RAVEN Trust: Beaver Lake Cree Nation Pushes ahead in David and Goliath Struggle to Stop the Tar Sands

Originally published by RAVEN Trust on 6 January 2020, by Maia Wikler, link here

This past winter marked a victorious ruling for the Beaver Lake Cree. In a rare decision, the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench granted advance costs to Beaver Lake Cree Nation to allow it to proceed with its “Tar Sands Trial” treaty action against Canada and Alberta. It’s a huge breakthrough for a case that’s been called ‘a gamechanger’ for Indigenous rights in Canada. The decision is part of an ongoing and enduring effort for justice by this northern Alberta Indigenous Nation: BLCN are before the courts with a landmark case that claims that their treaty rights are being violated by from the cumulative impacts of the tar sands. 

Now, after a decade of fundraising and pulling funds from critical community development initiatives, Beaver Lake Cree (BLCN) will have the majority of the resources they need to mount a vigorous, well-researched case. 

This is a triumph for community, grassroots organizing, and a story of the ways in which long lasting relations can build trust, and power, in a movement to protect our common future.

Read an interview with Susan Smitten, RAVEN’s executive director, on the importance of the relationship between Beaver Lake Cree Nation and RAVEN. 

What was the catalyst moment for RAVEN officially taking on the role to support Indigenous Nations’ access to the courts for justice? 

RAVEN had its genesis as an organization around the Tar Sands Trial, and has been “all-in” with Beaver Lake Cree since the very first day we opened our doors on April 1, 2009.  The Nation filed its statement of claim in the spring of 2008.  Not long after, the Cooperative Bank in Manchester, England contacted BLCN leadership with big news. The bank’s social responsibility team had determined tar sands to be the biggest global contributor to climate change; they were offering  funds from their members to contribute toward the costs of the Tar Sands Trial. The BLCN’s legal team reckoned that if there was one organization willing to help support BLCN’s action, there were probably others. This is how RAVEN — Respecting Aboriginal Values and Environmental Needs — became an active charity. 

Creating change through the legal system takes time; can you explain how this has played out?

This gets to the heart of RAVEN’s legal theory of change. It is important to understand that the courts work systematically; the process of recognizing rights through the justice system  takes time. In addition, many Nations often experience a Crown strategy to delay, deny and ultimately outspend Indigenous claimants — a tactic designed, effectively, to make the “problem” go away. 

The trajectory of Beaver Lake Cree’s legal action has been, by turns, fascinating and frustrating.  Initially, Canada and Alberta, instead of filing a statement of defence, filed a motion to strike. Their strategy  was essentially to tell the courts that the legal action was “frivolous”, and “an abuse of court process”. Canada even suggested that ‘no judge could ever make a decision on something so complicated.’  It cost BLCN hundreds of thousands of dollars to defend the validity of their case in court. Canada and Alberta lost: they appealed, and lost again. The appeal also cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, even with lawyers working half rate and pro bono.   

But in the end, thanks in large part to a whole community of supporters around the world, the ‘delay and outspend’ tactics of government failed to deter the Beaver Lake Cree. Now, their precedent-setting legal challenge will go to trial: this historic case stands to forever change  the ‘business as usual’ approach to handing out permits for devastating industrial developments on Indigenous lands.  

At RAVEN, we are in it for the long run.  To make sure the Nation can fend off all costly motions and tactics so that it is able to fully participate in the process through to the end. The importance of that staying power — and of bringing a precedent-setting case all the way to the Supreme Court — cannot be overstated: when you get a judgement from the highest court in Canada, you have achieved something tangible and measurable, that stands as a touchstone for other Nations and, crucially, affects permanent change. 

The Tar Sands Trial has come a long way from being labelled “An abuse of the court’s process”: advance cost awards are only given to cases that are ruled to be “of national importance.” BLCN was awarded advance costs in October 2019. Thus vindicated, all eyes will be on the BLCN as they dig deep and articulate their case that their rights to hunt, fish and practice their culture is being made effectively meaningless due to the cumulative negative impacts of industrial activity on their territory.

support tar sands trial

Together with BLCN, RAVEN is playing a long game. It’s tricky to keep people’s attention in a world of limited bandwidth and just 140 characters through which to digest complicated stories that evolve over many years. Our job is to make sure people understand how their own actions, taken today, can become part of securing a future we all want, long-term. Part of RAVEN’s work is to keep people connected to the issue by telling the amazing stories of community leaders and visionaries who are leading this struggle for justice. 

Why do you think people who do not live near the tar sands should still care about standing behind Beaver Lake Cree’s Tar Sands trial?

To quote BLCN’s Crystal Lameman, “If you breathe air and drink water, this issue is about you. It doesn’t matter where you live, climate change knows no boundaries.” It is not a case of borders: the expansion of the tar sands has an impact on us all. 

You have visited Beaver Lake Cree Nation and the tar sands several times. Can you describe what that experience was like?

The tar sands is a massive area, 2.5 times the size of Nova Scotia. Everyone knows the images of the toxic tailings ponds, but the hundreds of kilometers of pipelines and seismic lines through forests resulting from in situ tar sands mining has fragmented the territory and devastated ecosystem integrity and animal habitats.  I didn’t understand the impact of in situ mining on the woodland caribou, for example. The habitat change through logging and the creation of oil and gas well sites, together with linear above-ground pipelines, provides access corridors for wolves to travel into previously inaccessible caribou habitat. The predators travel along the cut lines, and prey on the caribou, hunting them to the verge of extinction.

I remember Ron Lameman, a RAVEN board member, telling us with sadness how he used to canoe with his grandparents carrying  just an aluminum cup to dip in the water and drink as needed. Those days are long gone: now the waters are toxic, poisoned from leaking bitumen. It’s shocking to see the size of the oil company’s well sites. Even though some companies are now pulling out, the well pads, pipelines, roads, seismic lines, and in situ plants remain, taking up formerly pristine wilderness, old growth boreal forest, and peatlands. This is where members of BLCN used to go to pick medicine or to hunt. But not any longer. That’s the promise that was made in the Treaty they signed with Canada – treaties guaranteed Indigenous Peoples the right to hunt, fish, gather medicines in perpetuity.  It’s not much of a promise if you have to drive 100 kilometres to find a moose, or if the fish are inedible because they’re poisoned. And that’s what the Tar Sands Trial is all about really – if you have a mega-project destroying what BLCN treaty signatories depend on for their very identity and existence, you’ve got a serious constitutional problem on your hands.  The Constitution is the highest law in Canada and simply cannot be ignored. 

Mostly, I am always inspired by the Beaver Lake Cree community. Taking on this legal challenge is a brave, gutsy, and inspiring move.  Chief Germaine Anderson, BLCN council and the band’s members aren’t just pushing back on Alberta and Canada (as if that’s not massive enough!) but are also taking on some of the world’s largest oil companies — including Exxon Mobil, Shell and BP. 

What do you think the Beaver Lake Cree Case can accomplish?

This case will transform ‘business as usual’ — it will seriously curtail the governments’ tendency to hand out permits to oil industries and giving them a carte blanche in the tar sands. If the Nation can prove that its Constitutionally-enshrined treaty rights have been infringed by the tar sands industries, then the projects will have to stop: because they would be deemed unconstitutional. The legal precedent set by the Tar Sands Trial could be the first time a court draws the line and defines just how much is too much industrial development in the face of constitutionally protected treaty rights. In addition to the preservation of Indigenous rights and land, the result could also help in dealing with the climate emergency. It could curtail the expansion of fossil fuel extractive industry, and hopefully create enough of an impediment to Big Oil that industrial decision-making will shift away from fossil fuels and toward more sustainable options that provide for the health of animals, communities and ecosystems.  

The Tar Sands Trial is a classic David and Goliath struggle, but having come this far, against incredible odds, I feel overwhelmingly positive about the direction of this legal action.  With the Advance Cost award, which put two-thirds of the cost burden on Canada and Alberta, BLCN will still need to raise roughly $300K per year and RAVEN will be with them every step of the way.

CALL to action:

Do you wish to help the Beaver Lake Cree in their legal endeavors? Your support will be definitely appreciated.

The Crowd vs. Tarsands Mining in Canada

Beaver Lake Cree Nation is challenging the governments of Canada and Alberta for breaking their treaty promises by allowing 19,000 permits for mineral developments (mostly tar sands mining) on their territory. For more information, check here.

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The Guardian: Dutch Supreme Court Upholds Landmark Ruling Demanding #ClimateAction

Photo above courtesy of Greenpeace Netherlands; taken at the #Protestival held on 14-15 December 2019 at Schiphol International Airport

Article originally published here by Isabella Kaminski in The Guardian, 20 December 2019 at 8.08 EST

The Supreme Court of The Netherlands has upheld a ruling ordering the country’s government to do much more to cut carbon emissions, after a six-year fight for climate justice.

Climate protesters at Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport last weekend. Photograph: Piroschka van de Wouw/Reuters

The court ruled that the Dutch government had explicit duties to protect its citizens’ human rights in the face of climate change and must reduce emissions by at least 25% compared with 1990 levels by the end of 2020.

The non-profit Urgenda Foundation, which brought the case, welcomed the “groundbreaking” judgment. The original judgment in 2015 was seen as a landmark in the then nascent field of climate litigation, and inspired similar cases across the world, from Pakistan to New Zealand.

David Boyd, the UN special rapporteur on human rights and the environment, said it was:

“the most important climate change court decision in the world so far, confirming that human rights are jeopardised by the climate emergency and that wealthy nations are legally obligated to achieve rapid and substantial emission reductions.”

The Dutch government had previously said it would comply with the substance of the ruling, but it repeatedly appealed over the legal basis for the decision. The latest national statistics show the Netherlands is very unlikely to meet the 2020 emissions target. 

The Netherlands passed its first piece of national climate legislation in 2018, it has published a more ambitious carbon plan for 2030, and it is closing its first coal plant next year.

According to the Supreme Court, individual nations have direct obligations under Articles 2 and 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, covering the right to life and the right to private and family life.

Dennis van Berkel, a member of the legal counsel for Urgenda, said:

“The enormous importance of this case is not just that the Netherlands is obliged to act but that these principles are universal. No court outside the Netherlands is bound by this decision but the influence that this court has and the inspiration that it will give to others are really big.”

Denis van Berkel, litigation attorney for Urgenda

Van Berkel said that if the government did not comply with the ruling, Urgenda could start separate legal proceedings against it.

The Dutch climate minister, Eric Wiebes, said the government had “taken note” of decision and would issue a full response in January. He said the Netherlands had announced an “ambitious” set of measures this year to implement the judgment, although campaigners think it could go much further.

As well as inspiring cases against other national governments, Urgenda’s success has encouraged campaigners to take up legal arms against corporations. In April a group of social and environmental justice groups led by Friends of the Earth Netherlands began the process of suing the oil firm Shell, arguing that its business model threatens international climate goals and endangers human rights.

In a formal reply in November, Shell has denied it was liable. A month earlier the company’s CEO said it had “no choice” but to invest in oil and claimed it was “entirely legitimate” to do so.

“The Supreme Court’s decision has set an important precedent for the Shell case because they used similar legal arguments. It is a huge decision for all current climate litigation cases.”

Nine de Pater, a climate and energy campaigner at Friends of the Earth Netherlands

Link to Friends of the Earth Netherlands, to join their petition against Shell Oil Company.

Link to the English version of Urgenda to learn more about their legal initiative.

Two Perspectives on the EIB Investment Report 2019/2020

Short list of findings:

  • Economic climate in the EU is worsening and investment by EU firms is likely to slow down in 2020
  • EU climate mitigation investment stagnating and behind US and China
  • Europe needs to accelerate adoption of digital technologies to stay competitive

European firms are becoming increasingly pessimistic about the economic outlook according to the new EIB Investment Report 2019/2020. The report also finds that investment in climate change mitigation is lower than that of major economies like the US and China. Infrastructure investment is stuck at 1.6% of EU GDP, the lowest in 15 years and Europe is failing to reap the benefits of digital transformation.

Original article entitled EIB Investment Report 2019: Uncertainty Weighing on EU Firm Investment; Published by EIB here on 26 November 2019

The report, which reflects the results of the annual EIB Investment Survey (EIBIS) of 12,500 European businesses, recommends that the EU take advantage of historically low interest rates, increase public investment, catalyse private investment and promote efficient financial intermediation to tackle the slowdown.

“Europe cannot afford to wait out another cyclical downturn. After a lost decade of weak investment, we need to tackle the slowdown now if we are to respond to the historic challenges we are facing. The EIB, as the EU’s financial arm and climate bank, has played a crucial role in kick-starting investment in Europe after the financial crisis and we now stand ready to further support investment for a more sustainable and competitive European economy.”

Commenting on the report’s findings, EIB Vice-President Andrew McDowell 

Read the executive summary

Read the country-level analyses

The report was presented at the EIB’s Annual Economic Conference, which is jointly organised with the OECD, Columbia University and SUERF, in Luxembourg. The conference brought together high-level speakers such Sir Nicholas Stern and Mariana Mazzucato and chief economists of the European Central Bank, European Stability Mechanism, OECD, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the World Trade Organisation.

“We have to accelerate investment to fully exploit the benefits of the digital revolution, realise our climate goals and rebuild Europe’s social cohesion. There is a long list of investments that require public intervention or a private sector that finds the right conditions to overcome uncertainty: firms’ digitalisation, innovation and business dynamism as well as smart delivery of infrastructure and public services, green innovation and energy efficiency, and e-government, e-learning and e-training.”  

According to Deborah Revoltella, Director of the EIB’s Economic Department, while presenting the report. [ . . . ]

EU climate investment not on track

The EIB Investment Report shows that, although substantial progress has been made, climate action investment in the EU is not yet on track. To achieve a net zero-carbon economy by 2050, the EU must raise total investment in its energy system and related infrastructure from 2% to 3% of GDP on average.

The European Union invested EUR 158 billion in climate change mitigation in 2018. At 1.2% of GDP, this is now marginally less than the United States (1.3%) and little over a third of China’s performance (3.3% of GDP).

While the United States leads in climate-related R&D spending, China has recently quadrupled its spending, overtaking the EU.

Europe’s weak performance in climate-related R&D is a threat to its competitiveness, given the importance that still-immature technologies will have in the transition.

To continue reading the original article, link here.

Another Perspective from ClientEarth foundation to the EIB 2019/2020 Report

Response to this report per the official News release from ClientEarth.org of 13 November 2019, entitled Major Step Forward: European Investment Bank to Stop Funding Fossil Fuel Projects, original publication here

ClientEarth welcomes the European Investment Bank’s landmark lending policy and the Board’s decision to exclude gas finance from it.

“The EIB has set the standard for banks worldwide with this move – and clearly signalled that oil, gas and  coal lending is inconsistent with the Paris Agreement goals. This is a major step in the flight of capital from fossil fuels. While we are disappointed to have seen such strong initial pushback from countries like Germany, which claims high standards on climate, the passing of this policy shows a change of gear for clean investment.”

ClientEarth lawyer Peter Barnett

Although the policy will kick in at the end of 2021, a year later than previously proposed, ClientEarth lawyers have warned that any decision to fund new gas or other fossil fuel projects before then would not be in line with the Paris Agreement and will risk legal challenge.

For further reading the original article by ClientEarth.org: link here.

Centre for Environmental Rights: South Africa Constitutional Court Rules against Coal Mining in Mpumalanga Protected Area

Originally published here on 18 NOVEMBER 2019 AT 9:52 AM

The Constitutional Court has had the final say on the approvals for a coal mine inside an Mpumalanga Protected Area and Strategic Water Source Area. Earlier this month, the Constitutional Court refused the mining company’s final challenge of a 2018 High Court decision to set aside Ministerial approvals for the proposal coal mine.

The Mabola Protected Environment near Wakkerstroom, is part of more than 70 000 hectares of grasslands in Mpumalanga, that was declared protected under the Protected Areas Act by the Mpumalanga provincial government in 2014. This followed years of investment, including extensive research and planning by a number of government agencies, including the then Department of Environmental Affairs, the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) and the Mpumalanga Tourism & Parks Agency.

South Africa has 22 Strategic Water Source Areas (SWSAs) which comprise 10% of the land area that produces 50% of the country’s fresh water. They supply water to South Africa’s largest urban centres, agricultural areas and support downstream economies and ecosystems. The Enkangala-Drakensberg Strategic Water Source Area specifically supports the economic hub of Gauteng as well as various towns and agricultural regions in Mpumalanga, KwaZulu-Natal and the Free State.

Atha-Africa Ventures (Pty) Ltd (Atha) was granted a mining right for coal after this area had been identified as a SWSA and after the Mabola Protected Environment (Mabola) was declared. Alarmingly, after the mining right was granted, the various government departments responsible for the environment and our water resources issued the other authorisations Atha requires for its proposed mine.

This is why a civil society coalition went to court to defend the area from proposed new coal mining.  

Credit Mabola3

In November 2018, the Pretoria High Court set aside the 2016 decisions of the then Ministers of Mineral Resources and Environmental Affairs, Mosebenzi Zwane and Edna Molewa, to permit this new coal mine to be developed inside Mabola, with a punitive costs order against the Ministers and the MEC for Environment in Mpumalanga.

Mining company Atha attempted four times to challenge that judgment. The Constitutional Court was the mining company’s last hope. The civil society coalition defending Mabola was obliged to oppose all of those challenges and is delighted that the 2018 judgment remains intact. The Constitutional Court also awarded costs against the company.

“This is a significant victory. Our courts continue to recognise the importance of the protection of the environment, and our strategic water resources, especially at a time when we are already suffering the impacts of climate change. Decisions to authorise coal mines should be critically scrutinised and questioned.”

Elton Thobejane, Chairperson of Coalition member the Mining and Environmental Justice Communities Network of South Africa (MEJCON-SA).

For further reading, link to original article here; more importantly, check this article by GroundUp for an in-depth understanding of why these civil societies must remain incredibly vigilant. South African Ministers change their minds frequently and will refile (in this case: 3 months apart!) to re-open a protected area again for mining permits.

Why cannot good laws punishing erratic filings be enacted against a government official in their work capacity? #stopgovcorruption

Pretoria High Court judgment of November 2018. More information about the importance of legal protection for Strategic Water Source Areas. More information about the civil society campaign to defend the Mabola Protected Environment

DW: Uganda detains 16 LGBT+ activists under anti-gay law

Originally published 24 October 2019, here, by Deutsche Welle (dw.com); Picture credit: Copyright Reuters; photograph by J. Rinaldi

The men were subject to forced anal examinations by police and detained on suspicion of engaging in homosexual acts. Gay sex is punishable by life in prison in Uganda and there are plans to introduce the death penalty.

A group of 16 LGBT+ activists have been arrested and subject to forced anal examinations by police in Uganda, according to a rights group on Thursday.

Copyright Picture-Alliance/AP; photographed by R. Vassie

Police confirmed the arrests, saying the men were detained after a “complaint from the public.” Gay acts and anal sex are illegal in Uganda and can be punishable with life imprisonment.

“Based on the medical examination report, it was established that the suspects were involved in sexual acts punishable under the penal code.”

Police spokesman Patrick Onyango told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

The authorities also found lubricants, condoms, and anti-viral drugs while searching a charity located outside the capital, Kampala.

Sexual minorities face daily violence and discrimination in the African country of Uganda. Earlier this month, activists reported that a gay rights campaigner was bludgeoned to death. The latest arrests mark an escalation by the authorities, said Frank Mugisha of the Sexual Minorities Uganda.

“Normally we will hear of maybe one arrest of someone from the community under these anti-gay laws in one month, but it is really unusual to see 16 people charged like this.”

Frank Mugisha of the Sexual Minorities Uganda told the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of the Reuters news agency.

Less than two weeks ago, Ugandan lawmakers re-introduced an anti-gay bill that would make the laws even more strict and criminalize the “promotion and recruitment” of homosexuality.

The legal draft has been dubbed “Kill the Gays” bill, as it could allow the death penalty for sexual offenses.

dj/stb (AP, Reuters)

Ecocide – Impending Mirador Mine Dam Collapse

Originally published 31 October 2019, YouTube channel of Ecocide – vs – Harmony with Nature

David Dene talks to PhD students and lawyers about an impending Ecocide in Ecuador.

He outlines the terrible catastrophe which will occur on the inevitable collapse of the Mirador Mine tailings facilities if these dams are built. One tailings dam, the Tundayme dam, will be the highest tailings dam in the world when built — at 273 meters high.

There are several legal issues present, and all are based on the #RightsofNature. The question offered to the Constitutional Court of Ecuador questions the right of the government to build such a dangerous dam at the very unsafe angle of 1.5 to 1, in a region rife with earthquakes.

Present angle of the Tundayme tailings dam

And to build it in the middle of the Amazone, with villages as close as one kilometer downstream. The highlighted red line shows the path of destruction leading into the Amazonian rainforest and jungle areas, including four rivers and irreplaceable flora and fauna.

David Dene speaks on the issue of tailings dams

China’s Deep-Sea Mining, a View from the Top

Originally published by China Dialogue Ocean, 18 October 2019, link here; authored by Wang Yan

Insights into progress and future plans from Liu Feng, secretary general of the China Ocean Mineral Resources Research and Development Association (COMRA)

Opening an app on his mobile phone, Liu Feng, secretary general of COMRA, showed a real-time map indicating the tracks and positions of all China-owned vessels conducting seabed mining exploration assignments. At that moment, two vessels were shown in the Pacific Ocean.

“They are Haiyang No. 6 and Xiangyanghong No. 10,” Liu told me in his office in Beijing. “Another vessel, Dayang No.1, will leave Qingdao for the eastern Pacific on August 28 to conduct the 56th voyage under COMRA’s seabed resource exploration assignment.”

Liu Feng

To enhance the development of high technology for deep-seabed mining and help apply for permission to explore the deep seabed to the International Seabed Authority (ISA), the state enterprise COMRA was established in 1990. It authorises prospecting and mining on the seabed in international waters, which is known as “the Area”. The following year, COMRA, along with six other pioneer investors which included the governments of India and South Korea and the Deep Ocean Resources Development Co. Ltd from Japan, was registered to start preparatory research on seabed mining in the Area at the Preparatory Commission of the ISA and the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS).

In 2001, COMRA signed its first exploration contract with the ISA for polymetallic nodules and gained the exclusive right for exploration and preferential right for exploitation in the contract area in the Clarion-Clipperton Fracture Zone in the northeast Pacific, a deep ocean area as big as the continental US. Then in 2011 and 2014 COMRA signed two more exploration contracts for polymetallic sulphides and cobalt-rich ferromanganese crusts with the ISA.

Apart from being the key Chinese contractor to the ISA on seabed mining exploration, COMRA also acts as a body to provide a national institutional platform to coordinate both scientific activities and international affairs.

I interviewed Liu Feng in mid-August on issues relating to China’s technological breakthroughs on deep-sea exploration over the past two decades and its plans for future exploration.

Interview continued in full here.

Concluding paragraph:

NC: What are the plans for next phase of research, exploration and international cooperation?

LF: Since our first scientific expedition, we’ve conducted 55 voyages. Now there are five or six voyages every year in the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian oceans, and the 56th trip is setting off soon.

During the recent ISA meeting [in Kingston, Jamaica], the proposal by the Chinese Ministry of Natural Resources to join with the ISA on establishing a training centre based in Qingdao to promote developing countries’ capacity building was approved by the ISA assembly. So starting next year, we will try to provide a minimum of 20 free training opportunities for developing countries.

For exploitation, we are planning to trial our mining system of 1,000 metres below the surface next year or so in the South China Sea to prepare for the setting up of an environmental impact evaluation system for seabed-mining activities. We aim to set up our own environmentally friendly seabed mining system, also providing a reference for the ISA’s decision-making on related issues. For exploration, our vessel the Jiaolong is scheduled for an over 250-day global voyage through the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian oceans for the purpose of encouraging international cooperation.

The interview was originally published by NewsChina and is republished in the China Dialogue Ocean article with permission.

Four in Five EU Coal Plants Unprofitable — Carbon Tracker Initiative October 2019 Report

LONDON – Four in five EU coal power plants are unprofitable and utilities could lose €6.6 billion this year alone, finds a new report from financial think tank Carbon Tracker.

Originally published 24 October 2019 here; contact information below at end of post.

Coal plant
The majority of coal plants in the European Union (EU) could face losses of nearly €6.6 billion
this year, according to the Carbon Tracker Initiative report.

Read moreThe eco-warriors of climate protection

It warns investors and policymakers to prepare for a complete phase-out of coal by 2030, because without heavy subsidies the industry will not survive sustained competition from ever lower cost wind and solar power and temporarily cheap gas.

Governments will face “intractable problems” if they seek to support coal in the long-term because they will have to choose whether to: pass costs to the utilities and destroy shareholder value; pass costs to consumers and push bills up; or fund them from debt or taxes.

Matt Gray, Head of Power & Utilities at Carbon Tracker and co-author of the report, said:

“EU coal generators are haemorrhaging cash because they cannot compete with ever-cheaper renewables and gas and this will only get worse. Policymakers and investors should prepare to phase out coal by 2030 at the latest.”

Carbon Tracker used asset-level financial models to analyse the operating economics of every coal plant in the EU and the losses they face in 2019. It found that:

  • Germany’s lignite and hard coal plants could lose €9 billion, yet the country’s coal commission has only recommended a 2038 deadline for phasing out coal.
  • Spain and the Czech Republic, which have yet to set a phase-out date, face losses of €992 million and €899 million respectively. In the UK, which has set a 2025 deadline, its remaining coal plants will lose €732 million.
  • Germany’s RWE is the utility facing the greatest losses – it could haemorrhage €975 million, 6% of its market capitalisation. EPH, with assets mainly in Germany and the Czech Republic, could lose €613 million, and PPC, in Greece, could lose €596 million.

This year EU hard coal generation has fallen 39% since 2018, resulting in “eye-wateringly low utilisation rates” while lignite generation is down 20%. Carbon Tracker calculates that overall 84% of lignite generation and 76% of hard coal generation is unprofitable, facing 2019 losses of €3.54 billion and €3.03 billion respectively. Across the EU 79% of coal plants are running at a loss.

For further reading, link to original article here.

To arrange interviews please contact:

Joel Benjamin            jbenjamin@carbontracker.org             +447429 637423

David Mason             david.mason@greenhousepr.co.uk      +44 7799 072320

About Carbon Tracker

The Carbon Tracker Initiative is a not-for-profit financial think tank that seeks to promote a climate-secure global energy market by aligning capital markets with climate reality.

Their research to date on the carbon bubble unburnable carbon and stranded assets has begun a new debate on how to align the financial system with the energy transition to a low carbon future. www.carbontracker.org

How European Food Supply Chains Play into the Amazon Devastation

Why is the Amazon burning and what’s the UK/EU got to do with it?

Published by Greenpeace UK, 2 September 2019, original article here

Author: Helle Abelvik-Lawson

Helle Abelvik-Lawson
Helle Abelvik-Lawson

The Brazilian Amazon has been on fire for weeks. Slash-and-burn practices by farmers, backed by Brazil’s powerful agribusiness sector, have seen great swathes of the world’s most crucial ecosystem burnt to a crisp. 

The fires in the Amazon are no natural disaster: they are the result of an active choice to sacrifice the environment and Indigenous rights for industry profit. And our companies, governments and global supply chains play a key role in driving the destruction. 

You’d think rainforests wouldn’t burn. But fires are a key tool used for deforestation by farmers. And small patches of deforestation have created dried-out fringe areas, which also catch fire easily. 

Brazil’s far-right President Jair Bolsonaro has encouraged land clearing for farming, creating a more fragmented rainforest. He took power promising to back business and cut “red tape” – which has meant weakened protections of  Brazil’s forests. He fired the head of Brazil’s space agency INPE, tasked with tracking Amazon deforestation, accusing him of “lies” over the clearances. 

Burning Amazon rainforest surrounded by farmland with grazing animals
PORTO VELHO, RONDONIA, BRAZIL: Aerial view of burned areas in the Amazon rainforest. © Victor Moriyama / Greenpeace

Bolsonaro has also effectively “declared war” on Brazil’s Indigenous Peoples standing in the way of Amazon land grabs. He once said: “It’s a shame that the Brazilian cavalry wasn’t as efficient as the Americans, who exterminated the Indians.”

Those who destroy the Amazon are encouraged by his speeches. In mid-August, farmers around a main road in the Amazon held a “Day of Fire”, resulting in a 300% increase in fires in the area. 

New figures show the amount of Amazon Rainforest cleared in Brazil have reached a record high. As of the end of August 2019, Brazil has seen over 90,000 fires: over 46,000 in the Amazon; more than 27,000 fires in another biodiversity hotspot, the Cerrado. This is an increase of 145% from 1 January to 20 August 2019, compared to the same period last year. 

Who are the fires affecting?

While there’s no denying the implications for the world’s climate, Indigenous and other rural communities are the most immediately affected by the fires. Firmly on the frontlines, Brazil’s Indigenous Peoples are defending the Amazon from destruction, even as Bolsonaro’s dehumanising rhetoric encourages arson and other violence against them.

The effects are being felt across Brazil too. On the afternoon of 19 August, so much smoke was produced that in São Paulo – a city more than 2,700km away from the blazes – the skies turned black.

If this feels apocalyptic, it’s because it is. This is what a climate emergency looks like. The Amazon is a critical carbon sink, vital for mitigating climate change. The fires themselves emit further carbon – the exact opposite of what the planet needs right now.

What does this have to do with us? 

Quite a lot. The forests are being cleared for food production – making global companies, governments, and supply chains complicit in turning the Amazon to ash.

Brazil is a key exporter of animal feed, beef and leather. Brazilian soy feeds animals that end up on supermarket shelves and in fast food joints around the world. Global demand for these products is fuelling the fires raging in Brazil’s forests, destroying Indigenous land – with serious implications for all life on Earth.

Brands must distance themselves from the devastation. Major players like Timberland, Vans and North Face have stopped sourcing leather from Brazil, concerned that their products could be contributing to the damage. Others need to follow their lead.

The UK government must also put the Amazon and Indigenous rights first. That means stopping the trade talks currently underway with Brazil’s government, and ensuring any future deal has the Amazon and its people at its heart.

Finally, we as a society should consider our own consumption patterns. The planet can’t afford endless production of meat at the expense of the Amazon Rainforest. Stopping the real damage to the country, its people, and the world’s climate will require hitting Brazil’s agribusiness sector where it hurts.

Take action for the Amazon!

Companies sourcing from Brazil cannot stand by while the Amazon is being torched. They must distance themselves from Bolsonaro’s attacks on critical forests and Indigenous rights.

This is a climate emergency.

Send a message to McDonald’s, KFC and Burger King: “Take a stand against President Bolsonaro’s Amazon destruction. Stop sourcing soya and meat from Brazil until the Amazon and its people are protected”. It only takes a few minutes of your time. Thank you.

Please SIGN THE GREENPEACE PETITION!! (located at bottom of linked page)

What’s the latest with the Escazú Agreement?

Published originally by Andrés Bermúdez Liévano in Diálogo Chino, on October 17, 2019, here; below please find a short update and summary of the killings of environmental defenders in Latin America

In September 2018, Latin America made history by presenting the Regional Agreement on Access to Information, Public Participation and Justice in Environmental Matters, known as the Escazú Agreement. This innovative pact, the first of its kind, was credited with the potential to reduce social conflicts and protect environmental defenders in the region, the world’s deadliest.

The Escazú Agreement was negotiated for three years under the supervision of the UN’s Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) and opened for signatures during the General Assembly last year.

Last weekend, its 21 signatory countries met in San José, Costa Rica, to report on their progress as many countries face urgent crises.

Access to information remains poor, there is widespread impunity for crimes against environmental defenders, and communities’ right to consultation on the impacts of large development projects are often disrespected.

[ … ]

Two countries have stated publicly they will not sign: Columbia and Chile.

Why do environmental leaders need Escazú?

Six of the top 10 most dangerous countries in the world for environmental defenders are in Latin America: Brazil, Colombia, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico and Peru.

48% of 135 communications sent in 2016 to governments and companies on violence against environmental defenders by Michel Forst, the UN’s Special Rapporteur on Human Rights, related to cases in the region.

According to NGO Global Witness, 164 environmental defenders were killed in 2018 globally. More than half of killings took place in Latin America, the most violent region for environmental defenders since they began compiling the report in 2012.

  • Colombia, Brazil, Guatemala and Mexico are among the deadliest 6 countries. While Honduras, Venezuela and Chile also recorded murders.
  • For the first time since 2012 Brazil did not top the list, although it did appear fourth. Guatemala saw the number of murders multiply fivefold, which made it the most dangerous country per capita.

The journalistic project Land of Resistants, which brought together more than 35 journalists from seven countries, investigated the situation facing environmental defenders in Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Guatemala, Mexico and Peru. It found:

  • At least 1,356 attacks and incidences of violence against environmental defenders between 2009 and 2018 in those seven countries
  • 56% of attacks were targeted at people belonging to ethnic minorities, demonstrating that the territories of indigenous and Afro-descendant peoples are especially vulnerable
  • Conclusive data on sentences (either convictions or acquittals) in just 50 cases (or 3.68% of the total), proving that justice is very unevenly applied. Sentences were mostly given to hitmen or direct perpetrators, not the masterminds behind them.
  • In at least 545 attacks (or 40% of the total), victims or their communities had expressed security concerns to the authorities, whether state institutions or international instances such as the Commission or the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.

Original by by Andrés Bermúdez Liévano and published in Diálogo Chino, on October 17, 2019, here