The Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) has released a report calling on Australia’s “big four” banks to rule out involvement in financing controversial coal projects proposed for Queensland’s Galilee Basin near the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage area.
The report called ‘The Equator Principles and financing of coal projects in the Galilee Basin‘ names Australia’s “big four” banks – Australia-New Zealand Banking Corp (ANZ), Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA), National Australia Bank (NAB), and Westpac Banking Corp – as signatories to the Equator Principles (EPs) and calls on all four to rule out any involvement in the Galilee Basin projects.
The report is a result of research undertaken by ACF energy analyst Tristan Knowles which investigates how Australian banks should deal with financing coal projects in the area. The EPs are a voluntary framework the banks have signed up to guide them in the assessment and management of environmental and social risk in the projects they consider financing.
The EPs serve as a guide to the best practices and a “gold standard” in environmental and social risk management. ACF said the EPs are relevant to proposed coal projects in the Galilee Basin because mines and infrastructure require project finance and advisory services to proceed. More notably, the project value is well over US$10 million – the current threshold for coverage by the EPs.
ACF insists that coal projects in the Galilee Basin are a litmus test for the EPs stating, “If they’re truly a gold standard for environmental and social risk management, Australian banks should rule out further financing of these projects because they will result in serious damage to the environment… We hope this report focuses the debate about Galilee Basin Coal projects back on the banks’ commitments to be environmental leaders.”
Several foreign banks have already backed out from financing Adani Group’s coal port expansion, including US banking giants Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, and JPMorgan Chase.
Prior to those banks’ rejection, the Deutsche Bank, Royal Bank of Scotland, HSBC and Barclays all ruled out funding the development of the Adani’s $16.5bn project
The report said the massive projects will destroy tens of thousands of hectares of land, consume huge amounts of water and potentially impact on the Great Artesian Basin, and result in significant greenhouse gas pollution.
The UN World Heritage Committee, which visited the site in 2013, also said coal projects will cause irreparable damage to the World Heritage Area and warned the Australian government to delist the site.