Tag Archives: climate change

When the dam breaks: European Banks investing over €100 billion in dirty extractive companies.

Timika, in the eastern province of Papua, Indonesia September 19, 2015. Bild: © REUTERS/Muhammad Adimaja/Antara Foto

The Dirty Profits 6 report released by Facing Finance highlights the investments of ten european banks in ten extractive companies which continually violate human rights and damage the environment.

Facing Finance | 10. May 2018

Minerals and metals are an integral part of our daily lives, from smartphones to toothpaste, but the global extractives industry is also heavily involved in some of the worst labour, environmental and human rights violations, particularly in countries of the South. The industry also has a substantial impact on climate change, particularly those companies involved in the extraction of coal, oil, or in risky practices such as Arctic drilling. In fact, just 7 of the 10 companies shown are responsible for almost 8% of global GHG emissions. 

Some of the violations in this report, by the ten extractive companies (companies include for example Barrick Gold, Grupo Mexico, Eni and Gazprom), variously cover contamination of land, water and air; silencing community activists using violence, threats and intimidation; labour violations and forced labour; and failure to provide the remedy communities deserve.

While banks increasingly claim to be improving their ESG policies, and that they pay attention to incidents and violations by companies, the report shows that almost a third of all capital provision (€32 billion) by the ten banks was to the very worst category of companies – those with poor human rights policies, a lack of commitment to international standards, severe violations and an unwillingness to engage on these issues. Over the seven-year period the two UK banks (HSBC and Barclays) provided nearly €9 billion to this category. The largest provision of capital to all the companies, was by BNP Paribas, Barclays and Crédit Agricole, with DZ Bank and Rabobank providing the least.

“The Dirty Profits 6 report shows that most banks, particularly those that made the most capital available, are not taking strong enough action to ensure that the mining and extractive companies they invest in respect human rights and environmental concerns”  Lesley Burdock, Facing Finance

An example of one of the cases covered in the report is that of the company Samarco Mineração (jointly owned by Vale and BHP), responsible for the worst environmental catastrophe in Brazil when its tailings dam broke in 2015, killing 19 people, destroying entire villages and damaging around 2,200 hectares of land and 650 km of river. It has become increasingly clear that this was a preventable tragedy and that the tailings dam was poorly managed.  Danilo Chammas of the International Network of People affected by Vale notes

“Besides being negligent in taking all necessary measures to avoid the dam’s collapse, Samarco, Vale and BHP Billiton have also not taken the required responsibility with regard to reparatory measures for the victims. We have been following up on the company for many years, so for us this does not come as a surprise,  given the company’s bad record of human rights violations and damage to the environment, as well as its usual lack of ability to deal with those affected by its operations.” BNP Paribas and HSBC were two banks which provided direct capital totalling €537 million to Samarco Mineração in the years leading up to the incident. These banks omitted to take action through their due diligence processes to ensure stronger standards of management and thus to prevent the tragedy. The companies Vale and BHP over the seven year period were also provided with capital of over €5 billion and €20 billion respectively- predominantly by HSBC and Barclays.

Facing Finance expects banks to take responsibility for human rights and environmental concerns in their decision making. In particular by improving transparency and making public all relevant information related to engagement; by defining the line between engagement and exclusion of companies; and by taking a proactive approach to identifying non-compliant companies.

Banks claim to use engagement with companies as a tool to identify and mitigate human rights violations and to validate their investments, but most banks provide no public information on this process. Without this information the public cannot know what banks have done to meet their ethical obligations.”  Thomas Kuchenmeister, Facing Finance.

Dirty Profits 6 download

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Mining interests ‘stalling’ SA plans to protect more of the ocean

Ocean scientists say Marine Protected Areas not only protect fish from over-exploitation, but can also help to slow the effects of climate change. Photo: Steve Benjamin

A global ocean protection group has expressed concern that plans to fast-track the expansion of Marine Protected Areas off the South African coast appear to have stalled. 

Tony Carnie |  Daily Maverick | 16 April 2018

Plans to enlarge South Africa’s protected ocean reserve network have come to a halt, allegedly due to pressure from the oil, gas and extractive mining sector.

This is the claim from Ocean Unite, a Washington DC based global ocean protection group headed by former University of Cape Town international environmental law graduate Karen Sack.

Sack, co-author of a 2013 scientific report which urged the United Nations to establish a new Department for Oceans and a new Interpol-style navy to police the high seas, has voiced disappointment that plans to fast-track the expansion of Marine Protected Areas(MPAs) off the South African coast appear to have stalled.

Sack said only 0.4% of the country’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) currently enjoyed legal protection. In 2014 the government had announced plans to expand this area of protected seas to 5% by 2016, increasing to a total of 10% by 2020.

Unfortunately, this process has stalled with stakeholders raising concerns that this hiatus is owing to undue influence from the extractive mining sector which is seen as one of the main drivers for unlocking South Africa’s Ocean Economy”.

Sack did not identify any mining companies by name, but said it was significant that the Department of Energy had placed 98% of South Africa’s EEZ under acreage lease for oil and gas exploration or production rights, and there was also talk of new mining opportunities for phosphate extraction and other seabed minerals.

Encouragingly, the drive to achieve a 10% (and more) MPA target appears well supported at the most senior levels in Department of Environmental Affairs and aligns with South Africa’s National Development Plan outcomes and international commitments at the United Nations. South Africa has recently assumed the role of Chair of the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) and there is a timely opportunity for South Africa to lead the way to establishing MPA expansion as a key blue economy ocean governance goal within the African region.

Marine parks are about more than just a haven for the species that live in them. These national parks at sea are critical climate change fighting tools and help support food security. The ocean is a massive carbon sink and science is now demonstrating that marine reserves slow the effects of climate change, rebuild biodiversity, and help build resilience. Governments can affirm their international commitments to combating climate change, securing jobs and food through the creation of marine reserves,” Sack said in a statement.

The Department of Energy has not responded to requests for comment on Sack’s claims about “undue influence” from mining interests.

However, former Ezemvelo KZN Wldlife senior marine scientist Dr Jean Harris said South African marine protection strategy currently ranked poorly compared to other nations.

When South Africa’s current Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) were surveyed alongside 39 developed countries they ranked 34th out of 40, with 0.4% current marine protection, compared to an average of 11.2% for the other countries. When South Africa was surveyed together with 129 developing countries it ranked 90th out of 130 – an average of 5.8% compared to South Africa’s measly 0.4%,” said Dr Harris, who now heads the WildOceans programme of the Wildlands Conservation Trust.

She added that “0.4% is hopelessly inadequate to maintain sustainable benefits in a growing ocean economy. A minimum target agreed to as a global standard is 10% marine protection, with South Africa committing to achieving this by 2020.

As an interim step, the Department of Environmental Affairs published intention to gazette 22 new/expanded MPAs to achieve a 5% target. This will also see benefits to fisheries, including protection of nursery and spawning areas, resource recovery and the management of essential fish habitat.”

By contrast, several other developing nations had announced much more ambitious MPA targets over the past year.

For example, she said, Brazil announced plans in March to create four new MPAs covering an area of more than 900,000 km2 – larger than France, England, Belgium, Netherlands and Switzerland combined.

In 2017, Mexico announced it would protect nearly 92,000 km2 of the ocean from fishing and resource extraction, while Chile had announced plans to protect over 1 million km2 of Chilean waters – more than 40% of its seas.

This Latin American ocean protection leadership follows clear science that shows the importance of these national parks at sea to build resilience as well as revitalise the abundance and diversity of marine fish stocks.”

Closer to home, Harris said the Seychelles had also announced plans to protect 210,000 km2 of ocean and set a further goal of setting aside 16% of its waters for marine protection.

South Africa currently has a network of 24 coastal MPAs, covering only 0.4% of the continental EEZ (Exclusive Economic Zone), and one sub-Antarctic MPA (Marion/Prince Edward Islands).

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Pacific Islanders call for Australia not to fund Adani coalmine

The village of Eita in Kiribati in 2015. Residents of endangered Pacific islands want the Australian government to stop funding Adani’s Carmichael coalmine. Photograph: Jonas Gratzer/LightRocket via Getty Images

Caritas says thousands face threats to their wellbeing, livelihoods and ‘their very existence’ due to rising sea levels

Naaman Zhou | The Guardian | 31 October 2017 

Pacific Islanders whose homes face eradication by rising sea levels have called on Australia to not fund the Adani Carmichael coalmine, as a new report reveals the worsening impact of climate change across Oceania.

Residents of the endangered islands have described their forced displacement as like “having your heart ripped out of your chest” as they called on the Australian government to do more to combat climate change.

A report released by international aid group Caritas on Wednesday found that thousands of Pacific people across the region faced “threats to their wellbeing, livelihoods and, in some places, their very existence” due to rising sea levels, king tides and natural disasters brought about by climate change.

In Papua New Guinea, 2,000 households across 35 coastal communities were displaced by coastal erosion over the past year. In Samoa, 60% of the village of Solosolo was relocated to higher ground.

In the Torres Strait, 15 island communities were identified as at risk over the next 50 years.

The mayor of the Torres Straight Island regional council, Fred Gela, described the forcible removals as like having your heart ripped out “because you are told you’re not able to live on your land”.

Erietera Arama resident of Kiribati who works for the Department of Fisheries, said he decided to visit Australia to ask its government to take action.

“We talk about the Adani coalmine,” he said. “That’s a new one. I think it’s not a good idea – it makes the world worse for all of us. It is inconsiderate of other humans on this planet.

“We didn’t think of Australia as a country that would do that. We looked at it as our bigger brother. Proceeding with that new mine is a sad move. We live together in the environment but it’s like they are ignoring us.

“We’re two metres above sea level. With the sea level rise, most of our lands have been taken by coastal erosion. We love our country and we want our children to live there as well, hopefully forever. It’s hard to talk about leaving the place where you belong.”

According to the report’s authors, the impact of coastal erosion and flooding reached “severe” levels in 2016, upgraded from “high” the year before. Climate change also made it “increasingly difficult to maintain the health and integrity” of food and water sources. Water scarcity was deemed a “serious slow-onset problem throughout Oceania”.

In terms of natural disasters, a month’s worth of rain fell in 24 hours in New Caledonia in November 2016, killing nine people, while flash flooding in Fiji after Cyclone Winston forced 3,000 people into evacuation centres in December 2016.

In Fiji, the report found that certain types of fish were becoming poisonous, potentially as a result of farming contamination or seabed mining operations.

“Earlier this year four people died in the island of Gau from fish poisoning,” said Leo Nainoka from the country’s social empowerment education program.

Global sea levels are expected to rise 30cm by 2050 compared with a 20cm average rise over the 100 years before 2000. But in certain areas of the tropical western Pacific, sea level rise has been four times the global average due to El Nino and associated weather effects.

“Australia needs to make a stronger contribution to fight climate change and its impacts,” the report says. “To reach our emissions reductions targets, Australian policies need to rule out any major new fossil fuel projects or the expansion of existing ones, as this would be inherently incompatible with meeting our global climate commitments.”

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Pacific Islands forum supports calls to phase out coal

Sikeli Qounadovu | The Fiji Times | October 19, 2017

THE Pacific Islands Development Forum fully supports the call by Canada and the UK to phase out coal.

PIDF secretary general Francois Martel urged other developed nations to unite and implement the transition from unabated coal fired electricity and support the Pacific call to limit global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees.

“We congratulate Canada and the United Kingdom for championing a global alliance on coal-phase out and encourage other developed countries such as Australia to support this initiative,” he said.

“On one hand, we need to provide support to Pacific countries to ensure they can reach the targets set in the Paris Agreement, on the other hand, we need to pursue advocacy and engagement to ensure that what fell off the negotiations in Paris to achieve the main targets of 1.5 degree Celsius are now fully addressed.”

Mr Martel said much faster and decisive action was needed to phase out coal and prevent coal lock-in and the greater risk of stranded coal mining and coal power station assets and big amounts of already available stocks of coal.

“Urgency and high ambition for drastically reducing greenhouse gas emissions need to remain the top priority on the agenda — financing adaptation by development partners should not be the fall-out position for paying lip-service to reducing emissions, nor does it follow the spirit and the letter of the Paris Agreement as ratified,” said the PIDF secretary general.

Canada strives to have 90 per cent of electricity from non-emitting sources by 2030.

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Coal plant proposal for PNG city a poor option – NGO

Lae, Papua New Guinea Photo: RNZI/ Johnny Blades

Radio New Zealand | 19 September, 2017 

A proposal for a coal-fired power plant in Lae is a poor economic and environmental option, according to an anti-coal group in Papua New Guinea.

The proposal by Mayur Resources to build a plant on the Lae Tidal Basin has lingered for a couple of years, but failed to get a purchase agreement from PNG Power.

However Mayur had approval from PNG Ports through its re-development of Lae’s important port area.

But Chris Lahberger from Nogat Coal PNG said the government knew that a coal plant was not an efficient way to generate energy.

“But it just looks awful as well, as PNG is a signatory to the Paris (Climate) Agreement to go one hundred percent renewable, and a coal mine with a forty year life span,” Mr Lahberger said.

“Mayur are now suggesting that the life span of this coal plant to be fifteen years. But the economics of that just doesn’t stack up. Like you would not make your money back from your investment if you ran it for just fifteen years.”

Mr Lahberger said renewable energy was a better alternative.

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Green energy the way forward for PNG Power

PNG Power undermines government investment in coal mining and Mayur Resources’ plans

Salome Vincent | PNG Loop | 25 August, 2017

The focus going forward for PNG Power Limited is Green Energy.

Acting Chief Executive Officer, Alex Oa said recently that PNG was one of the first countries to sign the Paris Agreement on reducing carbon emissions, and thus the organisation is putting emphasis on renewable energy.

Oa added that in response to Papua New Guinea’s efforts in Climate Change, PPL’s focus is on solar and hydro biomass to reduce the amount of emission released into the atmosphere.

“Fossil fuels are expensive and resorting to renewable energy is cost-saving, and in the long run – prevents further repercussions to the atmosphere.

“Solar farms are being taken into consideration with cooperation established between PNG Power and the Asian Development Bank, but land availability remains the biggest challenge yet, he adds.

Meantime, Oa also highlighted that the other best way to achieve this is using solar panels on rooftops however this will require policies and guidelines on how to go about doing this.

Going forward Oa explained that he is very much interested in pushing the rooftop solar panel option.

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No to experimental seabed mining plans for Pacific, says PNG’s Cardinal Ribat

Meredith Kuusa |TVWan News | Pacific Media Centre News Desk | 31 May 2017

Papua New Guinea’s Catholic Church leader has given a resounding “no” to deep sea mining after returning from his visit to Germany.

The Archbishop of Port Moresby Archdiocese, Cardinal John Ribat, was highly critical of the proposed plans of the Canadian mining company Nautilus for the Pacific.

He spoke to a global conference as a representative for Oceania on the effects of climate change in the Pacific.

Cardinal Ribat was encouraged with the support he received when visiting the office of Chancellor Angela Merkel.

He said the Catholic Church was against deep sea mining because it would cause destruction to the surrounding environment.

He condemned the “shocking” robot machinery planned for the mining.

He said it would also not contribute to coping with climate change.

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