Investors warned of Buru Energy’s fracking in West Australia

Buru Energy's operation in Western Australia. (Photo: Supplied)

Buru Energy’s operation in Western Australia. (Photo: Supplied)

Investors for natural resource exploration company Buru Energy’s AUD $30.8m plans to frack for gas in Western Australia’s ecologically sensitive Canning Basin have been warned of the various risks posed by the project. The backers have also been told to expect more protests from local communities should the energy company continue to push for the project, which is due to be implemented upstream from a heritage site in WA’s Kimberley region.

The Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) issued the alert recently, raising the company’s financial viability, along with its engineering integrity in other operations as prime concerns.

Buru Energy has been looking into the feasibility of fracking for gas in the South Kimberley’s Canning Basin since the company demerged from ARC Energy in 2008. The project includes fracking for unconventional tight gas, oil, and condensates. Among its partners are Mitsubishi Corporation, Coogee Chemicals, and Rey Resources.

ACF’s Kimberley Project Officer Wade Freeman said Buru’s plans for hydraulic fracking in the region have the potential to cause serious damage to underground water as well as historical and cultural values for local communities. Buru’s exploration permits cover the beach resort town of Broome’s aquifer, an area of floodplains and lakes that feeds Broome’s only drinking water source, Freeman added.

The ACF has also raised concern that Buru’s fracking plans present a genuine threat to the health of the Fitzroy River and Roebuck Bay. Instead of investing in risky fossil fuel industries for the short term, the conservation group said there are other sustainable options based on The Kimberley’s unique cultural and environmental values.

Protestors hang the banner to stop Buru Energy from fracking. (Photo: Supplied)

Protestors hang the banner to stop Buru Energy from fracking. (Photo: Supplied)

Opposition towards the project is expected to rise from the local community level on to regional, national, and international spheres. In the state alone, this will likely be a major environmental issue in the lead up to the 2017 West Australian elections. Recent polling suggests the 2017 WA election is set to be a close race. The Western Australian Labor Party has advanced two policies that will potentially end hydraulic fracturing in the state.

National awareness programs are being organised to highlight potential impact of shale gas development on national heritage-listed assets in the region. The states of Victoria and Tasmania have already placed moratoriums on hydraulic fracturing. The Australian Labor Party has recently committed to add shale gas fracking to the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act (EPBC) Act’s Water Trigger.

Signs not to frack Aboriginal land. (Photo:Supplied)

Signs not to frack Aboriginal land. (Photo:Supplied)

The ACF said the signing of the Paris Agreement on climate change in December last year has shifted global approach towards the issue of energy. In the US, several states have already banned fracking, including Maryland, New York, California, Colorado, Texas, Pennsylvania, Pittsburgh, Washington, Hawaii, and Ohio. Many countries have followed suit, including Germany, Scotland, Wales, Canada, France, Luxembourg, Romania, Netherlands, Spain and Bulgaria. This development is expected to set the momentum of a new era.

Western Australian farmers and community groups have formed an alliance with farmers from Wyoming in the US, warning other communities by publishing their experiences with the detrimental impacts of shale gas fracking.

ACF’s Economist Matthew Rose sent the alert to investment firms, fund managers and individual shareholders. Considering the post-Paris agreement on climate policy, this project raises concern about the increased risks in the region, affecting traditional owners and national heritage-listed values in The Kimberley.

“There are serious risks associated with this project – for the environment and for investors,” Rose said.

Buru Energy’s Quarterly Report published on June 30 shows the company’s estimated cash inflows for the next quarter at $9.5 million for the sale of a pastoral lease asset, and $5.8 million from government tax concessions.

“What is the future of an oil and gas company that relies on selling beef and drawing big tax concessions from the public purse in order to remain viable?” Mr Rose asked.

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Labor’s solar-wind revolution underway

Despite Australia’s recalcitrant record in joining the world towards a clean and sustainable energy, some positive developments are taking place from within the Opposition who are leading the way. Re-posting:

Australia’s opposition block has come up with a defiant act against Tony Abbott’s government on the Renewable Energy Target (RET) by committing to an ambitious target of 50 percent by 2030. In Victoria alone, a solar and wind farms revolution will soon get underway. By 2020, RET will be no less than 20 percent.

Premier Daniel Andrews from the Labor Party unveiled their Renewable Energy Roadmap geared towards rebuilding Victoria’s reputation as the nation’s leader for renewable energy.

Joined by Minister for Energy Lily D’Ambrosio at Keppel Prince in Portland,  Andrews announced the government’s plan to attract Victoria’s share of renewable energy investment and jobs in Australia by 2020.

The Labor government also launched an initiative to source renewable energy certificates from new projects in Victoria, bringing forward around $200 million of new investment in renewables. Andrews sees more wind and solar farms will rise in the coming few years to propel investments and to create jobs in the countryside.

The roadmap outlines a set of initiatives aimed at accelerating the development of renewable energy projects in Victoria. It was developed in partnership with key energy sector stakeholders, including industry, consumer groups and environment groups.

Solar panels on Port Augusta, VIC (Photo: Supplied)

Solar panels on Port Augusta, VIC (Photo: Supplied)

Along with the 20 percent renewable targets by 2020, the roadmap identifies other priority areas, including the use of government electricity purchasing power to support the creation of hundreds of renewable energy jobs. It also seeks to end unfair discrimination and improving access to the grid for solar customers. A $20 million New Energy Jobs Fund will also be set aside to support clean energy jobs. The Andrews government highlighted the need for ambition to attract investment and create jobs while tackling climate change.

The plan is coming together. Labor in the Australian Capital Territory has a renewable energy target of 90 per cent by 2020; South Australia 50 per cent by 2025; and Queensland, 50 percent by 2030.

Federally, the Labor opposition has committed to a national goal of 50 per cent by 2030. The target was announced during the party’s conference in July this year.

Friends of the Earth (FoE) renewable energy spokesperson Leigh Ewbank said, “A Victorian target that matches the ambition of the ACT or South Australia would be welcomed by the community. And it would ensure Victoria is not out-competed by other states.”

More wind farms to rise in Victoria. Pic: AP.

More wind farms to rise in Victoria. Pic: AP.

FoE sees a renewable energy revolution underway. “Building the shovel-ready wind farms alone would put us at around 26 percent renewable. And that’s not accounting for the rooftop solar revolution that’s underway.”

FoE says the government’s renewables roadmap sketches out a comprehensive plan to grow renewables. The group is awaiting further details about the policy drivers it will use to meet state renewable energy targets.

These details will be finalised in a RET Action Plan to be released later this year.

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Clean energy on ALP National Conference agenda

“Australians want cheaper, cleaner power. There are more than 5 million people living under a solar roof, taking control of their electricity bills and doing their bit for the environment.” – Claire O’Rourke, National Director, Solar Citizens

Renewable for Port Augusta, VIC

Renewable for Port Augusta, VIC

The Australian Labor Party (ALP) will decide its policy platform at their National Conference in Melbourne on July 27.

On the agenda includes climate change. The conference is open to the public to join clean energy workers, community leaders, and thousands of voters, to show the ALP Australia is ready for leadership on clean renewable power.

The event is crucial for ALP to step up in providing the necessary vision and policy settings to put Australia on a path to a cleaner, fairer economy that tackles the challenge of climate change.

DATE
July 25, 2015 at 11am – 12pm

VENUE

Melbourne Convention Centre
1 Convention Centre Place South Wharf
Melbourne, Victoria 3006
Australia
RSVP HERE.

Top coal financiers: Japan, China, Korea

Divestment is becoming both a buzzword and a movement that urges organizations to shift support from dirty fossil fuels to clean and renewable energy. But it is a long way to go when governments are being lobbied by big industries and financial institutions and continue to work in secretive partnership. Re-blogging this post:

Miners shovel coal at a mine in China's Hebei province. Pic: AP.

Japan, China, and South Korea are the top financiers of coal exports via international financial conduits, a new report has revealed.

International environmental groups have called for these countries to stop financing coal exports via Export Credit Agencies and asked all other countries involved in climate talks to honor their commitments to combat global warming by reducing carbon emissions.

The Natural Resources Defense Council, Oil Change International and World Wide Fund for Nature released the report, Under the Rug: How Governments and International Institutions are Hiding Billions in Support to the Coal Industry, exposing the secretive operation between governments and financial institutions to finance big polluters despite international outcry for urgent climate action.

The report said “total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions related to international public finance for coal between 2007 and 2014 conservatively amounted to almost half a billion tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) per year. Emissions are close to a total of 18 gigatonnes for the entire lifetime of the supported power plants alone.”

The report revealed US$73 billion or over $9 billion a year within that period in which public finance was approved for coal.  Japan gave the largest amount of coal financing of any country, with over $20 billion during that time, followed by China with finance close to US$15 billion.

OCIKorea, Germany, and Australia are among top sources of funds transmitted via financial agencies. These countries are also reported to be leading the opposition to limits on coal finance in international discussions, along with other countries which continue to resist pressure to end public financing.

The report comes a summit in Paris in December this year to ratify a commitment to cap carbon emissions and to solidify targets of limiting global temperature below two degrees Celsius.

The report recommends improved transparency to avoid catastrophic climate change. It calls for phasing out international public finance for all fossil fuel projects, including exploration for more fossil fuels.

The report also urges the immediate disclosure of exhaustive data on public finance for the entire energy sector. Funding has largely gone unnoticed as it is often hidden from view as many countries are choosing to sweep this under the rug, rather than face the necessary task of cleaning up their own houses, the report added.

OCI-2World governments, particularly G20 and G7 members, have recognized the threat of climate change over the last eight years, and made repeated commitments to both fight climate change and end fossil fuel subsidies.

However, billions of dollars’ worth of government support continues to flow towards fossil fuels and coal. “This government financing for coal – largely in the form of export support, but also as development aid and general finance – is perpetuating coal use and exacerbating climate change. It needs to stop, immediately”, the report added.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) said that at least 75 percent of existing fossil fuel reserves must stay in the ground to avert global warming of more than two degrees. As coal makes up two-thirds of the carbon content of known global fossil fuel reserves, coal poses a serious threat to the climate.

Full Report HERE.

WWF calls EU for  climate leadership in OECD talks before COP Paris 

In Brussels, Belgium, 34 OECD countries convened for their annual Ministerial Meeting, June 3-4, while  G7 Heads of States and governments will meet in Germany on June 7-8 as a key political opportunity to make their climate credibility by ending support for coal.

“Many developed country governments that push for ambitious climate action are simultaneously funding coal abroad. They cannot do both and be credible,” said WWF’s Global Climate and Energy initiative leader Samantha Smith. “It is time for rich nations to put their money behind the solutions, like renewable energy, rather than using taxpayers’ money to fuel climate change.”

WWF said international public finance for coal between 2007 and 2014 is blamed for Italy’s pollution, the country which ranked 20th in the highest amount of carbon emissions globally,  “causing total greenhouse gas emissions amounting to almost half a billion tons of carbon dioxide equivalent per year.”

Contradicting the claim that export finance for coal is necessary to fight energy poverty in poor countries, the report clearly shows that zero export finance for coal has gone to Low Income Countries, where the need for energy access is greatest, while one-fourth went to High Income Countries with no every poverty concerns.

OCI-3

Sébastien Godinot, economist at WWF European Policy Office said the EU, led by the European Commission, failed to agree an official position on coal export finance ahead of the OECD meeting taking place next week. He said EU Member States are still divided, with some willing to end support for coal plants and others being more reluctant. So far the EU has largely been inaudible in the OECD negotiations, he added.

“COP Paris is around the corner.  It is time for European countries, the Commission and the EU as a whole to end procrastination and show leadership”, said Godinot, as “climate commitments and engagement to phase out fossil fuel subsidies should immediately lead the EU to ask the OECD to end export credits for coal.”

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‘Road to Paris’ calls for strong carbon emission cuts

Paris hosts the COP21 on December 2015.

Paris plays host to the 21st Conference Of Parties for the United Nations’ Framework Convention on Climate Change, December 2015. (Photo: Creative Commons)

The Climate Reality Project (CRP) is launching the Road to Paris, a global campaign that will bring together citizens, business leaders, non-profit organizations, and NGOs to galvanize climate action and encourage participating countries to commit strong carbon emission cuts. The campaign will urged countries to forged commitments at the 21st Conference Of Parties for the United Nations’ Framework Convention on Climate Change in December this year.

Road to Paris would include emissions reductions commitments based on national circumstances, a system of periodic review for these commitments, and a long-term goal of net zero carbon emissions.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, from left, primatologist Jane Goodall, former U.S. Vice President Al Gore, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, and  U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon participate in the People's Climate March in New York, Sunday, Sept. 21, 2014. Thousands of demonstrators filled the streets of Manhattan on Sunday, accompanied by drumbeats, wearing costumes and carrying signs as they urged policy makers to take global action on climate change. (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, from left, primatologist Jane Goodall, former U.S. Vice President Al Gore, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, and U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon participate in the People’s Climate March in New York, Sunday, Sept. 21, 2014. Thousands of demonstrators filled the streets of Manhattan, accompanied by drumbeats, wearing costumes and carrying signs as they urged policy makers to take global action on climate change. (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)

It will focus on mobilizing public support from the global community and citizens in eight countries that hold strategic significance for the upcoming negotiations, as a building block for a strong international agreement. Target countries include Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, India, Philippines, South Africa, and the United States. The CRP will also have a programmatic presence in Mexico and Europe.

Former United States Vice President Al Gore, chairman of The CRP, said the UN climate negotiations in December mark a crucial opportunity for the international community to come to a bold, universal agreement to make significant emissions reductions commitments, including a long term goal for zero net carbon emissions.

The Philippine flag stands amid devasted region brought about by typhoon Haiyan,  the deadliest Philippine typhoon recorded in modern history,  killing at least 6,300 people. (Photo: AP)

The Philippine flag stands amid devastation brought about by typhoon Haiyan, the deadliest typhoon recorded in modern history, killing at least 6,300 people. (Photo: AP)

He stressed out that the Road to Paris will not end at COP21. He urged people to take urgent actions saying solutions to the climate crisis is within reach.

“We cannot afford to gamble with the future of our planet. Solutions to the climate crisis are within reach, but in order to capture them, we must take urgent action today across every level of society. Now is the time for people all over the world to lend their voices to the cause and urge their leaders to take this historic first step.”

The CRP’s Road to Paris campaign will build on work the group has already undertaken in each key country, including training new members of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps and organizing support on the ground through local branches.

Taxis are stranded in New York. At least 48 are dead across the US east coast as Superstorm Sandy, a former hurricane, causes widespread flooding and power cuts.

Taxis are stranded in Queens St, New York. At least 48 are dead across the US east coast when Superstorm Sandy, a former hurricane, causes widespread flooding and power cuts. (Photo: Xinhua/Telegraph)

In partnership with Live Earth: Road to Paris, CRP Leaders will run programs to address the unique challenges and opportunities of each target country.

CRP President and CEO Ken Berlin boasts the group as a leading international climate organization with about 5,700 trained leaders in the eight countries alone. He said, ” it is our responsibility to do everything we can to help spur action around the globe, providing support and guidance to the most critical players on the road to Paris.”

Climate March in Melbourne in time of the UN Climate Summit in New York, Sept 2013. (Photo: Asian Correspondent)

Climate Mobilization March in Melbourne in time of the UN Climate Summit in New York on Sept 2014. (Photo: Asian Correspondent)

Individual country programs will be rolled out over the coming weeks. Specific actions in each country will depend on the local political, economic, and social landscape, and will take into account the country’s climate change risk profile and opportunities for implementing solutions.

In the US, the CRP will continue its People vs. Carbon campaign in support of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan. There are also two Climate Reality Leadership Corps trainings being held in the United States in 2015 – in Iowa and Florida.

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Renewable energy future uncertain as investment falters

solar stations

Just as Australia was too optimistic in its Renewable Energy Targets, plans are falling apart with a significant dropped in renewable investments last year.

Australia’s Renewable Energy Target (RET) is facing an uncertain future with a recent report showing that investment in large-scale renewable energy has nose-dived over the past year.

Investment in renewable energy worldwide is up by 16%, in a stark contrast with Australia’s figure which dropped by 88%.

The Climate Council said the future of Australia’s renewable energy industry remains highly uncertain due to the lack of a clear federal government renewable energy policy.

The RET aims to achieve 20% of the country’s power supply from renewables. About 89% of Australians support the initiative.

Activist group GetUp blames Prime Minister Tony Abbott, along with his pro-capitalist, pro-coal agenda which favours power companies such as Origin, AGL and Energy Australia.

GetUp said since 2001 the RET has been responsible for a massive $20 billion in investment into the Australian economy creating over 24,000 new jobs and lower power bills for consumers.

Nearly 24,000 GetUp members made their voices heard by making a submission to the government’s review of the RET. In addition, over 5,000 GetUp members have switched from Origin, AGL and Energy Australia to renewable energy companies such as Powershop as part of a campaign to make consumers’ voices heard.

With the RET’s future hanging in the balance new investment in renewables has fallen to a 13-year low, the group said.

GetUp noted this is ironic considering the fact that the Government’s former Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for the Environment and Liberal Party Senator Simon Birmingham admitted in 2013 that the real driver of investment in renewable energy has been and continues to be the RET. The senator was quoted as saying, “We have always supported the RET and continue to offer bi-partisan support for this scheme. It has been interesting to note the claims being made about what the Coalition will or won’t do. All of it is simply conjecture. The Coalition supports the current system, including the 41,000 giga-watt hours target.”

Workers check on solar panels in Yulin, northwest China's Shaanxi Province. In 2014, President Barack Obama and his Chinese counterpart Hu Jintao met to agree on mutual cooperation to reduce carbon emission before the G20 meeting in Brisbane. (AP Photo/Xinhua, Liu Xiao)

Beyond Zero Emission (BZE) is also driving a campaign to discourage Australians from supporting the three main power companies. Although the three companies provide energy to the majority of Australians, the group said they have been actively campaigning to dismantle the RET.

Many Australians can opt for greener alternatives to the big three power suppliers. Victoria residents can switch to Powershop or Diamond Energy while consumers from South Australia, New South Wales or South East Queensland can switch to Diamond Energy.

World leaders will gather in Paris in December this year to determine the rules for a new global agreement to limit global greenhouse emissions and temperature below two degrees above pre-industrial levels.

Australia’s major trading partners have been building significant momentum to make ambitious contributions toward their post-2020 national targets. The Climate Change Authority (CCA) suggests that nationally determined contribution to reduce emissions, agreed by Australia, will be central in determining the climate policy framework that will cover and impact companies covered under any emissions reduction initiative. The Authority adds:

This is an important time to convene business, government and NGOs for a mature, constructive dialogue about what should be the nature of Australia’s commitment, why it is in our best interests to actively participate in the negotiations and to share views to understand the economic, environmental and social implications for business.

The CCA finds Australia’s emission reduction target (5 % reduction by 2020) to be too low and out of step with its allies and trading partners.

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New study predicts demise of Great Barrier Reef

The Great Barrier Reef is facing serious threats from climate change, and ongoing coal projects make it even worse. The Carmichael Mine Project, located in the Galilee Basin, will go ahead despite warnings that coal transported from the mining site to the Abbot Point Port will cause irreparable damage to the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area.

A new scientific study says the reef could be destroyed by environmental change before the end of the century. The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation  (CSIRO) and Bureau of Meteorology (MOB) forecast that Australia will be hit hard by climate change as temperatures will rise of up to 5.1C by 2090. Scientists under the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change  (IPCC) have agreed a limit of 2C if the earth is to avert catastrophe.

The Bureau of Meteorology forecasts rising temperature that hit Australia hard.

The Bureau of Meteorology forecasts rising temperature that hit Australia hard.

CSIRO’s principal scientist,  Kevin Hennessy, said the inland will be most affected but  one of the most dramatic  transformations are set to take place in the seas that surround Australia, which will warm between 2C to 4C  unless carbon emissions are cut.

On average, four metric tonnes of carbon dioxide are emitted to the atmosphere per person per year, representing an increase of 30% over the last 250 years. The IPCC monitors these changes.

The effect of climate change is already changing the Reef. The Department of Environmentalso confirms sea and air temperatures will continue to rise, along with sea levels, and the ocean is sure to become more acidic. These changes affect reef species and habitats, as well as ecosystem processes, and the industries and communities that depend on the Reef.

Brisbane protest against dredging in the Great Barrier Reef. Pic: Stephen Hass (Flickr CC)

Brisbane protest against dredging in the Great Barrier Reef. Pic: Stephen Hass (Flickr CC)

Tourism, commercial fishing and recreational fishing on the reef together contribute $6.9 billion to the national economy per year. Unusually warm sea temperatures have already caused serious and lasting damage to 16% of the world’s coral reefs. The Great Barrier Reef has experienced eight mass bleaching events since 1979, triggered by unusually high sea surface temperatures. The most widespread events occurred in 1998 and 2002 with more than 50% of reefs bleached. Coral bleaching is a natural process but the rate is increasing faster than ever before.

The Federal Government gave a green light to the coal project despite warnings from the United Nations that it will put the Reef at risk. Predictions also suggest that the Carmichael mine could produce an extra 130 million tonnes of greenhouse gases over the mine’s lifetime, representing a quarter of Australia’s annual emissions.  The pollution from the entire Galilee Basin, if all projects go ahead, will be more than Australia’s entire annual greenhouse gas pollution.

The GBR from space. Pic: NASA (Wikimedia Commons)

The GBR from space. Pic: NASA (Wikimedia Commons)

“That intermediate emissions scenario would have significant effects for Australia,” Hennessy said. “Coral reefs are sensitive to even small changes in ocean temperature and a 1C rise would have severe implications for the Great Barrier Reef and Ningaloo reef.

The forecast is grim for the Great Barrier Reef and if Australia cannot reduce greenhouse gas emissions the future could be very challenging, the CSIRO scientist said.

Re-blogged from: Green Journal/Asian Correspondent
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Hyundai AU to launch zero emission hydro-powered car

A zero-emission electric vehicle that runs on hydrogen has arrived in Australia. Emitting only water,  Hyundai ix35 Fuel Cell Electric Vehicle (FCEV) will be Australia’s first and only hydrogen car refueller to be installed at Hyundai headquarters in Macquarie Park, Sydney. Testing and demonstration drives are expected to begin any time from now.

Built in Ulsan, South Korea, it is the first hydrogen-powered car to be permanently imported into the country. The vehicle is the first component of Hyundai’s plan to operate a test fleet of ix35 Fuel Cell vehicles in Australia. As such, it represents a pioneering step toward the commercial availability of emissions-free hydrogen powered vehicles in Australia.

Mr Charlie Kim, chief executive officer, Hyundai Motor Company Australia (HMCA) said the company became the first automobile manufacturer in the world to begin mass-production of a hydrogen-powered vehicle,” adding “This gave HMCA the ability to order a Fuel Cell Electric Vehicle in the same way as we order any other new Hyundai car. Now we have one, and we believe this fantastic car will help demonstrate the potential of hydrogen as a green transport solution for Australia.”

Hyundai has now begun the installation of Australia’s only Hydrogen Refuelling Station (HRS) at its headquarters in Macquarie Park using hydrogen provided by gas partner Coregas Australia. The HRS, supplied by American company Air Products, has passed all planning permissions from Ryde Council and is expected to be fully operational early in 2015 after testing is completed during December

“Ultimately, we see no reason why Australians should not enjoy the same environmental solutions as consumers in other markets,” continued Mr Kim. “Hyundai strongly supports the idea of a ‘Hydrogen Highway’ in Australia like those already in operation overseas, and we are committed to working with local partners to try to facilitate this.”

Read more about the specifications of the car on Hyundai Australia here.

‘Big 4′ banks under pressure to rule out funding of coal projects

The Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) has released a report calling on Australia’s “big four” banks to rule out involvement in financing controversial coal projects proposed for Queensland’s Galilee Basin near the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage area.

The report called ‘The Equator Principles and financing of coal projects in the Galilee Basin‘ names Australia’s “big four” banks   – Australia-New Zealand Banking Corp (ANZ), Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA), National Australia Bank (NAB), and Westpac Banking Corp – as signatories to the Equator Principles (EPs) and calls on all four to rule out any involvement in the Galilee Basin projects.

The report is a result of research undertaken by ACF energy analyst Tristan Knowles which investigates how Australian banks should deal with financing coal projects in the area. The EPs are a voluntary framework the banks have signed up to guide them in the assessment and management of environmental and social risk in the projects they consider financing.

Anti-coal activists hang a huge banner in front of Commonwealth Bank's headquarters, calling on to follow international banks: rule out finance for new coal export terminals at Abbot Point in the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area.  (Photo: Market Forces)

Anti-coal activists hang a banner in front of Commonwealth Bank’s headquarters, calling on to follow international banks: rule out finance for new coal export terminals at Abbot Point in the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area. (Photo: Market Forces)

The EPs serve as a guide to the best practices and a “gold standard” in environmental and social risk management. ACF said the EPs are relevant to proposed coal projects in the Galilee Basin because mines and infrastructure require project finance and advisory services to proceed. More notably, the project value is well over US$10 million – the current threshold for coverage by the EPs.

ACF insists that coal projects in the Galilee Basin are a litmus test for the EPs stating, “If they’re truly a gold standard for environmental and social risk management, Australian banks should rule out further financing of these projects because they will result in serious damage to the environment… We hope this report focuses the debate about Galilee Basin Coal projects back on the banks’ commitments to be environmental leaders.”

Anti-fossil fuel protesters call on Australian four major banks to divest from financing coal projects during the Divestment Day rally. (Photo: Market Forces)

Anti-fossil fuel protesters call on Australian four major banks to divest from financing coal projects during the Divestment Day rally. (Photo: Market Forces)

Several foreign banks have already backed out from financing Adani Group’s coal port expansion, including US banking giants Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, and JPMorgan Chase.

Prior to those banks’ rejection, the Deutsche Bank, Royal Bank of Scotland, HSBC and Barclays all ruled out funding the development of the Adani’s $16.5bn project

The report said the massive projects will destroy tens of thousands of hectares of land, consume huge amounts of water and potentially impact on the Great Artesian Basin, and result in significant greenhouse gas pollution.

The UN World Heritage Committee, which visited the site in 2013, also said coal projects will cause irreparable damage to the World Heritage Area and warned the Australian government to delist the site.

News blog link: The Green Journal @ Asian Correspondent

Pacific Ocean floor, the new mining ‘frontier’

Environmental defenders are waging another war in the Pacific– this time, against deep sea mining. As land-based resources continue to deplete amid growing demand for natural resources, private companies are relentless in their quest for minerals beyond the frontier.

Nautilus Minerals Inc. (Nautilus), with corporate office in Toronto Canada and project office in Brisbane, Australia, got a green light to drill the ocean floor in the territorial waters of Papua New Guinea to extract polymetallic seafloor sulphide deposits.

The company has also plans to extend its tenement holdings in the exclusive economic zones and territorial waters of Fiji, Tonga, the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and New Zealand as well as other areas outside the Western Pacific.

A pioneering project, Nautilus went through rigorous negotiations with the PNG government, including settlement of  commercial dispute for equity participation. The company applied for Mining Lease (ML), along with the submission of development proposal, in 2008 and was granted in 2011. The Environmental Permit was also given in 2009 by the PNG’s Department of Environment and Conservation. The lease term covers 25 years until 2035 to exploit the seabed for the prospect of copper, gold and silver.

Nautilus deploys heavy machinery equipment to extract vast mineral deposits on the sea floor. (Photo: Nautilus)

Under the agreement, the State of PNG takes an initial 15 percent interest in the project with an option to take up to a further 15 percent interest within 12 months of the Agreement. PNG paid Nautilus a non-refundable deposit for its initial 15 percent interest of US$7,000,000.

Support from resource industry

The mining industry admits the challenges in the world market and thus supports this development. In Sydney, 13th Papua New Guinea Mining and Petroleum Investment Conference is being held for three days, Dec.1-3, to discuss prospects of mining.

SOLWARA-img1

The theme, “PNG Resources – Expanding Horizons”, articulates the optimism of the PNG oil and gas sector which has been facing challenging times in the world market.  Commodity prices are falling amid rising costs and falling productivity.

The conference highlights how the mining industry can address the changing conditions and significant progress which is being made in responding to the new environment.

Solwara 1 offers a bright prospect. “Development is well under way on the Solwara 1 deep sea mining project and several of PNG’s world class mineral prospects have made further substantial progress,” its conference website reads.

The conference also offers a wide range of prestigious sponsorship opportunities and the large trade exhibition which presents an exclusive opportunity to showcase the company to a very large audience.

Protest in Sydney

On Tuesday noon this week, human rights and environmental activists staged a PNG mining and pollution divestment protest on George Street in Sydney juxtaposing the conference being held at the Hilton Hotel. They said mining has been destroying communities and the environment since 1972.

Dan Jones, Melanesian Studies advocate said, “From Bougainville to Ok Tedi, to Porgera and Ramu Nickel in Madang, the extractive industry continues to cut corners purely to maximise profits causing massive environmental damage and social upheaval which continues to spark social uprising, ecocide and serious conflicts.”

"The Great Commission" arrives in PNG, an image being used by Nautilus in its deep sea mining gallery.

Nautilus is one of the speakers at the conference and organizers want the message to get across.

Natalie Lowrey, acting coordinator for Deep Sea Mining campaign said, “The Nautilus Environmental Impact Assessment is deeply flawed, neither the Precautionary Principle or Free Prior and Informed Consent has been adhered to despite growing opposition in PNG. This only further disenfranchises communities in PNG who have not yet made an informed decision on whether they want to be the guinea pigs of such a new industry.”

PNG locals are gathered to brief them of what is to  happen in their community. (Photo: Nautilus)

Protesters also decry Bank of South Pacific which provided Nautilus funding for Solwara 1. The bank is a sponsor and presenter at the conference. BSP is  criticised for allowing the project to progress after it stalled.

BSP, who considers itself the ‘greenest’ bank in the Pacific provided a loan of $120 million (2 percent of BSP’s total assets) to PNG for a 15 percent stake. Those finances are due to be released to Nautilus from an escrow account on Dec. 11.

The Deep Sea Mining campaign sent a joint letter with PNG-based NGO Bismarck Ramu Group to BSP asking if they have undertaken a full risk analysis on its loan to the PNG government that is allowing this project to advance. However, the groups had not received an answer.

Jones explained that most Papua New Guineans do  not see any benefit of mining, coal, and gas explorations to the community. They only see exploitation of their land and damage being done to their spiritual connection to land and sea. Jonas said culturally diverse subsistence agricultural communities rely on clean environments and waterways for survival. He added:

“Papua New Guineans want support for their own initiatives, like value adding to existing cocoa and coconut industries. There is an increasing demand for organic health food export markets utilising fair-trade virgin coconut and cocoa in recent years is an industry PNG is failing to tap into.”

“Development to Papua New Guineans is much more than an expedient cash cow benefiting foreign investors and local officials. Real development includes cultural development including environmentally custodial customs, responsibilities and spiritual connections to land and sea.”

Meanwhile, Mining Australia admitted that while deep sea mining generates enormous profits, the risks associated with it cannot be ignored. Potential consequences may include pollution, accidental spillage which may release toxic substance into the surrounding area, and a fear that could damage uncharted area of the sea — just to name a few.

News blog link: The Green Journal at Asian Correspondent