In the coming months, big Wall Street banks could finance the destruction of the Great Barrier Reef.
The Great Barrier Reef, off the coast of Australia, is the world’s biggest stretch of coral reef and is probably the planet’s richest area in terms of animal diversity. It’s home to 1,500 species of fish, 400 kinds of coral, and at least 30 types of whales and dolphins—it’s an important area for humpback whales giving birth and raising their young. The reef is also a key habitat for two endangered—and beautiful—species: the green sea turtle and the dugong, or “sea cow.” And it’s a global treasure, a protected UNESCO World Heritage Site.1
Now the Great Barrier Reef is facing a massive threat. A huge corporation, Adani, wants to expand the Abbot Point coal terminal into the one of the world’s biggest coal ports, right in the middle of the reef World Heritage Area. To do that, they’re planning to dig up 3 million cubic meters of seabed, wrecking the habitat of thousands of species. Analysts project that, if the port is expanded, thousands more coal ships would pass through the reef each year, polluting the ocean as they go and posing a constant threat of catastrophic spills.
But the port can’t go forward unless Adani finds several big banks to fund their astonishingly reckless plan. Thanks to the efforts of a worldwide coalition of environmentalists, a number of European banks have pledged not to underwrite the project. So now the company is looking to Wall Street—and so far, the big U.S. banks haven’t yet committed to not financing the project.
There’s another reason we need to stop this plan, besides the acute threat to the reef: the Abbot Point port expansion would light the fuse on a carbon bomb on the scale of the Alberta tar sands. The port is a key piece of infrastructure in a coal industry plan to build a cluster of new mega-mines in a vast coalfield called the Galilee basin. Australia is already the world’s second-biggest coal exporter, and these new mines would double the country’s output. With the world hurtling toward devastating levels of global warming, the next few years are crucial for us to change the course of climate history, and the fight over Abbot Point is one that we have to win. We have the technology to meet our energy demand from clean, renewable sources—there’s no need to unlock these vast reserves of dirty coal for the sake of corporate profits.
Rainforest Action Network has a long track record of pressuring banks to quash dirty energy deals, and we’re already talking to the biggest players on Wall Street to push them not to bankroll the destruction of the Great Barrier Reef. We’re telling bank executives: destroying a World Heritage Site and cooking the climate for the sake of as little as a few million dollars in fees is not a good deal. But we can’t win in the boardroom unless Wall Street knows that this is one deal the public won’t let them get away with. In the coming months, Adani will be reaching out to the big banks to secure financing, so we need to raise our voices now.