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Media Release

Shareholders demand coal wind down plan from Whitehaven

25 August 2022

Media release: 25 August 2022 – For Immediate Release

Market Forces and Whitehaven Coal shareholders have filed a resolution, calling on one of Australia’s largest coal miners to wind down its production in line with global climate goals.

The resolution points out the glaring inconsistency between Whitehaven’s public declarations of support for the climate goals of the Paris Agreement and its plans to spend billions developing new and expanded coal mines.

Will van de Pol, Asset Management Campaigner, Market Forces said: 

“In this period of sky high earnings, Whitehaven Coal must do all it can to preserve that capital and get it back in the hands of shareholders.

“Whitehaven Coal plans to waste its windfall by spending billions on new coal developments that would be stranded if the world meets its climate commitments.

“Whitehaven Coal claims to support the Paris Agreement, but clearly fails to accept overwhelming scientific evidence showing no new or expanded coal mines are compatible with global climate goals.

“This resolution would rein in Whitehaven’s rampant and misguided expansion plans, protecting shareholder capital while ensuring mine sites are restored and employees are supported through the energy transition.”

In its 2021 Sustainability Report, Whitehaven made public its support for the Paris Agreement and noted all its customer countries are signatories to, or have energy policies aligned with the agreement. 

To ‘help deliver the goals of the Paris Agreement’, and recognising the unacceptable financial risks posed by global warming, investors with more than US$61 trillion in assets under management have committed to the goal of net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 or sooner.

The International Energy Agency’s (IEA) seminal Net Zero by 2050 scenario highlights the existential financial risks this goal poses to coal miners, projecting ‘no new coal mines or mine extensions are required’ and ‘unabated coal demand falling by over 98 per cent by 2050’.

However, Market Forces’ analysis shows Whitehaven plans to roughly double its production this decade by spending approximately $4 billion to develop three new or expanded coal mining projects – Vickery, Winchester South, and Narrabri Stage 3.

Investor support for similar shareholder resolutions at Whitehaven more than doubled from 2020 to 2021, with AMP Capital and other major asset managers including Fidelity International, UBS Asset Management, Allianz Global Investors, AXA Investment Managers, Aviva Investors and Legal & General Investment Management all voting in favour last year.

Yet Market Forces is concerned many major investors that have pledged support for global climate goals, including the world’s largest asset managers, BlackRock, Vanguard and State Street, failed to vote for the 2021 resolution.

“Many investors have voted with their feet, with the majority of Australia’s largest super funds having divested from Whitehaven over stranded asset risk and the company’s failure to align with global climate goals,” said Mr van de Pol.

“Remaining Whitehaven investors must live up to their climate commitments by ensuring the coal giant rapidly winds down production and if the company fails to do so, the only option is to withdraw their capital.”

The shareholder resolution and supporting statement filed with Whitehaven Coal can be found here.

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