Anti-coal campaigners target Commonwealth Bank in Australia and elsewhere

Anti-coal protestors occupy an Australian bank. Photo courtesy of 350.org Australia, 2015

Anti-coal protestors occupy an Australian bank. Photo courtesy of 350.org Australia, 2015

Customers of the Commonwealth Bank are turning up the heat on the institution this week, with thousands of people around Australia and around the world protesting at more than 50 bank branches every day until Saturday.

The protesters are calling for the bank to publicly rule out investments in destructive coal projects in Queensland’s Galilee Basin.

The first action launched Monday morning in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Global actions are happening in New York, London, Paris, Edinburgh, Tokyo, Auckland, and more.

Opponents of new projects in the Galilee Basin say that extracting the coal buried there would cause significant damage on to the local environment and would contribute to climate change.

Developing the basin would ls entail massive water use, with Adani’s proposed Carmichael Mine slated to suck up 12.5 billion tonnes of water per year, three times the amount of drinking water consumed by the entire state of Queensland a year.

Adani is also seeking financing for a expansion for the Abbot Point coal terminal, which allow greater volumes of Galilee Basin coal to be exported abroad. Plans for the expansion have met staunch opposition, in part because building the project would involve dumping millions of tonnes of dredge into the country’s iconic Great Barrier Reef. The Great Barrier Reef was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1981.

According to estimates, if all the coal in the Galilee Basin was extracted and used it would singlehandedly burn through 6% of the global carbon budget, exacerbating the problem of climate change.

A landmark study recently published in the scientific journal Nature found that if the world is to avoid the worst impacts of climate change, more than 90% of coal reserves located in major coal producing countries—including Australia—need to stay in the ground.

Eleven major investment banks, including HSBC, Deutsche Bank, JP Morgan Chase, Goldman Sachs, Citi and BNP Paribas, have already ruled out financing Adani’s controversial and struggling project.

Activists are now looking to secure Commonwealth Bank’s commitment to pull out from the project.

While many of the bank’s customers are threatening to divest if it does not stop funding destructive coal projects, some have gone even further and have occupied bank premises, shutting branches for a considerable amount of time in Melbourne and Adelaide Wednesday, and in Sydney on Thursday.

Aside from environmental concerns, Adani’s business practices combined with rapidly falling coal prices could make the decision to cut ties with the conglomerate an easy one.

In April, Adani was caught fabricating job and royalty figures, the Abbot Point coal terminal has been rated the third worst threat to corporate reputation of any project globally.

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