Burning Africa with the Paris Agreement

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The Paris Agreement will see to the sinking of Small Island states and the roasting of Africa – a continent uniquely exposed to the vagaries of global warming. Of what use is it for poor vulnerable nations to smile at the cameras, sign up to do things that will add up to nothing, knowing that they never contributed to the problem in the first instance? What would Nigeria or any African country gain by endorsing this hollow agreement?

What is needed is for the big polluters to line up and sign an agreement to keep fossils in the ground and urgently ensure a just transition to renewable energy. That is when we will know that there is a climate agreement. Signing the Paris Agreement on Earth Day (22 April 2016) is a poking of fossil fingers in our collective faces and an affront to Mother Earth.

Signing the Paris Agreement is nothing but letting the polluters off the hook, and burning the innocent to boot. It is time to keep fossils in the ground. Addictions may be hard to break, but for our survival, it is time to break free from fossil fuels.

The achievement of the Paris conference was that all nations agreed to take some sort of climate action. This means little if what they promise to do are mere intentions rather than scientifically determined levels of emissions reduction based on their current levels of greenhouse gas emissions as well as on historical responsibility.

The expected climate actions are based on Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs). These INDCs as the name suggests are what each country proposes to do about cutting their emissions. Many of the countries have stated that they would only take certain actions based on some conditions such as availability of finance and technology.

Particularly worrisome is the fact that the world has already warmed up by 1 degree Celsius above pre industrial levels. If all the nations put their INDCs into action, average global temperatures will rise above 3 degrees Celsius, according to analysts. That would be beyond the tipping point by which the world would cascade into irreversible or cataclysmic climate and ecological change.

The Paris Agreement locks in fossil fuels and, to underscore corporate capture of the negotiations, the word, fossil, is not as much as mention the document. It is shocking that although the burning of fossil fuels is known to be a major contributor to global warming, climate negotiations engage in platitudes rather than going to the core of the problem. Scientists tell us that burning of fossil fuels would have to end by 2030 if there would be a chance of keeping temperature increase to 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels. The signal we get from the silence on the fossils factor is that oil and coal companies can continue to extract profit while burning the planet.

The agreement is hollow with regard to climate finance because raising necessary funds remains aspirational while rich nations spend trillions of US dollars on war efforts that deepen climate vulnerability of target nations and regions. Loss and damage from irreparable climate impacts remain the imposed burdens that vulnerable nations will continue to suffer.

Signing the Paris Agreement is nothing but letting the polluters off the hook, and burning the innocent to boot. It is time to keep fossils in the ground. Addictions may be hard to break, but for our survival, it is time to break free from fossil fuels.

In Defence of Life – a new Documentary by Gaia Foundation

In Defence of Life“It’s about grabbing a part of the Earth and placing a mark of ownership on something that actually owns you. It doesn’t add up.”

In this interview poet, Earth Defender and Right Livelihood Award Winner Nnimmo Bassey challenges the assumptions at the very root of the mining industry- that we need to and should mine more. Discussing the vast damage and poverty oil extraction has brought to his home country of Nigeria, Nnimmo argues that even the most ‘responsible’ mining operations leave behind irreparable harm. His message is that, though it seems unthinkable to many, we must move away from an extractive relationship with the planet. Watch Nnimmo’s interview here: vimeo.com/155553521

This interview accompanies In Defence of Life, a documentary that follows the trials and triumphs of four communities fighting back against mining giants. Watch it here: vimeo.com/162669257

Filmed by Jess Phillimore
Edited by Joseph Lambert
For The Gaia Foundation

From Gaia Foundation

Oil, Power & Pollution in South Sudan

Oil, Power and a Sign of Hope coverOil, Power and A Sign of Hope is a book about oil, speed, corporate power and death. It is not about the oil pollution in the Niger Delta. It is rather about the severe pollution of the ground water in the oil field communities of South Sudan. And the pollution is from the contamination of the water bodies by produced water that is generated during crude oil extraction.

It may well be true as has been asserted by some observers that the Sudan was split in two by oil. The fact that oil is at the centre of geopolitics, of global dominance and control is indisputable. It is also a fact that crude oil’s footprint on climate change cannot be denied. In fact, analysts have concluded that the world has to completely halt the burning of fossil fuels by 2030 if the target of keeping to 1.5 degrees Celsius temperature increase above pre industrial level, a highlight of the Paris Agreement, is to be met. The control of global policy on climate change by the fossil fuels industry is so strong that this known villain is not mentioned even once in the Paris Agreement that the politicians have applauded and are getting ready to sign in a few days.

Written by Klaus Stieglitz (with Sabine Pamperrien) and published by ruffer & rub, the book, Oil, Power and a Sign of Hope raises very strong issues regarding the linkage between oil corporations (in this case Petronas), automobile corporations (in this case Mercedes) and the destruction of lives in the oil fields of South Sudan. Mercedes and Petronas are partners in the Grand Prix events with their logos announcing their wedlock.

Written with deep compassion after spending many years providing humanitarian service in the polluted communities, the writer exposes the misery and harm that oil field communities are exposed to while corporations enjoy extreme wealth while feeding the world’s insatiable thirst for energy, speed and profit. It shows that produced water and drilling fluids are key sources of contamination of the water communities depend on.

An excerpt from the book is in order here:

The extremely great potential dangers emanating from the use of chemicals in drill drilling fluids cause it to be strictly regulated by internationally-applicable guidelines. Augmenting this peril is another technique employed when extracting oil. Highly- concentrated salts-containing solutions are injected into the oil deposits, so as to increase the pressure in them. The crude oil and the previously-injected salts-containing solutions are pumped to the surface, where the crude oil is separated from the so-called “produced water”. The extraction of each liter of crude oil requires the employment of from 3 to 9.5 liters of produced water an incredible amount. This produced water often has a higher content of salt than does ocean water. The produced water also often contains noxious metals and radioactive materials. The general practice is to inject the produced watervia another injection holedeep enough into the ground, with this meaning its being transported to layers of rocks that are far away from potable water. Should, however, the produced water be disposed of via in-feeds into surface waters, or via shallow drilling into layers containing ground water, the risk arises that this polluted water willvia wellsbe incorporated into humans’ food cycle. (Page 58)

Although oil companies claim otherwise, researches have shown that produced water dumped into the Niger Delta environment have contaminants at levels far above acceptable standards. Lax regulation compounds the problem. Hundreds of thousands of barrels of produced water are dumped into the Niger Delta environment daily. Since the amount of water used in oil extraction increases as the wells age, more produced water is being dumped into our water ways as the years go by.

Oil, Power and a Sign of Hope is wake up call, not only for South Sudan, but for all African nations where crude oil is extracted or is set to be extracted. While oil spills and gas flares take the headlines, little is said about the produced water that finds its way into our food cycles and silently breeds disease and clips off life expectancy in our communities. This book is not written to make us moan and sigh. It is clarion call for us all to wake up, reject mindless exploitation, demand justice and fight for the right to potable water, and for the right of all peoples to live in dignity and in healthy environments. The water we drink should quench our thirst and not snuff out our lives. Here is one more reason why we must break free from fossil fuels.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Eco-Instigator 11 by HOMEF- a collector’s delight

Cover of Eco-Instigator 11HOME RUN

The turmoil in the world has continued with increasing sites of environmental and political conflagrations. As this edition of your Eco-Instigator was going to bed, the world was shocked to hear of the assassination in Honduras of Berta Caceres, the outstanding, inspiring, courageous human rights and environmental campaigner, Founder of the Civic Council and Indigenous Peoples of Honduras Association (COPINH). Her murder was compounded by the shooting, and detention of Gustavo Castro, a comrade and leader of Otros Mundos, (Friends of the Earth Mexico). HOMEF joined all people of good conscience to condemn these atrocious actions, demand for justice and, of course, call for a halt to these and similar acts around the world.

Two unfolding scenarios in Nigeria are of great concern to us and we have beamed our spotlight on them in this edition. First is the resolve of biosafety regulators in Nigeria to promote the entry modern agricultural biotechnology into the country. When officials saddled with regulating a sector act as promoters of the very thing they should regulate you can imagine what the tendencies would be. Soon after a deeply flawed National Biosafety Management Bill was hurriedly signed into law by the immediate past president of Nigeria, Monsanto Nigeria Agricultural Ltd rushed two applications for field testing of genetically modified maize and the commercial release of genetically modified cotton in Nigeria. Public notices on these applications were published on 25 February and HOMEF in concert with 99 national organisations sent objections to the National Biosafety Management Agency (NABMA). A short advisory on our objections is published in this issue. We also publish an open letter sent by a collective to Nigeria’s president on why genetically modified organisms should not be permitted in Nigeria.

A 20 kilometres right of way for an about 100 metres highway must hold the record for government land grabbing for the “overriding public interest’ to satisfy deep private interests.

The second obnoxious drama unfolding on our shores is Superhighway Project that is proposed to lead from a proposed deep sea port on the shores of the Atlantic Ocean and cut through pristine community forests to the Nigerian hinterland. Forest communities in the Cross River axis of Nigeria where this so-called Superhighway is to be built have managed their community forests so well that a community like Ekuri has been awarded the Equator Prize for community forest management. The government of Cross River State has commenced the bulldozing of forests and farms in defiance of the fact that the project is yet to receive an approved Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and the people have not given free prior informed consent as required by ILO article 169.

One of the highlights of this 264km long Superhighway is that the Cross River State government has claimed land stretching 10 km on either side of the road. A 20 kilometres right of way for an about 100 metres highway must hold the record for government land grabbing for the “overriding public interest’ to satisfy deep private interests.

We serve you a menu of poetry, reports and, of course, books you must read. As usual, we like to hear back form you.

Read the full publication here… eco instigator 11

Until victory!

Nnimmo

New PIB and forgotten Host Communities?

While no one can say that the Nigerian petroleum resources sector is known for transparency, most would readily agree that it wields a lot of power. The sector has effectively determined the political, economic, social and cultural paths of the nation since its ascendancy as major income earner for the nation. As its power rose, so the attendant impunity, including a murky treatment of financial matters. Governments have bent backwards so much that the tail began to dictate to the head.

To secure continuous flow of revenue from the sector, full military might have been deployed to silence calls for dialogue from already trashed communities and these have sometimes resulted in horrendous sackings of communities in wasting operations by way of flagrant and outright display of murderous rage at the slightest provocation. Today, citizens are intimidated by security forces into raising their hands in total surrender each time they come close to oil pipelines of transnational corporations crossing their creeks.

Denying Dialogue

The denial of dialogue can be said to be a major precursor of the persistent conflict points in the Niger Delta. That was what the people of Umuechem requested for in 1990. What they got was mayhem and deaths.

The current outcry over the non-inclusion in the new Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) of the Host Communities Fund that was provided for in the “old PIB” is justifiable. This will continue to agitate communities and observers until the National Assembly or the Petroleum Resources Ministry explains what the fate of the communities will be in the new dispensation.

The Quadruplet Logic

What we have learnt from the grapevine is that the new PIB will come in multiple parts so what is being debated is not yet the whole story. However, the entire focus is on business and there is scant attention to the environment or the people. These may remain the milk cows that should simply steel themselves for more squeezes.

It is thought that the PIB will come in four parts arranged as follows:

  1. The Governance and Institutional Framework for Oil and Gas Bill
  2. The Fiscal Reform Bill
  3. Licencing Rounds Bill
  4. Revenue Allocation and Management Bill

It is expected that the fourth bill may say something about the funds for communities. Perhaps the logic is to serve the “controversial” consideration of oil field communities last with the hope that the hurdle will never be reached within the life of this government or that the controversy would have died of its own accord by such a time.

One complaint against the former PIB was that it was rather voluminous. Having the bill split into four volumes may make reading easier for text-message or SMS generation.

It could also be one way of displaying a bent towards unbundling the sector in all ramifications. Another plausible explanation could be that the sector is simply copying the industry’s best practice in other countries.

Host Communities Conundrum

The sore point of the petroleum sector in Nigeria as in elsewhere is the serious impact it has on the environment, the communities and the people.

The fact that our politicians could not agree on any allocation of resources for host communities should not make the current legal draughtsmen push consideration to back burners. The President doubles as the Minister of Petroleum Resources and he should clarify what the intentions are with regard to the communities and indeed the oil field environment. With the clean up of Ogoni and the Niger Delta about to commence, informing about the global environmental architecture would help.

Goi..Ogoni

Polluted creek at Goi community

A key point is to ensure that host communities are not defined as only the communities that host oil wells, pipelines, flow stations, waste pits and other oil industry appurtenances. Here is the reason why this definition must be broadened. There are communities that do not have the physical presence of oil operations but are heavily impacted by those operations. A case in point is Goi community in Ogoni. This community has been severely impacted by repeated oil spills and related fires and one section of the community has been deserted for over a decade now. Yet, Goi has no pipeline and no oil well. It simply sits on the bank of a creek that connects oil facilities that have spewed crude and devastated their environment. Would it be right to say that Goi is not a host community? My point is that any community that has the potential to be impacted by petroleum sector accidents has to be classified as a host community. So, a host community is a community that hosts oil or industrial facilities as well as those that host pollutions.

Another case in point is that Exxon Valdez oil spill of 1989 in Alaska. The spill so much impacted Prince William Sound and the coastline that, despite all clean up efforts, 27 years after effect is still there and less than half of the wild life population is yet to recover.

Time to Come Clean

It is time for the National Assembly and the Ministry of Petroleum Resource to come clean over the PIB. The draft bill(s) should be posted online and made available to citizens. It would help the ministry, the National Assembly and the nation if citizens are able to scrutinise the bill(s) and make comments based on knowledge rather on rumours. What are the provisions in the PIB for ending gas flaring? What is in it for the communities? Certainly the oil business cannot be allowed to be all about money to the detriment of life.