“Siemens will be known as accomplice in the death of the Great Barrier Reef”: Speech by Dr Lindsay Simpson

Mr Kaeser, we were born in the same year. 1957. When I was a young woman and wanted to travel, I was told that the world would always be there. There was no rush. How times have changed for the youth of today and tomorrow.

In the four and a half years my husband and I have been operating two boats in the Whitsundays in the Great Barrier Reef, entire bays full of coral and fish have been wiped out by Cyclone Debbie – one of the strongest cyclones we’ve ever experienced. Cyclones are getting stronger and more intense because of climate change. As well, half of the coral in the Great Barrier Reef has bleached. Thirty percent of the coral perished in 2016, another 20 percent in 2017 according to National Geographic magazine. The UN IPCC has shown that if we let global warming get to two degrees then 99% of the world’s coral reefs will die.

The majority of the tourists who come on our boats, by the way, are from Germany.

The destruction of the Great Barrier Reef is primarily caused by one thing: warming oceans that lead to coral bleaching which is caused by anthropogenic climate change.

And you, as a company hold the key to change that.

Stringent environmental conditions don’t mean anything to Adani. I’ve witnessed firsthand the environmental breaches this company was responsible for in India. I dedicated a year of my life to researching this company. My book Following its Dirty Footsteps: Adani won a Queensland literary award – a People’s Choice Award. Because the people do care. And the people WILL care and make judgements about a company who chooses to back this habitual environmental violator.

The villagers in Parsa, a small village in Udaipur, were entirely reliant on drinking water from Adani following the building of its coal mine. Initially, Adani promised to deliver daily water for drinking. That promise dried up like the water. The villagers ended up having to find their own water.

Adani is full of promises. And deceit. It’s already breached guidelines twice in Australia – releasing way beyond the levels permitted of sediment loaded floodwaters into the Caley Valley wetlands – the home to endangered species of birds. Both of these occasions were before the mine was even given the go ahead. Fines are not enough of a deterrent. Nor are imposing stringent conditions.

The Adani Group is not interested in what people think. It is not interested in the environment. Everything this company does is aimed at one thing only: to progress its business at all costs. Why did you decide to do business with such a company?

I interviewed a village chief near the powerplant for my book whose village was inside Adani’s land. He was 30 years old. He was jailed by Adani 700 kms away from his family for standing up to the company’s environmental wrongdoings. He was persecuted by Adani but he won. His words to me were: ‘Don’t trust Adani….They won’t listen to anything.’ They are, again I remind you, habitual environmental violators. Imposing stringent conditions will make no difference.

Did you know that we also interviewed Jairam Ramesh, former national Minister of Environment, Forest and Climate Change in India and that he pointed out that Adani never complied with the environmental conditions he imposed when he was minister? He warned us the company would not do so in Australia and he proved to be right. They are not to be taken at their word.

The consequences of getting into bed with a company like Adani is that Siemen’s reputation will be forever tarnished. Siemens and you Joe Kaeser will be known as accomplices in the death of the Great Barrier Reef, the largest living organism to be seen from outer space. That’s what your legacy will be, is that what you want?

The Adani Carmichael coal mine is the most environmentally and socially contentious project in Australia’s history. It has been spurned by 63 other companies worldwide who have stood proud and said they will not work on this project. Polls show two thirds of Australians are against it.

Providing specialised rail signals will ensure the project goes ahead – as the rail line can then carry the coal from the mine to the port opening up the previously untapped Galilee Basin. This will mean there is the potential for 700,000 million tonnes of carbon dioxide to be produced every year if all proposed mines go ahead. The pollution will be more than 1.3 times Australia’s existing annual carbon emissions.

The fierce community campaign against this project has delayed it by seven years and counting. The debate has ensured the mine is both economically and politically vulnerable. Without Siemens specialised contribution, there is no guarantee the mine will go ahead and no other companies have stepped in to provide these services.

The German people are discerning travellers who love the Great Barrier Reef and snorkelling off our boat. I see their faces marvel at the wonders they see. Do they want to know that Siemens has helped ensure the death of the reef?

Siemens is on record as the first global industrial company to commit towards carbon neutrality by 2030. That is meaningless if you are helping other companies massively increase carbon emissions. I repeat – all your good work is meaningless if you are helping expand the thermal coal sector. We are all in this together.

Siemens should stand proud and say our duty to our shareholders includes protecting our brand, staying true to our values and being on the right side of history.  That means not supporting Australia’s largest coal mine.

Then you will be remembered for the right reasons. Reasons for which you can be proud.  And then you are making a true contribution to the global transition away from fossil fuels.

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