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The “ A, B , C “ of Large and Mega Dams

 What is a Dam, large and Mega?

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It is a big cement hall, that stop the course of the river. The word seems to be related to the Greek word taphos, meaning “grave” or “grave hill”, in reality it is a tombstone for the river.

By the International Commission of Large Dams (ICOLD), a large dam is higher than 15m while a Mega dam is over 100m. Most Mega dams worldwide are used for energy production.

Mega dams have been the center of many debates, research and studies for the last decade.

Between 1930 and 1970, the boom of Mega dams was seen to be synonymous with “economic development” and a symbol of human ability to assert control over nature. But then the truth of their negative impacts started to arise, and it become the center of many debates and arguments around costs-versus-benefits, ecological impacts, social impacts, etc.

From one side the proponents claim dams as a source of energy and as such a tool for development, from another side the opponents state that those benefits are far outweighed by disadvantages such as loss of communities livelihoods and rivers ecosystems to name just some.

The late 1980s and 1990s era, were marked by large protests, and controversial debates about mega dams. Pressure and huge campaigns from civil society, social movements and communities affected by dams to stop financing mega-dams. Same financed institutions, with the pressure and information about crimes against human rights, by mega dams financed by the world bank, funds were decrease to the world Bank Dams projects. Due to such an outcry, an independent commission under the chairmanship of Kader Asmal, the South African water minister, was created in April 1997, the “World Commission on Dams (WCD)”, to research the environmental, social and economic impacts of mega Dams globally. The WCD was composed of members of civil society, academia, private sector, professional associations and government representatives. The report findings and recommendations were launched under the patronage of Nelson Mandela in November 2000. The WCD found that while “ dams have made an important and significant contribution to human development, and benefits derived from them have been considerable… in too many cases an unacceptable and often unnecessary price has been paid to secure those benefits, especially in social and environmental terms, by people displaced, by communities downstream, by taxpayers and by the natural environment.” The study also made recommendations and provided guidelines which all dam projects should follow, including five core values and seven priorities detailed below:

Values

Equity,

Sustainability,

Efficiency,

Participatory decision-making and

Accountability.

Priorities

Gaining public acceptance,
comprehensive options assessment,

Addressing existing dams,

Sustaining Rivers and Livelihoods
Recognising entitlements and sharing benefits,
Ensuring compliance and

Sharing rivers for peace, development and security.

For a while, the understanding of the large costs of Mega dams started to become a reality, but suddenly with the climate crises, they came back with the tag of “Solution for Climate change”. But it is not a solution. It is riddled with problems and earns our tag of “false solution”.

At JA’s last year climate justice meeting “Seeding Climate justice II”, held in Maputo, JA invited Rudo Sanyanga, Africa Director of International Rivers (IR), who presented the impacts of dams on the climate, and debunked the myth that mega dams are one of the energy sources to address our climate crises. Without going into the known social and environmental impacts, the presenter began her presentation by asking “Hydro dams, do they provide CLEAN energy? NO, THEY DON’T, ITS NOT TRUE! They exacerbate climate change instead”. Dams especially tropical dams can often produce a huge amount of methane and carbon dioxide from rotting biomass in the reservoir. Then there are huge impacts of droughts and floods on the energy production, and dependency of hydroelectric on a changing climate is questionable.

Rudo spoke about the breakthrough research done in 2012, “ A Risky Climate for Southern African Hydro”, there was a lot of opposition, attacked by politicians, statements that IR ‘’was scaring people, and that was not going to happen’’. But it is real, 4 years after, we see that is happen, this year, Lake Kariba never went above 20% capacity, Lesotho Katse dam was 63%, Zambia that was 80% dependent of Hydro, due to a 2 years drought is turning into solar. This is real , Zambezi Basin countries will have a decrease in stream flow, as many studies estimate and a decrease of run-off to be between 26% to 40% by 2050. No one is trying to scare people, but it is already happen and is going to only become worse.

We recall back in 2012, when Rudo come to Maputo to present the finding of this study, we were attacked by most of the government participants at the launch meeting, to the point of becoming quite an ugly and unproductive meeting.

We raised the question again, how can Mozambique build a dam as risky as it is Mphanda Nkuwa is to the environmental and communities, seismic risk, and now adding the economic and climate change risk? Those risks exist, due to extreme climate changes, and they must be included in any evaluation and decision to build or not a dam.

But as the researcher stated on their study, that government, dam builders and decisions makers, are not taking into consideration the economic risks associated to climate change, in his wordsThere is been a neglect of climate risks in hydropower planning – in an approach that might be called either ‘wait and see’ or ‘head in the sand’ ”.

But it still amazes me how difficult is for people to understand and see mega dams for what they really are: a monstrosity that destroys lives, livelihoods and rivers ecosystem, to say some. In a way I can understand if you look into a coal power station, you see ugliness, you see smoke, pollution and a landscape that no one wants to live there if they have a choose. At the other end, a mega dam is an huge infrastructure that makes any engineers proud of it, a lake, and an enormous hall that splits water in amazing speed, and a sound that make you feel small in this world… for sure looks much better then a coal power station. But it is just that, a facade. Because it is not synonymous with development, just ask the 40-80 million people displaced by dams, how their lives and livelihoods have been destroyed. Neither is it a solution for climate change as it often emits methane (more in tropical areas), destroys forests for the reservoir. Neither it is good for the environmental as it block rivers and inundates forests and agricultural land , and deny downstream enough water for wetlands to operate accordingly. Neither they protect us, from flood if they are not build to do so, or a way to keep water during drought.

Why they do not protect us from floods…. Well, if they are build just for that, yes, but you do not need a Mega dam for that, a mega dam is either for energy production, irrigation or water supply. To produce energy, you need to keep as much water as possible, and then when a big flood comes, there is no space to keep all the water in, same for irrigation, and to protect us from floods we do not need mega dams, small dams are the ideal, and system that can divert water when is too much, same for drought.

JA released in 2009 a study about renewable energy sources for Mozambique, another study that was attacked by the government participants in such a way that the author had difficulties to do his presentation without being constantly interrupted, simply because that study showed that we do not need Mphanda Nkuwa, and there are other ways forward to have energy for everyone with less impacts. The magic potion is not that difficult, we need to start with decentralized energy systems, clean energy, solar, wind, even mini to small hydro dams, a mix of energy sources, which must be affordable by all people.

We can do, and we should think more on solutions to tackle and minimize climate change impacts, instead to follow a path that put us where we are…. In a crises, can we be more smart and take decisions that are smarter, at least we live in a era that we have many options, and we know what mistakes where made, that we can avoid them.

So why build mega dams, to destroy rivers systems, communities livelihoods, increase climate impacts adding the economic risk , is really a mega dam worthwhile? It is not a solution for the climate crises we are hurtling towards. Climate change will affect rivers flow, and worsen extreme and intense floods and droughts that will put a risk on the economic benefit, so why ????

For whom and what. That’s the million dollar question. Because is not for us the people, is not a solution for our climate crises, is not for the environment…. who is it for? And what is it for?

Some info on dams, from the article of 12 dams that change the world from: https://www.internationalrivers.org/blogs/227-3

Chixoy: the grave on the Rio Negro

Dam-affected communities have often suffered repression and human rights abuses. In 1982, more than 400 indigenous men, women and children were massacred to make way for the World Bank’s Chixoy Dam in Guatemala. In a historic breakthrough, the country’s government in 2014 signed a $154m reparations agreement with the affected communities.

Banqiao: the dam that washed away

When dams are not properly built or maintained, they can break. In the world’s biggest dam disaster, the failure of China’s Banqiao Dam killed an estimated 171,000 people in 1975. In more than 100 cases, scientists have also linked dam building to earthquakes. Strong evidence suggests that China’s Sichuan earthquake, which killed 80,000 people in 2008, may have been triggered by the Zipingpu Dam.

Yacyretá: the monument to corruption

Large dams are often pet projects of dictators. Lacking accountability leads to massive corruption and cost overruns. On average, large dams experience cost overruns of 96% and are not economic. The cost of Argentina’s Yacyretá Dam has mushroomed from $2.5bn to $15bn. A former president called Yacyretá “a monument to corruption”.

Merowe: when Chinese dam builders went global

In 2003, the Chinese government decided to fund the Merowe Dam in Sudan as its first big overseas hydropower project. The dam displaced more than 50,000 people and caused serious human rights violations. Chinese banks and companies are by now involved in some 330 dams in 74 countries, leading an unprecedented global dam building boom.

Glines Canyon: the dam that came down

Dams have serious environmental impacts, and their benefits dwindle as they age. Since the 1930s, the United States has removed more than 1,150 dams to restore river ecosystems and particularly fish habitats. In 2014, the 64 meters high Glines Canyon Dam on the Elwha River in the Pacific northwest was breached in the world’s biggest dam removal so far.

Patagonia: the dams that were never built

Recent years, solar and wind energy have seen their commercial breakthrough. These renewable energy sources are cleaner than coal or hydropower and can be built were people need electricity, even far away from the electric grid. In 2014, Chile cancelled five dams in the Patagonia region under strong public pressure and approved 700 megawatts of new solar and wind farms.

Kariba: the dam that ended poverty in Southern Africa (or did it?)

The Kariba Dam on the Zambezi was built in the 1950s to power Zambia’s copper belt, as the first large dam funded by the World Bank. Kariba was considered the symbol of a “brave new world”, in which controlling nature would bring quick economic development. Yet the 57,000 people who were displaced by the dam suffered famine and are still impoverished

climate_graphic2

References on WCD and more info:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_Commission_on_Dams

https://energypedia.info/wiki/World_Commission_on_Dams_(WCD)_Report

http://www.unep.org/dams/documents/Default.asp?DocumentID=663

https://www.internationalrivers.org/campaigns/the-world-commission-on-dams

http://www.unep.org/dams/WCD/report/WCD_DAMS%20report.pdf

more https://www.internationalrivers.org/questions-and-answers-about-large-dams

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Under Water

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CORPORATE IMPUNITY: STRATEGIES OF STRUGGLE (PART II)

As we mentioned in last month’s article, corporate impunity – the crime that does pay off – is a complicated matter. At the moment, our chests are still filled with the breath of fresh air brought to us at the end of last month by the second session of the Permanent People’s Tribunal (PPT), where a panel of 8 jurors and almost 200 participants listened attentively to the complaints of communities and activists who suffer first hand the consequences of a system that favours and protects transnational corporations. Experts noted and reiterated what is no longer news to us: the criminal behaviour of these corporations reflects the field of impunity in which they operate. In addition to providing us with a (unpublished) report of deliberations that will help to expose the behaviour of these companies, this jury also made clear that the mobilization of peoples and the opening of spaces like this court are a fundamental part of the fight for justice.

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About PPT, we have little more to say right now. You can find more information on the cases presented here, or read the press release of Southern Africa’s Campaign to Dismantle Corporate Power’s (of which we are part) here. This year, the visibility given to the different cases was notorious (like this article on ProSavana in the South African press), and there was also room for an update on the cases brought to the PPT last year in Swaziland. But this is not the time to slow down – after the PPT, more important moments regarding this issue are coming up.

Nowadays, there is a great legal asymmetry between, on the one hand, the endless regulations that protect and safeguard private investments (even shielding them from political decisions that may conflict with the companies’ financial expectations), and on the other, the non-existent coercive legislation which upholds human rights. Corporations rely on a wide range of international norms that act in their defence – from free trade agreements to investor-state dispute settlement mechanisms – but none that regulates their actions in the light of their impacts. Apparently, for years now we have been hoping that, by themselves, guiding principles or corporate social responsibility (voluntary, unilateral, and non-enforceable) become enough to prevent corporate human rights abuses by the corporations, but obviously, this has not happened and will not happen.04

The national laws of countries such as ours are very weak, not to mention the very limited capacity to enforce them and supervise them. That is one of the reasons why Shell remains unpunished despite the criminal spills it is responsible for in Nigeria, or why hundreds of people are being driven from their land to make way for palm plantations in Indonesia. This is why fighting for the enforcement of existing national legislation is an important step, but it can not be the only one if we really want to stop the impunity of these powerful corporations. It is necessary to think beyond. In today’s globalized world, corporations operate in different national jurisdictions, and take advantage of this to evade accountability. For us, expanding the limits of international law and demanding legal instruments that provide a path from where victims of such violations may demand justice seems to be as urgent or even more.

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The Intergovernmental Working Group mandated to draft a binding Treaty on Transnational Corporations and Human Rights, set up by the UN Human Rights Council in 2014, will meet for the third time in October of this year, then, the concrete terms of the text to be included in the Treaty will be discussed. This initiative, which started with the governments of Ecuador and South Africa, has been gaining strength and supporters. Numerous countries, mostly in the Global South, have already expressed their support for the Treaty, as is the case of Uruguay, which sees in this instrument an opportunity to protect its public policies that are being threatened by the interests of transnational corporations. Mozambique, unfortunately, remains completely out of this discussion and didn’t even show up at the two sessions of the Working Group in the recent years.

An alliance was formed by civil society organizations from around the world to support the drafting of this law, and has actively participated in the sessions of the Working Group to ensure that it will truly represent the needs of those affected. One of the requirements of this alliance is that this treaty contains solid provisions that prohibit corporate interference in the process of formulating and implementing laws and policies. According to Friends of the Earth International (FoEI), also part of the Treaty Alliance, it must establish the criminal and civil liability of transnational corporations in order to fill existing legal gaps in international law, and should apply also to all subsidiary companies and those that form part of its supply chain. Learn more about FoEI’s contributions to the Treaty here.

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When existing legislation does not address all of society’s problems and needs, new legislation must be created. It was like that with the implementation of universal suffrage, with the abolition of slavery, and in so many other historical moments. We believe that we are about to reach an important milestone in the struggle for the sovereignty of peoples and against corporate impunity, and as the poet once said, there is nothing more powerful than an idea whose time has come.

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When African Renewable Energy Was Hijacked

A few years ago, during the United Nations climate change negotiations in Paris in December 2015, 55 African leaders launched the Africa Renewable Energy Initiative (AREI). It pledged to follow a people-centred approach to renewable energy development and energy access work across our continent. It talked about rights and equity, very important for our context and for justice. It talked about community ownership and distributed power for African people, in both senses of the word ‘power’. It demanded new and additional renewable energy for our people – no double counting of funds for other projects. It was an African-owned and African-led initiative.

JA! people participated in the AREI meetings in Paris in December 2015 and in Marrakesh in November 2016. Civil society was included into this process from the beginning. Could this become something we would be proud of as Africans? The AREI was a unique approach, in a continent marred by ever-increasing development of dirty energies like coal, oil, gas and big hydro, where it is commonplace to sacrifice our people, kill the local ecology, grab lands and destroy the climate at the same time. The AREI put in strong and important criteria in place to avoid these terrible impacts and said that projects would not support fossil fuels or nuclear.

The AREI really pledged to be different. And this pledge to go for a different, people-based approach is really important. It moves us away from a system fix approach to a system change approach, to change the base principles which drive how we think about energy for people.

In Paris, developed countries stepped forward with $10 billion in pledges to support this initiative. But would these countries really let this initiative survive? Or would money talk? The frightening answer came just over a year later, and by early March 2017, the AREI was already in danger.

The first attack came from the European Commission (EC), and the French government which had helped birth this initiative in the UN talks in their country. What did the attack look like? They came forward at the board meeting with a plan to fund 19 renewable energy projects with an investment of a whopping 4.8 billion. You can read the press release dated 4 March of the European Commission at this link – http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_IP-17-442_en.htm. When something sounds too good to be true, it usually is. The claim for 4.8 billion is false, they are providing a mere €300 million themselves and hoping to leverage the rest. Not just that, remember the AREI’s commitment for new and additional projects with strong criteria to prevent environmental injustices? Well, these proposed projects were already partly pre-existing ones, with all kinds of double-counting and dodgy accounting taking place on the financing. Some of the projects, like a geothermal project in Ethiopia, are from 2014, the year before the AREI initiative was even finalized. Worst of all, these projects are being rammed through without caring about criteria and impacts. Our colleagues discovered that at least 1 of these projects involves fossil fuels interests. We heard that 14 of these projects were just rubber-stamped through, while 5 of them were not even reviewed due to lack of time. The base principles of AREI were the first to be under attack. Even the vague notion of system change is threatening to the system.

 

African civil society began to hit back at this affront. By early April, JA! had joined over 180 African organizations who signed up to a letter demanding this hijack of the AREI be reversed. Last week at the UN negotiations in Bonn, on 18 May 2017, 111 international organizations outside of Africa released a letter supporting the African demands for the EC and France to stop the hijack of African renewable energy. A lot of media pick-up has happened around these letters.

The EC knows it is being watched and is now on the back-foot. Our European colleagues were invited to a meeting with them in Bonn last week, where they found out that the EC is seriously trying to do damage control. They are shocked by the media pick-up and are calling it a scandal. But they are not yet saying how they will do things differently. This meeting took place on 16 May 2017. Some mainstream system-fix type civil society people already wanted to stop the international letter since they said the EC is talking to us. Others said, no way, the EC and France need to be exposed and they made sure the letter was released 2 days later, before the Bonn talks closed. You can read the press release here- http://campaign.r20.constantcontact.com/render?m=1102862873361&ca=c6022777-a64f-4bd8-b159-69ebbf8df668.

The Curse of Mega Projects

mega curse 2

In Mozambique, 2016 was marked by the scandal of illegal debts – EMATUM, MAM and Proindicus – which, one after the other, drastically brought down our currency (Metical) and dramatically increased the cost of living for Mozambicans. As if the political problems and the undeclared state of war we were already living in, were not bad enough, we discovered that the country had been mortgaged off… Thus, we entered 2017 with a lot of concern and very little hope, We were convinced that corruption in Mozambique thrives at the highest level with impunity. We were absolutely skeptical that there would ever be a competent and exhaustive investigation of the country’s mortgaged situation nor holding the culprits accountable.

In the last few years, we have done our best to explain that our greatest concern, our greatest fear for the future, is that our rulers continue to sell off our country – carelessly and without abandon – to Multinational corporations whose mega projects not only do not serve the Mozambican people, but hurt them greatly. They directly injure and impact on the lives of thousands of people who are expropriated from their lands and ways of life, conned and abandoned, or are subjected to living in unhealthy or even inhuman conditions. Indirectly, the sum of the social, environmental and political consequences of the “development” model that these mega projects bring – whether agricultural, mining, hydroelectric, etc. , far exceeds the meager economic benefits that our chronic “lack of bargaining power” guarantees the country.

But this story is not new nor is it only ours. Several publications, from various organizations, are tired of warning and denouncing the numerous problems that foreign mega investments bring to Mozambique. The Centro de Integridade Pública (Public Integrity Center) in Mozambique, for example, is responsible for some of the most pertinent reviews of the negotiations and contracts (the few that are being made public) between these investors and our government. These contracts, weak and often harmful to the State, allied to the State apparatus’ incapacity to enforce our laws, to unjust and inadequate resettlements, and to the ease with which – with the collusion of our rulers – these foreign investors unscrupulously usurp peasant land, make foreign investment in Mozambique a socio-economic calamity.

Like a stubborn child, we seem not to be interested in learning. With the new year, regrettably, new mega contracts have arrived, for the extraction of mineral resources from the north of the country. These contracts have been signed with some of the most infamous polluters on the planet, companies like Shell or ExxonMobil, who have been responsible for environmental disasters of epic proportions, including the disasters in Nigeria and Alaska. These companies are also marred by shameful disinformation campaigns.

Likewise, over the country, the mindless plans to “capitalize” on the country’s hydro potential with an arsenal of hydroelectric plants are still alive and oblivious to reason and science. Keeping in mind that most of the energy expected to be produced will be destined for export and not to supply the homes of millions of Mozambicans who continue to live under the light of a xipefo (lantern in the local language Changana) The science is clear that decentralized and renewable energy systems such as solar and wind energy should be part of a fair, adequate, safe and even cheap energy solution model.

On the Zambezi River alone, our government’s plans :

Expanding the existing Cahora Bassa dam, projected to increase the power capacity by 1,250 megawatts. Estimated to cost about US$700 million.

Mphanda Nkuwa, projected to generate of 1,500 megawatts. Estimated cost of US$4.2 billion.

Lupata, with the potential of 416 megawatts. Estimated cost of S$1.072 billion

Boroma with the potential of 210 megawatts. Estimated cost US$572.5 million.

If all these dams are built on the Zambezi, we have no doubt that this will be the river’s demise, and that of its ecosystems and the thousands of communities whose livelihoods depends on the river. In addition to these 4 projects in the Zambezi, there are also Lúrio and Alto Malema in Nampula, and Pavua, in the Púnguè River in Sofala. Pavua – the most recent addition to the list – appears to be (as yet we know very little about the project) an environmental atrocity of biblical proportions, purely and simply because (according to its Background Information Document) it will be 115 meters high by 950 meters long! (To generate only 120 MW!)

mega curse

Why so many dams? Are we adequately addressing the potential impacts these could have on our people? Have we thought about the use and management of water taking into account variables such as those expected in the face of climate change? Have we seriously considered the feasibility of other alternatives? We are sure this has not happened.

It seems clear to us that – either because of the greed of those who bargain and benefit from these mega projects, and/or because of the lack of clear guidelines (or willingness to follow them) – the foreign investment trend continues to be to devise profitable “solutions” for the few, instead of providing effective solutions for all, thus perpetuating a modus operandi in which the urgent need is repeatedly used to justify the investments, rather than the investment being requested to fully meet the identified need. We are running out of time to correct the damage we are inflicting on our environment (and therefore on ourselves)… but we could at least stop contributing to the problem.

More info and references:

COP 21: Mudança climática envolve poder, manipulação e guerra psicológica

New dams add 3,600 megawatts of power production in Mozambique

Pavua Hydropower Project, Background Information Documents

The pinnacle of capitalism – a hymn to imbecility and an incalculable risk to humanity

 

Regardless of what you think of him, and as surreal as it may still seem to the vast majority of Earthlings, Donald Trump is really the new President of the United States, and by the look of things, the New Yorker is not just going to play pretend President, and his vision to “make America great again” – slogan of his presidential campaign (which was curiously originally used by 1980 Ronald Reagan’s campaign, him too a man from the entertainment world who became President of the United States – is, to say the least, radical.

Unorthodox, with the fallacy, arrogance and lack of sensibility of a spoilt child, accustomed to impose his will on his hierarchy, Trump does not exude wisdom, solidarity or complacency. And that, for both Americans and the rest of the world that is irreparably subject to the consequences of US policies and actions, is a serious headache.

In environmental terms, Trump is potentially the worst thing that could have happened to the planet. It is a very low blow in the already meagre hopes for concrete and tangible changes to safeguard the environment, and thus the future of humanity. At a time when environmentalists and developed countries such as the United States were still duelling over the agreement reached at the Paris COP in 2015, Donald Trump is elected after stating categorically that climate change is a hoax and promising his electorate to repeal all the measures taken by the previous government to address the problem. A tiny little setback.

However, last week Trump shared his federal budget proposal with the American people. As expected, military expenditures gained about 53 billion dollars – a sum he deemed necessary for America to go back to winning wars. Scary…

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But guess where the 53 billion dollars come from? From all sides, experts say, except from defence programs. We Africans will be particularly affected by two budget cuts: the cut to the EPA, – its Environmental Protection Agency – that will affect the entire planet by weakening the monitoring, regulation and all the protection policies and mechanisms of one of the planet’s biggest polluters; and the cut to international aid, which despite representing only about 1% of the federal budget is expected to be drastic and dramatic for countries like Mozambique that benefit annually from hundreds of millions of US dollars of funding. The situation is so alarming that, according to CNN, last Tuesday hundreds of groups supporting the humanitarian work of the United Nations wrote a letter to members of the US Congress and Senate, calling for them to maintain their support to the UN and its Secretary General. The same news article pointed out that this political shift in the United States – notably the country that provides the most international aid – could not have come at a worse time, particularly given the serious problems of hunger in Southern Sudan, Yemen, Nigeria and Somalia, where about 22 million people need urgent help; and, above all, due to the acute refugee crisis that the world is experiencing (the largest since World War II with more than 65 million displaced people) as a result of conflicts in countries such as Syria and Iraq.

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To wrap it up, let’s revisit the phrase we underlined out a few paragraphs ago: “Trump is potentially the worst thing that could have happened to the planet.” The only caveat for this statement is the sad possibility that, in the next few years, his presidency – which is expected to be seriously environmentally damaging – may coincide and contribute to climatic events so extreme that they end up catapulting political will to adequately address and resolve the issue. Unfortunately, if that happens, the cost of running this hypothetical full cycle will be many millions of lives.

Supports who?

Another mega agricultural project launched in Mozambique

We received the news about its launching ceremony with skepticism. For many of us, it was the first time we were hearing about the project. Another mega project loaded with ambitious and (some) noble goals, like so many others that preceded it and vanquished without achieving half of what they set out to do.

“This mega project of my Government, whose objective is to gradually take rural families out of poverty, is the embodiment of the investment in Mozambican families as the main mechanism to promote sustainable, integrated and inclusive development and reduce regional and local asymmetries”, said Filipe Nyusi.

It is premature to make major considerations or comments on the subject because still very little is known. We have not yet had access to any document on the project, and the little information that exists is circulating in the mainstream media. However, the simple fact that a project this big (judging by the amounts involved and by the 125 thousand families of alleged beneficiaries) is launched in this manner, leads us to ask: Where did this project come from?

Once again, this is a top to bottom approach. The project was designed, discussed and launched, without giving the alleged beneficiaries or other interested parties and/or affected people, the chance to participate in its construction!

Surely there are more than enough reasons to justify the urgency to launch this project. To justify why there was no time to perform appropriate public consultations; to involve the many actors who deal with agricultural issues such as research institutions, academics, civil society, grassroots organizations and peasants in discussions on priorities for the development of peasant agriculture; and to design the project on the basis of a truly open and transparent process.

To justify their hurry, the noblest of reasons will be invoked, such as the urgent need to support the development of the peasantry, given their evident poverty and vulnerability. Obviously, old and less noble arguments – which, truth be said, are nothing but mere distractions – will also come back, like accusing those who question the project of being against development and/or unpatriotic.

Interestingly enough, the World Bank and other similar agencies are far more influential in deciding what may or may not happen in Mozambique than the Mozambican people. And although, as we have said earlier, we know nothing about this project yet, we risk guessing that the role of the World Bank is not limited to financing it. They have certainly been involved in the project’s conception, ensuring that their altruistic support goes mainly to what interests them most: agro-business and forest plantations – monocultures of exotic species – they call reforestation.

“More than 5,000 jobs will be created by forest plantations, through the reforestation of more than 1600 hectares of degraded lands.”

According to information in the media, this project was conceived by MITADER and will be supported by the World Bank! The perfect wedding!

In other words, we owe a great debt to our government (and no, it is not that hidden and illegal debt we talking about)! We are deeply grateful to them for granting us another ready-made project to reduce poverty. Free from burdens such as having to think about development issues, about inclusive and participatory strategies, about how to ensure that the priorities of the peasantry are properly included, and even about how we want to manage our resources and how we want to see our country in the coming years.

For now, let’s wait for the enthusiasm to fade so we can then try to understand how this mega project is supposed to work and, above all, how will it – unlike the many others in the past just like it (loaded with the same promises and the same rivers of money to implement) – finally get Mozambicans out of poverty?

Who has left poverty behind thanks to the fantastic green revolution? Who has left poverty behind growing jatropha or other biofuels? Who will benefit from Prosavana? Someone always profits, but who? And at what cost? How many hundreds of thousands of Mozambicans’ well being will these ready made projects with incognito beneficiaries “cost”?

And while misunderstandings and failures in communication are, unfortunately, too often invoked to justify civil society’s opposition to so many mega-projects, – even though they are never the main reason – people insist on doing things behind closed curtains. Where is the official information about the project? It has already been inaugurated; it is already being advertised in the media; but it is not available on the websites of the entities involved and all we know about it is what is being reported by the media.

We would also like to believe and share their enthusiasm, but skepticism has taken over us long ago. Now we prefer a “seeing is believing” approach, and we have not seen anything yet …

 

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South-South Dialogue: The Bataan Statement

On the 29th and 30th of October, 2016, people from about 20 countries in the global south gathered together in Bataan city in the Philippines, to discuss about the climate catastrophe and dirty energy, from the perspective of southern countries and social, economic and environmental justice. JA! was proud to be part of that gathering. Below is the final statement released by the meeting.

 

SOUTH-SOUTH DIALOGUE: The Bataan Statement

1. The world has already begun to experience unprecedented and unparalleled catastrophes as a consequence of the global climate crisis. While governments have agreed to limit global average temperature rise to below 1.5-degrees Celsius under the Paris Agreement, the combined Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) of countries who committed to this target will still ultimately condemn present and future generations to a devastating 3-degree Celsius average increase in the global temperature. Disturbingly, the commitments submitted by the governments of the North fall way below their fair share in combating climate change. The worst lurks in the offing for, should all the coal projects under construction and in the pipeline go online it would usher in a 6-degree Celsius average global temperature increase.

2. The Global North, in continuing to deny their responsibility by not committing to and pursuing an ambitious mitigation pathway, is condemning numerous species to extinction and an end to biological life as we know it, even as we already contend with the impacts of a destabilized climate. It is putting the lives, homes, and livelihoods of peoples across the globe in harm’s way.

3. At the frontlines of suffering from the worst impacts of the climate crisis are indigenous peoples, women, children and youth, workers, farmers, pastoralists, elderly people, differently abled and other marginalized and vulnerable communities, especially of the Global South, who, without the technology and resources to adapt, are left to fend for themselves. This poses an added burden to their daily struggles for survival in the face of poverty, want, hunger, political disenfranchisement, and discrimination.

4. Real solutions to the climate crisis exist in many communities, and we need governments to recognise and promote them. Most, if not all, countries continue to pursue a development pathway heavily reliant on the mass-scale extraction and burning of fossil fuels, however, it is the North who engage in the transfer of their emissions to the South to socialize liability to the detriment of developing countries while concentrating economic gains in their favor. Northern countries and the elites of the South persist in peddling false solutions like the deceptive, dirty lie of “clean coal”, geo-engineering schemes, carbon capture and storage (CCS), bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) as the answer to the much-vaunted industrialization of countries in the South.

6. While we agree on our right to development, as the right of all peoples, we believe that development should not be through dirty energy or else it is not development. Development must mean building sustainable societies, empowering people and communities, challenging injustice, discrimination and inequality at all levels and ensuring security, well-being and peace for all people.

7. We oppose all new coal projects. Furthermore, the climate science demands that all fossil fuels must remain in the ground to keep us from breaching the 1.5-degree Celsius threshold as set in the Paris Agreement. The North must scale up its ambitions in emissions reductions to steer the world away from the road to perdition. All countries should do their fair share of effort. It is thus imperative for countries of the North to fully decarbonize by 2030 and all countries well before 2050. Thus, the North must start phasing out its coal projects now. The South must cancel all coal projects in the pipeline while pursuing the transition to clean renewable forms of energy.

8. We must absolutely resist the attempts by the coal industry and governments to lock us in to coal power, leaving us with stranded assets. Coal extraction and burning do not only cause negative climate change impacts, they result in adverse health and environmental impacts threatening local ecosystems and community livelihoods. In areas where there are coal projects, resisting communities are met with and subjected to intimidation, harassment, human rights violations and other forms of violence.

9. Moreover, Southern governments should not hide behind the poor in their countries. While there are legitimate demands to address energy poverty in the south (1.2 billion people in the world do not have access to electricity), this has been used as an excuse to promote dirty energy policies, which have only benefited elites, transnational corporations and financial institutions, and the governments that support them. Though Southern governments have rightly called out Northern countries for their culpability in creating the climate crisis, we have reached our ecological limits, and no country, North or South, can afford to pursue a carbon-intensive development pathway.

10. The remaining carbon budget must be equitably divided across countries, based on historical responsibility and historical emissions. We oppose the trading of countries’ share of carbon budget, as we oppose nature being turned into a trade-able commodity in other forms as well. The remaining carbon budget must be used for the country’s own development not for export and trade.

11. In the South, our countries have great, enormous potential for clean and renewable energy technologies. However, there are certain renewable energy projects that have contributed to social conflicts, land-grabbing, and exacerbating inequalities. We thus take a strong position that renewable energy projects must be implemented in an equitable, just, safe, sustainable, and democratic way that benefits all and creates truly sustainable societies. We can and must achieve energy sovereignty through fundamental transitions to 100% clean, safe, affordable, locally-appropriate and socially-owned, democratic renewable energy technologies. We also call on the North to deliver climate finance to the South in order to make the clean energy transition possible.

12. We reject any mitigation action that reinforces prevailing exploitative and oppressive relations and policies. Equity and justice should be the driving consideration in taking on the climate crisis.

13. Clearly, the climate science confirms that the sun has set on coal and other fossil fuels. They no longer have a place in an increasingly uncertain future. It is this generation that will make the difference. The urgency to act is especially true for countries of the South who are now bearing the brunt of climate-induced disasters. It is, thus, important for peoples of the South to unite and demand for immediate actions from the North and from their own governments. The window to act is fast closing. Our actions now carry intergenerational consequence as the welfare of this and future generations is hinged on the decision we make today. We offer hope and solidarity by resisting the continued fossil fuel dependence and struggling for genuine change.

Tuloy ang laban! (Onwards with the struggle!)

Signatories of attending organisations:

Asian People’s Movement on Debt and Development

Botswana Climate Change Network – Botswana

CENSAT Agua Viva/ Friends of the Earth Colombia

Change/350Vietnam – Vietnam

Center for Energy, Ecology and Development – Philippines

Centre for Environmental Justice/ Friends of the Earth Sri Lanka

Ecodefense – Russia

Earthlife Africa – South Africa

Egyptians Against Coal – Egypt

Environics – India

GreenID – Vietnam

groundWork/FOE South Africa – South Africa

JATAM – Indonesia

Justica Ambiental/FOE Mozambique – Mozambique

Kenya Civil Society Platform on Oil – Kenya,

Philippine Movement for Climate Justice – Philippines

The Egyptian Centre for Civic and Legislation Reform – Egypt

Umeedenoo – Pakistan

Walhi/ Friends of the Earth Indonesia

JA! launches new report on coal finance in Mozambique, during climate justice conference

On the second day of our climate justice conference here in Maputo, Mozambique, with over 100 people in the room with us again today, JA! with our colleague Tim Jones from the Jubilee Debt Campaign, launched  a new report on the situation of coal finance in Mozambique.

tim and report launch

The report is titled: “The Economics of Coal: Where are its Benefits?” The English version of the report can be found on our Issuu page here. The introduction of the report lays out the situation perfectly:

“Despite much talk, the anticipated coal mining boom in Mozambique has never taken off. Just three mines are operating, probably exporting just over 4 million tonnes of coal in 2015 (compared to claims of 30 million tonnes of exports just a few years ago). Internally there have been difficulties in transporting coal from Tete province to the coast, and coal produced has been of a lower quality than expected. Externally, the price of coal has been falling over recent years and collapsed in 2015 as China’s construction boom ended, and major economies have begun to turn away from coal given its high local and global pollution costs.

Today, all the existing coal mines operating in Mozambique are running at a loss, and there can be little expectation of further development based on current global coal prices. However, even if coal prices did recover, the costs of coal
mining in Mozambique far outweigh the benefits.

In 2014, the Mozambique government received just 13% of revenue generated from coal mines, but it is likely that this percentage has fallen further with declines in coal price and profitability. Coal mining is likely to account for just 1% of the government’s total revenue, in 2015 between $44 million and $50 million. In contrast, we have identified more than $700 million of loans to the Mozambique government which were supposedly spent on transport infrastructure for the coal industry and technical advice on managing the coal industry. Even if these came with 0% interest rates, which they didn’t, it would take between 14 and 16 years at current revenue levels just to recoup this money. There is likely to be other public funding spent on infrastructure development for coal mines which we have not identified, or has not been made public.

Extractive industries by their nature employ few people. Currently there are at most 3,000 Mozambicans employed directly by the coal mines,4 with mining making up just 0.6% of employment in Tete province. In contrast, 3,500 families (around 17,000 people) have lost their farmland through the development of coal mines so far, many of whom have not received land of similar quality in return. Mining has had a net destructive impact on livelihoods.”

This report launch wasn’t the only highlight of the day. Today we heard from Trusha Reddy of the International Coal Network about the situation of coal worldwide, the need to end coal and she shared some coal struggles from across the world. We then heard from Vijayan M.J. of Programme for Social Action, India, speaking about some victories of the communities in India fighting back against coal and other infrastructure projects. He talked about the importance of not feeling alone, and linking struggles across continents, such as the struggle against Jindal Indian company, now operating in Mozambique. We then had a very strong and emotional panel, hearing from communities speaking out against the Vale and Jindal coal mining in Tete province of Mozambique, and from Matthews Hlabane from South Africa’s Mpumalanga province, demanding a revolution against the lying mine-owners everywhere.

All this happened before lunch! After lunch, we worked to denounce gas being called as a transition fuel. Mozambique has discovered a huge gas reserve off our northern coast, but we discussed how the emissions of gas are still really high, and the pollution and leaks are known to be horrific. We made connections between the current debt and financial crisis situation of Mozambique, linked to extensive borrowing which happened on the backs of the gas reserves.

The third and final day of the conference takes place tomorrow.

 

 

Maputo climate justice conference – Summary of the 1st day

“Seeding Climate Justice II” – Summary of Day 1 of Maputo Climate Justice Conference

Justiça Ambiental’s climate justice conference began this morning at 8.30 am at Kaya Kwanga in Maputo. This is the second Annual Conference on Climate Change he are hosting, under the name “Seeding Climate Justice II.” Over 100 people, in fact about 108 people participated in the first day of the meeting, including representatives of local communities from 10 out of 11 provinces across Mozambique, Maputo-based civil society organizations, government representatives, and community and NGOs from South Africa, Swaziland, Zimbabwe, Kenya, Nigeria, India, Sweden, United Kingdom, and more.

Anabela Lemos, Director of Justiça Ambiental welcomed the participants, hoping that we can continue this process and be together next year as well, so that we can together contribute to the strengthening of local social movements for climate justice. Anabela Lemos then invited the Minister of Land, Environment and Rural Development, Dr. Celso Correia to officially open the conference.

The Minister, Dr. Celso Correia, performed the official opening of the Conference, welcoming JA! for organizing the conference. He referred briefly to the history of the Mozambican Environment Ministry (known as MITADER), and the main issues of concern facing Mozambique, such as biodiversity loss, poaching, uncontrolled slaughter of our forests, referring to the conservation of these as a national imperative. He stressed the importance of building consensus, and the openness of the Ministry to work together with non-governmental organizations. The Minister put a challenge to JA! and the conference participants, that this conference should also be space to bring up solutions and build consensus for the numerous environmental problems that Mozambique is facing.

photo with celso correia

The conference proceeded with interesting presentations aimed to establish a common base of understanding of the current situation of climate change, the planetary crisis, why do we need to stay under 1.5 degrees, what does that even mean, what about the rights of impacted peoples or climate refugees. Then Nnimmo Bassey gave an overview of the link between climate, social and environmental injustice, which is still directly related to the models of “development” and the financial system that has been systematically implemented. He also spoke about the Paris Agreement, what did we gain and what did we lose, and how do we use those international spaces for connecting our struggles. Nnimmo also spoke about the spread of false solutions, financialisation of nature that we need to fight. A robust discussion followed, raising questions including the following:

  • the situation of climate crisis is so dire, sometimes it’s hard to care, but we have to, because this is a matter of justice, rich countries created the problem and we are going to die from it, this is an injustice that we need to fight;
  • what about the corporate capture of the UN negotiations, multi-national companies that are sitting in the discussion with more access than the NGOs;
  • since governments signed the Paris Agreement they are doing the opposite and are going for more fossil fuels so it makes Paris Agreement even weaker than it is, because it is not legally binding;
  • when we talk about climate science, whose science are we talking about, because we know that science is not without politics;
  • we need to understand the true nature of African Renewable Energy Initiative so that it doesn’t turn into an initiative that we have to oppose;
  • we shouldn’t be seeing ourselves as victims, we need to hold the rich countries accountable, but we also have to build our movement so that we don’t go down the same path;
  • as civil society we need to look at ourselves and analyse how successful have we been in claiming the outside spaces that were ours in Paris;
  • and many many more relevant issues were raised and discussed.

 

“We have to ensure that global average temperature does not exceed 1.5 degrees is crucial, there is how to adapt to an average temperature rise higher than this … There is no way to adapt, there is nothing to adapt!”

Nnimmo Bassey: “The Paris agreement was for many an important step, but for what we value, it a step in the wrong direction.”

The conference will continue for 2 more days, with many presentations and interesting discussions.

 

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