Over 670,000 call on Ex-Im Bank to reject controversial Australian coal project

Abbot Point coal export terminal would harm Great Barrier Reef, worsen global climate change

Photos from today’s petition delivery: http://bit.ly/1N2SjAu

Washington, D.C.—Activists from a coalition of environmental groups delivered over 670,000 petition signatures to the U.S. Export-Import Bank (Ex-Im Bank) today to call on the bank to publicly reject financing for the controversial Carmichael coal mining and export project in Australia. Activists rallied in front of Ex-Im Bank headquarters wearing blue clothing and clownfish hats and holding a coral reef-themed banner to demand that U.S. taxpayer dollars not be used to bankroll the project, which threatens Australia’s iconic Great Barrier Reef, as well as the global climate.

If built, the Carmichael coal mine, along with an associated export terminal at Abbot Point, would dramatically increase coal production and exports from Australia’s Galilee Basin, one of the largest stores of coal on the planet. The plan for the new mine and port facility would make Australia the world’s leading coal exporter, and lead to an estimated 705 million tons of carbon emissions annually. The project has faced fierce opposition, not only over its climate impact, but over the threats it poses to the Great Barrier Reef. Construction of the new export terminal at Abbot Point would require dredging part of the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area, in a plan that has prompted the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to consider placing the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Site on its “in danger” list.

With the project receiving strong support from Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s administration, campaigners have targeted investment banks to try and stop the project from gaining an estimated $16.5 billion in financing needed for the project to move forward. Eleven of the world’s leading private investment banks, including Citigroup, Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs, and JPMorgan Chase, have publicly ruled out providing financing to Indian conglomerate Adani Enterprises to build the project. But the U.S. Ex-Im Bank has thus far refused to take a position, amid reports that the bank may be considering a request for financing from Adani.

“If all the coal in the Galilee Basin is dug up and burned, it would have roughly the same carbon impact as burning all of the Alberta tar sands. In other words, we can’t allow this project to move forward if we hope to keep climate change below 2C of warming,” said Amanda Starbuck, Climate and Energy Program Director at Rainforest Action Network. “On top of that, construction of a new export facility at Abbot Point would require dredging part of the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area. Start to finish, this is a dirty, reprehensible plan that the Export-Import Bank should publicly reject. U.S. taxpayer dollars should not be used to bankroll Reef destruction and climate chaos.”

“Already eleven major global banks, including the major lenders to Australian coal projects, have said no to this disaster of a project because they see that it ticks every risk box on the books,” said Charlie Wood, 350.org Australia campaigns director. “High levels of public concern about this project have already been demonstrated at the local, national, and international levels, with several million people having taken action to oppose them. This concern will only continue to grow. Ex-Im is placing its reputation on the line by refusing to take a position. They should rule out involvement now,” concluded Wood.

“It’s clear that putting a price tag on one of the world’s greatest natural treasures is simply not an option,” said John Coequyt, director of the Sierra Club’s International Climate Program. “Time and again, we’ve seen Big Coal dip its soot-covered fingers in the pockets of American taxpayers to finance dirty, dangerous projects. It’s high time Ex-Im put an end to this wasteful cycle once and for all.”

“It shouldn’t take a PhD in ocean ecology for Ex-Im Bank to figure out it’s a bad idea to support another massive fossil fuel project inside one of the world’s most important marine parks,” said Doug Norlen, senior manager of Friends of the Earth’s Economic Policy program.  “It’s time for Ex-Im Bank to come clean and publicly declare they will not provide public subsidies to destroy a world heritage area.”

Regarding the U.S. Ex-Im Bank possibly helping to fund the Abbot Point coal port expansion in Australia, Ted Conwell of Climate First! strongly called for “the bank to disassociate itself from the project due to the massive negative effect it will have on global warming. If the coal port is expanded thereby allowing nearby coal mines to sell all their coal, the total CO2 emissions from the project could be three times the lifetime CO2 emissions created by the Keystone XL pipeline.”

President Obama and Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott have repeatedly clashed over coal, climate change, and the Great Barrier Reef. Abbott has called coal “good for humanity,” and has given strong backing to Abbot Point and other coal projects, while President Obama has publicly chided Australia for not doing more to address climate change or protect the Reef. Last month, after strong arm-twisting from the Australian government, UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee issued a draft decision not to designate the Great Barrier Reef as “in danger,” despite analysis  from environmental groups showing the Reef has met as many as six out of the eight criteria needed to be added to the “in danger” list.


Claire Sandberg, Rainforest Action Network, 646-641-6431 claire@ran.org

Cindy Carr, Sierra Club, 202-495-3034, cindy.carr@sierraclub.org

Jenny Bock, Friends of the Earth, 202-222-0754, jbock@foe.org