The synod Commission for Mission wants Australian banks to rule out funding Indian business tycoon Gutram Adani’s Carmichael coal mine and expansion of the Abbot Point coal terminal in Queensland.
Mr Adani has extremely close ties to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and a dubious environmental record in his homeland. His project to build one of the world’s biggest coal mines in Queensland’s Galilee Basin has the support of the Federal Government despite threatening parts of the World Heritage listed Great Barrier reef.
Adani was founded in 1988 by Gutram Adani. It has been accused of environmental destruction, illegal activities including bribery, tax evasion and unauthorised construction in India.
Major global banks and investment houses – including Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, Deutsche Bank, JP Morgan Chase, Royal Bank of Scotland, HSBC and Barclays – have already said they will not fund any development in a World Heritage area.
Director the Justice and International Mission unit, Dr Mark Zirnsak, wants Uniting Church members to write to the big four Australian banks – Westpac, ANZ, Commonwealth and the National Australia Bank – seeking a similar commitment.
Writing in The Age last year Mosiqi Acharya – a senior TV journalist who worked for CNN IBN and Headlines Today in India and now works for SBS – described Mr Adani’s environmental record in India.
“His business activities have resulted in several mangrove areas being destroyed. Mangroves are essential to maintain an ecological balance and ensure the integrity of a coastal region,” Mr Acharya said .
“Furthermore, his business activities have resulted in inadequately treated waste water being dumped into the sea and the violation of multiple environmental laws.
“Mr Adani has it in him to turn an arid desert land into a thriving economic junction. In India the change came at the cost of locals and the environment. Is Australia prepared for an Adani kind of change?”
The Federal Government is supporting the project, with the Australian consul general in New York and former-Howard government cabinet minister Nick Minchin lobbying banking institutions to finance the project.
Prime Minister Tony Abbot has endorsed the project saying: “It’s one of the minor miracles of our time – that Australian coal could improve the lives of 100 million Indians, and it just goes to show what good that freer trade can do for the whole world.”
Dr Zirnsak believes the negative impact of the project outweighs any predicted benefits.
“While our government is supporting this project, it is believed that India is likely to scale back thermal coal imports in the next two to three years, because of a focus on domestic coal production and renewables,” he said.
“It has become a standard tactic of supporters of the coal industry to make baseless claims about the role coal will play in reducing global poverty. The reality is that it will continue to contribute to climate change that will increase poverty for millions of people.”
The traditional owners of the Wangan and Jagalingou country, on which the mine is to be built, have formally rejected an Indigenous Land Use Agreement with Adani to build the Carmichael coal mine on their land.
A copy of the letter-writing action can be obtained from the Justice and International Mission Unit by calling (03) 9251 5271 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.