19 November 2019
Investor claims of climate risk engagement were again called into question at today’s New Hope AGM.
As a pure play coal producer with plans to open up a massive new mine, there could hardly be a better example of a company facing climate change risk. Meeting the goals of the Paris Agreement means a rapid transition away from coal, with no room for new developments.
When challenged over their investments in companies whose operations are inconsistent with the Paris goals, like New Hope, many big investors, including our super funds, say they prefer to engage with companies to improve their climate performance rather than divest.
However, this claim was called into question today, when a shareholder asked New Hope, “Have institutional investors been engaging with our company on these [climate risk] issues, and if so, what have they been seeking through that engagement? Specifically, have institutional investors asked New Hope coal to:
- Disclose its scope 3 greenhouse gas emissions;
- Set targets to reduce emissions in line with the Paris climate goals; and
- Conduct and disclose 1.5°C scenario analysis?”
The Board’s response?
“As far as I’m aware, there have been no questions along those lines at all from institutional investors.”Rob Millner, Chairman New Hope Group
While many Australian super funds don’t disclose a full list of companies they invest in, we know that Cbus owned a massive $30 million worth of New Hope shares at the end of 2018, and AustralianSuper held $3.6 million earlier this year.
Clearly these funds aren’t using their investments to drive climate action from New Hope. It’s time to give up the phony claims of engagement and pull members’ retirement savings out of New Hope and any other company whose business model is based on the failure of the Paris Agreement.
Australian banks won’t own up to lending deal
It’s not just our super funds that are supporting New Hope’s climate-wrecking business model. In November 2018, a group of lenders “led by Australian banks” provided $900 million to New Hope, part of which will be used to “fund [New Hope’s] medium term growth projects including New Acland Stage 3 and the potential development of the Burton Lenton project.”
Put simply, Australian banks are continuing to finance the expansion of the coal industry. But none of the big four have owned up to being part of the deal.
New Hope Chair Rob Millner today confirmed Australian banks were involved, but would not reveal which.
New Acland expansion opposed by locals
A number of representatives of the community surrounding New Hope’s Acland coal mining operations attended today’s AGM to voice the widespread opposition to the company’s New Acland expansion plans.
Further impacts on groundwater, farmland, and climate change were repeatedly raised as significant risks of the New Acland Stage 3 project, but the company would not budge on its plans.
You can check out the Oakey Coal Action Alliance’s website to learn more about and support the community group fighting New Hope’s New Acland plans.
Perhaps with the community opposition front of mind, one shareholder asked New Hope what its plan might be if the New Acland expansion projects fails to receive its final approvals from the Queensland government, “Will capital be returned to shareholders?”
The Board would not be drawn on this “hypothetical” situation, stating the company is squarely focused on gaining project approvals, but failing to provide a plan B.