Christiana Figueres, United Nations climate change chief, addresses a news conference.

Ms Figueres has a warning to those considering investing in the Adani project — it could be a financial disaster.


The woman who led the world to a global climate change agreement has a message for Australia: “You really do have to see that we are at the Kodak moment for coal.”

Christiana Figueres, until last year the executive director of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, doesn’t mean happy snaps for the family album.

Rather, the decimation of the once dominant photographic company Kodak by digital change — in the same way that coal-fired power is being eclipsed by renewable energy.

She hopes to see coal, like those sentimental moments in time captured in photographs, confined to history — with the world remembering the contribution the fossil fuel has made to human development, while recognising the need to retire it as a fuel source because of its contribution to global warming.

And, she says, it’s happening.

“The fact is that we are already seeing the decline of coal, we are seeing more and more countries phasing out of coal,” Ms Figueres, who is based in London, told the ABC.

“We just had 25 countries come together [at the latest international climate change talks] in Bonn to say that they are moving out of coal in the short term.

“That does not include Australia or India or China, but you can begin to see the trend.

“India is headed for peaking its coal consumption by the year 2027.”

Adani ‘fundamentally not in Australia’s interests’

Which makes arguments that India needs the coal from Adani’s planned mega-mine in North Queensland — and the Federal Government’s determination to see the mine ahead — baffling to Ms Figueres.

The Government’s Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility, or NAIF, is considering Adani’s request for a subsidised loan of up to $1 billion to help it build a railway to connect the Carmichael mine in outback Queensland to the Abbot Point Coal Mine near Mackay, which Adani also owns.

By law, the NAIF is not permitted to make loans for projects that would damage Australia’s international reputation.

Earlier this month, Ms Figueres wrote to the NAIF arguing that providing such a loan for a project that would significantly add to greenhouse gas emissions would do just that.

“I wrote to NAIF because I am very concerned about the fact that NAIF could still be considering giving a concessional loan to the Adani Group to allow them to extract profitably from the Carmichael coal mine and transport that coal all the way to the Abbot Point Coal Terminal,” Ms Figueres said.

“First of all, it has huge environmental impacts. The more coal we burn, the further away we are going to be from the targets established in the Paris agreement [to keep atmospheric temperature rises well below 2 degrees above pre-industrial levels].

“But also, the more coal we burn around the world, independently of where it is going to be burned, the more negatively we are affecting public health.

“Now we have this issue of the Carmichael coal mine which, if it goes ahead, would frankly blow completely out of the water any emissions reductions that Australia has committed to.

“Admittedly, those emissions from that coal will not be on Australian territory but they will affect the atmosphere and directly affect the livelihoods and the survival of Pacific islands around Australia.

“You really call into question then Australia’s reputation, its international standing, its international relationships, with Pacific islands and other nations. It is fundamentally not in Australia’s interests.”

The letter may also have had strategic intent.

Various parties are considering court action against the NAIF should it grant the loan to Adani, including NGOs and commercial parties in other coal-mining regions.

Ms Figueres, who spent most of her career as a Costa Rican diplomat, has cemented a place in history through her efforts on the world stage to foster reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.

Mine project a ‘financial house of cards’

She took over as executive director of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in 2010, six months after the meeting in Copenhagen that failed to achieve a global agreement to curb emissions.

In 2015, she led the breakthrough deal in Paris, which saw a global commitment to take the action necessary to keep global temperature rises well below 2 degrees above pre-industrial levels.

She now works for Mission 2020, an NGO dedicated to achieving the Paris agreement commitments.

It argues that 2020 represents a turning point for climate change and the world needs to “bend the curve” on emissions through concerted action in the next two years if it hopes to achieve the Paris goals.

Lest climate change not be a concern, Ms Figueres has a warning to those considering investing in Adani’s Carmichael project that appeals to self-interest — she says it could be a financial disaster.

“I put it to you: do we not have here a financial house of cards?” she said.

Her assessment is based on various considerations.

These include the huge debts Adani’s Australian operations are carrying; the financial plight of Adani’s giant power plant at Mundra, which is meant to take much of the coal, but is on Adani’s own admission financially unviable — losing money and barely covering interest payments on its debt.

Adani Group is trying to flog the power plant to the Gujarat state government for just 1 rupee (about 2 Australian cents) with no guarantees that the Government would use coal from the Queensland mine if it were to take over the ailing plant.

Then there is the possibility that the giant mine, with a license to extract 60 million tonnes of coal a year, would become a stranded asset as the world introduces tougher measures to limit climate change.

Adani Group dismisses suggestions that its Australian business is not financially sound and reckons it will be able to announce full finance for the mine and rail project soon.

China has been linked to funding for Adani’s Australian venture.

“Anyone who is considering investing in this whether it be NAIF or China, I think they need to be very, very careful in looking at the numbers here and assessing the risks,” Ms Figueres said.

“You are not making an investment for one or two years, so you’re assuming that coal will still be part of the global energy grid [in future decades].

“That is unrealistic.,-and-why-adani-could-be-a-disaster/9197134?pfmredir=sm