Citigroup’s new clean energy commitment fails to reduce fossil fuel exposure
In response to the announcement today of Citigroup’s five-year sustainability strategy and ten-year sustainability financing commitment, Rainforest Action Network (RAN) Climate and Energy Program Director Amanda Starbuck issued the following statement:
“The number one financier of coal power in the U.S. wants people to look the other way while it bankrolls climate chaos and destruction. Citigroup’s announcement of a new clean energy target today, absent a similarly ambitious commitment to reducing fossil fuel exposure, amounts to greenwashing, plain and simple. Citi was the number one lender and underwriter of coal-fired power in 2013, and the same year it also financed $434 million for mountaintop removal coal mining, which is poisoning communities in Appalachia. It’s misleading for Citi to leverage its green investments as a PR opportunity while shirking its responsibility to communities and to the climate. There’s no green energy on a dead planet.”
Citigroup announced a $100 billion clean energy target today as its ten-year sustainability financing commitment, but made no promises to reduce its exposure to fossil fuels, despite being the number one financier of coal-fired power in the United States, with a 23.6 percent market share and over $6.4 billion in lending and underwriting for coal power in 2013 alone, according to “Extreme Investments, Extreme Consequences,” the 2014 coal finance report card released by Rainforest Action Network, BankTrack, and the Sierra Club.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
February 11, 2015
Australian diplomat lobbied U.S. banks to bankroll coal port that would turbocharge climate change and wreck the Great Barrier Reef
Documents released via open records request available here: http://a.ran.org/f1F
Rainforest Action Network (RAN) denounced the Australian government’s interventions on behalf of the coal industry, following the release of documents showing an Australian diplomat lobbied U.S. banks in support of the controversial Abbot Point coal export project in Queensland, Australia. Correspondence obtained through an open records request by Australian anti-coal group Market Forces show that Australian consul general Nick Minchin met with several U.S. banks in New York in November 2014 to try and shore up support for the proposed expansion of the Abbot Point coal port, shortly after Rainforest Action Network secured public commitments to steer clear of Abbot Point from U.S. banking giants Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, Goldman Sachs, and Morgan Stanley.
Rainforest Action Network Climate and Energy Program Director Amanda Starbuck criticized the Australian government’s full-throated backing of Abbot Point. “It’s shameful that the Australian government would go out of its way to serve as a lobbyist for the financial interests of the coal industry,” said Starbuck. “This project, if completed, would be arguably the world’s single most destructive coal project. The proposed port expansion would unlock one of the largest stores of carbon on the planet, the Galilee Basin, which we simply must keep in the ground if we want to avert the most catastrophic impacts of climate change. On top of that, constructing the project would require dredging part of the Great Barrier Reef, one of the world’s irreplaceable natural treasures.”
The issue of coal’s impact on the Great Barrier Reef has been a matter of contention between President Obama and Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott. Abbott has called coal “good for humanity,” and given strong backing to Abbot Point and other coal infrastructure projects, while President Obama has called on Australia to do more to protect the reef, and has spoken publicly about the threat climate change poses to the reef. UNESCO is currently considering whether to officially designate the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Site as “in danger” due to the threat posed by Abbot Point.
The revelations of Australian government pressure on U.S. banks comes as RAN builds on the success of earlier campaigning to further marginalize Abbot Point from potential financial backers. In recent weeks, RAN has turned its attention to the U.S. Export-Import Bank (Ex-Im), following reports that the bank might be considering involvement in the deal. “U.S. tax dollars should be invested in climate solutions, not in throwing coal a financial lifeline and trashing a global treasure like the Great Barrier Reef,” said Starbuck. “Even Wall Street thinks the coal industry's plan to build a giant coal port in the middle of the reef is too toxic to fund. It’s time for the Export-Import Bank to follow suit.”
Ex-Im Chairman Fred Hochberg has not responded to RAN requests for the bank to clarify its stance on the project, beyond confirming that a formal application for financing has not yet been received. Last week, RAN members participated in a call-in day to the Export-Import Bank’s public hotline and urged the bank to stay away from Abbot Point.
The proposed expansion of Abbot Point is critical to the plan to open up coal reserves in the Galilee Basin. Nine new mega coal mines are currently slated for the area, five of which would be bigger than any coal mine currently operating in Australia, with an estimated 705 million tons of potential carbon emissions annually. If Galilee Basin coal is mined and shipped overseas through Abbot Point as planned, Australia would move from the number two to number one coal exporter in the world.
Last week we sent a strong statement with petitions to the U.S. government’s Export-Import Bank, telling them to stay away from the Great Barrier Reef coal port expansion — a deal that would wreck the Reef and cook the climate!
Now it’s time to amplify our message by making a call to the bank. Here’s how you can help:
Call this number: 1-800-565-EXIM (or 1-800-565-3946)
The line is open from 8am-8pm Eastern time.
Leave a message if your receive a recording. If you get a live operator, politely tell them why you called:
“I’m calling to tell the Ex-Im Bank not to finance Great Barrier Reef destruction! Please pass the following message on to chairman Hochberg. The proposed Abbot Point coal port in Australia would damage the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage site, and cook the climate. It’s too dirty for Wall Street, and it’s too dirty for Ex-Im Bank. Don’t finance reef destruction!”
Fred Hochberg, chair of the U.S. Export-Import Bank, recently launched a brand new customer support hotline. So far, this new line has only been receiving about 30 calls a day, and Hochberg has said he wants to get more people using this number. Let’s set a new record for daily calls, and send a clear message: don’t finance reef destruction!
The bank isn’t used to having citizens weigh in on their decisions. But when it comes to protecting the Great Barrier Reef and preventing climate change, we can’t afford to remain silent. Let’s make sure that the U.S. Export-Import Bank knows we'll fight to stop them from financing reef destruction.
Our petition got their attention: they know the public is watching what they will do on this issue. Now drive the point home by making a personal phone call to the bank’s hotline.
1. "Great Barrier Reef protection plan 'ignores the threat of climate change'", The Guardian, October 27, 2014
2. "Fred Hochberg, Chairman & President, Export-Import Bank", Federal News Radio, December 4, 2014
Thanks to your pressure, several of the world’s largest banks have said “no” to financing a huge coal project that would put Australia’s Great Barrier Reef at risk.1 But now, news reports have revealed that the U.S. government’s Export-Import Bank is considering financing this destructive project.2
This is an outrage: The U.S. government should be investing in climate solutions, not throwing coal a financial lifeline and trashing a global treasure such as the Great Barrier Reef. Even Wall Street thinks the coal industry's plan to build a giant coal port in the middle of the reef is too toxic to fund; late last year, thanks to your activism, Rainforest Action Network secured commitments to steer clear of the project from four of the biggest investment banks on Wall Street. Citibank, JPMorgan Chase, Morgan Stanley, and Goldman Sachs all provided RAN with written promises to stay away from this climate- and reef-killing project.3 If this project is beyond the pale for Wall Street's biggest banks, there's no excuse for the U.S. government to commit taxpayer money to destroy the reef and turbocharge climate change.
We know that our pressure can help to stop the coal industry’s reef destruction. Thanks to your pressure, major banks have publicly committed not to fund this project, because it would be a disaster for the climate, the reef, and their bottom lines. Not only would this perpetuate climate chaos, the proposed Abbot Point expansion could threaten the breeding grounds of endangered green and loggerhead turtles.4 Now, it is time to use our voices to prevent the U.S. government from financing reef destruction.
Momentum is building to stop the coal industry from damaging the Great Barrier Reef. President Obama recently spoke out at a summit, urging Australia to protect the reef.5 Hundreds of thousands of global citizens have spoken out against reef destruction, and a group of ten European and U.S. banks has already walked away from the project. Now we need to make sure the U.S. government says “no” to coal port expansion in the Great Barrier Reef.
As an agency of the U.S. federal government, the Export-Import Bank’s mission is to finance the sale of U.S.-made products, not to finance foreign-owned coal ports across the world. If we speak up, Export-Import Bank chairman Fred Hochberg will hear us. Late last year, Hochberg urged the public to submit feedback about how the bank is doing. Now is the time to send a clear message that the taxpayer-supported Export-Import bank needs to stay away from the coal industry’s Great Barrier Reef destruction.
1. "US Banks baulk at Abbot Point coal port expansion", The Australian, October 28, 2014
2. "Adani lines up $1 bln Indian state bank loan for Australian coal venture", Reuters, November 17, 2014
3. "US banks vow not to fund Great Barrier Reef coal port, activists say", The Guardian, October 27, 2014
4. "Great Barrier Reef", United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization
5. "Barack Obama confronts Australia over climate change", The Telegraph, November 15, 2014
I am alarmed at reports that the U.S. Export-Import Bank is considering funding Australia’s Abbot Point coal port expansion. The port expansion and the coal mines that would feed it would gravely damage the Great Barrier Reef and accelerate climate change. The resultant dredging and ship traffic would threaten one of the world’s most biodiverse ecosystems, a global treasure that is under protection as a World Heritage Site. The deal would pave the way to double coal production in Australia -- already one of the world’s biggest coal exporters -- in the midst of a climate emergency. Under no circumstances should U.S. taxpayer dollars fund this reckless and destructive project. Please make a public commitment not to bankroll the Abbot Point coal port expansion and associated rail and mine infrastructure.
The coal industry is embarking on a project that would do grave damage to the Great Barrier Reef by massively expanding the port at Abbot Point and building new coal mines in Queensland, Australia. The resultant dredging and ship traffic would devastate this delicate ecosystem, a global treasure that is under protection as a World Heritage Site. Additionally, the proposed Abbot Point expansion could threaten the breeding grounds of endangered green and loggerhead turtles.
The climate impacts would be catastrophic, as building out Abbot Point would mean a dramatic expansion of coal mining in Australia's Galilee Basin, one of the world's largest stores of carbon. The planned mega-mines would be among the largest in Australia, and would dramatically increase greenhouse gas pollution.
The coal industry needs international bank funding to make their reckless new project happen. Many global banks have already said “no” to financing the project. As a result of campaigning from Rainforest Action Network, U.S. banks Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup and Morgan Stanley have already ruled out financing for Abbot Point. Leading European investment banks, including HSBC, Barclays, and Deutsche Bank have made similar commitments.
Call on the U.S. Export-Import Bank to do the same.
Adani lines up $1 billion SBI loan for Australian coal venture, Reuters, November 17 2014
Great Barrier Reef protection plan 'ignores the threat of climate change', The Guardian, October 27 2014
Great Barrier Reef, Unesco
On January 9th, 2014, over 10,000 gallons of the coal washing chemical MCHM spilled from tanks owned by Freedom Industries on the banks of the Elk River in Charleston, West Virginia. The chemical spill took place upstream from a municipal water intake pipe and contaminated the drinking water of over 300,000 people. If you missed coverage of the crisis last January, Ken Ward has written an extensive retrospective in the Charleston Gazette. Overall, a year after the spill, West Virginians are still fighting to get answers about the health impacts of the spill and prevent future industry-caused water disasters.
Last month, federal prosecutors filed criminal charges against Freedom Industries and its top executives for negligence that allegedly led to the leak. The former CEO of Freedom, Gary Southern, who infamously sipped from bottled water at a press conference in the aftermath of the spill, would face a maximum of 68 years in prison, if convicted. According to an FBI affidavit, Freedom had known about problems with its chemical tanks and containment dikes for years.
But the executives at Freedom Industries weren’t the only people who failed during the crisis. Charleston’s water utility, West Virginia American Water, as well as the state and federal government have faced widespread criticism for their response to the spill. And a recent study in Environmental Science and Technology concluded that initial recommendations from officials that residents flush their water systems may have exposed people to additional hazards from chemical fumes.
Janet Keating, Executive Director of the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition marked the anniversary of the spill with an Op-Ed emphasizing the role of grassroots citizen power, which forced a reluctant state government to respond to the crisis and safeguard the state’s drinking water:
"Yet, amidst this crisis, I sensed a political transformation — government responding to the will of the people. For example, during a press briefing about the water crisis, state and federal officials said home testing for MCHM was unnecessary. Yet within a week, citizen pressure prevailed and Gov. Tomblin announced that the state would provide $650,000 to begin home testing of MCHM.
Once the Legislature reconvened, a bill to regulate above-ground storage tanks emerged; it was quickly revealed that representatives of polluting industries had largely authored this legislation which contained a long list of exemptions. No representative of the general public who cared about clean, safe water had been invited to help craft the bill. Thankfully, for two and a half months, the outcry from ordinary citizens was loud and sustained. The public succeeded and the exemptions were removed.
Many who had never been active on environmental issues formed new groups and took part in evening conference calls to plan events. They attended meetings, they marched, they protested and they lined the halls of the state Capitol. They testified at a lengthy public hearing. They formed a broad and active coalition to help safeguard water. This is what a healthy, effective democracy looks like."
A year later, there are troubling signs that a disaster similar to last year’s catastrophic spill could nevertheless happen again. Last month, legislators barely beat back an industry counterattack that would have rolled back the state’s drinking water safety regulations. And this week, West Virginia’s Department of Environmental Protection disclosed that 1,100 chemical storage tanks in the state had failed inspection and were not fit for service. So even though a groundswell of organized citizen pressure in the aftermath of last year’s spill won reforms to improve the safety of West Virginia’s water supply, there are many more battles ahead for defenders of clean water in Appalachia.
In 2014, leading global banks began to turn away from financing mountaintop removal (MTR) coal mining. For years, RAN and other organizations in Appalachia and around the world have warned banks of the severe human and environmental consequences of financing MTR coal. And finally, banks have begun to respond.
This year, building on commitments from two US banks, Wells Fargo and JPMorgan Chase, several other banks indicated that they would not finance the largest MTR producers. As of this spring, the French bank BNP Paribas had made a similar commitment, followed by the UK-based Royal Bank of Scotland in late Spring. Then, in August, the Swiss bank, UBS indicated that it too would no longer finance major MTR producers. Look for more banks to follow suit in early 2015.
Also in 2014, the environmental and health impacts of MTR became even harder for banks and coal companies to ignore. In March, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Justice reached a record-setting $227.5 million settlement with Alpha Natural Resources over water contamination at 79 mine sites, which included several MTR mines. Additionally, a study published in October added to a growing body of scientific evidence linking mountaintop removal mining to severe health impacts. The study, conducted by researchers at West Virginia University, found that dust from MTR sites promoted lung cancer tumor growth.
Financially, the bottom fell out for the U.S. coal industry this year. Facing a trend of U.S. coal plant retirements and stubbornly low coal prices, MTR producers idled, sold, or spun-off mines, and one even filed for bankruptcy. Globally, coal producers fared little better in 2014, facing a sustained slump in global coal prices, fierce competition from renewable energy sources, and broad-based opposition to new coal mines and coal-fired power stations.
Undaunted by this environmental, human, and financial turmoil, a few banks have stubbornly clung on to their financing relationships with MTR producers. For example, Deutsche Bank extracted $2.7 million in fees this year from bankrupt James River Coal for investment banking services. Nevertheless, it is becoming increasingly clear that both MTR producers and the broader coal industry are in deep trouble. As Bob Burton of RenewEconomy noted in his retrospective on 2014, “[e]ach defeat or delay for coal projects, each new scandal or coal-caused disaster, each new report documenting coal’s toll on human health and every incremental fall in the cost of wind and solar brings the coal industry’s day of reckoning ever closer.”
Your voice was heard.
For communities of the Pacific Northwest, 2014 started off with some good news. On January 7, Goldman Sachs sold off its share in SSA Marine, the corporation behind a colossal coal export terminal proposal near Bellingham, Washington that threatens to ruin the rich biodiversity and unique cultural legacy found in the region. If built, the Gateway Pacific Terminal at Cherry Point would be the largest proposed coal export terminal in the country, with up to 18 mile-long coal trains traveling through local communities every day and nearly 48 million tons of coal exported to Asian markets each year.
Goldman Sachs’ move away from SSA Marine and their coal terminal came after coal companies and their proponents tabled or dropped three out of six proposed coal export terminals in the Pacific Northwest in the previous two years.
And it would not have happened without you. Starting in 2011, RAN, along with ally organizations and thousands of concerned citizens, called on Goldman Sachs to quit this coal export terminal. By raising our voices about this egregious project and by continually calling out the U.S. banking sector for investing in coal, we showed Goldman Sachs that the Gateway Pacific Terminal was just too hot to handle.
Goldman Sachs’ action was the perfect signal that the terminal’s threats to the climate, human rights, thriving Tribal fisheries and biodiversity in the sensitive Puget Sound marine environment are just too grave to ignore. Proposed coal export terminals in the Pacific Northwest would result in almost as much carbon pollution as the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. And if the coal companies can’t sell their product abroad, they will be forced to keep it in the ground.
This week, BankTrack launched their latest report on the top coal-financing banks in the world. The ranking, topped by JPMorgan Chase and Citigroup, includes several other U.S. banks in the top 20 based on their total financing for coal mining and coal-fired power since 2005.
As the piece we’ve cross-posted below notes, it’s telling that even the top financiers of coal in the world have decided to stay away the proposed coal terminal expansion at Abbot Point on the Great Barrier Reef. But unfortunately, even though most of their competitors have concluded that expanding Abbot Point would be a disaster for the climate and the reef, Bank of America still hasn’t gotten the message.
The proposed expansion of the Abbot Point coal export terminal is running out of friends in the banking world. This week’s news that U.S. giants Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, and JPMorgan Chase will not finance the proposed coal export terminals at Abbot Point bring the total number of banks to have made this commitment to nine. Even Morgan Stanley, currently in business with Adani over the partial sale of the existing coal export terminal at Abbot Point, acknowledge the environmental risks associated with the proposed new terminals and won’t provide funding to expand the coal port.
And a new report from global banking watchdog BankTrack underlines the significance of these commitments.
The report lists the top twenty global banks in terms of their investments in the coal industry over the past decade. Leading the list are JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, the Royal Bank of Scotland and Barclays, having financed the global coal industry to the tune of US$105 billion since 2005.
However, these major coal-funding banks are also doing something good.
They have all signalled that they are not going to fund the proposed expansion of the Abbot Point coal port, the focal point for exports out of what would be a series of new mega coal mines proposed in Queensland’s Galilee Basin.
It says a lot about the unacceptability of the proposals to build two massive new coal export terminals in the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area that banks with the strongest record of financing the sector have all opted out. In fact, six of the top ten and nine of the top twenty coal funding banks have now stated that they don’t plan to fund the expansion of Abbot Point, although holdouts such as U.S.-based Bank of America have so far refused to state their position on financing Abbot Point.
Despite poor market conditions, high costs and the massive outpouring of concern over the environmental impacts of their projects, Indian companies GVK and Adani remain hell-bent on opening up the Galilee Basin in Queensland. When we say “mega” coal mines, we really mean it. The smallest is as large as Australia’s biggest operating coal mine and the largest, twice the size. All of the proposals in the Galilee Basin would produce enough coal to chew up 7% of the world’s remaining carbon budget, drastically reducing our chances of keeping a lid on global warming.
Adding insult to environmental injury, the coal would be shipped out through new coal export terminals to be built in the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area, turning the region into a coal shipping superhighway. All for the sake of feeding the world dirty and expensive fuel when renewable energy options are already more economically viable.
The more international banks acknowledge that building coal ports in the Great Barrier Reef to massive expand exports is a bridge too far, the sharper it brings Australia’s “big four” banks into focus.
A report last week from the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis confirmed that if the Galilee Basin mega mines are going to go ahead, they would need the support of the likes of ANZ, Commonwealth Bank, NAB and Westpac. Historically, these banks have loaned the most money and taken part in far more fossil fuel deals than any other bank, so their importance to financing the new mega mines and coal export terminals in the Reef is obvious.
So far, the banks have been coy about saying anything about the proposals to expand coal exports through the Great Barrier Reef, falling back on sustainability policies that have, in recent years, seen them lend nearly $20 billion to fossil fuels. It has created an absurd situation where banks headquartered in Paris, London, and New York are doing more to stand up and defend the Reef than Australian banks.
It is already costing the banks. Several thousand customers have so far joined the rapidly growing divestment movement, moving to other banks in protest of the big four’s massive lending to the fossil fuel industry. And thousands more, worth hundreds of millions of dollars, sit in waiting, ready to shift their business based on whether the Australian banks will stand up and defend the Reef or fund its demise.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 30, 2014
Claire Sandberg, Rainforest Action Network, firstname.lastname@example.org, 646-641-6431
Joe Smyth, Greenpeace, 831-566-5647, email@example.com
Groups to Bank of America: Don’t Bankroll Reef Destruction
Australian coal port threatens global climate, Great Barrier Reef
San Francisco—An international coalition of groups called on Bank of America to rule out financing the controversial Abbot Point coal port in Queensland, Australia, days after three major U.S. investment banks pledged to steer clear of the project. Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, and Goldman Sachs all issued public-facing statements vowing not to finance the expansion of Abbot Point, but Bank of America has so far refused to take a position. The project would significantly harm the Great Barrier Reef--construction of the new port would require dredging part of the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage area--and would drive global climate change by drastically increasing carbon emissions.
"Not only do numerous reports show that the Galilee Basin projects are poor investments, but groups in India, such as Conservation Action Trust, have stated that exporting Australian coal to be burnt in India will threaten the health and livelihoods of people in India. These projects are not just bad for people, they are bad business.,” said Sierra Club International Campaign Representative Nicole Ghio.
"Smart investors understand that dumping money into speculative coal mining and export projects makes no sense, especially as the largest coal consuming countries begin to move away from coal to reduce air pollution and carbon emissions," said Kelly Mitchell, Greenpeace USA energy campaign director, "The Abbot Point expansion would serve the interests of a shrinking and desperate coal industry, at the expense of one of the great natural treasures of the world. Bank of America should promise not to finance it, and avoid this risky and extremely controversial coal export proposal."
“We've seen the world's biggest banks in the U.S. and Europe abandon the Abbot Point Coal Port project one by one. These banks understand that financing the project would devastate the Great Barrier Reef and unleash one of the world's largest stores of carbon. Bank of America needs to act responsibly, and commit to not financing the destruction of the Great Barrier Reef as well,” said Paul Ferris, SumOfUs Campaigns Director.
“Bank of America has publicly stated its commitment to accelerate the transition from high-carbon to low-carbon energy societies,” said Alex Levinson, executive director of Pacific Environment. “But if it bankrolls the destructive Abbot Point coal port expansion, the only thing it will accelerate is global climate change.”
“It’s unbelievable that in the midst of a climate emergency, Bank of America would even consider bankrolling a carbon bomb on the scale of the Alberta tar sands. On top of it, Abbot Point poses an immediate threat to one of the world’s most diverse ecosystems, the Great Barrier Reef. Bank of America needs to join the rest of its peers by rejecting this terrible project immediately,” said RAN Climate and Energy Program Director Amanda Starbuck.
Earlier this year, Bank of America proclaimed that “society needs to transition from high-carbon to low-carbon energy, and the bank has a responsibility to accelerate this transition.” Last month, Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan reiterated the bank’s commitment to climate action when he spoke at the U.N. climate summit in New York. But Bank of America’s stated environmental position clashes starkly with the bank’s refusal to rule out bankrolling the expansion of Abbot Point.
Building a new, larger export facility at Abbot Point is a key component of the plan to dramatically increase coal production in Australia’s Galilee Basin, one of the largest stores of carbon in the world. If the plan goes forward, Australia’s coal exports would likely double, and make the the country the number one coal exporter in the world. The proposed expansion has strong backing from the Australian government, but will require financial support from global investment banks to move ahead. Five major European banks (Deutsche Bank, Royal Bank of Scotland, HSBC, Barclays, and Credit Agricole) publicly ruled out investment in Abbot Point earlier this year after months of campaigning from an international coalition. That group was joined yesterday by U.S. banks Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, and Goldman Sachs, which issued public-facing statements as evidence of their commitments.