Pages tagged "friendsoftheearth"


Time for France’s Biggest Bank to Stop Funding Mountaintop Removal Coal

This post is by Ben Collins of RAN and Yann Louvel of BankTrack.

The campaign to stop bank financing of mountaintop removal coal mining is gaining momentum.

For years, RAN and other organizations in the global BankTrack network have urged U.S. and European banks to stop financing the devastation caused by mountaintop removal (MTR) coal mining. BankTrack members have worked closely with advocates from Appalachia — the region hardest hit by MTR — including Paul Corbit Brown and Elise Keaton from Keeper of the Mountains, and Bob Kincaid from Coal River Mountain Watch. Together, they’ve travelled around the U.S. and Europe to speak directly to CEOs and boards of banks at their annual shareholder meetings and urge them to stop bankrolling mountaintop removal coal mining.

This week, we have an opportunity to push France’s biggest bank, Crédit Agricole, to stop profiting from MTR once and for all. At today’s annual shareholder meeting, Paul Corbit Brown and staff from Friends of the Earth France urged the bank’s CEO, Jean-Paul Chifflet, to follow the lead of other banks and stop funding the biggest and most destructive MTR companies.

Take action: Now’s the time to back them up — please add your voice now! GFC_MTR_crop 

Public pressure to stop funding MTR started showing results a few years ago. U.S. banks were the first to react in 2008, adopting a mix of enhanced due diligence procedures and financing thresholds for companies that engage in mountaintop removal. But real change started to happen last year, when Wells Fargo in the U.S., and Crédit Agricole and BNP Paribas in France, adopted new policies on MTR. These covered both direct project financing of MTR projects — which is pretty rare — and, more importantly, general corporate financing of coal mining companies active in MTR.

The implications of these new policies are potentially huge: the biggest and most harmful producers of MTR coal, such as Alpha Natural Resources and Arch Coal, raise their funding from general corporate loans from banks or from bonds or shares issued to investors. And these are precisely the transactions that should be excluded by these new policies, which bar financing for companies that are “significant” producers of MTR coal.

But we’ve learned that different banks define "significant" in wildly different ways. BNP Paribas blacklists the main companies active in MTR production, including Alpha and Arch. But Crédit Agricole — while its policy looks similar to BNP’s on paper — excludes only those coal mining companies that produce more than 20% of their coal from MTR. In practice, they aren’t prohibited from doing business with any MTR companies at all!

Take action: Will you tell Crédit Agricole Jean-Paul Chifflet to close the bank’s huge MTR loophole?

Crédit Agricole has financed several loan and bond deals for Alpha and Arch — the worst of the worst MTR companies — while BNP Paribas hasn’t done any deals with these two companies since last year. Ironically for Crédit Agricole, financing MTR has not only been bad for the environment and human rights — it’s also been a bad investment. The bank suffered significant financial losses from loans it made to recently-bankrupt MTR miner Trinity Coal.

In contrast to Crédit Agricole, other U.S. and European banks have taken concrete steps away from MTR financing this spring. Last month, JPMorgan Chase published an update of its environmental and social policy framework, stating that they expected to continue defunding companies engaged in mountaintop mining. And in the U.K., Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) published a mining policy update prohibiting deals with the main MTR producers. Unlike Crédit Agricole’s new policy, these policy changes at JPMorgan Chase and RBS have teeth: both banks will stop financing top MTR producers, including Alpha and Arch.

Today, our allies went straight to Crédit Agricole’s annual shareholder meeting to tell the bank’s CEO and board close its massive MTR loophole, and stop funding Alpha and Arch.

Take action: We have Crédit Agricole's attention — will you add your voice?

Yann Louvel, Climate and Energy Campaign Coordinator, BankTrack
Ben Collins, Research and Policy Campaigner, Rainforest Action Network


Top 5 Reasons The Obama-GOP Debt Ceiling Agreement Is A Bad Deal For The Environment

[caption id="attachment_14691" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Cartoon by Kevin Kallaugher."][/caption] President Obama just signed the debt deal into law. Just in time too — there were about 10 hours to spare before the midnight deadline, after which our government would most likely go into default. As bad as default would have been, the deal doesn’t appear to be a whole lot better. As Andy Kroll explains over at Mother Jones:
The Obama-GOP plan cuts about $917 billion in government spending over the next decade. Nearly $570 billion of that would come from what's called "nondefense discretionary spending." That's budget-speak for the pile of money the government invests in the nation's safety and future—education and job training, air traffic control, health research, border security, physical infrastructure, environmental and consumer protection, child care, nutrition, law enforcement, and more.
Our country's environmental laws and the agencies tasked with enforcing them have certainly taken a huge hit, which is especially troubling because the record-breaking heatwave we’re currently witnessing is only the latest projected impact of our warming climate to become all-too-real. We need strong climate policies and a clean energy revolution right now in order to avert runaway climate change. Instead, this deal jeopardizes even the most basic environmental protections, like the right to clean water and air. The full implication of the Obama-GOP debt deal won't be clear for some time, as the cuts it calls for are just the first round. The deal also mandates the creation of a 12-member “SuperCongress” committee that will determine where to make cuts totaling another $1.5 trillion. But given how things stand right now, environmental protections in this country have taken a severe blow.
  • Guts Clean Water Act and Clean Air Act enforcement
The nearly $1 trillion in immediate cuts means a lot less money going to fund the important work done by the Environmental Protection Agency, the Energy and Interior departments, and other domestic agencies. If the SuperCongress fails to pass a bill making the required $1.5 trillion in further cuts by this December, that would automatically trigger another $1.2 trillion in cuts from various sectors, including energy and environmental programs. What that means, essentially, is that the EPA and the Interior Dept. will have less money to enforce existing environmental and climate regulations. "There just won't physically be the funds available to protect drinking water and to ensure there's clean air to breathe," says the Sierra Club’s Melinda Pierce (subscription required).
  • Less money for states to enforce environmental laws, too
Slashing the EPA budget will have a drastic ripple effect, as the agency also provides funds for states to enforce their own environmental protections. Whether or not it will still be able to do that is very much in doubt.
  • Lets Big Oil keep taxpayer-funded handouts
Glaringly absent from the deal is an end to the billions in taxpayer handouts Congress continues to give to Big Oil. Americans overwhelmingly support ending these subsidies, and it’s not like the oil companies need them: the top five Big Oil companies just announced obscene profits of $35.1 billion for the second quarter of 2011. Ending these taxpayer-funded subsidies would not raise gas prices, as Big Oil and its apologists in Congress like to claim, but it would save us somewhere between $30 and 40 billion over the next decade. This deal literally lets the oil and gas industries keep their taxpayer-funded welfare money while forcing Americans to accept diminished protections for public health, clean air and clean water. So much for shared sacrifice.
  • Dries up investments in renewable energy
Ben Schreiber, a tax analyst with Friends of the Earth, says the deal could also “drive a stake through the heart of investments in wind, solar, and other clean-energy technologies,” according to Mother Jones. "The clean-energy revolution becomes a casualty of these cuts," Schreiber told MoJo.
  • Further diminishes chance of establishing a carbon tax
As lopsided as the cuts may seem, both Democrats and Republicans made some token concessions in the deal. Republicans gave up on their insistence that there be a second vote to raise the debt ceiling again next winter, no doubt a cudgel they were hoping to wield closer to the 2012 presidential election. Democrats, meanwhile, completely caved on tax increases, or “revenue” in budget-speak. That sends a clear signal that imposing a tax on carbon emissions will be harder than ever to pass, no matter how much it could contribute to paying down our nation’s debt. According to the findings of a debt commission led by former Sen. Pete Domenici (R-N.M.) and Alice Rivlin, a Democrat who was the founding director of the Congressional Budget Office, a carbon tax could raise about $1.1 trillion by 2025 while cutting carbon dioxide emissions 10 percent below 2005 levels. But perhaps worst of all: The deal emboldens and strengthens the dirty energy apologists and climate deniers of the radical right who have been gunning for environmental protections all along. And, as Robert Reich wrote, “[T]he largest threat to our democracy is the emergence of a radical right capable of getting most of the ransom it demands.” But I don’t want to end on such a sour note. All is not lost. The Hill reports that Democrats are planning to revive the fight over subsidies for Big Oil in the SuperCongress committee. And the Center for American Progress points out that this second round of cuts “presents progressives with an opportunity to channel their anger over the first round into relentless action to push for the kind of progressive second round of deficit reduction that America wants — and needs.” Onward, environmental soldiers.

Land Lost in Lies: Smallholder Schemes Gone Wrong

[caption id="attachment_9820" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="The palm oil company operating on Pak Suez' traditional lands have made him a criminal for trying to stop this destruction. Photo: Hendi/Walhi Kalbar"][/caption] I've spent the past week visiting our partners in Indonesia and interviewing frontline communities directly impacted by the palm oil industry. The stories I've heard are haunting — tales of human rights abuses, negligent environmental destruction and the criminalization of Indigenous Peoples for trying to maintain some connection to their ancestral lands despite degradation caused by palm oil companies. For example, just two weeks ago Sinar Mas converted 20,000 hectares of forest into palm oil plantations in the Sintang District of Borneo, and as a result 32,000 people became refugees — something that happens all the time here and rarely gets reported on in the U.S. When companies like Cargill, Sinar Mas or Duta Palma bulldoze rubber plantations or community farms owned by Indigenous communities, the village leaders call Walhi for support. As I was hanging out in Walhi Kalbar last week, a car full of Dayak men (Indigenous Peoples of Indonesia) arrived at the office with their lawyer. They were just returning from the local jail where Pak Josef Suez, their community leader, was being held due to a land dispute case with the palm oil company in his community, Borneo Ketapang Permai (BKP). Both KML and BKP are subsidiaries of First Resources Limited palm oil company through a  joint venture. [caption id="attachment_9821" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Pak Suez' Community Members in Agony Seeing their Village Chief Criminalized after the Company Stole their Land. Photo: Hendi/Walhi Kalbar"][/caption] Pak Miguel Deban and Pak Sariano shared their struggle with me:
In 2000, the palm oil company Karya Mufakat Lestari (KML) came to our village, Sei Ilai, in the Sanggau District [in northern Borneo near the border with Sarawak/Malaysia], promising us a better life. They promised to bring our kids a better education, new houses, a new church, and new streets. So we made a smallholder scheme agreement with KML in which we gave our ancestral lands to the company to develop oil palm plantations and we would manage a portion of them. In our district the people agreed to give KML 7,000 hectares of land, and that for every 10 hectares of land, 4 hectares would be cared for by the people and 6 by the company. But after we gave our land to KML, the company collapsed. Our village leader, Pak Suez, saw that KML was neglecting their palm plantations on his ancestral land. Seeing that the palm plantations were dying, Pak Suez took the initiative of caring for the plantations because he felt it was his own land so he replanted 1,000 oil palm plants on his own. He spent 500 million Rupiah. Another palm oil company, BKP, bought out KML but this was not communicated to any of the Indigenous Peoples in the area, not by the company nor by the Bupati [district head]. As far as we knew, the company changed their name to BKP. When the new company, BKP, took over, the communities didn’t understand that KML and BKP had different smallholder scheme rules. For example, BKP didn’t honor the 4/6 hectare people/company ownership ratio. BKP never sat down with the community to make a new agreement and yet they have put Pak Suez in jail because they claim he has taken over 40 hectares of land without permission. Pak Suez feels cheated by the company since he spent 500 million Rupiah replanting his palm plantations and the company only wants to pay him 175 million Rupiah. Pak Suez would be cheated out of what BKP owes him if he had silently settled.
[caption id="" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Pak Suez has now been in jail for almost two weeks. Photo: Hendi/Walhi Kalbar"]Pak Suez in jail[/caption] On May 27, 2010 the Bupati called a meeting between BKP and the community, but there was no resolution. On August 26 there was another meeting and BKP tried to reach a new agreement with the community but, fearing more lies, the community did not budge. Pak Suez has now been in jail for almost two weeks. Pak Miguel Deban, Pak Sariano, Pak Suez’s 16 year-old son, and the other community members I met yesterday traveled 7 hours from their rural village to visit Pak Suez in the Pontianak jail and to meet with his lawyer. According to the community members, the company’s strategy is to use intimidation to make the families in the Sanggau District fear them. Hundreds of families are now blockading their lands from palm oil companies, and Pak Miguel says that the company will only free Pak Suez from jail if the families stop blocking their land. It turns out that this smallholder case of social conflict in the Sanggau District is a template for what’s going on across Borneo between palm oil smallholders or non-palm oil traditional land holders and palm oil companies. (In particular it sounds a lot like what happened to the community of Semunying Jaya.) The process of establishing large-scale oil palm plantations is irreversible: Indigenous Peoples contribute their lands and labor to oil palm schemes but lose sovereignty over those lands and natural resources that are central to their identity as Indigenous Peoples.

Royal Bank of Scotland Dodges Questions on Indigenous Rights

[caption id="attachment_6887" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Photo by Matt Dunham"][/caption] On April 28th in Edinburgh, Scotland the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) held their Annual General Meeting where shareholders met to discuss the future of RBS.  RBS was one of the UK banks bailed-out by the UK government in 2008, and now RBS is 83% owned by the UK public. Between 2007 and 2009, RBS led the underwriting of loans for tar sands mining in Canada at an amount of more than $7.5 billion. This translates into UK taxpayers and public money being used to finance operators in the Alberta tar sands. The money that RBS has contributed to this project clearly identifies them as complicit to the environmental and cultural annihilation of the lands, territories and rights of my people. Over the past year and a half I have been working with the RAN targeting Tar Sands development and the banks that fund it here in Canada. Our Canadian campaign target has been the Royal Bank of Canada, the world’s largest financier of tar sands with over $18 billion in the tar sands.  RAN has been demanding new policies be adopted and implemented by the Royal of Canada to ensure the environment, water and rights of my people are protected and that banks become transparent with their financing. Over the course of the last six months there has been a growing movement in Europe and UK to take up the issue of Tar Sands by groups such as the newly formed UK Tar Sands Coalition, People & Planet, Platform, World Development Movement, Friends of the Earth France and Scotland, and Greenpeace UK. More recently some of these groups have begun targeting major tar sands financiers such as the Royal Bank of Scotland. [caption id="attachment_6850" align="alignleft" width="249" caption="Eriel Tchekwie Deranger at RBS AGM: Photo By Ric Lander"][/caption] So, last week I traveled from Edmonton, Alberta Canada to attend the RBS AGM to bring Canada’s Indigenous peoples and environmental demands to the UK and voice my concerns surrounding RBS financing of Canada’s tar sands. I was privileged to have the opportunity to go inside the AGM along with Simon Chambers, documentary film maker working with Amnesty International and Indigenous communities impacted by Bauxite mining in India. We both had and opportunity to present our cases, mine of the tar sands mining in Canada and his of bauxite mining in India.  I posed the following questions: “How does RBS justify their billions of dollars in corporate loans and financing to operators in the tar sands, the world’s largest and most destructive industrial project, given the projects vast environmental and human rights abuses?” -and- “Would RBS consider moving towards policies that fully respect Indigenous communities rights to free, prior and informed consent with respect to the banks financing to ensure that communities lives and livelihoods don’t continue to be eroded and impacted by their financing?” The response from Chairman Sir Philip Hampton was pretty standard.  He denied the banks involvement in the tar sands stating “…our investments in the Tar Sands are so minimal that I don’t even know what they are.” and then he completely dodged the question of implementing new financing policies that respect Free, Prior and Informed Consent of Indigenous communities referring that I should be addressing the Canadian government not the bank. This was similar to responses from RBC at the beginning of our campaign here in Canada. That evening I was invited to a Peoples AGM where we allowed the public to hear not only the cases of tar sands and bauxite mining, but to look at what viable alternatives existed in the renewable sector.  The people also developed their own demands to present to RBS executives the following morning. The next morning we met with the Chairman of the Board, Sir Philip Hampton, and three CSR representatives, in a building that I can only describe as a church to the money gods, to discuss the campaign, demands and concerns. The executives and Chairman reiterated time and time again that they have been given the task to ensure the bank continues to make profits in order to pay back the UK government.  The words “profits before people” rang through my ears for a majority of the meeting.  However, it’s undeniable the bank does not want to be associated with a campaign that will further tarnish their reputation.  I stressed that all banks are in a state of reform and they should take our concerns and recommendations seriously as they have an opportunity to be a leader in the industry to adopt strong policies of Free, Prior and Informed Consent and leading the way forward in clean, renewable energy.  RBS could not deny they have been under public scrutiny since being bailed out and tar sands financing is now the cherry on top.  It’s clear the bank is worried.  I just hope this will be the first of many conversations outlining how RBS can meet the demands of the people here in Canada. [caption id="attachment_6856" align="alignright" width="300" caption=" Photo By Ric Lander"][/caption] In closing, now that the bank is 83% owned by the UK government you’d think we’d  be seeing strong corporate and government leadership driving the bank and transforming them into a leader in the emerging green energy economy in the UK and a move towards a future that honours the land and the legacy of my ancestors.  RBS should be adopting strong policies that respect free, prior and informed consent of Indigenous communities and ensures the protection of the environment and water not contributing to projects that tramples over them. It’s time that ALL banks step up to the plate and adopt comprehensive policies that not only address but respect Indigenous communities right to free, prior and informed consent as outlined and identified within the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. I hope the UK will put its money where its mouth is by pulling RBS's business out of the tar sands.