The climate scientists – professors Peter Doherty, David Karoly, Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, Matthew England, Ann Henderson-Sellers, Lesley Hughes, Will Steffen, Michael Archer and Fiona Stanley – said based on current greenhouse gas emission trajectories, global average temperatures are on track to exceed 4C above pre-industrial levels by 2100 and may eventually increase to 6C or more.
As the development of the Galilee Basin will play a "major part in widespread suffering over a century time scale and beyond," it should not go ahead particularly as countries are trying to avoid more than two degrees of global warming, the scientists said.
“Exploitation of the coal reserves in the Galilee Basin is fundamentally incompatible with the international goal to limit global warming to 2 degrees, a limit that if surpassed, will see millions of people suffer due to sea-level rises and increased intensity of severe weather events such as droughts and floods,” Karoly said.
Nine new coal mines have been proposed in the Galilee Basin, which could result in 330 million tonnes of coal extracted annually. The Carmichael Coal Mines and Rail Project is the first project being pushed through.
In their letter, the scientists pointed out that if global temperature increases are kept within 2C of pre-industrial levels, around 80% of the world’s coal reserves must be left in the ground or in Australia's case, 90%.
"Projects such as the Carmichael Mine would not be able to achieve financial closure without the support of banks to both finance and advise on its construction. Banking institutions are therefore in a unique position to influence decisions vital to the future health of the planet and its peoples," the scientists said.
"Consistent with the guidelines for responsible investing embodied in the Equator Principles, banks have a responsibility to consider the suffering and irreversible damage to Earth systems that the opening up of the Galilee Basin would help bring about.
"We call on banks and other financial institutions to play no part in facilitating the development of the Galilee Basin."
Eleven international banks, including BNP Paribas and Credit Agricole, have already committed not to finance coal mining in the Galilee Basin and any of the related infrastructure, due to its environmental harm.