Under citizen pressure, Société Générale drops out of the Alpha Coal project
Société Générale announced that it has dropped out of the gigantic Alpha Coal dodgy deal, finally throwing in the towel on the controversial coal mine in Australia. This is the first and most important victory for citizen movements demanding the withdrawal of what activists have called a "climate bomb". Activists are now calling on Australian and Indian promoters to definitively cancel the project.
The day before a national day of action, organised by Les Amis de la Terre (Friends of the Earth France), Attac France and Bizi!, Société Générale announced its withdrawal from the project. In an e-mail from Jean-Michel Mépuis, Group Head of Sustainable Development, the bank stated that "in the context of the Apha Coal project's delay, Société Générale has decided, in agreement with GVK-Hancock, to suspend its mandate. The bank has therefore no involvement with the project. You can relay this message in your networks" .
Over the past year, Friends of the Earth France, Attac France and Bizi! have called for Société Générale to end its advisory mandate and not commit to any financing for the open-pit mine project in Australia's Galilee Basin. The project included a railway and port expansion in the heart of the Great Barrier Reef. Activists have dubbed the project a "climate bomb" because of its disastrous environmental impacts; development of the coal project would have led to the release of 1.8 billion tons of CO2, thus damning efforts to limit global warming. The coal project would have also negatively impact local communities and biodiversity.
Prior to the announcement of Société Générale's decision, NGOs had occupied Société Générale branches last Monday, staging demonstrations in Pau and Paris as part of the international day of fasting for the climate. These protests coincided with the grand opening of the annual COP20, an international climate conference being held in Lima. In protest of fossil fuels and the Société Générale's role in the Alpha Coal project, "picketing" actions were planned to take place at more than ten Société Générale branches across France tomorrow, from Bayonne, Bourges, Chambéry to Concarneau, Limoges, Mâcon, Nîmes, Paris, Pornichet, Tours...
While the COP continues in Peru, the work of Friends of the Earth France, ATTAC and Bizi! demonstrates that citizen action can concretely influence the predatory practices of banks and multinationals and score victories in the fight to overcome the climate challenge! News of Société Générale's decision to pull out of the project is just the first step in ensuring that the Alpha Coal project is stopped. Increasing international pressure against the Australian and Indian project developers, GVK-Hancock, will be essential for ensuring that this "climate bomb" project does not go off.
After this first victory, our NGOs will continue their actions in 2015 for the climate, particularly against banks and multinationals involved in the coal sector, as this sector is the chief source of CO2 emissions in the world.
Société Générale's position, 5 December 2014