep their money at institutions who are financing reef destruction and global warming.
“It’s time for Australian bank customers to consider an ultimatum: either the banks rule out future loans to coal and gas mining and export projects in Australia by the end of the year, or the customers close their accounts and take their money elsewhere,” Vincent said.
“We hope customers taking action stimulates a positive reaction from the banks – if they won’t make the right decision for moral reasons maybe they’ll do it to preserve their own customer base”, said Vincent.
The report, Financing Reef Destruction, is available at: www.marketforces.org.au/banks
1. Carbon Tracker’s research can be found at http://www.carbontracker.org/wastedcapital