NAB and Westpac contravene international environmental benchmarks.
Via their processes in approving their funding of the controversial Victorian Desalination Project (VDP), NAB and Westpac have shown disregard for the Equator Principles (EP) to which they are signatories. The EP are a set of environmental and social benchmarks for managing environmental and social issues in development project finance globally.
The banks have admitted to Watershed Victoria (WV; the peak environment organisation understanding and questioning the project) that they have received their advice from the proponents of the project itself (Aquasure; French operator Degremont & construction firm Thiess) and the Victorian Government’s DSE while relying the proponent’s own EES (that has been proven to be flawed, misleading and deficient in its scope). In doing so, EP 2 and 3 have been failed:
• For all medium or high risk projects (Category A and B projects), sponsors complete an Environmental Assessment.
• Applicable Social and Environmental Standards. The Environmental Assessment report addresses baseline environmental and social conditions … (including) cumulative impacts of existing projects, the proposed project, and anticipated future projects, … participation of affected parties in the design, … consideration of feasible environmentally and socially preferable alternatives.
Mr. Stephen Cannon, president of WV said today “Those proven feasible environmentally and socially preferable alternatives to massive scale desalination continue to be ignored.
“Attempts from Watershed Victoria to consult with the banks and to highlight important environmental and social issues regarding the project’s relevance to the EP have resulted in nothing but stalling rhetoric. Consultation has failed, displaying disregard for EP 5:
• Consultation and Disclosure: For risky projects, the borrower consults with stakeholders (NGOs and project affected groups) and provides them with information on the risks of the project. The borrower has to consult the project affected communities in a structured and culturally appropriate manner. The process will ensure free, prior and informed consultation for affected communities.
Mr. Cannon said “Unfortunately the public commitment that large organisations give to environmental and social values is not matched in their performance. Despite the excellent intent of initiatives such as the Equator Principles, it appears that profits continue to take priority over the environment and our social fabric.
“In funding the VDP, a project that within the context of Victoria’s water policy contravenes sustainable development (EP 3), these banks are contributing to climate change via one million tonnes of CO2 annually and global ocean change via massive marine pollution and habitat degradation. Their customers and clients should understand the arrogant dismissive approach they are taking, their flaunting of international agreements and their contribution to a grim future for us all.”