Lending to coal ports

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Australia’s largest contribution to global warming come from our role as the biggest coal exporter in the world. We also have the dubious honour of hosting the world’s largest coal port at Newcastle, while other major coal export terminals include Abbot Point, Gladstone and Hay Point in Queensland, as well as Port Kembla in NSW.

A number of these projects are included in out list of ten dodgy deals that are hurting the big banks – check it out here.

Due to the hundreds of millions of tonnes of dirty coal we ship off to be burned overseas each year, Australia is highly culpable for the growing climate emergency, and so are the banks that finance these projects.

Top lenders to coal ports in Australia 2008-2016

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In 2012–13, 180.2 million tonnes of coal was exported from Queensland but the State Government has announced that “expansion of coal transport infrastructure is currently being planned to handle forecast exports of 312 million tonnes in 2022-23.” Much of this expansion is planned at Abbot Point, where two new terminals have been approved that would increase export capacity by 130 million tonnes.

This is very bad news for the Great Barrier Reef and the climate. The number of bulk carriers passing through the Great Barrier Reef each year is expected to rise from 4,000 to 7,000 by the end of the decade. This will significantly increase the chance of shipping accidents and damage to the Reef. The expansion would also result in the dredging and dumping of three million cubic metres of seabed in the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area, an immediate threat that has the UNESCO keeping a watchful eye on the reef, having threatened to add it to the “World Heritage in Danger” list.

But the largest impact of expanding Abbot Point would result from the fact that it would “unlock” the Galilee Basin, one of the biggest untapped coal basins in the world and one that Greenpeace calculates would be enough to consume 6% of the remaining carbon budget if the world is to hold warming to 2 degrees Celsius, should plans to open up the basin go ahead.

Click here to find out more about Abbot Point.

While the threat of new coal export terminals and port expansions poses dangerous risks to our environment and climate, there are reasons to be hopeful that new ports and expansions like the one planned for Abbot Point can be stopped. During the 2013–14 financial year, a number of proposed coal export terminals in the beautiful Fitzroy Delta region and on Balaclava island near Gladstone were cancelled.

There have also been moves by banks to distance themselves from the proposed Abbot Point expansion, with a total of fourteen major banks having ruled out support for Galilee Basin coal export projects, including the associated Abbot Point port expansion. Check out the list and their statements here.

CommBank was acting as Adani’s advisor in its attempts to attract finance for the Galilee and Abbot Point plans but, after months of strong and sustained community action against the bank, CommBank and Adani’s relationship was ended in July 2015 – click here to read more about this news.

Before ties were cut, CommBank stood as the most likely financial supporter of Adani’s Carmichael mine and Abbot Point expansion. This latest development now makes it very difficult for Adani to realise its plans of opening up the Galilee Basin and exporting its coal through the Great Barrier Reef.


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