Joint press release by Biofuelwatch, UK Without Incineration Network and Coal Action Network

12th October 2016 – Environmental campaign groups warn that the imminent takeover of the UK’s so far publicly owned Green Investment Bank (GIB) by the Australian Macquarie Group [1] will put an end to its green credentials. Those credentials have already come under doubt as a result of investments in coal and biomass burning Drax power station [2] and in waste incineration [3].

Group, who describes itself as “a leading provider of financial, advisory, investment and funds management services” [4] is a longstanding investor in fossil fuels, including coal mining. In the UK, it has also invested in a controversial large new biomass power station [5] and in an unsuccessful waste incineration venture [6].

According to researchers for a Friends of the Earth Australia fossil fuel divestment campaign, Macquarie Group has loaned £1.61 billion (AUS$2.62 billion) for fossil fuel, including coal, extraction and burning since 2008 [7]. It has helped finance one of Australia’s largest new opencast coal mines, which has already involved cutting down one highly biodiverse forest [8]. Macquarie holds shares [9] in BHP Billiton, co-owner of the Cerrejón mine in Colombia, one of the world’s largest opencast coal mines, which sells coal to Drax power station and which has been linked to the displacement of whole villages and to indigenous peoples losing their access to sufficient clean water and food [10].

Australian campaigners further highlighted that during this year’s AGM, the Chairman of Macquarie Group appeased vociferous climate change deniers amongst shareholders by saying “There are two sides to this debate”, instead of endorsing the scientific consensus on climate change [11].

Almuth Ernsting from Biofuelwatch [12] states: “Even under government ownership, the Green Investment Bank has made some very questionable investments, none more so than their loan for Drax, who now burn more wood every year than the UK produces annually, much of it from clearcut coastal wetland forests in the southern US, and who still burn around 6 million tonnes of coal a year, too. The sale of the GIB to a big fossil fuel investor gives us no confidence that wiser investment decisions will be made in future.”

Anne Harris from Coal Action Network [13] adds: “Even if the GIB is unlikely to directly fund further coal projects, future ownership by Macquarie takes away any hope that the loan to Drax will be rescinded. Furthermore, it raises the prospect of similar bad investments in future that benefit both forest destruction for biomass and, indirectly, coal burning”.

According to Shlomo Dowen, National Coordinator for the United Kingdom Without Incineration Network (UKWIN) [14]: “So long as the GIB invests in projects such as waste incineration and biomass incineration that result in the release of thousands of tonnes of greenhouse gases a year they should not be allowed to describe themselves as ‘green’. We had hoped that anybody looking to take on the ‘green’ moniker would commit to a complete moratorium on investments that involve the burning or gasification of waste and biomass. However, Macquarie’s past record leaves us with deep concerns.”

___________________________________ENDS________________________

 

Notes:

[1] As reported in the Financial Times on 9th October (ft.com/content/d92a915e-8e2c-11e6-8df8-d3778b55a923), Macquarie has put in the higher of two offers for the Green Investment Bank (GIB), thus making their takeover of the GIB all but certain.

[2] The Green Investment Bank’s first substantial loan went to Drax plc, for the partial conversion of their coal power station to biomass. According to then Secretary of State Vince Cable, without this loan, Drax power station “would have closed down because it has to meet European rules on coal use and it wouldn’t have been able to survive” (ft.com/content/d46bfe86-b7e9-11e2-bd62-00144feabdc0). Drax now burns around 6 million tonnes of coal a year, as well as burning more wood annually than the UK produces in one year, much of it sourced from clearcut coastal wetland forests in the southern US. See biofuelwatch.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/axedrax-briefing-v2.pdf for a fully referenced background briefing.

[3] Between 2012 and March 2015 alone, GIB helped finance seven waste incinerators: http://www.eunomia.co.uk/raising-concerns-about-the-green-investment-banks-waste-projects/.

[4] macquarie.com/uk/corporate

[5] Macquarie has acquired a 50% stake in Tees Renweable Energy Plant, which will burn pellets made from up to 3 million tonnes of wood every year. Under a supply contract, most of the wood will be sourced from Enviva (biomassmagazine.com/articles/13549/enviva-q2-results-highlight-long-term-offtake-pellet-contracts), who are also Drax’s single biggest supplier and who have been shown to source wood from clearcut wetland forests.

[6] Note that the term incineration is used to include waste gasification and pyrolysis technologies. Macquarie acquired the energy business of New Earth Ventures in October 2015. New Earth had at that stage ceased trying to operate an unsuccessful waste gasification plant in Avonmouth, Bristol and abandoned plans for another one in Galashields, Scotland. See: letsrecycle.com/news/latest-news/is-large-scale-gasification-viable/. Since then, Macquarie has resumed operations of the Avonmouth gasifier, but has no succeeded in running it at more than 11% of its capacity (tinyurl.com/hrxbbm3).

[7] Figures confirmed to Biofuelwatch by Market Forces, a project set up by and affiliated to Friends of the Earth Australia (marketforces.org.au) by email on 11th October 2016.

[8] See greenpeace.org/australia/en/what-we-do/climate/stop-the-maules-creek-mine/ about the Maules Creek Coal mine, for which Macquarie lent £255 million.

[9] nasdaq.com/quotes/institutional-portfolio/macquarie-group-ltd-762271

[10] See for example londonminingnetwork.org/2016/07/colombia-a-choice-between-mining-and-food/

[11] https://www.marketforces.org.au/climate-change-denial-goes-mainstream-at-macquarie-agm/

[12] Biofuelwatch is a UK/US campaigning organisation which provides research, advocacy and information about the impacts of large-scale industrial bioenergy: biofuelwatch.org.uk

[13] The Coal Action Network support communities in the UK and beyond campaigning against the coal mines which supply the UK’s remaining 8 coal fired power stations: coalaction.org.uk

[14] The United Kingdom Without Incineration Network (UKWIN) is a network of around 100 campaign groups opposing waste incineration, including gasification and pyrolysis: http://ukwin.org.uk/

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