Melbourne, 6th December: Australians are applauding today as French bank Société Générale announced it will no longer be involved in the massive Alpha Coal mine in Queensland’s Galilee Basin. The announcement comes the day before a national day of action, organised by French NGOs Attac France, Bizi! and Friends of the Earth France.
Alpha is one of nine mega coalmines planned for the Basin, which, at full production would burn through 6% of the world’s “safe” carbon budget, making the Basin the seventh largest emitter on the planet, ahead of countries like Canada and the UK. Exporting Galilee Basin coal to its primary destinations in China and India would require construction of the world’s largest coal port at Abbot Point on the Great Barrier Reef, a fact that is prompting national and international uproar.
“Today’s announcement by Société Generale is yet another nail in the inevitable coffin for Galilee coal,” said Blair Palese, CEO of 350.org Australia. “With growing public opposition, a plummeting global coal price and declining demand for coal in China and India, we cannot see how these projects can possibly justify coming online.
“We applaud Société for their stance on this issue,” Palese said. “This places them with a growing number of international financiers who appreciate the huge climate and financial risks associated with mega coal expansion. The coal in the Galilee Basin simply must remain in the ground. Unlocking it would be like releasing a carbon bomb and would irreparably damage the Great Barrier Reef – one of the world’s most treasured natural icons.”
Already eight major international banks have ruled out involvement in these expansion projects in response to a growing national and international campaign which is targeting financiers that show any interest in them.
“As Australia continues to keep its head in the sand on climate change, major economies elsewhere are taking real action to rapidly reduce emissions,” said Palese. “The carbon regulation promised in the recent China-US climate deal would see Galilee Coal become a stranded asset.
News of Société Générale’s decision to pull out of the project is just the first step in ensuring that the Alpha Coal project is stopped. Pressure will now escalate to ensure that Australian and Indian project developers, GVK-Hancock, do not let this ”climate bomb” see the light of day.
“Meanwhile, the Queensland Government says they will plough taxpayers money into Galilee coal projects and Australia’s Prime Minister is defending coal on the international stage. Australia is seriously out of touch with the rapid shift underway in the global energy economy so it’s great to see that, increasingly, international financial institutions like Société are walking away.
“In Australia, environmental groups are pressuring the four big Australian banks to rule out involvement and an international campaign is calling for the State Bank of India to pull out, after they indicated they would consider financing a $1 billion loan.
“Pressure to cancel these projects will only continue to mount. Local reef groups are taking legal action, bank customers are closing their accounts in protest and international NGOs are protesting those who show willingness to support these disastrous coal expansion plans.
“The message is clear – involve yourself in mega coal expansion in Australia and you are opening yourself up to major and sustained public opposition,” said Palese. “Say no, and the support of the Australian public will be right behind you.”