By Anders Lorenzen
The German manufacturing giant, Siemens, has come under fire after their CEO refused to withdraw from the giant Australian Adani coal mine project. Once completed the mine will be one of the largest in the world.
In recent weeks pressure has grown on the German company to pull out after the link between Australia’s devastating bush fires and coal burning has become even clearer. This intensified when climate activist Greta Thunberg recently urged her millions of followers to ask Siemens to pull out.
But her and many others were left disappointed when Siemens CEO Joe Kaeser stated: “Even though we do not have clear evidence that the wildfires and this project are directly connected, I feel empathy for all those, who spoke up and warned about worsening conditions.” He went on to say that the economy must be the top priority: “while I do have a lot of empathy for environmental matters, I do need to balance different interests of different stakeholders, as long as they have lawful legitimation for what they do. This is my responsibility as a CEO and that of the management team. Keeping our promises is Siemens’ highest priority.”
Many noted Kaeser’s somewhat patronising tone in his statement, available here in which the CEO made it clear that safeguarding the economy is more important than tackling climate change. The big question will be how many shareholders will be happy to continue to indirectly invest in Australia’s largest coal project as the country is facing it’s most severe and prolonged bush fire season. Scientists say this fire season bears all the hallmarks of climate change, which is caused by the burning of fossil fuels of which coal is the most climate polluting fossil fuel.
Last year the outgoing governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney, said that companies which do not take action on climate change will face bankruptcy.
Kaeser was keen to outline that Siemens takes climate change seriously. And it is true that they have invested in several sustainability projects, not least their wind turbine arm of the company. But many will undoubtedly ask whether, with 2019 being the warmest year ever recorded, is it time to once and for all close the fossil fuel arm of the company? Its possible shareholders might have the final say when deciding whether or not to sell their Siemens shares.