Green groups hope Deutsche Bank’s decision not to fund the expansion of a Queensland coal port puts pressure on Australian banks to follow suit.
A major German bank won’t consider funding a controversial Queensland coal port expansion because it says there isn’t consensus over how it will impact the Great Barrier Reef.
Deutsche Bank confirmed its position on Wednesday night (Australian time) at its AGM in Germany in front of environmentalists and tour operators.
“As there is clearly no consensus between the Australian government and UNESCO regarding the impacts of the Abbot Point expansion on the reef we will not consider financial applications of an expansion,” meeting co-chair Juergen Fitschen said.
The expansion involves dumping three million tonnes of dredge spoil within the marine park.
A bank spokesman confirmed to AAP that Deutsche wouldn’t consider any request to finance the expansion unless it was assured the project wouldn’t adversely affect the reef.
The United Nation’s environment arm, which has said it is considering listing the reef as a World Heritage site in danger, said earlier this month it regretted the federal government’s decision to approve the dredging project without properly assessing alternatives.
Greenpeace and the Australian Marine Conservation Society are hopeful the move will put pressure on international and Australian banks to reject investment in developments that may impact the reef.
The green groups say Deutsche Bank has bowed to public pressure after 180,000 Germans signed a petition urging the bank not to fund the expansion.
Environmentalists claim dumping the spoil offshore will damage marine life and expanding the port will turn the reef into a shipping super-highway.
The dredge spoil will be dumped 40 kilometres from the nearest coral reef.
The expansion, which has been given approval on all levels, will turn Abbot Point into one of the world’s largest coal ports.
The federal government has said the expansion was approved with some of the strictest environmental conditions ever imposed, while developers have said the dredge spoil will have little impact on marine life.
Deutsche Bank was one of three banks that last year helped Abbot Point leaseholders refinance leases on the existing 30-year-old terminal at Abbot Point.
The Queensland Resources Council said environmentalists had taken a European holiday to lobby a German bank that wasn’t even in the running to fund the expansion.
“Nevertheless, their requirement of an assurance from both the Australian government and UNESCO about protecting the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of the Great Barrier Reef can be readily met,” chief executive Michael Roche said.
He said advisers to the World Heritage Committee had overlooked or misunderstood that dredging options had already been assessed and they hadn’t fully appreciated the extent of the peer-reviewed science.
The project won’t affect the reef’s heritage status, he added.
Before the committee meeting in June, the state and federal governments would ensure those advisers were fully briefed.
“We are confident that the World Heritage Committee will not want to adopt a decision containing the current errors,” Mr Roche said.