Deutsche Bank has announced that it will not support the controversial expansion of an Australian coal port that environmentalists fear may threaten the Great Barrier Reef.
Plans are currently in place for around $65 billion of liquefied natural gas (LNG) and coal terminal developments on Australia’s north-east coast. While the companies behind the construction insist the environmental impact will be minimal, critics remain unconvinced.
The approved expansion of the port at Abbot Point, a project that will require 3 million tonnes of dredged spoil to be dumped in Great Barrier Reef marine park waters, has proved particularly controversial.
In March, a number of investors expressed concern over investment in coal and gas projects in the region and some said they were considering divesting from the companies involved.
Campaigners fighting to protect the World Heritage-listed coral reef have appealed to a number of banks, including Deutsche Bank, not to finance the projects.
At the bank’s annual meeting, co-chief executive Juergen Fitschen told shareholders, “As we have seen, there is currently no consensus between UNESCO and the Australian government regarding the expansion of Abbot Point in the vicinity of the Great Barrier Reef.
“Our policy requires such a consensus at the least. We therefore would not consider applications for the financing of an expansion any further.”
The announcement is a blow to the project, as Deutsche Bank had been one of the lenders that arranged financing for leaseholders at the Abbot Point port.
On Friday, Stuart Gulliver, chief executive of HSBC, hypothetically said his bank – which has not been involved – would also be “extraordinarily unlikely” to fund the project.
Greenpeace Australia says the announcements prove that involvement in the Abbot Point coal port carries serious reputational risk for investors.
“How is it that a German bank recognizes the unacceptable impacts of coal expansion in a World Heritage Area before our own Australian banks do? The Big 4 [Australian] banks need to immediately freeze all investments in coal infrastructure along the Great Barrier Reef,” said Greenpeace Campaigns Director Ben Pearson.
Photo: eutrophication&hypoxia via Flickr