Business

Bank accounts closed over funds loaned to gas, coal projects

Gladstone Conservation Council's Jan Arens wants banks to take his money out of WICET.
Gladstone Conservation Council's Jan Arens wants banks to take his money out of WICET. Mike Richards

HUNDREDS of customers of the 'big four' banks have closed their accounts to protest their banks' lending to Australian coal and gas projects.

Gladstone's Wiggins Island Coal Export Terminal (WICET) is one project on the hitlist.

A national day of protest last Saturday targeted the ANZ, Commonwealth Bank, National Australia Bank and Westpac, who have loaned funds to enable expansion of the coal and gas industry in Australia, according to environment groups 350 and Market Forces.

"The big four banks since 2008 have loaned around $19 billion to new coal and gas in Australia alone," said 350's Charlie Wood.

"A lot of the people participating in divestment day were motivated by concerns about the climate impacts of these projects," she said.

WICET was loaned $195 million by NAB, $194 million by ANZ and $294 million by the Commonwealth Bank according to Market Forces' Julien Vincent.

"The money used to fund major projects is ultimately that of the banks' customers, clients and shareholders," he said.

Bank customers are increasingly demanding their banks withdraw funds from coal and gas projects, he said.

Coal comprises over 70 per cent of the cargo exported from Gladstone Port, about 59 million tonnes annually.

Coal exported from Gladstone would more than double with the completion of WICET, which is likely to see an additional 80 million tonnes exported every year.

Local environmentalist Jan Arens said the resulting increase greenhouse gas emissions would cause an acceleration of climate change that was not acceptable.

"Climate change is upon us and is likely to get very much worse," he said.

"We need to interact with the banking community about this.

"If the atmospheric temperature goes up by four degrees then we (will) have dire consequences," he said.

He said the task of protecting the climate was a simple exercise in arithmetic.

"We need to leave 70 to 80 per cent of the identified carbon in the ground. We can't burn it."

Mr Arens is inspired after seeing customers around Australia cut their bank cards and close their accounts in protest against the WICET and other coal and gas projects.

We need to shift away from a carbon economy. It has to happen. We have no choice.

The process engineer has lived in Gladstone for 15 years where he works with heavy industry and volunteers for the Gladstone Conservation Council.

He has bank accounts with ANZ and the Commonwealth Bank.

"The transparency of how money is spent is not there," he said.

"We need banks to be more transparent."

He hopes the banks will withdraw their support for WICET.

"Of course I feel sorry for a guy who might lose money from a contract on WICET, everybody would," he said.

"But the reality is we need to find alternatives.

"We need to shift away from a carbon economy. It has to happen. We have no choice."

He said Gladstone needs to think about creating an environmentally sustainable economy.

"Rather than us talking about doubling coal exports, let's look at what we have and look at ways to move things so we don't need to sell coal," he said.

WICET, Commonwealth Bank and NAB have so far declined to comment.

THE MATHS

  • 2 degrees: the global temperature for a safe climate
  • 565 gigatonnes: the amount of carbon dioxide that can be emitted globally to keep the temperature at 2 degrees
  • 2860 gigatonnes: the amount of carbon known of / available for exploitation

Source: http://www.350.org.au

Topics:  big four banks climate change coal gladstone conservation council wicet



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