The chairman of Standard Chartered has said the bank will review its involvement in a controversial Australian coal mine that critics say threatens the Great Barrier Reef and will blow a hole in the global carbon budget.
The London-listed bank, which does most of of its business outside the UK, said it would go “no further” with the Carmichael mine until it had looked at the project’s environmental credentials.
The bank has been advising the Indian conglomerate Adani on building the Carmichael mine and expanding a port on Abbot Point on the Great Barrier Reef.
Standard Chartered’s advisory role gives it an influential voice in the project, which opponents say will deplete the world’s carbon budget, which is the amount of carbon dioxide that can be emitted while limiting the global temperature rise to an agreed target of 2°C. Critics have also claimed that the project will damage the Unesco-protected Great Barrier Reef and hoover up government subsidies.
While attending the bank’s annual general meeting in London, chairman Sir John Peace said: “We will go no further with this project until we are fully satisfied with all the environmental aspects.” He said the bank was in “active discussion” with the Australian government and ready to meet green campaigners.
But Peace declined to answer questions on Standard Chartered’s ties with Adani. A senior executive at Adani’s Australian mining subsidiary told a Queensland court last month that Standard Chartered had lent it $680m (£448m) for the project – calling into question the bank’s official statements that it is not a lender.
Sebastian Bock, investment campaigner at Greenpeace, said it was clear the bank was not ready to answer questions at the shareholder meeting, but welcomed its readiness to look again at the project. “It is quite encouraging to see that the bank has started an internal discussion on this project. We will really have to see what they will put on the table. Policies are great, but in the end it all comes down to how they are implemented.”
At the meeting, one shareholder, who identified himself as a Methodist minister, called on Standard Chartered to drop all fossil fuel investment. “Many church bodies are beginning to divest in coal and tar sands and I would urge you to do the same.”
The bank also used the meeting to confirm the appointment of Bill Winters as chief executive from 10 June. He replaces Peter Sands, who has overseen a 30% fall in profits and a $300m fine from US authorities for breaches of money-laundering rules.
Mike Rees, head of Standard Chartered’s wholesale banking division, and one of the highest-paid bankers in the industry, was denied almost a quarter of available votes – a large revolt by the standards of shareholder meetings. The vote is thought to have been cast by Temasek, the Singapore investment company.
Winters is a former JP Morgan executive, who once criticised “greedy” bankers and served on the government’s commission on banking. He attended the AGM, but did not take public questions from shareholders or journalists.
This article was written by Jennifer Rankin, for theguardian.com on Wednesday 6th May 2015 18.49 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010