There’s no question that these are dark days for Indian mining giant Adani’s forays into digging up Australian coal. After years of growing pressure from every direction and on all levels, last week Adani was dealt two resounding and devastating blows.
First, last Wednesday, the Federal Court revoked Adani’s Carmichael mine approval, sending Greg Hunt back to the drawing board on this controversial coal project that would tip the global carbon budget and see thousands of additional coal ships travelling through the Great Barrier Reef each year.
That night, the Commonwealth Bank stated that its involvement with Adani’s Galilee coal project had ended, making it the twelfth international bank to back away. Surely Adani is growing accustomed to losing third-party interest, but through it all, Australia’s political leaders, the Liberals nationally and Labor in Queensland, have been steadfast in their loyalty to the flailing company.
In response, Prime Minister Tony Abbott, called last week’s outcomes “Green Sabotage”, drawing out a clear choice for Australia: will we join the fastest growing new market in the world – clean energy – or keep backing an energy source Michael Bloomberg recently called “dead”?
This is a rare sign of bipartisanship in our divided domestic politics. Not one that people should be pleased to see but a sign that raises more questions than it answers.
With a federal election looming, and the popularity of Adani’s coal proposal sinking, why are our elected representatives, at both the state and federal level, tripping over each other to hand Adani everything it needs – including taxpayer funded infrastructure – to dig up Galilee coal and ship it through the Great Barrier Reef?
Conventional wisdom tells us that those running for office are usually beholden to the opinion of voters. Polling shows that nine in 10 Australians are worried about the impact of fossil fuel projects on the Reef. But that opposition isn’t only being demonstrated by polling, communities are now taking growing action against Adani’s plans.
Over the past year, high levels of public concern about Galilee coal have been demonstrated locally, nationally and internationally. Dozens of local communities have held protests and marches, while internationally several million people have signed petitions and taken action to oppose Adani’s coalmine plans. In May thousands took action at Commonwealth Bank branches in protest over the Bank’s involvement with Adani and thousands have moved hundreds of millions of dollars out of Australia’s Big Four Banks over the Galilee issue and ongoing funding of new coal.
Rarely have we seen the Australian public take on an environmental issue so effectively and with such gusto.
Whilst this groundswell of commitment to push back the fossil fuel industry and its legacy of steamrolling local communities is inspiring, the lack of concern from our politicians is disturbing. Even more so when you consider that Adani’s jobs claims are overstated by a whopping 80 per cent, and their predicted economic value and returns are wrong. These are not the wishes of environmentalists but are statements of fact. Adani’s own expert witnesses have confirmed them in court.
Adani now has no federal approval, no financing, no bank and no guarantee of a market given how rapidly the world is moving away from coal. Meanwhile, the extraordinary damage the Carmichael mine poses to the climate and Reef is prompting growing global and Australian opposition.
Instead of investigating the risks of the Adani proposal, our leaders have traded environmental transparency for environmental witch-hunts, including actively seeking to revoke the charity status of environmental groups.
Last week’s outcomes were a testament to community power — from the court action against the Abbott Government’s incompetent approval of Adani’s coalmine brought with the support of thousands of community donations, to the Commonwealth Bank’s parting with Adani after growing protest. Rather than “green sabotage”, here’s where the real work to protect our environment, Reef and climate is being done.
Adani now doesn’t have two feet to stand on. It’s time our political leaders stopped trying to get in the way of the inevitable death of this project and instead started putting the health and wellbeing of our communities, protection of our environment and planning for our economic and energy future ahead of one company’s damaging profiteering.
Coal is in fact not good for humanity or our environment. These days, it’s not even good for coal companies.
Blair Palese is chief executive officer, 350.org Australia