Divestment pressure on banks grows

Issue 
Protesters form a human sign with the word ‘DIVEST’ in Melbourne on Global Divestment Day, February 13.

Pressure is mounting on Australia’s big four banks over their support for the construction of coalmines in Queensland’s Galilee Basin.

Greenpeace launched a public email campaign targeting the executives of ANZ, Commonwealth, NAB and Westpac, “to publicly rule out financing or advising Adani [Mining] on the Carmichael coal mine and associated infrastructure project in the Great Barrier Reef or Queensland”.

This was followed by a public protest as part of Global Divestment Day, organised in Australia by 350.org, on February 13 and 14. At 450 events in 60 countries, demonstrators united to tell “governments, universities and financial and religious institutions to stop investing in the rogue industries that are destroying our planet”.

Demonstrations were held across the country, including at the Commonwealth Bank in Sydney’s Darling Harbour. “It was a really good atmosphere and strong response,” said Greenpeace’s Nikola Casule. There are more and more people who know about fossil fuel divestment and who understand the damage fossil fuels are doing to our environment and climate.”

The planned construction in the Galilee Basin involves a total of nine mines, five of which would be larger than any coalmine now operating in Australia, and hundreds of kilometres of rail infrastructure that would converge on Abbot Point and Hay Point.

Casule said: “The Galilee Basin is often referred to as the world’s second largest carbon block. If all or most of the mines that are proposed [are built], together the coal that they burn from those mines per year would make the Galilee Basin the seventh largest carbon emitter of any country in the world.”

The plan has been met with criticism. Claims its construction would create 10,000 jobs have been questioned and there has been no public cost benefit analysis. It was originally planned to dump the 5 million tonnes of dredged seabed sediment necessary for its construction into the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area. This was met with opposition from environmentalists, scientists and the public and contributed to Labor’s Queensland victory.

Casule said: “The Labor party for all their flaws, said they would not allow any dumping in the world heritage area [or] in the Caley Valley wetlands and that any dredging would have to wait until the project was fully funded. What is really important now is to make sure the Labor Party stick to the promises they made during their election campaign.”

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