25 October, 2017
Today at the Whitehaven Coal annual general meeting (AGM), the board and CEO made it clear that the company has no intention of operating in line with the COP21 Paris Agreement. Chairman Mark Vaile and CEO Paul Flynn spoke about the company’s growth prospects, digging up and exporting more coal, despite the desperate need to shift away from this dirty energy source.
Whitehaven’s AGM presentation also claimed that global electricity generation from coal would increase by 10% to 2040. This forecast is based on US Energy Information Administration’s ‘Reference Case’ scenario, which ‘considers current policies’ in its projections. This can be likened to the International Energy Agency’s ‘Current Policies Scenario’, which disregards the Paris Agreement and could lead to up to 6 degrees of global warming. Whitehaven has presented its shareholders with a future coal demand estimation that is completely out of line with a rapid transition pathway to achieve net zero global emissions by 2060.
Whitehaven is one of a handful of pure play coal companies listed on the Australian stock exchange, and has enjoyed a profitable 2017 due to record production levels. However Morgan Stanley downgraded the mining company last month saying “we maintain a negative outlook for [Whitehaven Coal] due to its ties to the export market which we view as in structural decline.”
Despite Whitehaven’s appalling environmental record, the bleak outlook for coal and local community concerns, the company had no trouble refinancing its Maules Creek project. Earlier this year ANZ, NAB and Westpac agreed to a corporate finance deal of $1 billion.
All four of Australia’s big banks financed the original Maules Creek mine, and three of them continue to support Whitehaven. This demonstrates the massive gap between the banks’ public commitments to the Paris Agreement and their actions. Click here to read our full 2°C Scorecard for the big banks and take action.
It is not just banks that are financially supporting Whitehaven. Most Australian super funds are invested in Whitehaven. The super funds say they prefer to engage with companies to improve their approach to climate change issues. However Whitehaven Coal presents the perfect example that this engagement is doing nothing to bring about change.
Vow to challenge EPA ruling
At the AGM, Flynn announced that Whitehaven will challenge the Environment Protection Authority (EPA) over its decision to elevate the Maules Creek coal mine to the highest environmental risk category, level 3. The July EPA ruling has positioned Whitehaven’s mine as one of the dirtiest mines in New South Wales. Only two other mines, Russell Vale near Wollongong, and Clarence Colliery near Lithgow, carry level 3 environmental risk out of the 49 coal mines in NSW.
Chairman Mark Vaile completely ignored to answer a shareholder’s question to why the risk level had elevated, while Flynn claimed that the Maules Creek mine follows the “best practice” in compliance of noise and dust auditing. The steady stream of complaints from neighbouring landowners are in contrast to Flynn’s labelling of the EPA decision as merely “an administrative issue.”
Do you want your money wrapped up in dirty companies like Whitehaven coal? If not take action and tell ANZ, NAB and Westpac to stop financing Whitehaven coal.