Giant Cigarettes in the Sky – Nigeria’s Toxic Gas Flares

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Horizontal gas flare, Niger Delta (c) Aloja

Gas flaring is the obnoxious practice of burning natural gas associated with crude oil extraction. To use the words of Joseph Croft of Stakeholder Democracy Network (SDN) in the excellent environmental documentary film No Where to Run, the gas flares are like giant cigarettes attached to communities. Some flares are located horizontally, at ground level, posing even greater dangers to the communities. There are several examples, including at Oben, Edo State and Kolo Creek in Bayelsa State.

Communities with gas flare stacks are sentenced to live with these furnaces and cannot avoid the heat, the noise, the poisons and the offensive vista.  It is estimated that flared gas could potentially generate over 25,000 GWh of electricity which would meet a high proportion of Nigeria’s most ambitious power projections.

The Associated Gas Reinjection Act of 1979 outlawed gas flaring in Nigeria with effect from January 1984 and was aimed at compelling oil companies producing oil and gas in Nigeria to submit preliminary programs for gas re-injection as well as detailed plans for implementation. Oil companies can only flare, as an interim measure, if they have site-specific certificates permitting them to flare. Permitted or not, companies are required to pay fines for lighting those giant cigarettes in our communities. Unfortunately, routine gas flaring continues.

About $1.1bn gas flare penalties are reportedly not collected annually. This is more than the amount required to commence the full implementation of the UNEP report on the clean up of Ogoni environment. It simply goes up in smoke annually by way of uncollected fines from gas flaring. This sum could also assist in plugging the deficit in the 2016 National Budget if the reneged oil companies are compelled to pay up.

The penalty for gas flaring remains low and does not offer real incentives to defaulting oil companies to stop the practice. The current penalty for gas flaring in Nigeria was set by a Ministerial directive issued on 15 August 2011 at $3.50 per 1000 standard cubic feet. Attempts by the National Assembly, including through the moribund Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB), to raise the penalty to equal the commercial price of natural gas has not seen the light of day.

About $1.1bn gas flare penalties are reportedly not collected annually. This is more than the amount required to commence the full implementation of the UNEP report on the clean up of Ogoni environment. It simply goes up in smoke annually by way of uncollected fines from gas flaring. This sum could also assist in plugging the deficit in the 2016 National Budget if the reneged oil companies are compelled to pay up.

The Nigerian Gas Flare Tracker website informs that, according to a report issued in 2012 by the Petroleum Revenue Special Task Force, oil companies often do not pay the fines “and when they do are still paying the old penalty of N10 per 1000 standard cubic feet flared.”

The Task Force reported that the Department of Petroleum Resources, DPR, was “unable to independently track and measure gas volumes produced and flared. It depends largely on the information provided by the operators. There were no available records or information in respect of gas flare volumes for the years 2005 and 2011.” There are no readily available records for fines paid for gas flared in the period 2012-2015.

The loss of revenue to Nigeria from non-compliance to the 2011 penalty regime is enormous. According to the report of the task force, “Using the DPR gas flare information (irrespective of the inherent errors…) to compute the potential revenues for the relevant years at the rate of $3.50 per scf is $4.1billion versus the $177million computed by the DPR using the N10 per scf.”

The Nigerian Gas Flare Tracker hosted by the Federal Ministry of Environment is a tool that every Nigerian should look up to be informed about the atrocious gas flaring going on at about 220 locations across the Niger Delta. It is a great tool for public information. It is a tool that should spur policy makers into action to rescue our environment.

See the Gas Flare Tracker map here.

 

Dreadful Liars on Heartless Shores

 

Corporatized consciences

Think little of spreading fires

Dreadful liars

Selling adaptation suits for funeral pyres

3 degrees

5 degrees

7 degrees

Flame throwers watch the Planet burn

As fire works herald the New Year so the

Flaming Planet announces the arrival of new species

In islands of belly-churning opulence

Fed by blood from multiple zones of sacrifice

 

Corporatized consciences

Think little of spreading fires

Dreadful liars

Throwing burst life boughs to drowned lands

3 degrees

5 degrees

7 degrees

Lives matter nought

Once fat cats are sated

Other lives don’t matter

Give us today fade out

Survival for future games

In lost memories of tomorrow

 

Corporatized consciences

Elastic tongues propose offset fires

Peddlers of dreadful lies

That though we be charred we aren’t burned

3 degrees

5 degrees

7 degrees

Fat cats hooked on power

Cant stand the heat? Try the cold

Can’t stand the fragrance of the displaced?

Erect Apartheid Walls to enclose privilege

Populate the media, float belly-up

On barricaded heartless shores

 

 

Between Subsidising Polluters and Thieves

The movement against subsidising the fossil fuel industry continues to grow and is an integral part of the keep it in the ground struggle. However, in places like Nigeria, contentious subsidies are those related to the importation of petroleum products. The debate is yet to fully focus on the cost of production and related malfeasances.

Keep it in the soil

The last mass national mobilisation in Nigeria happened in January 2012 when the pump price of petrol was raised from 65 Naira to 141 Naira per litre. The reasons given by the government then was that the increase in pump price of petroleum products was necessitated by a removal of subsidies.

The mobilisations lasted a full week and literally brought the government to its knees. The debates during and after the protests threw up many questions:

  • Why should Nigeria export crude oil only to import refined products?
  • Why are the refineries not functioning as they should despite heavy investments in their maintenance?
  • What is the value of the subsidies and would government need to subsidise if the products were refined in Nigeria?
  • Is there in fact any subsidy?
  • What volume of products is actually imported into Nigeria?
  • What quantity of petroleum products are consumed in Nigeria?

fuel_queues_2_755475260

Official responses to the questions were varied – depending on which official was speaking. The public believed there was an unbridgeable gap between the amount of money spent on subsidies and the volume of products actually imported. The questions still remain to be answered.

Eventually the pump price of petrol was brought to 97 Naira (then about $0.60) per litre. The price hike was moderated to 87 Naira per litre in January 2015 due to a downward slide in the price of crude oil.

It is obvious that crude oil is cheap because the true cost of crude oil is not being paid. The environment and the people continue to subsidise crude oil extraction, refining, transportation and consumption.

When President Buhari announced the 2016 national budget on 22 December 2015, he told the nation that the pump price of petrol would remain at N87 per litre in the new year. If there is already a negative subsidy due to the the drastically reduced price of crude oil it appears that right now the Nigerian people are the ones doing the subsidising. Put it another way, the people are being taxed for what they are not consuming.

Keeping the pump price of petrol price at N87 per litre and still paying subsidies in a situation when crude oil price hovers around $36 per barrel compared to about $90 at January 2012 and $47 by January 2015 is not easy to explain. To add to the consternation of many, an official of the NNPC recently stated that the pump price of petrol is higher than it ought to be and that there are many inefficiencies in the system.

thumb_DSC_0039_1024

The Group General Manager, of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) told journalists in Abuja on 18 December 2015 that petroleum products were overpriced in Nigeria and that subsidies would not find a space in the 2016 budget. According to him, “Our review of the current PPPRA (Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency) template suggests that there are significant inefficiencies in the current template.”

Earlier in that week the Minister of State for Petroleum spoke of similar inefficiencies but announced that the Nigerian government plans to revert to the old pump price of N97 per litre for petrol in 2016. What are we to believe?

True Cost of Crude

It is obvious that crude oil is cheap because the true cost of crude oil is not being paid. The environment and the people continue to subsidise crude oil extraction, refining, transportation and consumption. This subsidy manifests in extreme pollution as land, sea and air, including as evidenced in the Niger Delta, the Amazonia, the Alberta oil sand fields and the fracking fields of the USA. The environment and the people have absorbed enough beating by the petroleum sector. Lives have been decimated and now the planet is being set on fire.

This mother-of-all-subsidies can only be halted by keeping the fossils in the ground. The challenge is for all humankind. Mother Earth deserves a Sabbath of rest to recover from the abuses that continue to be inflicted on her.

Elimination of subsidy does not necessarily mean an increase of pump price of petroleum products. It indeed essential to eliminate phantom subsidies, save the people from needless taxation, and apply the saved funds to the remediation of the dastardly polluted Niger Delta.

Two Good Days of Inspiring Indignation

CVXuQvhWUAA5Vwo

For two days in the Maison des Metallos, Paris, experts, victims, prosecutors and judges presented or listened to cases of crimes against Mother Earth and at the end judgements were passed. There were solemn spiritual moments, moments of awe at the rapacious destructive capacities of humanity and many moments of tears as these destructions, including murders, were painted in words and pictures.

The International Rights of Nature Tribunal held parallel to the UNFCCC’s Conference of Parties where historical and current climate atrocities or real solutions are loath to be mentioned, not even in square brackets.

The Tribunal derives its authority from the peoples of the world as the children of the Earth. The basic framework comes from the Universal Declaration of Rights of Mother Earth (UDRME) that was adopted at the Peoples’ Summit on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth held in Cochabamba, Bolivia, in April 2010 after the spectacular failure of COP15 in Copenhagen. At the commencement of the sitting of the Tribunal on 4 December 2015, the presiding judge, Cormac Cullinan, led other judges to vote and formally adopt the Convention and Statutes of the tribunal. These guide the running of the Tribunal and underscore the solemn duty of sitting as judges on the cases of infringements against Mothrer Earth.

This was the third session of the Tribunal, having sat first in Quito, Ecuador in January 2014 and then in Lima, Peru in December of the same year. The Tribunal was hosted by the Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature in conjunction with NatureRights, End Ecocide on Earth and Attac France with Natalia Greene heading the secretariat.

As I sat on the panel of judges along with Tome Goldtooth (USA), Alberto Acosta (Ecuador), Osprey Orielle (USA), Terisa Turna (Canada), Felicio Pontes (Brazil), Damien Short (UK), Attosa Soltani (USA), Ruth Nyambura (Kenya), Christophe Bonneuil (France), Philippe Desbrosses (France) and Dominique Bourg (Switzerland) we were repeatedly reminded that all beings on Earth are our relatives and that what we do to anyone of the children of the Earth we do to ourselves. The preamble of the UDRME states that “We are all part of Mother Earth, an indivisible, living community of interrelated and interdependent beings with a common destiny.”

It also came through that the crimes against Mother Earth are often wilfully committed because some people and the transnational corporations see nature as capital and Mother Earth as a dead organism. In a proposed case against cruel treatment of animals we saw shocking video of a wounded bull being butchered alive with hundreds of people gleefully watching.

The prosecutors, Ramiro Avila and Linda Sheehan led the witnesses in bringing out deep systemic alternatives to environmental protection and seeking to show that it must be acknowledged that ecosystems have the right to exist, persist, maintain and regenerate their vital cycles and that these ought to have legal standing in a court of law. The line-up of witnesses helped to ensure that Indigenous Peoples and oppressed communities had the space to share their unique concerns, knowledge and solutions about land, water, air and culture with the global community.

The presentations by experts and victims showed that climate change violates Articles 2 Sub sections a-j of the Universal Declaration of Rights of Mother Earth, especially the right to life and to exist; the right to be respected and “the right to regenerate its bio-capacity and to continue its vital cycles and processes free from human disruptions.”

Witnesses underscored the fact that although climate change is caused mostly by human activities, it is inaccurate to place that blame and the burden for action on all humans. In his presentation, Pablo Solon stressed that 10% of the richest individuals in the world contribute 49 per cent of the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and 90 companies contribute over 60 per cent of all GHG emissions. The top corporate polluters include Chevron, ExxonMobil (USA), Saudi Aramco (Saudi), BP (UK), Gazprom (Russia) and Royal Dutch Shell (Netherlands).

Evidence were adduced to show that the trio of governments/politicians, transnational corporations and the UNFCCC are complicit in the climate crimes as they work together to ensure that real solutions are avoided, binding commitments to cut emission are set aside in preference for voluntary or intended actions. In addition, the tribunal rejected the claims that destructive actions were taken on the basis of the necessity of development or that when emissions began to happen, and grew, the polluters did not know or anticipate the outcomes, are unacceptable.

The case was established that at play is the logic of capital and power and that the major corporations who have caused the problems are the sponsors of the COPs and have hijacked the system.

The fact that the extreme forms of extraction promoted by humans are crimes against Mother Earth came through very forcefully when the case of hydraulic fracturing or fracking was taken. Fracking was presented as a RAPE of the Earth and is one of the worst threats against the planet. Facts adduced in this case include that it sets stage for disaster each frack uses up to 2-8 million gallons of fresh water and that one well may be fracked up to 18 times. The process involves the use of up to 750 chemicals many of which, including benzene and formaldehyde are toxic. Billions of gallons of “frack fluid” and 60 per cent of chemicals used remain or are stored underground while the remainder are stored in open air pits.

“We all need nature to survive and it is fundamental that we protect her. Governments should hear the indigenous people who are in the frontlines of defending nature…My struggle is for you, for all of us and for the future of humanity and for the future of our children.”

The Tribunal received evidence of radioactive wastes, toxic waters being left everywhere fracking takes place: in farms, schools, neighbourhoods as well as offshore. Witnesses and experts also insisted that fracking is guaranteed to pollute ground water. Testimonies of health impacts, deaths, rapes and other social disruptions dropped a pall of grieve over the venue of the meeting.

In the case against the Belo Monte and Tapajas mega dams in Brazil, the Tribunal was informed that 60-70 dams were being planned to be built over the next 20 years. Belo Monte alone will destroy 5000km2 of the forest and related biodiversity. The social impacts were described as ecological and cultural genocide against the indigenous communities.

Speaking forcefully about his lifelong work defending the Amazon forest, Cacique Raoni Kayapo told the Tribunal, “We all need nature to survive and it is fundamental that we protect her. Governments should hear the indigenous people who are in the frontlines of defending nature.” Looking piercingly at the panel of judges and then at the audience he intoned, “My struggle is for you, for all of us and for the future of humanity and for the future of our children.”

Other highlights of the sessions include the presentations that demanded that fossil fuels should be left under the ground in line with the findings of science requiring that this be done if we are to avoid catastrophic temperature rise. Oilwatch International presented the case for the creation of Annex Zero (0) nations, sub-nations and territories that have already taken steps or are in the process of doing so, of keeping fossil fuels under the ground. This was presented as real climate action and points at the pathway to a safe world. Examples were given of sites of such initiatives in all the continents of the world. Another highlight was the case for the recognition of ecocide in international criminal law.

The Tribunal accepted new cases including those that will try crimes against animals, the depletion of marine life, the Rosia Montana Mines in Romania, the extreme damage of the environment of the Niger Delta by the polluting acts of Shell and the crimes tied to the extraction of tar sands in Canada.

These were two days of plain talks and truth. They were days in which the raw injuries inflicted on Mother Earth and her children were laid bare. They were days of pain as well as of joy. Tears flowed freely from all sections of the hall. Indignation did not give birth to paralysis but to a resolve to stand up for Mother Earth.

In spite of the pains, the aches and the cries of Mother Earth that her children displayed, the words of Cases Camp Horinek kept echoing that the days of the Tribunal were indeed good days.

 

—This piece was first published as Two Good Days When Crimes Against Nature were Exposed by New Internationalist

 

 

 

The Secure and the Dispossessed

This is a synopsis of the great book, THE SECURE AND THE DISPOSSESSED, from the TNI staple:

The Secure and dispossessed

What if government and corporate elites have given up on the idea of stopping climate change and prefer to try to manage its consequences?

The Secure and the Dispossessed shows how the military and corporations plan to maintain control in a world reshaped by climate change. With one eye on the scientific evidence and the other on their global assets, dystopian preparations by the powerful are already fuelling militarised security responses to the unfolding climate crisis.

The implications for social and environmental justice are disturbing. Adaptation to a climate-changed world is desperately needed, but it must protect the rights of all, not just provide security to the few. The authors unveil the dangerous new security agenda, and put forward inspiring alternatives that promise a just transition to a climate-changed world.

To order copies visit

Read an additional online copy of a chapter to the book contributed by us here: RESISTANCE TO THE MILITARY-CORPORATE WEDLOCK IN NIGERIA AND BEYOND

COP21 Agreed to A Climate Changed World

 

CWCLaSNUkAEc_av

COP21 has come and gone, and like most others before it, the response has been varied. Some have applauded the Paris Agreement as a giant step for humankind. Some are claiming a big win. Others take a holistic look at the future scenario the agreement presents and are aghast that after two decades of climate negotiations greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise and the Paris Agreement does not indicate any urgency in tackling this fundamental problem even though it does indeed recognise the urgency of the crisis.

The Agreement speaks of a desirability to work towards a temperature increase of 1.5o C while aiming also at a target “well below 2o C.” We wonder how the COP quantifies the difference between 1.5 and “well below” 2 degrees. And which may be greater in this language of diplomats? The Agreement recognises everything that needs to be recognised, including the need for finance and technology transfer, human rights, gender and intergenerational equity, etc., but provides no scope for the operationalising these in a manner that signifies this acknowledgment. Although it is generally agreed that fossils must be kept in the ground if we are to stand a chance of keeping temperature increase below 2 degrees above pre-industrial levels, the COP, perhaps encouraged by its oil company partners, ignored this and locked the planet on the path of peril.

The scaffold on which the entire COP21 hung was the infamous intended nationally determined contributions (INDCs).  While the COP Itself notes that the figures submitted by countries do not on the aggregate point a way to cooling the planet, it nevertheless stayed the cause of this clearly wrong path. The INDCs if implemented will lead to a temperature increase of over 3 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels wiping out communities of people and sparking unpredictable repercussions. The Agreement recognises that INDCs will also be achieved through removals of GHGs – through sinks and offsets, etc. Thus, the path of the INDCs taken by the COP is an irredeemable self-inflicted injury that subverts real efforts to tackle the climate menace.

In sum, COP21 betrayed the poor, the vulnerable and all those already suffering the impacts of climate change. It set the stage for a climate changed world, and did little about averting it.

Applauding the COP for being a success because for the first time all nations have indicated commitment to tackle climate change on the basis of the INDCs indicates a total disregard of the disregard of climate science and equity as epitomised by this pathway.

Head in the Oven, Feet in the refrigerator (or that Sinking Feeling)

We note that the Agreement speaks repeatedly of “sinks and reservoirs of greenhouse gases.” These are wedges to keep the door open for all sorts of carbon offset schemes including REDD and all its variants, yet-to-be-proven carbon capture and storage, geo-engineering and such like. We can thus expect intense externalising of climate action on climate victims as well as carbon colonialism – which may include what is referred to in the Agreement as “internationally transferred mitigation” (Article 6) rather than direct in-country carbon emissions reduction.

At the launching of a publication of the No REDD in Africa Network (NRAN) at the Climate Forum during the COP, Firoze Manji, the pan Africanist, described carbon offsetting as putting your feet in a refrigerator when your head is in the oven and hoping to achieve a median temperature for your body. Very apt indeed.

The agreement ties non-market climate solutions to the enhancement of “public and private sector participation in the implementation of nationally determined contributions.” This hints at the privatisation of carbon or pollution, which arguably is already happening through carbon trading.

Climate finance remains grossly insufficient with targets of $10 billion yearly up to 2025 (COP15 said 2020) when this would shift to $100 billion yearly. That these amounts are insufficient can be seen from the fact that the US spent about $68 billion to handle the aftermath of just one hurricane, Hurricane Sandy. Considering that rich countries spend up to $2 trillion annually in needless wars releases equally underscore that what we see are specious power play and climate apartheid. And, by the way, who accounts for the millions of tonnes of greenhouse gases released in warfare besides destruction of lives and wreaking of havoc on nations and territories, especially those that are fossil resources rich. It is clear that the paucity of the Green Climate Fund is not a lack of funds but a determination by rich countries to avoid historical and current climate debt.

 Transition?

The Agreement makes a passing mention of “just transition” with reference to “workforce” and the creation of decent work. Again we see that the COP is so enamoured with dirty energy or fossil driven energy forms that it could not dare name fossils or a call for just transition towards renewable energy. In fact, “renewable energy” is mentioned only once in the preamble to the Agreement and in the context of developing countries. From where did analysts get the idea that the Agreement has declared the obituary for fossil fuels? In case the COP is serious about ending dependence on fossil fuels and thus taking real climate action, the conference can take a cue from Oilwatch’s proposal for the creation of Annex 0 group of nations, sub-nations and territories that are taking steps, or have taken them already, to keep fossil fuels under the ground.

With 2020 as the pivot year for the voluntary emissions reduction, it is clear that between now and then the remaining atmospheric carbon budget may already have been taken up. Whether that happens or not, delayed actions until 2020 presents the planet and all beings on it a very dire future that many will not survive. That also breeches the right of Mother Earth to exist, her right to maintain her cycles and speaks poorly of our understanding of intergenerational equity.

In sum, COP21 betrayed the poor, the vulnerable and all those already suffering the impacts of climate change. It set the stage for a climate changed world, and did little about averting it.

 

 

 

 

 

Social movements united in defiance of false solutions being negotiated at Paris COP

Social movements united in defiance of false solutions being negotiated at Paris COP

10th December, Paris: Representatives of social movements, grassroots and community groups, and environmental campaigning organisations, between them representing millions of people across the globe, have come together today to denounce the failure of the climate negotiations in Paris. At a press conference at the Le Bourget conference centre this afternoon, they spoke out against the false solutions that look set to be enshrined in the agreement, and called on movements worldwide to continue to build their own, just alternatives to the political and economic systems that have caused the climate crisis.

Pablo Solon, former chief climate negotiator for Bolivia and current Executive Director of the Fundacion Solon, said: “The Paris agreement will force us to choose who of our children will survive, because in a +3C world, not all will be able to live.”

Eberto Diaz, speaking on behalf of La Via Campesina in Colombia said: “False solutions only serve to increase hunger and impoverishment in the countryside and in the cities. Agroecology and food sovereignty contribute to the cooling of the planet. We are in constant struggle to change the system, and not the climate.”

Silvia Ribeiro from the ETC Group in Mexico said: “It’s a perverse paradox that US and Europe, whose governments, energy and agribusiness companies are the main historical culprits of climate change, now present themselves championing a 1.5 degrees goal. That goal is needed, but without false solutions such as carbon markets and geoengineering. The dirty secret is that they speak of “net zero emissions”, not real emissions cuts, and try to justify dangerous oil-industry technologies such as carbon capture and storage (CCS) and bioenergy with CCS (BECCS).”

Shalmali Guttal, speaking on behalf of Focus on the Global South, said: “An illusion of progress is being peddled here in Paris – of rich and poor countries coming together to save the planet from burning. Of course we want progress, of course we support the goal of 1.5 degrees, but we cannot fall into this trap. The so called high ambition proposed by the US-EU is ambition for corporations, not for addressing the root causes of the climate crisis. Many of us from the South are working with grassroots movements and communities to challenge extractive, destructive development and over consumption of the rich in our own societies.”

Nnimmo Bassey, Oilwatch International, said: “By not addressing the need to keep fossil fuels under the ground, the COP continues to adopt the ostrich posture with its head in the sand. It has been co-opted by polluting corporations and is complicit in global warming. This is no time for ‘intended’ voluntary emissions cut, it is time for drastic and binding emissions reduction as well as payment of historical and current climate debt.”

Colin Rajah, International Coordinator of the Global Coalition on Migration said: “More and more of our communities are being displaced by the devastating consequences of the current global economic system and its resulting climate change. And the false solutions and lack of political will by the governments at this COP again offer little hope of relief, but instead raise more fear that these will contribute to even more displacement and a worsening global refugee crisis. Forced migration is NEVER an adaptation strategy.”

Simone Lovera, Executive Director of the Global Forest Coalition, said: “The land use related elements of the current draft of the Paris agreement open the door to a carbon fraud that is so significant that it will make the entire climate regime meaningless. On top of this, they also risk creating major incentives for massive monoculture tree plantations that will wipe out biodiversity, peasant lands, and indigenous peoples territories.”

Maxime Combes, spokesperson for ATTAC France said: “The new draft agreement has dropped any reference to reduction of GHG emissions from international aviation and martime bunker fuels and any requirement for developed contry to provide financial ressources to address barriers created by intellectual property rights (IPRs), showing how economic globalization is a priority on the climate emergency : this is not coming as a surprise since the UN convention on climage change prohitbits states from taking any action that wouldn’t be consistent with international trade rules.”
Cindy Wiesner, National Coordinator of Grassroots Global Justice Alliance, said: “Members of our delegation include a young person from Alaska whose community will be evacuated in the next ten years because of sea level rise. They are mothers and children living alongside fracking wells, coal mines, and oil refineries. We don’t have the luxury of pretending that pollution trading works when we know that it is a hoax. The climate movement as a whole is growing in alignment that our survival requires the kind of leadership and strategies that come from the grassroots.”
The organisations speaking today are part of the Climate Space, [1] a network of groups calling for radical action on climate change, and promoting systemic alternatives to the current climate crisis.

Notes:

[1] http://www.climatespace.net/

Media contact:

Mary Louise Malig, Global Forest Coalition Campaigns Coordinator
+33780734739
marylouisemalig@globalforestcoalition.org

Maxime Combes, ATTAC France
+33624512944
maxime.combes@gmail.com

International Rights of Nature Tribunal Constituted in Paris

PRESS RELEASE – 7 December 2015

International Rights of Nature Tribunal Constituted in Paris

Introduction

In an extraordinary display of global solidarity, vision and determination, communities and organizations from all over the world took the initiative ESPEthis past weekend by formally establishing the International Tribunal for the Rights of Nature.  People flocked to the Maison des Metallos in Paris to listen to more than 65 people from 31 nationalities[1] speaking in 7 languages[2], who participated as judges, Earth Defenders, or witnesses during the two days of Tribunal hearings. More than 300 people attended the hearings on each of the two days and hundreds had to be turned away due to lack of space.

Indigenous peoples from around the world played a leading role throughout the Tribunal as judges, experts and witnesses.  One of the highlights was the signing by the legendary Chief Raoni of the Kayapo people of the Brazilian Amazon, of the People’s Convention that formally established the Tribunal. The judges of the Tribunal reciprocated by signing documents confirming their support for the Alliance of Earth’s Guardians established by Chief Raoni and his delegation.

While governments participating in the COP 21 are locked in tortuous negotiations over the wording of an agreement that will worsen the destruction of Mother Earth, the people of the world demonstrated what genuine global collaboration and solidarity can achieve.  They showed the strong, united leadership that is so lacking at COP 21 by signing the People’s Convention that formally established the Tribunal on 4 December 2015 and opened the way to the creation of Regional Tribunals throughout the world.

The Tribunal bases its judgements primarily on the Universal Declaration for the Rights of Mother Earth and international human rights law, but also recognized ecocide as a crime. The judgements provide clear direction in each case on who is accountable and on what must be done to repair the harm and restore Earth (and communities) to health and well-being.

The panel of Judges

The following distinguished judges constituted the International Rights of Nature Tribunal in Paris: President – Cormac Cullinan (Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature, and author of Wild Law- South Africa); Tom Goldtooth (Indigenous Environmental Network, Turtle Island – USA);
Alberto Acosta (Economist and former president of the Constitutional Assembly – Ecuador);
Osprey Orielle Lake (Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network – USA); Terisa Turner (International Oil Working Group, Friends of the Earth – Canada, professor – Canada and USA);
Felicio Pontes (Federal Prosecutor – Brazil)
Damien Short (Director Human Rights Consortium, University of London – UK);
Attosa Soltani (Amazon Watch founder – USA);
Nnimmo Bassey (Health of Mother Earth Foundation / Oilwatch – Nigeria);
Ruth Nyambura (African Biodiversity Network – Kenya);
Christophe Bonneuil (Historian of Sciences, CNRS, Attac – France);
Philippe Desbrosses (Doctor in Environmental Sciences, Farmer, Intelligence Verte – France); – Honorary Judge on December 4th Dominique Bourg (philosopher and author, University of Lausanne, Switerland).

Listening to Nature

The proposed solutions to climate change being presented at COP 21 are almost all abstract, theoretical, market-driven and motivated by self-interest.  The approach at the hearings of the Tribunal could not have been more different. Its findings were based on the first-hand experiences of witnesses, and drew on both scientific knowledge and the cosmovision/ worldview and wisdom of indigenous and local communities.  The focus was on listening to Nature and was based on the recognition that Nature’s laws cannot be broken – an understanding that appears to be absent from COP 21.

The evidence presented at the Tribunal established beyond any doubt that human rights and the rights of nature are inseparable, and that both are being systematically violated by systems based on arrogant delusions arising from the misconception that humans have the right and ability to dominate and exploit Earth.

The Tribunal opened and closed with deeply moving evocations of Mother Earth by indigenous people. They also presented testimonies that drew the Tribunal’s attention to dimensions ignored in the COP 21 negotiations.  Central to these dimensions was how patriarchal, capitalist and dominating mind-sets and world views deny the sacred, and as a consequence, cause the creative feminine principle of Mother Earth to be attacked, resulting in the disruption of vital balances.

Nature is alive. She has the right to exist, to maintain natural cycles, to flourish and to constantly regenerate life. However, the dominant world political economy in its legal, economic and political systems, treats nature as an object which cannot have rights – as a slave to be used and exploited. Reverence for nature is replaced with utilitarian and perverse views of nature that seek to commodify and commercialize vital natural processes.

Findings of the Tribunal

The Tribunal’s findings are clear, strong and specific with respect to who must be held accountable and why, and in the practical measures that need to be taken to solve the challenges faced by humanity.  The Tribunal recognized that solutions do exist:  communities and indigenous people have been applying these solutions and have been putting their bodies on the line to protect Earth for hundreds of years. At the heart of the way forward is the recognition that we are living in an unequal world and that the solutions need to be equitable.

The evidence presented at the Tribunal established beyond any doubt that human rights and the rights of nature are inseparable, and that both are being systematically violated by systems based on arrogant delusions arising from the misconception that humans have the right and ability to dominate and exploit Earth.  Evidence presented at the Tribunal also showed how indigenous understandings and knowledge complement scientific knowledge.  It also demonstrated the extraordinary creative energies that are released when diverse peoples unite, inspired by a shared love of Earth, to find the solutions that humanity so desperately needs, especially at this moment in time.

Cases the Tribunal heard in Paris

Climate change

Former Bolivian ambassador to the United Nations, Pablo Solón led the presentation of the Climate Change case.  The evidence showed why geo-engineering, nuclear energy, industrial and “climate smart” agriculture, biofuels, and the accelerated exploitation of fossil fuels are false solutions devised for corporate profit that will increase the damage to Earth.  The Tribunal found that the rights of Nature are being systemically violated by climate change, mainly as a consequence of the acts and inaction of governments and international organizations (including the United Nations), within the dominant global political economy with its legal, economic and political regimes that they have established; and the activities of large corporations amongst which the most culpable are a relatively few companies.  The Tribunal closed the case and a written judgement will follow.

Commercialization of nature

The case of the financialization of nature, presented by Ivonne Yanez, was expanded from the previous Tribunals that before dealt only with REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation).  The Tribunal took note of the evidence that there are emerging many more instances of the commodification and commercialization of Nature. These instances include biodiversity offsets, carbon offsets, (so-called) clean development mechanisms, and (so-called) smart agriculture. The Tribunal decided to keep open the case of the financialization of Nature so that more evidence can be collected and presented – particularly with regard to the identity of the perpetrators.

Genetically modified organisms

Dr. Vandana Shiva led the presentation of this case that deals with genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and the agro-food industry.  The Tribunal heard expert evidence from Ronnie Cummins, Marie Monique Robin, Andre Leu and José Bové; all of whom exposed the damage that GMOs and associated pesticides are doing to consumers, to animals and to soil. The Tribunal decided to keep the case open in order to hear additional evidence especially through regional Tribunals including in Asia.

Defenders of Mother Earth

Two cases of Defenders of Mother Earth were heard in the Tribunal: (1) the criminalization of Defenders in Ecuador and (2) the persecution of Defenders who protest against the pollution in Houston, Texas arising from fossil fuels and chemical contamination. The judges ratified the principle that the Tribunal would defend the Defenders of Mother Earth and hear further cases where necessary.  It condemned the Government of Ecuador’s criminalization of Defenders of Mother Earth in that country, and demanded the restitution of human rights, liberty and the re-opening of closed institutions in Ecuador. The Tribunal closed the Ecuador case but kept the Texas case open in order to gather new evidence.

Fracking

The Tribunal had already conducted hearings about global fracking at its previous sessions in Quito and Lima. The Tribunal heard evidence from witnesses about the damage that fracking is causing in Argentina. Witnesses testified about how in the USA fracking is “breaking the bones of Mother Earth”, causing earthquakes and imposing widespread suffering on the people who inhabit lands that are being sacrificed to unconventional oil extraction. The Tribunal confirmed that fracking results in a range of serious violations of the rights of Nature.  After hearing the new evidence presented in Paris, the judges decide to close this case but recognized that fracking is an ongoing threat that should continue to be examined by regional tribunals.

Mega dams in Brazil

Gert Peter Bruch and Christian Poirier presented the case of mega dams in Brazil, with the powerful testimonies of Antonia Melo, María Lucia Munduruku and Chief Raoni.   The Tribunal condemned the building of Belo Monte and Tapajos mega dams and the planned construction of many more, which will cause horrific destruction of the Amazon and its inhabitants.  It decided to leave the case open to hear additional evidence in a regional Tribunal in Brazil.

New cases accepted for hearing at subsequent sittings of the Tribunal

A number of new cases were presented as probable violations of the Rights of Nature, thus justifying them being heard by the Tribunal in the future.  The Tribunal accepted them all for further consideration and gave directions about how the cases should be developed.

The Corralejas case concerns the cruel killing of animals for ‘entertainment’, notably bulls in Colombia.  The Tribunal found that there was clear evidence of torture and cruelty to animals in violation of the Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth and asked that the case be widened to include other violations of animal rights for initial consideration by a regional Tribunal. The case of the community of Rosia Montana in Romania which has been threatened by proposed gold mining by a Canadian corporation was accepted with the direction that it be widened to consider other instances of destructive mining practices. The depletion of marine life was accepted with the request that more specific information be presented about the identity of the main perpetrators.  The Shell case in Nigeria was accepted and the violence in the area was condemned with the recommendation that consideration be given to establishing a regional tribunal to conduct hearings. Finally, the case of the tar sands in Canada was accepted and the Tribunal observed that there was evidence that this may be one of the most dangerous instances of ecocide on the planet.

Ecocide cases

The Tribunal also re-considered two cases that it had previously heard. The objective of the reconsideration was to determine whether in addition to being violations of the Declaration, there was also evidence that the two cases were instances of the international crime of ecocide. (Severe violations of the Rights of Nature may also qualify as ecocides, because they constitute crimes against humans and the planet.) The Tribunal re-examined the Yasuní case (which involves proposed oil exploitation in a national park in the Ecuadorian Amazon) and Chevron case (which involves responsibility for rectifying huge damage to the Amazon caused by Texaco/ Chevron) from the perspective of ecocide. The Tribunal found that the Chevron case was one of the worst instances of ecocide perpetrated on the Amazon and that restorative justice should be applied.  In preparing the written judgment, consideration would be given to whether or not Chevron itself should be liquidated and its assets used to restore the damage. The Tribunal noted that individuals, such as the directors of Chevron and corrupt government officials, could also be criminally liable in their personal capacity for ecocides.

Regarding Yasuní, the Tribunal decided that it would be appropriate to issue a directive prohibiting future exploitation of the Yasuni oil as a measure to prevent ecocide.

General findings and comments

The Rights of Nature Tribunal recommend that the Rome Statute be amended to enable perpetrators of the crime of ecocide to be prosecuted before the International Criminal Court (ICC),

The Tribunal strongly supported keeping fossil fuels in the ground (keep the oil in the soil, the coal in the hole, the gas under the grass and the tar sands in the land) as an essential approach to prevent further harm to Nature.

In regards to Ecuadorian President Correa’s call for the establishment of an Environmental Justice Tribunal, this Tribunal made the point that the peoples of the world had already done so by establishing the existing Tribunal on the Rights of Nature. It called on governments to provide support for Peoples’ Tribunals. It called on President Correa to publically support and help implement the judgements of the Tribunal concerning cases in Ecuador (Yasuni, Chevron and the criminalization of defenders of Mother Earth).

The Tribunal commended the pursuit of the Rights of Nature cases that have been won in Ecuador and the use of local ordinances and other documents that recognize the rights of nature in the USA, as effective means of stopping destruction such as fracking, and recommended that these approaches be considered elsewhere in the world.

The Tribunal noted that the only mention in the official COP21 texts of the integrity of ecosystems and Mother Earth and indigenous peoples (paragraph 10) was in danger of being eliminated.  The Tribunal strongly condemned COP21’s shocking failure to address the real drivers of climate change. It highlighted the fact that the magnificent testimonies presented to the Tribunal proved beyond doubt that the rights of Mother Earth are being systematically violated.

The Tribunal condemned the violence produced by terrorism and exacerbated by climate change.  We need to make peace with Mother Earth to achieve peace among peoples.

Next steps

Judgments will be written and published for all closed cases, as was done and presented in Paris for the Great Barrier Reef and the Yasuní Case. The Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature will be a hub for accepting the submission of new cases and for providing guidelines, documents, assistance and intellectual support and training in order to expand the initiative to recognize the Rights of Nature worldwide.

The Tribunal calls on all communities and organizations that share its vision:

  • to become parties to the Peoples’ Convention on establishing the International Rights of Nature Tribunal;
  • to establish more regional tribunals under the umbrella of the International Tribunal; and
  • to take creative action to support the implementation of its judgements.

 

[1] Algeria; Argentina; Bangladesh, Belorussia, Bolivia; Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Costa Rica, France, Ecuador, Germany, Guatemala, India, Kenya, Mexico, Nigeria, Paraguay, Philippines, Romania, Slovakia South Africa, Spain, Switzerland, Tunisia, Uganda, United Kingdom, USA, Austria, Venezuela.

[2] French, Spanish, English, Portuguese, Kichwa, Sapara, Rikbakstsá.

Recognising Climate Crooks

 

The COP is an interesting space where climate criminals prowl about in well cut suits dripping with blood. Of course the COP means two key things: Conference of Polluters and more importantly, Conference of Procrastinators. A really toxic combination. When they tell you that CCS means carbon capture and storage do not believe them. Any location stipulated for such activities are actually Climate Crime Scenes. Just like every mine pit or oil well are.

CVUxU8JWsAQOViL

Polluters and their lobbyists hold the keys that insert brackets and other spanners in the works to ensure that real climate actions do not take place. While the toxic output of these polluters pile up profits in bank vaults and stock exchanges, they do all they can to to hide the piles of bodies of children, men and women incapacitated or murdered by their poisons.

Today we are gathered to present badges of dishonour to the leading corporations who have stayed the path of resource corruption and have done the most to earn the recognition for setting the planet on the road to incineration.

The year 2015 is significant in the history of climate inaction. It marks a moment that may be lost if all that world leaders can do is to draw up a chart of intentions and make no commitments to radically cut emissions. The procrastinators are already sliding down the road that would see their intentions coming into force by 2030. By 2030? Really? A full 25 years down the road. The same number of years required to clean up the waters of Ogoniland, Niger Delta, of Shell’s toxic oil spills and other wastes.

And do not forget that a climate cabal had also said that fossil fuels will be phased out by the end of the century. By that time all these decision makers would have turned into fossils, but unfortunately not sufficiently so to provide fuel! So, with these post-dated actions, the future is toasted, fried, scrambled and roasted. All for the sake of corporate profits. All at the expense of the planet and of peoples. There is a climate mafia on the prowl!

Today we are gathered to present badges of dishonour to the leading corporations who have stayed the path of resource corruption and have done the most to earn the recognition for setting the planet on the road to incineration.

We urge these corporations to be proud of their achievement, because they have very clearly gone beyond the limits of what would be humanly and morally conceivable. These are awards for reprehensible environmental, ecological, economic and social activities. These awards are given to highlight obnoxious corporations freely voted by citizens of the world in recognition of their social bankruptcy.

angelic.jpg-large

Climate Angels took the climate crooks to the clouds!

The COP provides the best backdrop for these Pinocchio Awards, because you cannot imagine any other space where billions of dollars have been sunk or a space where leaders of nations, that annually collectively spend over a trillion of dollars on military adventures, gather for backslappings and and yet dither when it comes to raising token money to throw a life line to sinking Small Island States and other vulnerable nations and territories that are victims of climate change.

We urge all winners to wear their badges of dishonour with pride and quickly strut into the raised fists of abused peoples who will no longer stand aside and see their future bastardised. Today we roll out the drums in register knocks on these Kings of Infamy, these liars extraordinaire.

–Talking points used at the 2015 Pinocchio Awards held at  La Flèche D’or, Paris on 03.12.2015 #COP21

 

Sharing Gives Meaning to Creation

Knowledge generation is one thing, sharing it is another. It does not matter how much knowledge is generated and how brilliant they may be, if no one shares such knowledge it may not make any difference if they were never generated.

Health of Mother Earth’s quarterly journal is a great space for knowledge creation and sharing. The coverage is not only broad, the depth is often profound. Take issue number 09 of September 2015, for example.  It lines up two provocative articles on the Conference of Parties (COP21) on climate change by Mary Louise Malig of the Global Forest Coalition and John Foran. It also brings the remarkable story of the little known of struggle against fracking in In Salah, Algeria written by Holcin Maiti. Then there is the interview with Firoze Manji that tackles the concept of degrowth from a Southern perspective.

The coverage is not only broad, the depth is often profound.CVO8GIcW4AEc6XT

Photo: Natalia Greene and Shannon Biggs see something of interest in Eco-Instigator 09

The cover focus, Martyrs of Extractivism parades key reports of Ken Saro-Wiwa as well as the hearth rending article by Esther Kioble on her husband, Barinem Kiobel who was murdered alongside Ken Saro-Wiwa and other seven Ogoni leaders on 10 November 1995.

From the global to the local, everything is interconnected. This came to the fore with the reports and articles on Vandana Shiva’s campaign visit to Nigeria in July 2015. During the tour Shiva spoke on the theme Soil, Not Oil at the second Right Livelihood Lecture at the University of port Harcourt as well as at community gatherings in Ogoni and Egiland in the Niger Delta.

Grab a copy of Eco-instigator at http://www.home.org and let us know if you agree that knowledge is of little value if it is not shared.