Greenpeace accused AGL of being ‘the biggest climate polluter’ in Australia. Now the two are set to face off in court.

AGL’s Bayswater coal-fired power station. (SMH, Glen Mccurtayne)
  • Greenpeace is facing off with AGL in court over its latest campaign, accusing the energy company of being “the biggest climate polluter” in Australia.
  • AGL sought an injunction last week from the Federal Court to remove its branding from Greenpeace’s campaign materials, which was denied.
  • The two will now square off on Tuesday over a campaign that alleges AGL is “currently using its position and power to slow the transition to a low carbon economy which is jeopardising both human and planetary health.”
  • Visit Business Insider Australia’s homepage for more stories.

One of Australia’s largest utility companies is asking the court to intervene after environmental activists slammed its track record on the climate.

Late last week AGL sought an injunction in the Federal Court that would have ordered its corporate logo be removed from Greenpeace’s latest campaign. In it the charity’s Australia Pacific accuses the $5.5 billion energy giant of being “Australia’s biggest domestic contributor to climate change”.

While AGL’s application was rejected on Friday, both adversaries are headed back to the courtroom on Tuesday in what Greenpeace senior campaigner Glenn Walker claims is an attempt to shut up the environmental campaigners,

“This is yet another attempt by the coal industry to stop grassroots organisations from exposing the damage that it is doing to the climate, to the environment and to human health,” Walker said. “By throwing legal roadblocks in our path, AGL is trying to sink our campaign exposing the company as Australia’s biggest climate polluter.”

It comes as Australia becomes increasingly isolated on climate action. The issue has cost at least one sitting prime minister their job with the coal sector resistant to calls for a transition.

The latter point is behind this legal challenge as well, Greenpeace’s general counsel Katrina Bullock claims.

“This is yet another attempt by the coal industry to stop grassroots organisations from exposing the damage that it is doing to the climate, to the environment and to human health.”

AGL accused of fuelling climate change

Greenpeace hasn’t minced its words when taking aim at the energy provider. In an accompanying report, it claims AGL “is currently using its position and power to slow the transition to a low carbon economy which is jeopardising both human and planetary health”.

It goes on to say that while the company has carefully curated a public image of being an environmentally-friendly energy generator, it is “in fact, Australia’s biggest domestic contributor to climate change”.

“In 2019-2020, it was responsible for over 42 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions. This was more than 8% of Australia’s total emissions and more than twice the amount of the next biggest emitter.”

AGL’s footprint largely comes from its ownership of three of Australia’s old coal-burning power stations, including Liddell and Bayswater. Together they constitute around a quarter of the country’s total coal burning output and “Australia’s worst violators of environmental regulations”, according to Greenpeace, producing “more [carbon] than BHP, Rio, Glencore and Qantas combined”.

A Sydney Morning Herald investigation in 2017 found the Bayswater plant in the Hunter Valley had deliberately covered up its emission of sulphur, nitrous oxides and other pollutants over the course of decades.

At the same time that AGL has published material adorned with wind turbines and solar panels, Greenpeace says that analysis shows that just 10% of its operation is renewable energy – a figure that “has barely changed the last five years”.

It says the objective of the report is to actively lobby AGL and its shareholders to turn the company around and transform itself “from Australia’s biggest polluter to a green energy leader.”

While the mater strictly concerns the use of AGL branding on campaign material, its legal challenge does not bode well for a ‘road to Damascus’ type conversion.

AGL did not respond to Business Insider Australia’s request for comment.