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Jul 03, 2009

Keep the oil in the soil

by PhilLee — last modified Jul 03, 2009 06:35 PM

Ahead of the G8 summit in L’Aquila, Italy, the alternative G8 summit is taking place in Sardinia. Nnimmo Bassey Chair of Friends of the Earth International is there.

I should have mentioned that there are three of us here from the FoEI family. Anne-Sophie Simpere of Les Amis de la Terre, France is here. Also here is BAsilo Tzoy Grijalva of the Council for the Protection of the territory of Indigenous people, Guatemala. His organisation related with FoE Guatemala.

Today’s events are organised in panels and will conclude at midnight after the screening of La Ricaduta, a documentary on irresponsible extractions in the Niger Delta.  There will also be a special testimony by a citizen of Abruzzo – the earthquake region where ENI wants to extract crude. The people of Aruzzo don’t want crude extracted from their territory.
As already mentioned in my earlier post, today’s panels are focusing on oil/gas, mining and tar sands. Tomorrow the focus will be on food sovereignty matters. The three cardinal objectives of these sessions are the phasing out of oil economy, keeping the oil in the soil; community control over their resources; new frontier of resource exploitations. The idea is also to strategize on how to find allies and build alliances for the struggle. 

The first panel opened with Tom Kucharz of Ecologistas en Accion, Spain interviewing Ivonne Yanez of Accion Ecologica, Ecuador. The thrust of the discussion was the Ecuadorian Yasuni proposal in which a civil society driven process led the government to state readiness to leave the billion barrels of crude oil in the soil at the protected Yasuni Park. Ivonne traced the history of the campaign and noted that although the government was initially seeking payment for leaving the oil in the ground in a way similar to the carbon trade arguments, this has changed to the demand for solidarity funds to avoid drilling for oil in the area.

The purpose of the Yasuni proposal is to commence a process of breaking the world’s dependence on fossil fuels, and by so doing reduce carbon emissions and directly tackle climate change. She revealed that just a fortnight ago Germany offered to contribute $1Billion to Ecuador at the rate of $50 million per year over the next 20 years – towards leaving the oil in the ground at the Yasuni Park.  This proposal has thus become very concrete.

Nicholas of Corner House interviewed me on the second panel. The thrust of our discussion was our proposal to leave new oil in the soil of the Niger Delta. This proposal is similar to the Ecuadorian proposal but with some key unique aspects. The similarities basically include simply leaving the oil in the soil, defending the environment from degradation related to oil spills and gas flares and also directly tackling climate change. 

I traced the historic struggle of the Ogoni under the leadership of Ken Saro-Wiwa who was executed in November 1995 with the active connivance of Shell. Since 1993 direct oil activities in Ogoni ceased with the expulsion of Shell; and the land has from after the post expulsion conflicts known a measure of peace.

The key demand is that there should be no new oil field developments in Nigeria for the following reasons. Nigeria can easily meet a 3 million barrels production right if the Niger Delta knows some peace. Currently the nation’s production quota stands at 2 million barrels per day with another estimated 1 million barrels of crude stolen on a daily basis. The government has plans to increase daily production to 5 million barrels per day from the year 2015. We propose that Nigerians can contribute funds to keep those additional 2 million barrels per day in the soil. This comes to only $156 per year for each Nigerian. We note that not all Nigerians (for example the children) can make this contribution. But, there are many who can buy multiple units. There are businesses who can but muliple units and there are concerned citizens, organisations and governments of the world who would be willing to contribute to this fund.

The direct implication of keeping new oil in the soil would manifest in reconnection of Nigerians to the national economy. This would raise accountability and transparency in governance. It would also directly move the nation from dependence on one source of revenue and lead to a diversification of the economy in a productive way. FoE Nigeria schedules to present this proposal formally to the federal government of Nigeria by November 2009.

The other panel that shows the people resisting new oil is in Abruzzo, Italy. This is the region where a devastating earthquake occurred recently. Speaking on this was Maria Rita D’Orsagna of the Abruzzo Movement Against Oil Extraction. She said that when the idea of oil production in the area was first announced to the people the general understanding was that it would be the production of olive oil! A strong resistance is building with the realization that it is crude oil that is to be drilled for here.

The struggle against the Shell Pipeline in Ireland was presented by Nessa  Ni Chasaide of Action From Ireland (AFRI) in a day that was loaded with stories of resistance and mobilizations from several countries. The stories of tar sands in Canada and the degradation of indigenous areas were brought by Ben Powless of the Indigenous Environment Network. The mining situation in the Republic of Congo; the situations in Zambia, Guatemala, Philippines and Indonesia all took centre stage. 

The last session of the day was a panel that spoke on alternatives. The ideas that came from this panel were mainly on what people and communities can do to show that alternatives exist and that others can be constructed. The vital need to build movements was stressed. The transition to a post carbon civilization will not be easy, but must be planned for and made to happen. The need for reduced consumption and the need to change from the current fossil fuel intensive agriculture were also brought forward forcefully. Other alternatives included building designs using locally available materials and skills thereby being climate sensitive and reducing dependence of materials transported over long distances.

It was agreed that REDD was not a solution to forest protection or for climate change. The need to reframe the climate debate towards climate debt, equity and justice was emphasised.

The day ended at midnight with the screening of a documentary “La Ricaduta” – a story of irresponsible behaviour of oil companies in the Niger Delta with a special focus on ENI (AGIP).

A statement will emerge from the sessions on extractives. It is in the forge at the moment!
4/5 July will focus on Food Sovereignty issues. La Via Campesina and other groups are driving this section.