December 18, 2013

Coal and climate dominate ANZ AGM

Australia’s largest commercial bank – ANZ – is fuelling a dangerous future, but we can point them in a safer direction.

Today, people from all walks of life travelled from across Australia to attend ANZ’s AGM and ask them about their investments in projects which will damage the climate, Australia’s land, environment, water and the who depend upon them. Check out some of the photos here.

The response was shocking. Although questions about ANZ’s fossil fuel investments and climate change dominated the AGM, the board and chairman flatly refused to address shareholders’ concerns, particularly around coal. In fact, they went so far as to announce a new policy for the purposes of the AGM: namely a reduction on all future coal and environment related questions of 100% by the end of the meeting! This included shutting down a group of indigenous Gomeroi people who had travelled more than 700km to ask ANZ about the impacts of a massive mine it is financing on their doorstep in the Leard State forest.

To put this brick-walling into perspective, remember that ANZ is Australia’s leading lender to coal and gas export projects, having loaned over $2.3 billion since 2008, including $1.1 billion to projects in our very own national icon – the Great Barrier Reef. This finance will help to unlock Queensland’s Galilee Basin which will almost triple Australia’s emissions, double coal exports and spell game-over for the climate.

If that weren’t bad enough, 2 weeks ago, ANZ secured its commitment as leading lender to a massive open-cut coal mine that will cook the climate, releasing annual emissions equivalent to New Zealand.

Aside from the climate impacts, Maules Creek Mine, in NSW’s Leard State Forest, will dump thousands of tonnes of coal dust onto neighbouring communities, encroach upon sacred indigenous sites, lower the water table by several metres and destroy the last remnants of critically endangered woodland in Australia forever.

Yet as ANZ pursues its fossil fuel agenda, analysts from Citi, Goldman Sachs, the International Energy Agency, HSBC, the IMF and more highlight the growing risks that fossil fuel investments pose.

Participants at today’s AGM sought to highlight these risks to ANZ’s board but all they received was hollow and vague assurances that the banks has its shareholders’ best interests at heart. ANZ also repeatedly emphasised that it is the Government’s not their responsibility to spearhead climate and environmental leadership.

Given these responses, ANZ can only expect more probing questions, more pressure and more lost customers in the months and year to come.

Over the past week, dozens of customers have closed their ANZ accounts in protest over the bank’s lending to fossil fuels and over 100 people from around Australia travelled to Maules Creek to block construction on the mine. In 2014, we’ll continue to open ANZ’s eyes to the risks it’s exposing itself, its shareholders, customers, local communities and the climate to. This is just the beginning of an ongoing campaign to get Australia’s largest bank to go fossil free and we hope you’ll join us.

If you are an ANZ customer, put them on notice today and stay tuned for opportunities to close your account in 2014:

To find out more about ANZ’s fossil fuel lending, check out our report, with Market Forces and Greenpeacehere.