Mar 04, 2014
Russian Socio-Ecological Union demands the abolishment of the unreasonable sentence of Evgeny Vitishko and an end to persecution of environmental activists in the North Caucasus
On February 12, 2014 a verdict against a well known environmental activist Evgeny Vitishko entered into force. Evgeny is a member of the Board of Environmental Watch on North Caucasus (Ecovachta)- member organization of the Russian Socio-Ecological Union (RSEU). We believe that this is a glaring case of an activist being persecuted for his environmental activities. Also, in Russia, and in particular in Sochi, persecution of environmental activists who oppose the destruction of nature in connection with the 2014 Winter Olympics continues.
On November 13, 2011, activist group "Environmental Watch on North Caucasus" held a public inspection of the forest adjacent to the property owned by the head administration of the Krasnodar Territory Alexander Tkachev. In order to conduct an inspection, activists had to dismantle a section of a fence built illegally around the residence on the lands of the state forest reserve. During the inspection it was found that in order to construct the fence dozens of trees , including the Pitsynda pine, listed in the Red Book of Russia [a state document detailing rare and endangered species of flora and fauna], had been cut down. Illegal felling of trees listed in the Red Book is a criminal offense. It was also found that illegal work was carried out within the public shoreline of the Black Sea, which is now blocked by a solid concrete wall. In connection with violations of the rights of citizens guaranteed by the Water and Forest Code during the construction of the Tkachev residence, Environmental Watch sent several appeals to the law enforcement authorities of the Krasnodar Territory in 2011. Moreover, two letters describing the violations, in June and August of this year, were given in person to the Russian President Dmitry Medvedev. However,law enforcement agencies have taken no action against the owners of the residence. Instead, they began to pursue the civil society activists.
Evgeny Vitishko was recognized as a political prisoner by the Human Rights Center "Memorial" on February 13, 2014, as the prosecution will be charging Vtishko with an offence that did not take place. This is in violation of the right to a fair trial and demonstrates the use of disproportionate punishment. The activist was charged under Part 2 of Art.167 of the Criminal Code ("Deliberate destruction or damage of property, if these acts inflicted significant damage, motivated by hooliganism ") for damaging the fence around the garden of Krasnodar Governor Alexander Tkachev. On June 20 2012, he was sentenced to three years imprisonment with two years probation. On December 20, 2013 the court overturned the probation and replaced it with 3 years in a penal colony. On February 12, 2014 the decision came into force. (Memorial)
Environmental Watch on North Caucasus repeatedly stressed that the prosecution of Vitishko for damaging the fence is politically motivated and unproven. As pointed out by the Russian Supreme Court in its judgment of 21 October, 2013, during the appeal against the sentence, to put stickers on an illegal fence in the forest can not be considered hooliganism, and in fact there is no evidence that the owner suffered significant damage.
The formal reason for the ending of probation was an alleged violation by Vitishko of the conditions of restrictions imposed on him. But these so-called violations are ridiculous. The prosecution claims there were three. The notice of the first one was issued to him when Vitishko went to Krymsk on an election campaign, and advance notice to the inspection was given. The second notice was issued when Vitishko appeared for his scheduled inspection, not on the day that he was ordered to show up. A third notice was issued after Vtishko’s visit to Krasnodar. In order to collect enough evidence to imprison Vitishko, he was held under constant surveillance by the authorities, his phones were tapped, and his whereabouts tracked by using mobile phone billing.
One of the possible reasons for the prosecution may be a report prepared by Ekovahta: "Sochi 2014: ten years without a right to law. How to build a " better world”. The report is a culmination of the decade of work by environmental activists Evgene Vitishko, Dmitry Shevchenko and Suren Ghazaryan. It contains a chronicle of the construction of Olympic facilities in Sochi and it’s consequences.
However, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) refuses to see the Sochi connection in the case of Vtishko. The IOC thus relinquished responsibility for the persecution of Vitishko, and revealed that it’s officials are not competent when making public statements on the issue. Environmental Watch on North Caucasus believes that this may violate the IOC Olympic Charter.
On February 12 Evgeny Vitishko began a hunger strike to protest against the unjust decisions of the Tuapse municipal and Krasnodar regional courts.
Family and colleagues of Evgeny Vitishko appeal for financial assistance: Yandex-money 410012177141628, PayPal firstname.lastname@example.org
More information about the persecution Evgeny Vitishko can be found here.
Ekovahta report about the destruction of nature "Sochi 2014: ten years without a right to law. How to build a “better world” “ can be found here.
Feb 25, 2014
Milieudefensie / FoE Netherlands: Harmful shale gas deal between Shell and Yanukovych must be halted
AMSTERDAM, 25 February 2014 – Milieudefensie / Friends of the Earth Netherlands calls on Shell to break off a shale gas deal with Ukraine because of environmental damage and strong suspicions of corruption.
For the last several months, Milieudefensie and its sister organisation Zelenyi Svit / Friends of the Earth Ukraine have been researching the environmental impact of Shell's shale gas activities in Ukraine. This study shows that Shell is using harmful techniques in drilling for shale gas (1) that would be illegal in the Netherlands; polluted fracking water is being dumped into open reservoirs. In 2013, Shell entered into the deal with recently ousted President Viktor Yanukovych, representing Ukraine and the Ukrainian company Nadra Yuzivska. This happened in the presence of Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte (2).
Geert Ritsema, head of the energy and natural resources campaign at Milieudefensie: ‘Shell must withdraw its agreement with the Ukrainian state now that Yanukovych has been removed. The Ukrainian people never assented to shale gas. Ukrainians are being doubly penalised by Shell: the environment is being polluted as Shell is dumping toxic waste water into open reservoirs and it also seems that Nadra Yuzivska is being used to funnel money to Yanukovych and his supporters.’
Shell entered into the USD 10 billion shale gas deal with the Ukrainian government and the Nadra Yuzivska LLC company in Davos in January 2013. Nadra Yuzivska LLC receives half of the profits and 90 per cent of the company is owned by the state. 10 Per cent of this company, however, is in the hands of a small shadowy company (3) that has frequently been linked by the Ukrainian media to the Yanukovych faction. There are strong suspicions that the company serves as a cover to channel funds to the Yanukovych family (4).
Toxic fracking water in open reservoirs
In recent months, Milieudefensie and Friends of the Earth Ukraine investigated Shell’s drilling locations (5). They discovered that polluted drilling liquid and fracking water are being stored in open-air reservoirs, which are separated from the underlying ground by only a layer of plastic. The water in these reservoirs contains fracking chemicals and toxins such as heavy metals, volatile organic compounds and radioactive materials, which occur naturally deep underground. These substances are harmful to health when they get into groundwater or evaporate from the reservoirs into the air.
Geert Ritsema: ‘Shell employs a double standard and would rather drill for shale gas in countries where regulations and enforcement are not as strict. It is unacceptable that a Dutch company such as Shell – which wouldn’t dare to risk getting involved with shale gas in the Netherlands – can use these harmful and dangerous techniques in other countries.'
In the Netherlands, storing fracking water in open reservoirs is not permitted, due to the danger of leakage and the vaporisation of harmful substances such as benzene. Moreover, large quantities of methane, a greenhouse gas that has a great impact on climate change, vaporise in open reservoirs. If drilling fluids and fracking water are stored in sealed tanks, this gas can be captured, but not from open reservoirs (7).
Shale gas protests worldwide
In Ukraine, just as in the Netherlands, people’s objections to shale gas are increasing, based on the dangers of groundwater pollution, earthquakes and the impact on the landscape. Pavlo Khazan, campaign leader at Friends of the Earth Ukraine: ‘The Ukrainian people have never agreed to shale gas. A number of municipalities have declared themselves ‘shale gas free’. Now that Yanukovych has been ousted by the Ukrainian people, a new government must immediately end this contract with Shell.’
In the time to come, Milieudefensie will be investigating Shell’s shale gas activities in Ukraine, Argentina and South Africa. Together with sister organisations in the Friends of the Earth network we will try – just as in the Netherlands – to prevent or to stop drilling, to call on Shell to honour its responsibilities and to call on governments to make greater efforts toward clean energy.
For more details about our investigation in Ukraine, video material of the open reservoirs, interviews with local residents, and for more information about our national and international shale gas campaign, please contact our press office: +31 (0)20-5507333, email@example.com
(1) Communications about Shell’s activities in Ukraine, such as in the media, always refer to shale gas; strictly speaking, however, it is not shale gas but tight gas that is referred to. This is gas that is trapped in compacted sandstone instead of slate (shale). The method of extraction, in which fracking takes place deep underground by pumping in highly pressurised water and chemicals, is for the most part the same as is done with shale gas and thus the risks and impact on the surroundings are comparable.
(2) News item 24 January 2014: 'Ukraine and Shell sign $10bn shale gas deal' http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-21191164
In addition to the deal made in Davos in January 2013, Shell also has a partnership agreement with the Ukrainian gas company Ukrgazvydobuvannya for unconventional gas extraction in the same region. More information on both partnership agreements can be found on Shell’s Ukrainian website (in Ukrainian): http://www.shell.ua/aboutshell/our-business-tpkg/onshore/where-we-operate.html
(3) SPK Geoservice (http://spkgeoservice.com.ua/)
(4) News items on the links between Yanukovych and Nadra Yuzivska LLC:
-Forbes news item (in Russian): http://forbes.ua/business/1338156-rassledovanie-partner-shell-i-chevron-v-gazovyh-proektah-neprostaya-malenkaya-firma
-Pravda news item (translated from Ukrainian by the Anticorruption Action Centre): http://antac.org.ua/en/2012/08/partners-of-exxonmobil-and-shell-companies-based-in-bedroom-communities/
-News item: 'Ukraine to become shale gas superpower': http://oilprice.com/Energy/Natural-Gas/Ukraine-to-Become-Shale-Gas-Superpower.html
(5) Shell has a permit to drill for shale gas in an area of nearly 8,000 square kilometers between the cities of Kharkov and Donetsk in eastern Ukraine. The first drilling was done at the end of 2013, and is now taking place at the second location. Images of the two drilling locations (Belyaevsky-400 near the village of Vesele and Novo Mechebylivska-100 near the village of Alisivka ) can be requested from Milieudefensie. Shell plans to carry out drilling in ten locations in 2014 and start commercial shale gas extraction in Ukraine in 2015 (news item 27 January 2014: 'Ukraine’s cooperation with Shell expanded' http://en.for-ua.com/news/2014/01/27/104827.html).
(6) Four reservoirs measuring 7,500 m3 are situated at the drilling locations. At the Belyaevsky-400 drilling location, three reservoirs are currently filled with fluid and drilling waste; the fourth reservoir is intended for fracking water storage. At the Novo Mechebylivska-100 drilling location, reservoirs have been dug but are not yet in use.
(7) Methane is a greenhouse gas that is 83 times as powerful as CO2 for the first 20 years. In the Environmental Impact Report for the Belyaesvska-400 drilling location, Shell stated that the methane emissions during the fracking phase would be 15.7 tonnes (Table 4.2.18 line 7, column 7 p. 54 http://s04.static-shell.com/content/dam/shell-new/local/country/ukr/downloads/pdf/update20130830/obhc-b400.pdf). A study on comparable shale gas wells in the US with both open reservoirs and sealed storage tanks including methane capturing installations (Allen et al. 2013) shows that average emissions in the fracking phase is 1.7 tonnes of methane. The lowest measured emission in that study was 0.04 tonnes of methane, with the use of the best available techniques such as also required by the European shale gas guidelines. Methane emissions at Belyaesvska-400 are thus nearly 400 times higher than permitted European limits.
Feb 21, 2014
The violence must end in Ukraine. Friends of the Earth Europe expresses its solidarity with our colleagues in Ukraine and all the victims of violence.
Friends of the Earth Europe calls on the European Union to undertake all possible diplomatic steps to end the abhorrent violence witnessed in the streets of Kiev, Ukraine. Standing in solidarity with Friends of the Earth Ukraine/Zeleny Svit, we are deeply concerned for the safety of all citizens, and express our sympathies for the victims of brutality.
Magda Stoczkiewicz, director of Friends of the Earth Europe said: "We stand in solidarity with our colleagues in the Ukraine, and condemn the violence. The Ukrainian government must bring an immediate end to brutality on Kiev's streets, for the sake of its citizens, and democracy."
Friends of the Earth International is demanding that all charges against Friends of the Earth Ukraine member Vadim Shebanov, and other activists arrested and detained by the police during a peaceful protest in the city of Dnipropetrovsk on January 26, are dropped. Mr Shebanov, who is a well-known activist and former deputy of the Dnipropetrovsk regional council, was engaged in an effort to try and open negotiations between local authorities and protesters gathered in the city centre.
Feb 10, 2014
Statement anti-fracking coalition South Africa
South African Minister of Mineral Resources Susan Shabangu’s comments that government is going to be moving ahead “decisively” on shale gas exploration in the Karoo is in stark contrast to what people in the Karoo want. As part of their constitutional rights, they are asking for agrarian transformation; employment and decent jobs; decent levels of affordable basic services and infrastructure; and at minimum, the basic goods of human life, starting with the most basic levels of goods like nutritious food, and safe and comfortable accommodation. This is what is needed for the Karoo, not a plan for fracking that is extractive and will leave the Karoo with a toxic environmental and social legacy.
It is critical that the government listens to those who will be the most vulnerable to the impacts of fracking. It is not about “a public campaign to visit communities who may be affected to explain what will happen”, as the Minister says will happen. It is about doing the right thing for the well-being of the people of the Karoo and their natural environment. Telling people what will happen is an agenda of the elite who will benefit from the extraction of gas from the Karoo basin.
This is an undemocratic agenda, and undemocratic process. We urge the government to properly consult the people in the Karoo and work out an inclusive developmental strategy that will improve the livelihood of people in the Karoo. The people of the Karoo need to be given space to come up with a developmental plan that suits them, and a plan that will benefit them over a long period of time. Fracking will not benefit the majority of the people in the Karoo, like any other extractive industry, only a few high profile individuals will benefit from it. In the long term, their natural environment, upon which they rely, will have been lost for the profit of outsiders.
Minster Shabangu’s agenda, and indeed government agenda is clearly articulated in the Minister’s address to the IHZ McCloskey South Africa Conference 2014: Cape Town, 29 January, where she promised that investments in fossil fuels (coal was the reference) will be protected by government when she stated that changes in the Minerals and Petroleum Resources Development Bill will “protect the sanctity of investments in the context of national development imperatives.” This is what fracking is about in the Karoo, creating wealth for the elite, and ensuring that this happens with government protection in an undemocratic manner.
We recognise that people of the Karoo are connected to the world by the global crisis we face on the destruction of nature, the failing economic system and an ever more ruthless system of capital accumulation that dehumanises peoples’ labour. Globally, people are pushing governments to say no to fracking; we will again become a pariah state.
The struggle in the Karoo is embedded in responding to three challenges: ensuring an agro-ecology based on agrarian reform and food sovereignty; securing the Karoo’s scarce water resources; and ensuring that people have a direct say in how energy is produced and used in the Karoo through the approach of energy sovereignty, that is non extractive.
We believe the government should develop a meaningful and locally based response to the proposed fracking for gas in the Karoo and ensure that people have a clean, healthy environment where they live and work.
Southern Cape Land Committee
groundWork, Friends of the Earth South Africa
Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference, Justice and Peace Department
Southern African Faith Communities’ Environment Institute
Southern Cape Land Committee
groundWork, Friends of the Earth South Africa
Tel (w): 033 342 5662
Mobile: 082 464 1383
Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference, Justice and Peace Department
Tel (w): 012 323 6458
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org / SDzebu@sacbc.org.za
Southern African Faith Communities’ Environment Institute
Bishop Geoff Davies
Tel (w): 021 701 8145
Feb 04, 2014
“Thou shall not cut these trees” - they are ordained now
Buddhist monks chanting “Pirith, Kesha, Loma, Nacha, Dantha, Tacho" wrapped the trees with saffron and red color robes and ordinated 1000 trees, while local community members and environmentalists chanted “Saadoo, Saadoo, Saadoo”. Tree ordination is the practice of recognising the sacred nature of trees by ordinating (or consecrating/ sanctifying) them by blessing them and wrapping them in traditional monks' robes. Venerable Badullagammana Sumanasara Thero, Venerable Kalupahana Piyarathana Thero, Venerable Thalangalle Sudhamma Thero and Venerable Dr. Balaharuwe Sirisumana Thero took the lead in this tree ordination.
This first massive tree ordination ceremony in Sri Lanka was held on the 11th January 2014 in Akkara Anuwa and Dimbuldena villages in the Nilgala Forest. Fifty Buddhist monks, over 300 local people and a range of environmental organizations participated in the event. Muslim religious leaders from the area also joined the event. The Centre for Environmental Justice (CEJ)/ Friends of the Earth Sri Lanka initiated this tree ordination ritual in order to highlight the massive forest destruction of the Nilgala forest.
A history of tree ordination
Symbolic tree ordination is a ritual initiated by Ecology Monks (Phra Nak Anuraksa), a group of Thai Buddhist Monks. It has also been practiced by Cambodian, Vietnamese and Burmese monks in the last two and a half decades. On the surface, tree ordination is presented to the world environmentalist movement as a clever and original idea, using the widely respected symbol of monastic robes to make loggers hesitate to cut down trees. It combines the pre-Buddhist values of spirit worship, the Buddhist values of respecting nature and the political messaging of saving the forests and trees from destructive development.
It is generally acknowledged that the first tree ordination - wherein a tree not already considered sacred was wrapped in saffron-colored cloth and given monastic vows - was performed in Thailand in 1988 by the monk Phrakhru Manas Natheepitak of Wat Bodharma in Phayao Province, Northern Thailand. Phrakhru Manas arrived at the idea after hearing the story of two highway workers who had been forced to cut down a bodhi tree, and thereafter were beset with misfortune. Venerable Keeranthidiye Pannasekera Thero and several environmental activists ordinated the giant “Dun” tree located along the Baduraliya-Kukulegama road in 1997, which was suppose to be cut down to make way for the road expansion for the Kukule hydropower project. Venerable Dr. Balaharuwe Sirisumana Thero and several farmers' organisations, with the support of CEJ, ordinated the giant ‘Red Sandalwood’ tree in Badulla town in 2008 when the Municipal council decided to cut it down to expand a nearby road.
Every tree is a “bodhi”
Buddha said that "A tree is a wonderful living organism which gives shelter, food, warmth and protection to all living things. It even gives shade to those who wield an axe to cut it down". Primitive man had the highest regard for trees, because in his view it was another living being. In Buddhist thinking the tree also has a soul like other living beings and thus it could, when hurt or damaged, feel pain, or even bleed. Buddhism and Hinduism believe that there are 330 million gods, goddess and deities in the world and some of them are living in big trees.
People sometimes make small shrines under trees to worship them. Some also believe that the spirits of our ancestors are also living in ancient trees. Banyan trees are commonly believed to be such sprit trees.
Since Guathama Buddha attained Nibbana (or Nirvana) under a bo (or bodhi) tree, these trees are never harmed or chopped down. The term 'bo' (or 'bodhi') is used by Buddhists to imply two distinct meanings: in a narrow sense, it implies the bo Tree (Ficus religiosa) tree under which the last of the Buddhas, Siddhartha Gautama, attained Enlightenment. In a broad sense, it implies any tree under which a Buddha has attained enlightenment. The most historical and venerated tree is the Sri Maha Bodhi located in Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka.
It is believed that as many as twenty eight Buddhas were sitting under different types of tree when they attained enlightenment  . Like the bo tree, it is widely believed that none of these trees should be cut down.
A Buddhist monk is prohibited from cutting down a tree or having a tree cut down not only because it has life but because it could also be the abode of a deity. The Vinaya Pitaka, the Book of the Discipline, which lays down rules for the proper behaviour of monks, describes the destruction of vegetable growth (meaning five different kinds of propagation - what is propagated from roots, from stems, from joints, from cuttings and from seeds ) is an offence requiring pacittiya (or expiation/ amends)
Ancient followers of Buddha followers also practiced the principle of ‘no harm to the trees’ unless the felling of a tree or cutting of a branch is absolutely necessary. They followed strict rituals and urged deities and animals in the trees to move away before cutting trees or burning forest to make way for cultivation.
Similarly, in the old days in Thailand when certain big trees were required for the making of the traditional royal barge or posts for the tall roof of a royal pire, an offering had to be made and a royal proclamation read to the spirit before the tree could be cut down. This was a wise practice to preserve big trees from wanton felling by the simple folk.
In that sense the massive destruction of the forest is a modern practice and not in line with Buddhist beliefs.
Ordination of a tree
In modern society where money has become the only measure of value, people look at forest as ‘land’ and trees as ‘timber’. All Buddhist beliefs about nature, forest and trees are being lost. This loss of respect and sanctity for nature is the main reason for all the man-made environmental disasters we face today.
A tree is a symbol of altruism. It doesn’t expect anything, but it provides for other living beings and for nature. In modern culture humans have very little or no respect for trees in return. Therefore, it is important to revive ancient beliefs about forests and trees. One can ask whether ordination of a tree is the right approach and a 'proper' Buddhist ritual. Thai Buddhist Monk Achan Chah once said, “They ask, “Then are you an arahant [or Arhat - meaning one who has attained enlightenment]?” Do I know? I am like a tree in a forest, full of leaves, blossoms and fruit. Birds come to eat and nest, and animals seek rest in its shade. Yet the tree does not know itself. It follows its own nature. It is as it is.” (Ajahn Chah, A Tree in a Forest)" Arguably every tree is an ‘Arhat’.
The notion of the ordination of a tree is a timely ritual to bring back respect and sanctity for nature. Tree ordination builds villages' and nations' commitments to protect trees from unending development.
We pledge to protect all the large and small trees living in this forest. We know that harming the ordained is a great sin. Instead of elites and officials protecting the forest from commoners, as in ancient times, now it is the commoners who must protect the forest from the encroaching elites and powerful land grabbers. Instead of picking trees to be felled, the villagers now pick trees to be saved.
Let the trees remain standing and serve nature because they are ordained now. “Thou shall not cut these trees.”
1 Avery Morrow,Tree Ordination as Invented tradition http://asianetworkexchange.org/index.php/ane/article/viewFile/11/6
2 Walter Wijenayaka, Ata Visi Budhuvaru – The 28 Buddhas http://www.island.lk/index.php?page_cat=article-‐details&page=article-‐ details&code_title=51122
3 Prof J. B. Dissanayake, What Buddhists believe about the Bodhi Tree "Thou Shalt not cut this Tree!" http://srimahabodhi.org/disanayaka.htm 4 http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.php?f=16&t=2622
Hemantha Withanage is the Executive Director of the Centre for Environmental Justice/ Friends of the Earth Sri Lanka. He is the Treasurer and an executive member of Friends of the Earth International and the Convenor of the NGO Forum on ADB.
Friends of the Earth Japan: America and Europe Move Away from Coal but Japan Continues to Support the World's Biggest Coal-Fired Power Plants
Japanese Environmental NGOs say NO to Japan Bank for International Cooperation's coal financing!
Three Japanese environmental NGOs (JACSES, Kiko Network and Friends of the Earth Japan) are taking a stand against JBIC's (Japan Bank for International Cooperation) continued financing of coal-fired power plants in developing countries in their "No Coal! Go Green! No to JBIC's coal financing!" project. The problems concerning JBIC's coal financing are as listed below:
1. Even when state-of-the-art technology is used for coal-fired power plants, they still produce the highest amount of CO2 emissions compared with any other form of energy. When compared with natural gas, coal-fired power generation produces twice as many emissions. This is a serious, international problem as emissions from coal-fired power plants are a major driver of climate change.
2. The World Bank, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), the European Investment Bank (EIB), and several governments (the US, the UK, Nordic countries, etc.) have either stopped investing in coal power generation or proposed stricter standards for coal-fired power plants. However, through the government-funded Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC), the Japanese government is promoting policies that support coal projects.
3. In the past 10 years, JBIC has financially supported 21 coal-fired power generation projects in developing countries (JBIC's investments and loans totalled more than 680 million yen) with a total capacity of over 20GW. In a single year, total CO2 emissions can total 120 million tons, the equivalent of 1/10th of Japan's annual emissions and half of the country's emissions from coal-fired power generation. Compared to other countries, JBIC is the leading financer of coal-fired power projects in the world.
4. Currently, JBIC is considering financing the Batang coal-fired power project in Indonesia (one infrastructure export project promoted by Prime Minister Abe). Despite attacks by the local police and the military against protestors and the negative effects this project will have on the locals' livelihoodd and health, JBIC has yet to directly listen to locals' concerns.
We will continue to investigate and report on the above issues. Please visit our homepage for updates concerning this project.
Put pressure on Sri Lankan authorities to strengthen environmental protection for the ancient Nilgala forest
Sri Lanka's ancient Nilgala forest is being ripped up to make room for cash crops. Put pressure on Sri Lankan authorities to strengthen environmental protection for this precious area.
Land grabbing is threatening to devastate Nilgala forest. The forest, known for its medicinal plants, is being torn up to make way for cash crops such as rubber, sugarcane, plantains and rambutan.
Instead of preventing the land grabs, local politicians appear to be encouraging and benefiting from the destruction. Opportunistic land grabbers have sprayed weed killers in the delicate forest, killing undergrowth and medicinal plants. Some of these trees, such as Aralu, Bulu and Nelli, are invaluable, rare and have been growing in the area since King Buddhadasa's reign in the fourth century .
Friends of the Earth Sri Lanka/ Centre for Environmental Justice organized a massive ceremony on January 11 this year to raise public awareness. The ceremony took a special and relatively new approach to forest preservation techniques: the trees were ordinated (similar to consecration or sanctification) in a Buddhist ritual.
- We demand an end to all land encroachments initiated in the past few years. We also demand an immediate halt to the destruction of the forest and to its conversion into cash crop plantations.
- We also demand that Nilgala Forest be placed under the protection of the Forest Ordinance or under the Fauna and Flora Protection ordinance and the forest demarcated.
- We urge the Forest Department to establish a proper forest protection mechanism for Nilgala and set up a Forest Office with adequate staff to protect and preserve the Forest.
Jan 29, 2014
Last month, Wilmar International, the world’s largest palm oil trader, made a historic commitment to cut out deforestation, peatland destruction and the exploitation of human rights from its supply chain. This development has huge potential to transform the palm oil industry and the lives of people impacted by landgrabs and forest destruction. But so far, it’s just words on paper. Wilmar’s promise only matters if the company takes rapid and responsible action.
Wilmar’s crimes span continents: it has much to amend. In West Kalimantan, Indonesia, one of Wilmar’s suppliers, Bumitama Agri, stands accused of destroying thousands of acres of forest and maintaining illegal plantations inside protected forest reserves. Friends of the Earth has called on Wilmar to stop purchasing palm oil from Bumitama and to sell its shares in the company, but Wilmar has yet to do so.
In the Kalangala Islands of Uganda, Wilmar subsidiaries have taken thousands of acres from local communities and have destroyed natural forest to grow palm oil. Communities that depend on the region’s natural forests and lakes for subsistence are being driven off their land with little warning or compensation.
In Nigeria, Wilmar has acquired land that overlaps national forest reserves and community-owned lands, and has already deforested and bulldozed thousands of acres of forest and farmland. Our partners in Nigeria have launched a lawsuit to stop the destruction, but have yet to see any remedy. If Wilmar is to fulfill its commitment, it needs to halt its operations in Nigeria until and unless all legal and ecological concerns are addressed and until it gets full community consent.
Jan 28, 2014
Vadim Shebanov, a member of Friends of the Earth Ukraine, was arrested following a peaceful protest in Dnipropetrovsk, Ukraine on January 26. On January 31, he was released from prison, but put under house arrest. Please help us put pressure on the Ukrainian authorities to release Vadim immediately .
Peaceful protestors in Ukraine have suffered violence, harassment and abuse at the hands of their own police force in recent months. Vadim Shebanov, a member of Friends of the Earth Ukraine/ Zelenyi Svit, was arrested following a peaceful protest in Dnipropetrovsk, Ukraine on January 26. Please help us put pressure on the Ukrainian authorities to drop all charges against Vadim immediately.
Roughly five thousand people demonstrated at the city’s park on Sunday January 26, before moving to Dnipropetrovsk Regional Administration. The demonstrators were calling for the repeal of recent anti-democratic legislative amendments. [UPDATE January 28: These laws have since been repealed]
Three people, including Vadim Shebanov, were nominated to negotiate on behalf of the protestors. They discussed their demands with Vice-Chair of the Dnipropetrovsk Regional Administration, Mr. Krupsky. Among their demands was a request to improve the security situation, which had been getting out of hand. Unfortunately, police arrested peaceful activists including Vadim Shebanov instead. He was detained by police and sentenced to two months pre-trial detention in the same night.
Vadim Shebanov is a well-known Dnipropetrovsk activist, member of Friends of the Earth Ukraine/ Zelenyi Svit, chair of a sports associations, public activist and former deputy of Dnipropetrovsk regional council.
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Vadim Shebanov, a member of Friends of the Earth Ukraine, was arrested following a peaceful protest in Dnipropetrovsk, Ukraine on January 26. Please help us put pressure on the Ukrainian authorities to release Vadim immediately bit.ly/1f2zhKm.
Help us put pressure on Ukrainian government to release FoE #Ukraine activist Vadim Shebanov. Petition: http://bitly.com/1f2zhKn @foeint
Image: Mstyslav Chernov/Unframe
Jan 27, 2014
Ukrainian government's criminalization of civil society and international cooperation critically damages the country's ability to protect the environment
January 27, 2014 – Friends of the Earth International, the world's largest federation of grassroots environmental groups, is demanding the immediate release of Friends of the Earth Ukraine member Vadim Shebanov and other activists arrested and detained by the police during a peaceful protest in the city of Dnipropetrovsk on January 26. Mr Shebanov, who is a well-known activist and former deputy of the Dnipropetrovsk city council, was engaged in an effort to try and open negotiations between local authorities and protesters gathered in the city centre.
We condemn the recent abhorrent violence in Ukraine and call on all parties to pressure Ukraine to end the violence, allow investigations into allegations of police abuse, and repeal its new anti-democratic laws. [UPDATE January 28: These laws have since been repealed]
We strongly urge the Ukrainian government to fully reverse recent anti-democratic that effectively criminalizes political, civil and social activities. Of particular concern are bans on public assembly, criminalization of international collaboration and the labeling of NGOs as 'foreign agents', restrictions on information sharing and repressive regulations governing NGO activities in general. Far from posing a threat to society, these activities help to develop community life, build peace and protect the free and frank exchange of ideas.
We are alarmed by the potential impact of the new legislation on the entirely peaceful activities of Friends of the Earth (FoE) Ukraine / Зелений світ. FoE Ukraine is a vibrant and extremely active member of both the international federation Friends of the Earth International and the regional network Friends of the Earth Europe. FoE Ukraine's transnational cooperation is a vital part of its work to raise environmental awareness in Ukraine and contribute to regional and international solutions to shared environmental problems. Placing legal obstacles in the way of NGOs, such as FoE Ukraine, in the name of security is a dishonest affront to the very idea of international solidarity – a cornerstone of the architecture of a peaceful global community.
Environmental issues do not, by their nature, respect national borders. This work necessarily involves international cooperation. The recent legislative moves by the Ukrainian government can only damage international cooperation through myopic, reactionary national measures. Further, this raft of legislation will suffocate online and offline media and academic discourse, encourage xenophobia, and subject civil society activity in all its forms to the scrutiny of public officials: history is littered with illustrative examples of how such government interference in public life cripples innovative, creative and progressive work across education, business, civil and cultural life.
We demand that the international community works swiftly to pressure Ukraine to end the violence, allow investigations into documented abuses by the police to date and repeal anti-democratic legislation, using all available diplomatic channels.
Image: Mstyslav Chernov/Unframe
Jan 15, 2014
As 2013 ended, we were forced to consider that the year saw the situation in Mozambique deteriorating quite a bit. Already in 2012, there was a marked decrease in the civil society space and a lack of openness for serious and transparent dialogue with the government. We entered 2013 with hope, convinced that things certainly could not get worse. Today, we don’t know how to evaluate the year that just ended, nor what to expect from what’s coming up.
Across the country, human rights crimes and violations only increased, along with land grabbing, conflicts between communities and investors, and the destruction of our natural resources by corporations in the name of ‘development’. The denouncement by civil society increased, but somehow we kept being ignored by our legal system, which should be sorting out the many injustices resulting from the investment boom, but instead is busy with other issues.
It would have been a huge stretch of the imagination to predict that 2013 could be worse than 2012. Who could have imagined that the military and political tension would bring us back to arms. This came along with the wave of kidnappings and total sense of public insecurity for the people.
But despite the hostile climate, civil society in Mozambique continued its work. With all the threats, constraints and usual total disregard for our work, JA and other allied NGOs remained united in the fight against the large land-grabbing of ProSavana and support to subsistence farmers, support to communities displaced by coal mining in Tete province, in fighting the implementation of REDD projects in Africa, combating land-grabbing by Wambao agriculture and all over the country, in short, the usual fights.
Although for the worst reasons, 2013 saw an emotional, exciting and prominent event in Mozambique. On 31 October, more than 30,000 Mozambican citizens took to the streets to participate in a vibrant peace march.
We protested peacefully with chants of ‘No to war!’ ‘No to corruption!’ ‘No to kidnaping abductions and insecurity!’ And, the big one, ‘Down with the government!’ was shouted in unison through the streets of Mozambique’s capital, Maputo, but also in other cities such as Beira, Pemba, Quelimane, Nampula and certainly to a lesser extent in many other parts of the country. It was a perfect demonstration of how the Mozambican people are tired of false promises and hollow speeches. The people took to the streets to say ‘BASTA!’ (Enough)
But the year was not over yet…
In November we had local-level elections and all the problems that arise repeatedly in our country (with an absurd normalcy) of what should be a simple democratic exercise including deaths, fraud, assault and more. It was sad and shameful indeed. Attacks on civil society continued.
To close the year, the cherry on the cake was that in early December, Mozambican academic Carlos Nuno Castel-Branco was summoned by the Attorney General & criminal proceedings were brought against him and the media outlets, Canal de Moçambique and Mediafax. All this was because he wrote a harsh open letter to the President, Armando Guebuza criticizing his governance and the two media outlets published it.
Mediafax has explained that the two newspapers are accused of abuse of press freedom for publishing Castel-Branco’s letter. Once again the government has used imagination and creativity to shrink the space. Abuse of freedom! Are journalists no longer free to publish opinions of individuals? Worse, do citizens still have the right to give their opinions? Or are we about to lose one of our most fundamental rights?
Critical thinking and opinion are fundamental to the development of a society. If wrong, absurd and/ or radical, the ideas expressed should be challenged in the same way: BY WORDS.
Across the world, every day, governments and rulers are subject to criticism and always will be! Especially when they forget who they represent.
“If the process moves forward and ends in conviction, our freedoms will be threatened,” wrote Dr Alice Mabote of Mozambican Human Rights League in an open solidarity letter to Castel-Branco, challenging the Prosecutor to also add to the prosecution list her and all other Mozambicans who criticize the “mis-governance” of Armando Guebuza.
These proceedings are absurd. JA joins civil society in denouncing them and we extend our full solidarity to Professor Carlos Nuno Castel-Branco, Canal de Moçambique and Mediafax and calls for civil society and the Mozambican media to not be intimidated.
We will continue the struggle for environmental justice, social justice, for a better future for future generations and for a better world where differences are resolved by exchanging ideas and not bullets. Our words are our weapons, and because we are right, sooner or later we will win with them!
“In the pursuit of truth, it is forbidden to put words in handcuffs,” said Carlos Cardoso, Mozambican journalist assassinated in 2000.
A luta continua!
Anabela Lemos is the director of Friends of the Earth Mozambique/ JA!
All image credits: Friends of the Earth Mozambique/ JA!
Jan 10, 2014
Friends of the Earth International stands in solidarity with its member PENGON/Friends of the Earth Palestine and the Palestinian people in their struggle for their right to live in dignity and exercise sovereignty over their land and natural resources, including access to fresh water.
Many communities in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (West Bank and Gaza Strip) suffer from a lack of access to adequate, safe, and clean water, due to Israeli water policies and practices which discriminate against the Palestinian population of the OPT, and the encroachment by Israeli settlers on Palestinian water resources.
The water supply in the OPT is controlled by Israel. While all Israeli settlements in the West Bank are connected to piped water supplied by the Israeli state water company Mekorot, and many have swimming pools, while an estimated 15% of the Palestinian population is not serviced by water supply. For those who are connected and purchase their water from Mekorot, the amount of water available is restricted to a level which does not meet their needs and does not constitute a fair and equitable share of the shared water resources. During summer, water is routinely rationed and supply might be reduced up to 70% in certain places. Some Palestinian cities, towns and villages may have water only once a week or even once a month.*
In view of the discriminatory water policies and practices sustained by the Israeli water company Mekorot, which may be seen to uphold and nurture water apartheid, Friends of the Earth International welcomes the recent decision by the Dutch public utility company Vitens to abstain from signing an international cooperation agreement with Mekorot, and supports the campaign of PENGON/Friends of the Earth Palestine and other organisations united in the Palestinian call for boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel (BDS) to prevent other parties - be they companies, governments or aid agencies - to pursue such agreements.
Mekorot violates international law and colludes in resource grabbing, including pillage of water resources in the OPT, supply of this pillaged water to illegal Israeli settlements, and engages in systematic discrimination and denial of water to the Palestinian population.
Friends of the Earth International calls upon governments, municipalities and private companies worldwide to discourage business links with illegal Israeli settlements by avoiding or terminating all cooperation with complicit Israeli companies such as Mekorot.
Financial transactions, investments, purchases, procurements as well as other economic activities benefiting Israeli settlements, entail legal and economic risks stemming from the fact that the Israeli settlements, according to international law, are built on occupied land and are not recognised as a legitimate part of Israel's territory. This may result in disputed titles to the land, water, mineral or other natural resources which might be the subject of purchase or investment.
* For more information, see our recent report 'Economic drivers of water financialization', chapter 1, 'Water injustice in Palestine: a limiting factore for social and economic development',
pp 12 - 16 http://www.foei.org/en/resources/publications/pdfs/2013/Economic%20drivers%20of%20water%20financialization.pdf/at_download/file
Jan 09, 2014
How overconsumption and intensive meat production wrecks the planet
Intensive meat and dairy production is having an increasingly devastating impact on society and the environment, according to a new 'Meat Atlas' published today by Friends of the Earth Europe and the Heinrich Boell Foundation.
The way we produce and consume meat and dairy needs a radical rethink. Our industrialised production system is untenable, according to the report, since it depends on scarce land and water resources, and passes on hidden costs to the consumer. Curbs on corporate control over food need to be implemented, it says, to reduce the impact on society and the environment.
The Meat Atlas aims to catalyse the debate over the need for better, safer and more sustainable food and farming and advocates clear individual and political solutions.
Adrian Bebb, senior food, agriculture and biodiversity campaigner for Friends of the Earth Europe said: "Diet is no longer a private matter. Every time we eat, we are making a political choice, and we are impacting upon the lives of people around the world, on the environment, biodiversity and the climate. Huge amounts of resources go into the food on our plates. Sustainable alternatives exist to the dominant destructive, corporate-controlled and intensive global system for producing and consuming meat."
The report outlines the impact of intensive meat and dairy production on freshwater usage and land. Worldwide agriculture consumes 70% of available freshwater, one third of which goes towards raising livestock. The increasingly intensive livestock sector is also one of largest consumers of land and edible crops, with more than 40% of the annual output of wheat, rye, oats and maize used for animal feed, and with one third of the world's 14 billion hectares of cultivated land used to grow it.
To produce a kilo of beef requires 15,500 litres of water – the same amount required to produce 12 kilos of wheat or 118 kilos of carrots. To make a hamburger requires more than 3.5 square metres of land.
Barbara Unmüßig, President Heinrich Boell Foundation: "Intensive meat production isn't just torture for animals. It destroys the environment, and devours great chunks of our raw materials which we import from the global South as animal feed. After China, Europe is the biggest importer of soya. Argentina and Brazil are dramatically increasing their soya cultivation, and it's being fed almost exclusively to the animals we slaughter. Rising meat consumption is forcing up land prices. This has devastating consequences: Nearly a third of the world's land is being used to grow animal feed. Meanwhile, small farmers are losing their land and their livelihoods. That schnitzel on our plates jeopardises the food security of many people in the global South."
The report also warns that the trade talks between the EU and the US risk pushing food and farming standards down on both sides of the Atlantic. Big food and biotech companies want to lift EU restrictions on genetically modified (GM) foods and animal feeds, and are challenging consumer labelling laws. They also want to undermine the EU's 'precautionary principle' which sets food safety standards, and aim to further globalise and industrialise the meat industry.
There are solutions, and the organisations urge legislators to reform the livestock sector. The Sustainable Food Communication , due to be launched by the European Commission in spring 2014, should address dietary issues, underlining the basic right to a nutritious diet based on seasonal and local food, which is grown sustainably, respects cultural diversity, and includes a smaller daily intake of good quality meat, according to the organisations.
Jan 08, 2014
The Bee Cause calls for a ban on bee harmful pesticides and practices while proposing and delivering practical ways to help bees and wild pollinators.
Bees are very important in Canada with estimates of $1.7 billion value for their pollination services and $146 million of honey produced annually.
In winter 2012-13, Canada lost 29% of its honey bee colonies and the provinces of Ontario lost 40% and New Brunswick 37%.
Dramatic die-off of thousands of honey bee colonies in Ontario and Quebec in 2012 has been tied to the use of pesticides called “neonictinoids” while planting corn and soybeans. Honey bee mortality in 2013 seems to be as dramatic in Quebec, Ontario and Manitoba with more beekeepers reporting into the federal agency, PMRA.
Neonicotinoids are systemic pesticides that are absorbed into plant tissues including flowers. They’re highly soluble and leach into ground water and contaminate soil. They are applied to corn and soybeans and a variety of other crops using sprays, seed coatings, soil drenches and granules.
The European Union decided to ban the use of three neonicotinoid pesticides (clothianidin, imidacloprid and thiametoxam) for two years while impact studies are done.
Friends of the Earth believes that neonicotinoids should be removed from the Canadian market until proven safe.
Friends of the Earth Canada conducted a poll with Oracle Poll research which found over 80% of Ontarians support the ban of neonictonoids in favour of more research.
For full poll results, click here.
Friends of the Earth Canada hosted Dave Goulson, an awesome bee expert from the U.K., who discussed his experiences in helping the EU ban the use of neonicotinoids.
Watch him discuss bees and neonicotinoids here:
Blog: What's driving the palm oil industry's human rights abuses and environmental destruction? Just follow the money
If you’re looking to do your part to protect tropical rainforests, you need look no further than your kitchen pantry. As you’ve likely heard by now from Friends of the Earth and others, the world’s leading killer of tropical forests is palm oil -- and palm oil derivatives are in your cookies, your ice cream, your shampoo, and -- I’m sorry to tell you this -- in your chocolate.
While industry analysts attribute the ubiquity of palm oil to consumer demand, palm oil isn’t in all these products because you demanded it, because it’s healthy, or because it tastes good (it doesn’t). It’s there because it’s cheap. Palm oil is cheap because it’s produced by a global industry built on land grabbing, human rights abuses and environmental devastation. Along with low production costs and a growing market comes the other reason why palm oil has become ubiquitous: it gives high returns on investment.
Palm oil’s environmental footprint
Palm oil is a vegetable oil derived from the fruit of the oil palm tree, native to West Africa, and used, as of very recently, in thousands of consumer products, from baked goods and ice cream to cleaning products and biofuels. Because of its high melting point, its high yield, and its lack of unhealthy trans fats, palm oil has rapidly come to dominate the global vegetable oil market, with production projected to double again in the next decade. (About 76 percent of palm oil is used for foods, with the remainder used for industrial purposes including biodiesel.)
Nearly 90 percent of global palm oil production comes from Indonesia and Malaysia, where industry boosters argue it’s been a huge boon for the economy. World Wide Fund for Nature, the environmental juggernaut that initiated the industry-friendly Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil to certify palm oil according to environmental and social criteria, argues that palm oil has lifted millions of poor Indonesians out of poverty. But at what price?
Because palm trees do extremely well in the same conditions as rain forest, the industry’s expansion has relied on cutting and burning vast acreages of forest, draining fragile peat soils, and replacing native vegetation with palm oil monocultures. Less than half of Indonesia’s forests remain standing today, and by 2020 the Indonesian government plans to convert 45 million more acres of rain forests -- an area the size of Syria -- into palm oil plantations.
Indonesia’s rainforests are among the earth’s most biologically and culturally rich ecosystems, harboring the only wild populations of orangutans, Sumatran tigers and Sumatran rhinoceros. Our partners at Rainforest Action Network have launched a campaign to bring attention to these critically endangered animals, especially the orangutan, of which only 60,000 wild animals remain. The organization is targeting 20 snack food companies that use conflict palm oil in their products and urging consumers to participate in their In Your Palm campaign.
The African rain forest belt is suffering from the palm oil boom as well, with millions of acres of forest being converted to plantations from Liberia and Cameroon in West Africa across the heart of the continent to Uganda and Madagascar in the east.
It’s not just animals that are endangered: the palm oil monitoring group SawitWatch has identified 663 ongoing land disputes between palm oil companies and rural communities in Indonesia, many involving private armies and paramilitaries. In Nigeria, activists have been forced into hiding for opposing palm oil expansion, and in Liberia, plantation conditions are likened to modern-day slavery. Forced and child labor are part of business-as-usual.
Last month, Friends of the Earth US released a report about a lesser-known company called Bumitama Agri that sells the majority of its palm oil to Wilmar International, a Singapore-based company that controls nearly half of the global palm oil trade. The report shows how Bumitama has destroyed at least 15,000 acres of rainforest in the past decade, including endangered orangutan habitat. At least 17,000 acres of its plantation land lacks valid permits, much of it inside protected forest reserves.
Bumitama deliberately acquired much of this land shortly before its initial public offering in April 2012; in its prospectus to investors, the company made it clear that its money-making strategy was to exploit these assets. Prospective investors were informed that Bumitama’s expansion plans included preferential rights to harvest from lands without the required licenses, and that the Hariyanto family -- the majority owner of Bumitama Agri -- would bear the liability risk.
A year later, in April 2013, several dying orangutans were rescued from one of Bumitama's concessions. After a complaint was made to the RSPO, Bumitama pledged to stop clearing land until ecological assessments had been carried out. But satellite imagery revealed that Bumitama continued to clear forests and peat swamps for several more months in the area where the orangutans were found. When the allegations hit home, shortly after an RSPO meeting this October, the director of Bumitama, Gunardi Hariyanto Lin, resigned.
A very lucrative commodity
While it's both illegal and unethical, Bumitama’s forest destruction is fully justified by economic logic. Everywhere, there are strong and growing incentives to grow more palm oil: the US Food and Drug Administration's 2006 mandate that all food labels list trans fat content led to a spike in US palm oil consumption. The FDA is now considering a total ban on trans fats, which will likely give US palm oil imports a further boost. Likewise, palm oil consumption for biofuels in the EU has increased by 365 percent since 2006; Indonesia too is increasing its reliance on palm oil as a biofuel feedstock, with other countries sure to follow.
But a clear-eyed assessment of how the industry has achieved its rapid growth shows that consumer choice and government mandates are not the only drivers. It is true that palm oil enjoys natural advantages over its competitors, such as producing more oil on less land; and that it is low in trans fats (though high in saturated fats, which are of equal concern). But it cannot be denied that a key factor in cheap production -- and thereby, in its rapid growth and high returns -- is sector-wide disregard for environmental and human rights standards and animal welfare, and easy access to financing with few environmental and social strings attached.
According to the Malaysia Estate Owners Association, development of new palm plantations in Malaysia can bring up to 22.5 percent return on investment, while investing in established plantations can give nearly 10 percent. Such returns might explain why some of the top banks and institutional investors in the US and Europe —Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, Barclay’s and Fidelity Investments, as well as several major pension funds — have palm oil in their portfolios.
Ironically, without the financial markets, palm oil wouldn’t be so solvent: every 10,000 acres of new palm oil plantations requires roughly $100 million in capital investments. Since 2008, major financial institutions have extended more than $20 billion in financing to the industry, including more than $14 billion in loans, and smaller amounts through bonds and equity.
A recent report by HSBC Global Research confirms the role of banks in driving the palm oil boom: in 2002 the Southeast Asian palm oil sector sought $3 billion in external financing; in 2012, it sought $55 billion. And there is no question that the money is flowing: Indonesia’s largest bank disbursed more than $4.4 billion USD to large palm oil growers this year, and plans to lend more next year. According to the Jakarta Globe, the Indonesian Palm Oil Producers Association has called for investment of 300 trillion rupiah by 2020 to “replace” 7.5 million acres of forest with new palm oil plantations.
To be clear, that’s seven and half million acres of forest that might be spared the axe if it were not for bank financing.
Moving toward sustainability?
Many industry boosters and NGOs believe, against all reason, that such expanding demand can be met “sustainably.” The HSBC report predicts that, due to growing awareness and civil society pressure, banks will begin to demand stronger sustainability standards. But the report notes that, for the moment, the supply of RSPO-certified palm oil exceeds demand by about 50 percent -- and RSPO criteria themselves are increasingly considered too weak, even by WWF itself.
The HSBC report’s view that sustainability is becoming more important to investors in evaluating risk is reflected in growing concern among responsible financiers about the sector’s abuses. Early in 2013, the Government Pension Fund of Norway divested from 23 palm oil companies, including Wilmar, and last month a group of institutional investors from the U.S. and Europe, representing approximately $270 billion in assets, called for the development of transparent, traceable, deforestation-free palm oil supply chains.
On December 5, bowing to pressure from Friends of the Earth and many other civil society groups, Wilmar International, the company that dominates the palm oil market, announced a new policy to ban deforestation and exploitation from its operations and its supply chain. The announcement comes with a timeline to turn the company around by the end of 2015. Given the scale of Wilmar’s operations, it could signal a sea change in the palm oil industry.
But a policy on paper -- essentially a voluntary commitment by a corporation with an extremely checkered history -- is no substitute for strong national legislation, international norms to govern financing, and the empowerment of local communities and community-based organizations to determine the best use of their lands.
At worst, and in the absence of deeper changes, Wilmar’s new policy could serve as a smokescreen to allow the company’s rapacious practices to continue, and much like the RSPO, to provide a green sheen to an industry built on exploitation. At best, though, it could send a signal to governments and financial regulators that unless they put the reins on the financial actors, banks and investors that are driving the industry’s unchecked expansion, palm oil companies will continue to be financially motivated to reduce the world’s last rainforests to a sea of stumps.
Dec 19, 2013
Real World Radio presents the assessment by Friends of the Earth’s Food Sovereignty program coordinator Kirtana Chandrasekaran on the latest decisions of the United Nations Committee on World Food Security (CFS) on agrofuels.
Chandrasekaran speaks about the CFS resolutions regarding investments in smallholder agriculture and civil society’s role in the committee.
Real World Radio also interviewed environmental activist Otto Bruun, from Friends of the Earth Finland, who focused on the role of social movements and organizations in the so called “Civil Society Mechanism”.
The CFS decisions on investment in smallholder agriculture and agrofuels, which go in different directions in terms of tackling world hunger, were negotiated and adopted by the governments at the CFS 40th session held in Rome, Italy, from October 7 to 11. Both Chandrasekaran and Bruun, as well as co-coordinator of FoEI’s Food Sovereignty Program, Martin Drago, attended the CFS talks in Rome.
The Committee on World Food Security is a multilateral agency reformed in 2009 to include the participation of different stakeholders in the debate on food security and nutrition. In 2011, the CFS commissioned reports on two different issues to a High Panel of Experts on Food Security and Nutrition. As regards the investment in smallholder agriculture, the CFS followed the panel’s recommendations, while it dismissed its assessment on agrofuels.
The outcome of the World Trade Organisation’s Ministerial Conference held in Bali, Indonesia, from December 3rd through 7th, is a “great disaster for peoples’ lives and for Mother Earth”.
Listen to the interview with Lucia Ortiz: MP3 (6.8 MB)
This was the assessment made by the coordinator of the Economic Justice Program of Friends of the Earth International, Lucia Ortiz, in interview with Real World Radio.
The Brazilian activist attended the WTO talks in Bali and said the resolutions adopted there are a threat to food sovereignty, which would lead to more “hunger and death”.
On December 3rd, several social movements, organizations and civil society groups demonstrated in Bali and in Geneva, Switzerland against the corporate capture of the WTO negotiations and of the United Nations Human Rights Council. The groups, which are part of the international campaign “Dismantle Corporate Power and End Impunity”, had demanded legally binding rules to punish transnational corporations for their crimes.
Ortiz highlighted the social movements’ demonstrations and actions in Bali. There was a memorial in honor of South Korean peasant Lee Kyung Hae who killed himself during the protests held in Cancun, Mexico, against the WTO negotiations on September 10th, 2003. With this memorial the demonstrators wanted to show what the WTO does to peasants.
Ortiz said that, contrary to the demands of social movements, the WTO passed a legally binding package to facilitate trade.
“Not even the measures to protect the least developed countries were achieved here. They (developed countries) keep only empty promises by an organization whose aim is to deliver trade liberalization and business for corporations”, said Lucia Ortiz.
Dec 10, 2013
9th of December 2013 – In response to years of pressure from civil society, Wilmar International, the world's largest palm oil trader, has just announced a “No deforestation, No Peat, No Exploitation Policy”.
Friends of the Earth International and many Friends of the Earth member groups have
campaigned for years to end Wilmar’s destructive, unsustainable, and often illegal practices. The ravages of the palm oil sector are well known and well documented, and we need urgent action to reduce the massive harm caused to forests and communities by industrial palm oil plantations.
We are strongly cognizant that Wilmar’s commitment to improvement comes in the wake of many years of land-grabbing, fueling of conflicts, destruction of endangered habitat, and other abuses – all of which has rewarded Wilmar and its associates with enormous profits, and established the company as the world’s largest palm oil trader.
Given this history, and the context within which transnational corporations such as Wilmar
operate, Friends of the Earth recognizes that a voluntary commitment by Wilmar, no matter how broad, can only be fully effective when accompanied and overseen by strong national legislation and international norms to prevent systematic exploitation of lands, lives and livelihoods, and by the full empowerment of local communities and community-based organizations to determine the best use of their lands and resources.
Friends of the Earth has documented several ongoing cases of social and environmental abuse involving Wilmar, its subsidiaries, and its third party suppliers. These cases demonstrate that Wilmar’s membership in the Round Table on Sustainable Palm Oil did not prevent it from violating the rights of indigenous peoples and local communities or from deforesting large areas.
In light of this, Wilmar needs to take immediate steps to demonstrate that it takes this new policy seriously. These steps include bringing an immediate end to conversion of natural forest to plantations; halting its purchasing of palm oil from Bumitama Agri Ltd.; immediate adherence to national laws in Uganda and all the countries where it operates; and the full and demonstrable application of Free Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) in all of its operations, including consideration for returning lands which were previously acquired without communities’ consent and through processes which did not respect their ownership rights. Without these concrete and immediate actions, the statement of Wilmar will be merely greenwash to prevent pressure from civil society groups.
Friends of the Earth will be closely monitoring the implementation of Wilmar’s stated
Image: Riau palm oil 2007
Nov 27, 2013
Eskom coal-fired power stations surround the home of Thomas Mnguni, who lives with his two young children in the Mpumalanga Province in South Africa, experiencing daily the health impacts of Eskom’s coal addiction. South Africa’s energy utility supplies 90% of its electricity through its coal-fired power stations. The pollutants generated by coal combustion and the health impacts are severe, and it is those that are most vulnerable, such as the elderly, pregnant women and children, that are forced to bear the brunt of Eskom’s activities. Eskom is now attempting to avoid compliance with South Africa’s laws on air quality, put in place to protect people’s health.
Thomas plays an active role in his community on these issues as he sees the impacts Eskom’s addiction to coal has on them:
“Eskom is directly polluting us, but they are in denial about how the emissions from their coal-fired power stations affect our health. In Middleburg, where my children and I live, the air is some of the worst in the country, if not the world. My child and many others in the community suffer from asthma”.
Thomas, his community, and the entire South African community need your help to put pressure on Eskom to clean up their act! And the way you can do this is by naming and shaming the company by voting for it in the Public Eye Awards www.publiceye.ch
Regardless of Eskom publicly admitting that it is probably the biggest emitter of pollutants in South Africa, it is currently attempting to gain exemption and/or postponement for 14 of its 18 coal-fired power stations from having to comply with air pollution standards (minimum emissions standards). The areas in which many of these power stations are found already exceed South Africa’s air quality emission standards, so these applications are a flagrant disregard for people’s health. It is estimated that the external public health cost resulting from the Kusile coal-fired power stations in Mpumalanga, will be over R180 million (US$17.7m) , and 51% of hospital admissions in this province are from power generation activities.
Hosted by Greenpeace and the Berne Declaration, the international Public Eye Awards take place annually in parallel to the World Economic Forum in Switzerland, to name and shame the world’s worst corporations, eight of which have been shortlisted this year based on human rights violations, environmental destruction and corruption.
Eskom is of course amongst these companies and the people of South Africa need your vote to put an end to Eskom’s coal addiction which is killing the people and their environment.
Friends of the Earth Sri Lanka/CEJ and “Siyane Jalaya Syurakeeme Jana Neguma” file legal action seeking justice for people harmed by water pollution in Rathupaswala
26th November 2013 Colombo, Sri Lanka. Today, Sri Lanka's Court of Appeal issued notice to the Central Environmental Authority (CEA), Board of Investment (BOI) and Venigross (Pvt) Limited after considering the writ application case filed by Friends of the Earth Sri Lanka/the Centre for Environmental Justice(CEJ) and a representative of “Siyane Jalaya Syurakeeme Jana Neguma (SJSS)” regarding the pollution caused by the factory.
CEJ, and the SJSS sought a writ to compel the Central Environmental Authority (CEA) and Board of Investment (BOI) of Sri Lanka, to bring justice to the residents of Rathupaswala by taking legal action against the Venigros (Pvt) Ltd, for the pollution of inland waters and soil and for violating the terms and conditions of the EPL in the performance of their statutory duty.
Petitioners have stated in their petition that the CEA and the BOI have failed to undertake investigations and inspections to ensure compliance with this Act and to investigate complaints relating to non-compliance with the provision of the National Environment Act as well as the non-compliance for the conditions of the EPL. Also, that Venigros (Pvt) Ltd has improperly dumped industrial effluents and hazardous waste without properly treating them first.
Furthermore, some residents from the Nedungamuwa area complained that they are unable to consume their well water and they have suffered various diseases because of the polluted water discharged by Venigros (Pvt) Ltd. Petitioners have requested that the factory be relocated following the conclusions of a report prepared by the National Water Supply and Drainage Board.
The case was supported on 26th November 2013.