Fact Check: Siemens’ attempt to justify the unjustifiable

Siemens Don't Build Adani protest banner

21 January 2020

Last week Siemens confirmed it intends to go ahead and do signalling work for Adani’s climate-wrecking Carmichael coal project rail line. Siemens CEO Joe Kaeser attempted to justify this unjustifiable decision with a public statement full of nonsense, red herrings and dodgy spin.

There are a number of concerns surrounding Siemens’ decision-making. Firstly, the timing. Siemens signed a contract with Adani on 11 December 2019, and only after this contract was signed did Mr Kaeser announce he would be reviewing Siemens’ commitment to help with the massive thermal coal expansion. Conveniently, one of the main reasons he now gives for sticking with Adani is this signed contract.

However, Market Forces first contacted Siemens on 11 July 2019 raising concerns about information which linked the company to the disastrous Adani Carmichael project. From that point onwards, Siemens received a steady stream of emails and social media mentions from #StopAdani campaign supporters. Why did Joe Kaeser ignore these concerns for five months? Why did he announce a review of Siemens’ work on Carmichael only after the contract was signed?

Another major concern is that the Siemens Board appears to have been influenced by Australian Resources Minister Matt Canavan — one of the most unequivocally pro-coal members of Australia’s myopic pro-coal federal government who has admitted that he represents the interests of the mining sector (as opposed to the people of Queensland). With this in mind here are some of Kaeser’s more outlandish claims and why they are wrong.

Kaeser’s spinWhy it’s wrong
“The Adani mining project has been approved by the Government of Australia, the Highest Courts and – very important to us – the indigenous Wangan and Jagalingou people” The Wangan & Jagalingou (W&J) Traditional Owners have never given their free, prior and informed consent to Adani’s mine and have run a long and courageous campaign to defend their ancestral lands and waters from Adani’s coal mine. They are calling on Siemens to suspend its contract with Adani.

The Wangan and Jagalingou Family Council have fought Adani in the courts and are continuing to resist Adani despite Adani bankrupting W&J senior spokesperson Adrian Burragubba and filing a court order making W&J people trespassers on their own country.

Mr Kaeser could have checked the Wangan and Jagalingou Family Council’s website to find out about their ongoing resistance to Adani, rather than taking the word of Minister Canavan.

Additionally, if Mr Kaeser is concerned about the rights of indigenous people, he should look into the claims of illegal land grabs by Adani in Jharkhand, India, at the site of the proposed Godda power station, which will burn the Carmichael coal Siemens is helping to produce.
“The Australian people clearly voted to support Adani at the federal election in May 2019, especially in regional Queensland. It would be an insult to the working people of Australia and the growing needs of India to bow to the pressure of anti-Adani protestors.” This quote came directly from Australian Resources Minister Matt Canavan. Mr Canavan has close family ties to the coal industry and has been a consistent and vocal champion of Adani’s coal mine, even traveling to India to personally meet with Adani boss Gautam Adani.

Matt Canavan’s claim that Australia voted to support Adani in the 2019 election is self-serving and not supported by data. There was no question about Adani on any ballot paper. In fact, nationwide polls consistently show that a significant majority of Australians oppose Adani’s coal mine and support greater action on climate change.

Additionally, Carmichael’s low-quality, imported coal will drive up power prices for people in India and Bangladesh. The cost of shipping coal from Australia to Adani’s Godda power plant will raise the cost of producing electricity at Godda. Adani will pass on the higher electricity costs to customers in Bangladesh. Adani have recently been caught overcharging customers in Mumbai ten times for power.

India is suffering devastating impacts of climate change in the form of water shortages, drought, heatwaves and floods. Renewable energy is now cheaper to build in India than keeping most existing coal-burning power plants open. The cheapest, safest way to power Indian villages is with clean, renewable energy. Adani’s coal will only bring more climate disasters, more expensive electricity and increase sickness and death from air pollution.
“There were competitors who have been competing. Thus, whether or not Siemens provides the signaling, the project will still go ahead.” This is the classic drug dealer’s defence (if we don’t do it, someone else will). It’s morally bankrupt and not necessarily true. There are very few companies that can do the signalling work for the rail line and media reports imply that several have already refused to work on the Carmichael coal project.

Over 60 major companies have ruled out working on Carmichael. The more companies refuse to work on the project, the harder it will be for Adani to find the support it needs to build this coal mine and rail line. There is no certainty the project will go ahead if Siemens withdraws.
“Had it been my own company, I may have acted differently, although there is factual clarity that the installation of our signaling system – and thereby making the already existing rail track safer – does not impact whether the coal mine will happen or not.” Adani can’t build their mine without a rail line to haul the coal to port and without a signalling system for that rail line. There are only a few top-tier companies that can do this signalling work. Siemens’ refusal to do it would increase the complexity and costs of the project and therefore significantly decrease Adani’s chances of proceeding.
“Five years ago, Siemens was the first global industrial company of significant size to commit to being carbon neutral by 2030. Our latest Sustainability Report provides evidence of how we walk the talk and contribute to sustainable development. So far, we have reduced our CO2 emissions by 41 percent. By next year, Siemens will have reduced its emissions by half. We are currently contemplating to even shorten the period till 2030 for CO2 neutrality.” These commitments are meaningless if Siemens are working with Adani and other fossil fuel companies to expand fossil fuel infrastructure that is locking in massive greenhouse gas emission increases. 

Adani’s coal mine is fundamentally at odds with effective climate action. Crucially, it will open up one of the biggest unexploited coal reserves on the planet – the Galilee Basin –  and lead the way for nine more mega mines. At full production, these Galilee Basin coal mines would emit more than 1.3 times Australia’s existing annual carbon emissions from all sources.
“In fiscal 2019, our solutions enabled our customers around the world to decrease their CO2 emissions by more than 637 million metric tons..” Helping reduce carbon emissions in one place does not justify increasing them elsewhere. Humanity must urgently reduce carbon emissions globally in order to avoid the worst impacts of global warming. Siemens needs to decide if it is part of the solution or part of the problem. Helping open up one of the world’s biggest untapped thermal coal reserves makes Siemens part of the problem.
“…we do not have clear evidence that the wildfires [currently burning in Australia] and this project [Adani Carmichael] are directly connected” This is a bizarre red herring which insults the intelligence of the reader. The Adani project hasn’t been built yet, so obviously it hasn’t yet fueled the climate crisis we are facing – a crisis made frighteningly real by the destructive bushfires Australia is suffering through.

The point is that the coal from the Carmichael mine will worsen global warming and therefore help create the conditions for even worse bushfires in the future.
“…given the importance of legitimate environmental concerns, we have secured the right to pull out of the contract if our customer violates the very stringent environmental obligations.” If Siemens really cared about environmental obligations then it would have seen Adani’s record on the matter and refused to work with them from the beginning.

Adani already has a long record of creating environmental disasters including ocean and river pollution and illegal land clearing. In Australia, Adani has been fined twice already for breaching its environmental licence. This is all summarised in a letter sent to Siemens recently from EDO Qld and Environmental Justice Australia. Are you comfortable with this Mr Kaeser?

Take action: Tell Siemens they have made a big mistake by working with Adani