Chamber of Commerce raises concerns as bank looks to reduce coal funding
A DECISION by Westpac to cease funding for thermal coal by 2030 fails to consider the “dire consequences” that will impact rural Queensland and Australia, according to Bowen Chamber of Commerce chairman Bruce Hedditch.
The decision is outlined in Westpac’s Climate Change Position Statement and 2023 Action Plan and says the major bank will continue to support existing thermal coal customers, but held a commitment to reduce its exposure to zero by 2030.
Adani’s Carmichael Mine confirmed it would not be affected by the move, however Mr Hedditch says he was concerned about the principle of the decision and long-term effects on the industry as whole.
Mr Hedditch said the decision by Westpac failed to consider the long-term effects on the economy and the impacts on residents in rural communities who relied on thermal coal.
“If this anti-coal lobby is allowed to grow and fester then regional communities like Bowen will be disadvantaged,” he said.
“The decision by Westpac in joining with the CBA and NAB fails to appreciate the dire consequences confronting the Australian economy especially now with the COVID-19 crisis.
“At a time when we now have record debt that applies to the federal and all state governments we have our major financial institutions taking the high moral ground against coal.”
Mr Hedditch called on the banks to explain where rural and regional Queensland would gain financial security, if not from the coal industry.
“All I am seeking from these banks is to financially explain why they propose to destroy an industry so vital to Australia in providing export revenue to the nation and to clarify to people working in the coal industry where the alternate jobs opportunities will be created,” he said.
Offering subsidies for alternative energy sources like wind and solar, but “expecting coal and gas energy suppliers to stand alone”, was “morally wrong”, and would end up destroying a financially vital industry for Australia, Mr Hedditch said.
“We have witnessed the deliberate use of the resource royalties from Central Queensland being unfairly distributed to the southeast corner of the state for far too long, if you want regional centres to grow and prosper we must have infrastructure and improved facilities,” he said.
A spokeswoman from Adani said although the move wouldn’t affect the Carmichael Mine project they acknowledged the science behind climate change and were investing in renewable energies.
“The Carmichael Mine and Rail project is 100 per cent funded by Adani Group resources,” she said.
“We acknowledge the science of climate change and that is why we are investing in both renewable and thermal (coal) energy to help meet increasing demand for electricity in the region, while also transitioning to a lower carbon future.
“For us it’s not a matter of ‘coal or renewables’ it’s about generating a sustainable energy mix – pursuing renewable sources of energy such as solar, wind and hydro power, but we also have a social responsibility to ensure our energy is reliable and affordable, and that is where coal has a critical role to play.”
In Westpac’s Climate Change Position Statement and 2023 Action Plan, it was stated that the bank had outlined the actions set to be taken to meet its commitment to the Paris Agreement and United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
“As a financial institution, we believe the most constructive role we can play is to work with customers and communities to respond to the challenge of climate change,” it read.
“We are also focused on reducing greenhouse gas emissions from our own operations and supporting industry and government initiatives to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement.”
While support will no longer be given to thermal coal, the future of oil and gas remain up in the air.
“We will continue to assess the role of oil and gas in the transition to a low carbon economy and to develop Paris-aligned financing strategies and portfolio targets for emissions intensive sectors, working with our customers,” Westpac’s statement read.
“In the interim we will continue to provide finance to the sector in line with our ESG policies and commitment to the Paris Agreement.”