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Jul 26, 2013

International Mangrove Day

by Denis Burke — last modified Jul 26, 2013 11:07 AM

On International Mangrove Day, we reflect on the urgent need to protect and preserve mangrove forests, such as La Tirana on the coast of El Salvador, and their fragile ecosystems

Mangrove forests, such as La Tirana on the coast of El Salvador, are part of a complex ecosystem that protects coastlines from erosion and filters coastal waters. Communities living in and around these forests depend on this natural resource for their livelihoods and care for the biodiversity of these fragile ecosystems.


Jul 25, 2013

Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA) launches Publish What You Pump Campaign

by Philip Jakpor — last modified Jul 25, 2013 11:05 AM

The Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) today (July 24, 2013) launched a new campaign titled "Publish What You Pump", which aims to fill the gap in the present Publish What You Pay and the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI) processes.

At an event in Port Harcourt graced by representatives of civil society groups, community-based organizations and the media, ERA/FoEN said that although the NEITI processes have been ongoing for nearly 12 years, it has largely failed to sanitize the Nigerian petroleum sector or reduce the level of corruption as Nigeria loses nearly 500,000 barrels of crude oil per day, costing the nation nearly $8 billion dollars per year.

The initiative will require that institutions such as the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) set up appropriate guidelines for measuring oil and gas production as well as have the necessary tools to carry out their oversight functions.

In his presentation, ERA/FoEN Executive Director, Godwin Ojo said that today marks an important milestone in the launch of a national and global advocacy initiative which will address the lack of transparency and accountability in the oil and gas sector thereby posing a grave threat to national security and sustainable development.


The domestication of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) into the Nigerian context seeks to address poor resource governance and revenue mobilization to reverse the resource curse. Nigeria is endowed with abundant natural resources but is unable to utilize this for the wellbeing of citizens. As a result, poverty is rife, and more than 50 percent of its citizens live on less than US$2 per day. The Nigerian government is yet to properly account for the US$ 600 billion accruing from oil in the last four decades. We believe that given the necessary political will and prioritization, Nigeria can afford a National Basic income Scheme (NaBIS) of about N15,000 for all unemployed Nigerians if all the leaks, looting and theft of its resources are eliminated.

The Nigeria Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative (NEITI) audits have unearthed a variety of discrepancies over the 10-year audit period and discovered nearly $2.6 billion dollars loss, tax evasion, and non-payment of royalties by the oil majors. In all counts, the oil majors failed to respect the NEITI findings but have ignored them with impunity.


The Publish What You Pump draws attention to the crime scene of ecological devastation, ecocide, and oil theft in the Niger Delta. It is time to hold oil companies and the presiding captains overseeing these rots and deaths corporately and personally accountable for the deaths and destruction they are helping to create.

The lack of transparency and accountability in the oil sector is leading to massive oil theft from the point of production to the point of sale. For example, it is the aspiration of the federal government to increased crude oil production to 4mbpd in the near future. We state categorically that government is already realizing its aspirations and producing well beyond 4mbpd that is far above the oil industry disclosed production rate that is averaging 2.4mbpd.


The recent disclosure in July that crude oil theft from pipelines has reached alarming proportion of 400,000 bpd is restricted to the Bush Refineries by local oil thieves. What about the more massive oil theft that is going on at the oil wellheads, flow stations, and export terminals that are directed at the international market? In addition to this, there are over 4,000 oil spills in the Niger Delta and not one has been effectively cleaned up. The volume of the spills averages at least 1 ExxonMobil Valdez spill per annum, that is, about 500,000-700,000 barrels spilled in the Niger Delta on a yearly basis.


The frequent oil spills and gas flaring has degraded the environment, destroyed livelihoods, led to human rights violations, violent conflicts, impoverishment and ecocide such that the Niger delta lies prostrate on a stretcher and panting for breathe.


Who Is Afraid of Metering?

The continued resistance of the oil companies to metering oil and gas at well heads and flow stations and the acquiescing of the regulatory agencies as well as other institutions of government can only point to collusion between the oil majors and powerful government officials who benefit from the oil theft. Indeed, in the oil sector, it is business as usual as the regulator has firmly become the regulated. During the recent Joint Senate Committee hearing on the Petroleum Industry Bill, while the oil companies are advocating for metering of crude oil at the point of sale, civil society groups are advocating for metering at the point of production from the oil well heads, flow stations and export terminals.  The core issue affecting the oil and gas industry is the failure and or refusal of operators in the industry and regulatory bodies to publicly disclose or engage easily available scientific templates for precise measurement of the volume of all oil and gas produced in Nigeria, and at the different stages of the production process.



The Publish What You Pump Campaign has tremendous benefits. First, it effectively shatters the myths and misconceptions that it is technologically impossible to ascertain the volume of oil and gas produced on a daily basis in Nigeria.


Secondly, the PWYPC will reduce the level of waste, enhance revenue for infrastructure and social amenities provision. It will drastically reduce or eliminate oil theft if the technology to ensure scientific and real time precision metering of oil and gas flows at any point in the oil and gas production and supply are deployed. The current practice of solely relying on the oil sector for crude oil production figure is clearly unacceptable. Thirdly, the initiative marks a significant threshold in aggregating voices and actions of civil society groups, local communities, the media and all Nigerians towards achieving the critical mass required to effect fundamental changes in the way the Nigerian oil industry has been run in the last five decades.


Although the metering of the production line is important in the short term, it is the national shift in energy production and consumption from fossils to renewable sources of energy that are the more relevant for a shift towards a post petroleum economy that is imminent for Nigeria.

Jul 24, 2013

Endocrine disruptors in cosmetics: almost one third of products affected. Friends of the Earth Germany publishes study and iPhone-App.

by Anne Erwand — last modified Jul 24, 2013 10:40 AM

Berlin: Nearly a third of cosmetic products in Germany, Austria and Switzerland contain endocrine disrupting substances. This is the conclusion of a study published today by Bund für Umwelt und Naturschutz Deutschland (BUND), the German section of Friends of the Earth. For the study, BUND searched the ingredients lists of more than 60,000 products for hormone mimicking chemicals: “The figures for the market leaders Beiersdorf (Nivea) and L'Oréal are especially alarming. Almost 50% of these companies' products that were analysed contain endocrine disruptors” says Sarah Häuser, BUND chemicals expert.

Endocrine disrupting chemicals were found in every product category: From shower gel, to sunscreen, lipstick, shaving foam, hair tinting lotion and deodorant. Most common are Parabens as preservatives and certain UV-filters. These agents can pass through the skin. A Swiss study showed that over 75 per cent of the women investigated had UV-filters in their breast milk.


The substances are being linked to the decrease of sperm quality as well as to breast, prostate, and testicular cancer. Especially fetuses, young children and teenagers are at risk, as the hormone system plays a key role in critical development stages.


Natural cosmetics were generally free of endocrine disruptors, which shows that it is possible to produce clean products: “Cosmetics are meant to make us pretty and not ill”, says Sarah Häuser, “When it comes to our health and especially the health of our children we should not take risks. BUND therefore calls on the producers to ban endocrine disruptors from their products.”


Because it is complicated for consumers to identify dangerous substances in the long ingredient lists, BUND now offers a free iPhone App. Jurek Vengels, BUND chemicals expert said: “Our ToxFox App enables consumers to scan the barcode of the products right away in the store and get immediate information if the cosmetic at hand contains endocrine disruptors. This makes it so much easier to choose “clean cosmetics”. What is more, you can also send a protest email to producers. We hope that market pressure will lead companies to review their position on endocrine disruptors.”


Along with the iPhone app, BUND has also released a web-form and a mobile website through which consumers can check cosmetics.


However, to date, the service is only available in German. As the system identifies products through their barcode, which can be different from country to country. It might not work very well outside Germany, Austria or Switzerland.


The study, the app and the web-form are all available at

Jul 23, 2013

Why the end of the Kalimantan Forests and Climate Partnership is important

by Denis Burke — last modified Jul 23, 2013 04:30 PM

Why the end of the Kalimantan Forests and Climate Partnership is important


Australia has shut down the Kalimantan Forests and Climate Partnership (KFCP), leaving most of the project's targets unmet. When announced in September 2007, the US$47 million project was described as aiming to protect 70,000 hectares of peat forest, re-flood 200,000 hectares of peat land, and plant 100 million trees. But a 2012 report on the project by Erik Olbrei and Stephen Howes, two academics at the Australian National University, found that only 50,000 trees had been plantecd and none of the peat had been re-flooded.

The main results AusAID currently points on its website are monitoring and research activities, payments for participation, and the formation of a “forest management unit” that's developing a 35 year plan (without 35 years of future funding). Beyond these shortcomings, the project also highlighted recurring issues with REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) schemes – particularly land rights.

The KFCP was part of a larger $273 million climate change aid program to demonstrate that “forest carbon offsets” were a viable way to reduce carbon emissions. Bold claims were made about its capacity to demonstrate effective ways to reduce emissions from deforestation and land degradation in Indonesia, and to incentivise sustainable livelihoods for local communities. But after five years of blundering, the main results AusAID can point to are monitoring and research activities, payments for participation, and the formation of a “forest management unit” that's developing a 35 year plan (without 35 years of future funding). Meanwhile, Kalimantan is rapidly expanding palm oil and coal production.

A crucial failing was that the project did not establish community support or consent. In an interview with ABC’s The World Today, Patrick Anderson of Forest Peoples Programme explained that he has visited the KFCP project area several times and “there isn’t broad community support for the project”.

Yayasan Petak Danum (YPD), a Kalimantan indigenous organisation stated in 2011 that the project did not realise Free Prior and Informed Consent or meaningful community participation. They expressed no confidence in project staff. The Forest Peoples Programme have documented the issues also.

Lack of community ownership of the project has caused problems. YPD have repeatedly asked the project staff to assist recognition of customary Ngaju Dayak knowledge in producing program activities but elicited a limited response.

The program has been essentially outsourced to international organisations. Some community members have been active on social media reflecting on what went wrong. Upon hearing the news of the project’s end, Norhadie Karben from Mentangai Hulu, a village in the KFCP commented on the relationship between the KFCP failure and the history of international conservation organisations operating in the area.

“Since 2004, many international organisations are coming to the village to rehabilitate former Peat Land Development Project (PPLG 1 million hectares of agricultural land taken by New Order). The presence of the project in 2006 CKPP make people confused because since their presence they started to restrict access into the forest and land rights. In 2009 the KFCP reappeared in the local community creating conflict and confusion about the status of our land which is 120,000 hectares.”

Deddy Ratih, of WALHI (Friends of the Earth Indonesia), further noted, “AusAID and the KFCP staff have failed to support conservation programs that are environmentally effective and sensitive to the rights of indigenous people in rural Indonesia. The KFCP is a missed opportunity to empower local communities to develop their sustainable livelihood practices and address the drivers of land conversion in Kalimantan.”

Commenting on the implications for REDD/REDD+ schemes, Isaac Rojas, Forest and Biodiversity coordinator at Friends of the Earth International, said “The work around KFCP is important for FoEI because it is one of the largest REDD project in Indonesia. The experience in Kalimantan helps us understand REDD in reality, its real impacts on communities and the logic behind these false solutions to pressing global problems.” he said, “Indonesia is very important for forest issues. Approximately 80% of Indonesia’s emissions come from the conversion of peatlands (45%) and forestlands (35%).

Approximately 35 REDD demonstration projectshave been undertaken in Indonesia.”

The project's failure has implications for international experimentation with carbon trading and carbon offsetting. The REDD+ reductions are a controversial form of carbon abatement, involving payments for conservation activities that reduce emissions. The research on carbon and other “payment for ecosystem services” schemes suggests that they do not guarantee global emissions reductions, nor do they tackle administrative and structural reforms necessary to halt deforestation.

Friends of the Earth groups have also taken issue with the political use of aid money to boost the carbon market agenda. Australia and Indonesia presented the KFCP program to the UNFCCC in 2008 as a model project when they expressed their preference for a market approach to REDD+.

REDD projects also cause land rights issues with alarming regularity and Kalimantan has been no exception. Deddy Ratih commented, “A key aspect of deforestation and land degradation is the lack of formal rights held by indigenous and rural people in Indonesia. The KFCP did nothing to assist local communities to assert their customary rights and develop capacity for sustainable land management. Over five years the project has produced no significant environmental outcomes. It created conflict in local communities and confusion about the status of their land.”

Rebecca Pearse, spokesperson for Friends of the Earth Australia, also highlights the project’s failure to deal with land tenure issues in the project area. Rather than engaging with political, administrative and legal processes related to land tenure problems, the project went ahead arguing that community management rights can contribute to reform of tenure (p. 25).

Writing in New Matilda Pearse comments that this was another promise unmet, “The KFCP exacerbated conflicts about the status of land. Community concerns about the ways the project was implemented have been in circulation for some time.”
The KFCP is a failed trial in carbon pricing and has caused plenty of grief for local communities. It illustrates ongoing troubles in forest carbon schemes dedicated to this model.

The Australian government continues to maintain that the KFCP was created to “demonstrate a credible, equitable and effective approach to REDD+ and inform discussions and negotiations on climate change.” It appears that the KFCP project mirrors the ongoing problems with carbon and other “payment for ecosystem services” schemes, suggesting that they do not provide the win-win-win ‘solutions’ advocates claim.

There is clearly much to learn from the KFCP, and discuss publicly about what concrete lessons can be taken from this experience.

This post is based on articles written for New Matilda (Beck Pearse) and REDD-Monitor (Chris Lang).

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Jul 08, 2013

All about Sime Darby in Liberia

by Denis Burke — last modified Jul 08, 2013 12:14 PM
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Malaysia-based Sime Darby, one of the world's largest producers of palm oil, is developing oil palm plantations in Liberia, swallowing up farmlands and forests used by local communities to sustain their livelihoods. Affected communities have organised to demand that their rights be recognised by the company and its international shareholders