The Great Barrier Reef off the coast of Australia literally sits in the way of the fossil fuel industry and its massive expansion plans. There are so many new coal terminals in the works that just one port, Abbot Point, near Mackay, could increase almost nine-fold in capacity to become by far the biggest coal export port in the world.
While campaigns in Australia to resist fossil fuel expansion in the Reef have stepped up in recent days, the U.S. Export-Import Bank (Exim) and its Chairman Fred Hochberg have been quietly using our taxpayer dollars to support these controversial projects. Specifically, Exim was behind the single-biggest loan to a fossil fuel export project in the Great Barrier Reef, the $2.8 billion credit to the Australia Pacific LNG project, which has become the subject of legal action over alleged breaches of the US Endangered Species Act.
But our partners in Australia are not sitting idly by and allowing the fossil fuel industry to destroy the Reef. Last week a coal carrier bound for Korea was occupied by six Greenpeace activists and a letter signed by 10,000 Australians supporting their action ran in the Australian Financial Review.
Then, over the weekend, a TV commercial featuring Bob Irwin (father of the late Steve Irwin, Crocodile Hunter) went to air that asked Queenslanders "imagine if we lost the Great Barrier Reef", and described the impacts that the array of proposed new coal export ports would have on the Reef. And now Market Forces and 350.org are revealing the role banks play in financing the Reef’s destruction in a new report: Financing Reef Destruction, identifying which banks have lent the most money to coal ports and liquefied natural gas plants inside the Great Barrier Reef World
Heritage Area from 2008 to 2012.
The report draws attention to the critical role that the ‘big four’ Australian banks play in enabling new coal and gas projects to come online. Together, the biggest Australian banks – ANZ, Commonwealth Bank, NAB and Westpac – lent $3.8 billion to coal ports and liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminals between 2008 and 2012.
But when massive, controversial fossil fuel projects and huge sums of money meet, you can bet Hochberg is involved. In addition to the Australia Pacific LNG project, Exim is also considering financing not one, but two massive coal projects that will ship coal through the Great Barrier Reef.
These projects aren't just bad for the Reef, they are bad for business. This week, Carbon Tracker released a new report: Unburnable Carbon: Australia’s carbon bubble, showing that the rising cost of coal combined with the transition to a low carbon economy make Australia’s coal industry ripe 'for financial implosion'.
In Australia, Market Forces and 350.org are working to mobilise customers of the banks, calling on people to give their bank an ultimatum -- either stop lending to new coal and gas projects and develop a policy to stop loans to dangerous projects in future, or the customer walks.
This post was written by Market Forces Lead Campaigner Julien Vincent and Sierra Club International Campaign Representative Nicole Ghio