How a Lizard and a Snake Beat King Coal

By Elsa Lee*

7 August 2015 – This week two major wins came out of the campaign to protect Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. But the fight is not over…


Aerial view of the Great Barrier reef off the Whitsunday Islands. 25 Jul, 2008 © Greenpeace / Michael Amendolia

Credit: Greenpeace/Michael Amendolia

When news broke of Australia’s Federal Court overturning the approval of the Carmichael coal mine – a A$16 billion mine, rail and port project proposed for the Galilee Basin in Queensland, right on the doorstep of the Great Barrier Reef – there was rapturous applause.

But the good news didn’t stop there. The same day Australia’s biggest bank pulled the plug on Carmichael – the first bank that was involved in the project and now no longer wants to be.

This was a good day for the Reef!  

Local NGOs, Mackay Conservation Group and the Environmental Defenders Office Queensland, mounted the legal challenge; and the courtroom questioning flushed out all sorts of inaccuracies around the mine’s use of water, super inflated job promises, and identified the massive environmental impacts of the mine.

But at the end of the day the Federal Court overturned the approval due to two native endangered reptiles whose plight was ill-considered when the mine got the green light. Yep, that’s right a lizard and a snake, or rather the yakka skink and the ornamental snake.

A view of the controversial site of the proposed coal port at Abbot Point. 9 Mar, 2012 © Tom Jefferson / Greenpeace

Source: Greenpeace

The company behind the mine is part of the Adani group – a multinational conglomerate, seeking to burn this coal in Indian coal-fired power stations.  In a statement, the Adani group referred to the overturning of their license to operate as merely a “technicality”.

It is regrettable that a technical legal error from the Federal Environment Department has exposed the approval to an adverse decision,” said the statement.

If endangered species are a mere “technicality” how can this company ever be trusted with putting in place any measures to protect the environment?

When it’s been proven time and time again that the mine project would create 121 million tonnes of greenhouse gas a year at full production; that it will put an extra 600 coal ships a year through the Reef; and would negate any  of Australia’s efforts to reduce their carbon emissions, that’s the cold hard truth, not a technicality.

Demonstrating further that this is a dead-end project, Australia’s biggest bank, Commonwealth Bank cut ties with this project, joining 11 international banks who refuse to fund this controversial project. It’s clear to see – it’s un-bankable, unprofitable and unconscionable. 

Adani have proven that their greedy coal mine project is like flogging a dead horse, but they will persist. Right now Australia’s government is revising their approval plan and Standard Chartered is the only bank left involved in the project.

The fight is not over. The struggle to protect the world’s largest Reef has seen many of you do incredible things: we’ve rallied in thousands, called on politicians, and lobbied the UNESCO World Heritage Committee and it doesn’t stop there. Last night, activists in Hong Kong took the message straight to 170 Standard Chartered ATMs across the city, showing people the Reef destruction is reaching its way around the world.

Greenpeace activists in Hong Kong visited over 170 Standard Chartered's ATMs all over the city, decorated the ATMs with designed stickers that say

Source: Greenpeace

We must continue to push and protect the Reef. After all, if a lizard and a snake can take on a major mining company, then so can we.

Want to help protect the Reef?

Take action: tell last-bank-standing Standard Chartered to read the writing on the wall and walk away from this Reef-wrecking project before it’s too late.

*Elsa Lee is a Finance Campaigner at Greenpeace East Asia. Lee’s report was published on Greenpeace. Go to Original.

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