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Banking on the Reef


Photo credit: Paul Toogood (Flickr)


Adani’s Carmichael coalmine would be disastrous for the Great Barrier Reef, but the company needs the support of banks, which in turn need our support. Alix Foster Vander Elst gives you the lowdown and lets you know how people power can help. Alix works for Greenpeace, but she has prepared this article as a volunteer in her personal capacity. The views expressed in this piece are her own, and do not necessarily represent those of Greenpeace. 

For anyone concerned about Australia’s natural environment, 2015 was the year of the Great Barrier Reef. Adani (the company wanting to build a huge coal mine next to our Reef) and the government fought to push forward a project that will invariably damage the Reef. The Australian people fought back even harder.

What happened?

In a whirlwind few months:

  • the government announced a plan for reef protection, which the Australian Conservation Foundation said did not take into account the mine’s effects on the Reef
  • UNESCO decided the plan was okay-ish but they’ll be checking on its progress in 18 months
  • a legal challenge resulted in environment minister Greg Hunt’s approval for the coalmine being thrown out (all thanks to a skink and a snake!)
  • traditional owners spoke up about the horrific effects the mine would have on their land
  • and, crucially, more banks announced they won’t fund the coal mine.

Why is that last point crucial? Well, building the mine will take a lot of money. Adani doesn’t have this kind of cash, so it will need to borrow it. The company could borrow from an international bank but, according to Market Forces, it will also almost certainly need the involvement of an Aussie bank.

So how do Australia’s big banks rate when it comes to the Reef?

  • NAB – have said they will not fund the mine 🙂
  • The Commonwealth Bank – pulled out of its advisory role but hasn’t explicitly said it won’t fund it 😕
  • Westpac – recently announced it won’t be funding projects that will contribute to Earth’s temperature warming above 2°C. But the bank hasn’t explicitly ruled out funding this mine 😕
  • ANZ –made a vague commitment like Westpac’s, but it’s even less clear 🙁

Okay, so what can I do about it?

Did you know that the big four have lent $36.7 billion to fossil fuel projects in Australia since 2008? That’s money that was lent to the banks by the vast majority of Australians. Here’s how you can protect the Great Barrier Reef with your banking choices:

  1. Check how your bank rates. Use Market Forces’s handy comparison table.
  2. Change banks. Use Market Forces’s How to Switch Banks and Make it Count.
  3. Tell your bank what you think! Banks really do care what their customers think of them (especially if you’re threatening to leave). When people leave in big numbers, and the bank knows it’s because of a specific project, it makes them sit up!

Some other great resources to help you bank ethically are, and So go on – get informed, make some noise and help protect our Reef!

For more ideas from Otter about how and why you can use your money to change the world, you might like to check out our previous articles on superannuation, Superannuation: one of your biggest opportunities to change the world, and the follow-up, Superannuation: still one of your biggest opportunities to change the world.

Photo credit: Paul Toogood cc. This image was not modified.

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3 Responses to Banking on the Reef

  1. Gisela Faull January 20, 2016 at 9:23 am #

    I have changed to a non-fossil fuel bank (ME bank) and I am very happy. No account keeping fees, better rates….Apart from the disastereous environmental impact the Adani coal mine would have, Adani is also well known for their NON COMPLIANCE with environmental protection regulations.

  2. Alan January 21, 2016 at 4:08 pm #

    Your comments don’t include St George bank?

  3. Alix January 26, 2016 at 2:25 pm #

    Hi Alan,

    St George is owned by Westpac, who haven’t explicitly ruled out funding the mine.

    For info on how many more banks rate, regarding fossil fuels in general, use Market Forces’ comparison table –

    It lists all banks from A-Z so you can search specific banks and see where they stand re fossil fuel investments.


    Alix (author of the above article)

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