Greenpeace dumps giant inflatable coal at AGL HQ as new research reveals over half of Aussies would switch off a dirty electricity provider

MELBOURNE, March 28 2022 - Greenpeace Australia Pacific today fronted up at Australia's biggest climate polluter, AGL's HQ with a giant inflatable coal to send the message that their climate pollution is too big to hide, as new research shows more than half of Australians would switch off a large polluting electricity provider.

Climate activists and environment campaigners gathered outside AGL’s HQ in the Docklands with the 9x6m inflatable coal (approximately the size of a semi-trailer) to condemn the company’s controversial demerger. The proposed demerger would keep the AGL brand for consumers, while hiding its coal-burning assets under a new entity called Accel Energy, meaning the bulk of AGL’s electricity would still be provided by polluting coal.

It comes as a new Essential Research national poll, commissioned by Greenpeace Australia Pacific, found that more than half of Australians (53 per cent) are likely to find another electricity provider if they discovered they were a customer of a large polluting electricity company.

The poll found:

  • 59 per cent of AGL customers agreed they would select an energy company committed to renewables over one that continues to burn fossil fuels
  • Around 63 per cent of Australians agreed it was important that electricity companies make the transition to renewable energy on or before 2030
  • Only 4 out of 10 Australians know where or how the electricity they purchase is generated

Greenpeace Australia Pacific senior campaigner Glenn Walker said:

“We turned up at AGL’s headquarters today to send a strong message that their dirty tactics of burning fossil fuels – and now trying to hide it through a sneaky demerger – won’t work.

“Under Graeme Hunt’s leadership, AGL has seen anger from customers, investors, and environmental groups take a serious toll, with its share price hitting a 20-year-low in late 2021 and a bid from the Brookfield-Grok consortium to take over and decarbonise the company.

“Instead of cleaning up its act, AGL’s leadership is choosing to hide. The proposed demerger makes no environmental or financial sense. Rather than grab an opportunity to address both, AGL has prioritised its ideological obsession with coal over the interests of its customers, shareholders, employees, and the environment.

“AGL can try as they might, but we’re here to show them that their dirty tactics will not work, because AGL’s climate pollution is just too big to hide.”

Climate activist and student Ashjayeen Sharif said:

“Young people are the next generation of customers and consumers and we’re increasingly horrified and disgusted about the tactics and sneaky operations of the companies we purchase from.

“Last year, I ran for the board of directors and I’m back here again to tell AGL that its climate pollution is putting my future and future generations at risk.

“The Essential research found that almost 70 per cent of younger Australians – those aged between 18 and 34 – would likely switch providers if they found out their energy company emits twice as much carbon pollution as the next most polluting electricity company.

“This sends a big message to companies like AGL: Clean up your act and accelerate the closure of your dirty coal power plants before the 2030 deadline. Today’s young people demand it, and we won’t take no for an answer.”

Consumer behaviour expert from Deakin University Dr Paul Harrison said:

“We know that consumers use external information – like the floods and the bushfires – as part of their decision making. In consumer behaviour, people are resistant to change until cumulative external factors plus social movements take over.

“Energy providers that don’t have their act together in terms of responding to climate change should be very worried. The effects of climate change, including the recent floods and bushfires, will increase the likelihood of people taking action and turning away from providers with poor climate records.

“The results of the Essential poll are not good news for energy companies at all. The effects of climate change that people are experiencing now will only increase the likelihood that people are aware of the issues and quite likely to change energy providers.”

Social researcher and author on public attitudes to climate change Dr Rebecca Huntley said:

“The research shows what we’re increasingly seeing amongst Australian consumers – people are recognising that there’s an urgent need to accelerate the transition away from coal to renewable energy – and they see their consumer choices as a big part of that. Energy companies – particularly AGL – can no longer hide and pretend everything’s okay when it’s quite obviously not.

“We’re long past the tired view that consumers don’t care about the decisions companies are making, and what we’re seeing now in the research I’ve been doing is that consumers are actually prepared to change their behaviour.

“There’s also a generational wave of future consumers who are overwhelmingly concerned about climate change and with that bring rising consumer expectations that their energy companies are doing the right thing.”

ENDS

Notes:

  • Images, B-roll and soundbites package available for download here

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