Westpac rules out Adani funding: a victory for people power

A protest against Adani on April 8 outside Westpac’s 200th birthday celebration in Sydney. Photo: Peter Boyle
April 29, 2017

In a victory for the people-powered campaign against the Adani Carmichael coalmine, Westpac ruled out lending its funds to the corporation on April 28.

In a face-saving letter to Westpac employees, CEO Brian Hartzer talked up the company’s commitment to a net zero emissions economy and said its Third Climate Change Action Plan would help do this.

Hartzer also said the bank was tightening its criteria for financing coal mining. The new guidelines include “limiting lending for any new mines or projects in the thermal coal sector to projects only in existing coal producing basins, and where the energy content of the coal meets the high standard set by the Newcastle High Energy Coal Benchmark”.

These new guidelines effectively rule out the bank funding the Adani coalmine because the quality of the coal from the northern section of the Galilee Basin in central Queensland is believed to be well below the Newcastle benchmark. The benchmark is based on coal efficiency and ash content. The ash content of the Carmichael coal is about 26%, compared to a 15% rate for Newcastle coal.

Westpac is now the second of the four major banks to rule out funding Adani’s controversial mega mine. The National Australia Bank said it would not finance the project in September 2015.

However, while the Commonwealth Bank ended an advisory role with Adani and last year ANZ said it had ended lending on thermal coal projects, both have only officially "distanced" themselves from Adani.

A campaign launched by a new #StopAdani network in March organised a national “road show” that spurred community-based organising against this 447 square kilometre mine.

Westpac has already lent $643 million in previous deals with Adani and the pressure was mounting on Westpac to rule out any further funding.

Westpac was coy at its 200th birthday celebrations in inner west Sydney on April 8. A protest outside the venue in Darlington managed to delay proceedings inside and forced executives to come face to face with several hundred peaceful protesters.

The mine would have a disastrous impact in this climate challenged world. It has also been rejected by the Wangan and Jagalingou Traditional Owners Council who say it will wreck the land and pollute the water. The council is also fighting attempts by the federal Coalition to change the Native Title Act to make it easier for mining companies to ride roughshod over traditional owners.

Now, the #StopAdani campaign will shift to focus on forcing the Queensland state Labor government and federal Coalition to back away from supporting Adani’s Carmichael coalmine. The Greens are opposed to the mine, as are communities across the nation.

As there appears to be some differences over the Adani project within the ALP there is room to move.

The Carmichael coal project should also be abandoned because the arguments over jobs and energy — not to mention the corruption allegations surrounding Indian billionaire Gautam Adani — do not stack up.

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