Pages tagged "humanrights"


Bank of America and Drummond Coal in Colombia

This blog post has been updated.

This month, Rainforest Action Network and three allies testified at Bank of America's annual shareholder meeting, urging them to drop coal, to stop profiting from environmental destruction and human rights abuses. We're posting the statements of our three allies. Add your voice by telling Bank of America to stop funding coal—and come clean on climate change

My name is Santiago Piñeros. I was born in Bogotá, Colombia, and I work with Pensamiento y Acción Social (Thought and Social Action), an NGO that assists communities affected by large-scale mining in the center of the Cesar region in Colombia. I have had the opportunity to see how Drummond LTD operates in these areas, a multinational company in which Bank of America invests millions of dollars to develop its extractive coal and gas business.

Three towns located in the middle of the Cesar region—El Hatillo, community we assist, Plan Bonito, and Boquerón, communities we follow up—have to be resettled by Drummond, Glencore-Xstrata and a Goldman Sachs mining company. These resettlements were ordered by the Colombian government, due to the high levels of air pollution and dust from the coal mines. These communities should have been relocated two years ago because of the dangers that coal ash poses to people's health, including respiratory diseases, such as lung cancer, skin and ocular diseases. Thus, Drummond is currently co responsible for three involuntary resettlement processes due to air pollution in El Cesar Region.1 These communities must be resettled quickly, and Drummond's investors, including Bank of America, need to make sure this happens.

Drummond directly contaminates groundwater and rivers where these communities make their livelihoods.2 Activities such as fishing, hunting, territorial and cultural relations with the environment have deteriorated and are often no longer possible due to the contamination. For communities that rely on fishing and hunting for survival, the destruction of the environment means the destruction of the community.3 For these facts, the environmental damages in this region become a violation of the human rights of these communities and so creates an obligation for its investors—you—to commit to recognize the value of the human rights of these poor rural communities, communities that are threatened with simply disappearing. Bank of America has an obligation to protect these communities.

Bank of America invests today in a company that does not respect environmental standards. According to the environmental authorities Drummond recently spilled around 1,800 tons of coal into the Caribbean Sea off the coast of Colombia. This disaster happened because Drummond chose not to implement required changes to the system of directly loading coal at port, which would have prevented these accidents.4 Pollution levels at Drummond coal mines exceed the levels permitted by law in Colombia, and they are steadily increasing.5 The pollution is affecting human health. Still, Drummond only responds to sanctions if they impact the company's ability to export coal.

Bank of America finances Drummond's coal operation and so is co responsible for Drummond, a company that operates with no due diligence regarding human, economic and cultural rights. According to the most recent study of the Contraloría General, Drummond's operations, and thus Bank of America's investments, do not guarantee a healthy life and environment, these operations only make a profit from our natural resources.6 Who holds the accounts where these profits are stashed? Bank of America.

Are these environmental and human rights abuses something you recognize? What responsibility do you have for these events? Your money is being used to fund mining operations that do not represent social, environmental and economic benefits for the communities living in the surroundings of the mines. In fact, the levels of unsatisfied basic necessities in these communities increase as sanctions and fines while the resettlements do not seem to advance.

Sources

1. Resolution No. 9070 of 2010 and Resolution No. 1525 of 2010 from the Colombian Ministry of Environment, Housing and Development (MAVDT).
2. Contraloría General de la Nación. Minería en Colombia I: Derechos, políticas públicas y gobernanza. // Minería en Colombia II: Institucionalidad y territorio, paradojas y conflictos. 2013.
3. Resolution No. 54 of 2008 from the Defensoría del Pueblo de Colombia.
4. Resolution No. 0123 of 2013 and Resolution No. 001 of 2014 from the National Authority of Environmental Licenses (ANLA).
5. Resolution No. 9070 of 2010 and Resolution No. 1525 of 2010 from the Colombian Ministry of Environment, Housing and Development (MAVDT).
6. Contraloría General de la Nación. Minería en Colombia I: Derechos, políticas públicas y gobernanza. // Minería en Colombia II: Institucionalidad y territorio, paradojas y conflictos. 2013.


Did You Hear The One About The Bank That Couldn't Count?

BoA_ActionLast week, Bank of America (BofA) admitted a huge accounting error—for several years, it claimed a whopping $4 billion more in capital than it actually has. The day BofA announced its blunder, its shares closed down more than six percent, the stock’s biggest drop in two years.

But BofA had to come clean. Regulators, shareholders and consumers need an accurate picture of banks' balance sheets.

BofA’s admission gives us a rare chance to raise a far bigger question: What else are they hiding?

It's time for BofA to be transparent about something much more vital to the future of the planet: just how much its investments contribute to climate change.

Tell Bank of America: Come clean on funding climate change!

I'm writing to you from BofA's Annual General Meeting (AGM) in Charlotte, North Carolina, where I'm about to speak in support of a crucial shareholder resolution. The Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility—backed by investors worth almost $35 billion—is pushing the bank to report on how much carbon pollution gets spewed into the atmosphere by the companies it funds.

BofA is a top funder of the biggest drivers of climate change: coal, oil, and gas corporations, as well as carbon–intensive electricity producers. But it's refusing to report on its financed carbon emissions. BofA knows that opening its books will create pressure to cut emissions by moving away from fossil fuels.

Now is the time to push BofA on climate change. Last week's accounting revelations were a big black eye, and at today's AGM, the bank needs to reassure its shareholders and customers that it doesn't have billions of dollars of climate liabilities on its books.

We need you to add your voice: Tell Bank of America to come clean on climate accounting!

Pushing for transparency is just the first step. We're also calling on BofA to cut its carbon pollution by stopping funding coal, the top contributor to climate change. I'll be making that call here at the AGM in just a few minutes, and ally organizations will speak to coal's cost beyond climate: mountains with their tops blown off in West Virginia, rivers wrecked by coal ash here in North Carolina, and human rights abuses by coal company security forces in Colombia.

Will you stand with us? Tell BofA that today's the day to come clean on funding climate change—and to cut its emissions by ending coal financing.


Mars Steps Up!

RAG_marschicago1We have great news—your actions are delivering REAL victories for rainforests. After nearly a year of negotiations, Mars has announced that it will only source palm oil from companies that are not destroying rainforests and carbon-rich peatlands or causing human rights abuses!

Even better, Mars has set a deadline that its suppliers must meet to keep its business. The company is demanding that its suppliers, like Cargill, adopt the same strong commitments and only supply it with responsible palm oil. If Cargill fails to fall in line, it will be dropped as a supplier. This is what driving transformation in a supply chain truly means.

This would not have happened without all of the wonderful RAN activists who have taken action. Your letters to Mars on Valentine’s Day, phone calls, posts, tweets and, for some, your visit with Strawberry the orangutan to Mars headquarters made this possible. We exposed Conflict Palm Oil in Mars' supply chain and today the family-run company has taken the first step to deal with its Conflict Palm Oil problem. Now it's time for Mars to move beyond words with a thorough and rapid implementation plan for removing Conflict Palm Oil from its products.

Getting Mars on board is another step forward for Indonesia and Malaysia’s rainforests and the people and wildlife that call them home. The brands we’re taking on are huge, but it’s you and your friends that have the real power. It’s because of you that we have power in the negotiation room and are winning!

In the face of growing criticism over their use of Conflict Palm Oil, a number of the Snack Food 20 companies have taken action. Mars, Nestle, Unilever, Kellogg and Mondelez are all delivering the same message to their suppliers, like Cargill. The writing is on the wall: Cargill needs to get in line with other traders like Wilmar International and Golden Agri Resources (GAR) who have set new benchmarks for responsible palm oil production and trade or risk losing some of its most important customers.

We’re winning—now there's one more thing to do to help turn this commitment into real action. Post this message on Mars' Facebook wall: Hey Mars, thanks for stepping up to protect rainforests and people from Conflict Palm Oil. We need Mars to put its words into action with a thorough and rapid implementation plan for removing Conflict Palm Oil from its products. The power is #InYourPalm. We’re on a roll and we have big plans that we’ll share with you very, very soon.


Does Your Family’s Valentine’s Candy Contain Child Labor?

Hersheys_hugs_720x720First, the bad news.

This week, as millions of schoolchildren across the U.S. share Valentine’s candy and chocolate, they’ll be unwittingly—and unwillingly—contributing to child labor taking place on the other side of the world.

One of the key ingredients in Hershey’s chocolates—and many other Valentine’s candies—is responsible for widespread child labor and human rights violations, land grabs, and is also pushing orangutans to the brink of extinction. The ingredient? Conflict Palm Oil.

Palm oil is now found in roughly half the packaged goods in grocery stores, as its use in the US has grown over 500 percent in the past decade. It goes by dozens of names, including Palm Kernel Oil, Palmitate, and Glyceryl Stearate.

Currently, more than 85% of the palm oil used in America’s packaged food is grown on palm oil plantations in Indonesia and Malaysia, where child labor is common and widespread. In fact, the US Department of Labor lists palm oil as a commodity notorious for child labor and forced labor. A nine-month investigation by the Schuster Institute of Investigative Journalism published in BusinessWeek last July documented widespread cases of child labor on palm oil plantations in Indonesia’s palm oil industry. Palm oil produced in this manner has been dubbed “Conflict Palm Oil” by Rainforest Action Network.

Now for the good news.

Rainforest Action Network is leading a Valentine’s Day campaign to convince Hershey’s and other top chocolate companies to remove Conflict Palm Oil from their supply chains. Hundreds of activists in 250+ American cities are placing warning stickers on Valentine’s chocolates in grocery stores this week that say, “There’s nothing romantic about #ConflictPalmOil.”

Now for the even better news.

Besides checking your Valentine’s chocolate for palm oil before buying it, there are three easy ways you and your family can help Hershey’s kiss Conflict Palm Oil goodbye:

  1. Post a message to Hershey’s Facebook Wall:
 Hershey, there is one condition for my ♥. Adopt a palm oil policy that protects rainforests and the families that rely on them. I can’t love brands that use Conflict Palm Oil. No child labor for chocolate! #HersheyHurts

  2. Call Hershey directly. Click here for details.


  3. Twitter storm Hershey with your version of this Tweet: 
Hey @HersheysKisses, I won't buy chocolates with #ConflictPalmOil. No child labor for sweets! #HersheyHurts

Thousands of activists are taking this message to Hershey’s right now, in grocery stores across the nation. You can magnify their voices and raise your own by joining the online cry to eliminate Conflict Palm Oil from our food supply.

Progress Report: Asia Pulp & Paper, One Year Later

rfp_app_deforestation_565x350Today marks the 1st year anniversary of the latest published “forest conservation policy” (FCP) of the Sinar Mas Group’s Asia Pulp & Paper (APP). Rainforest Action Network has evaluated the progress APP and its suppliers have made towards implementing key elements of its policy as well as toward meeting the APP Performance Targets and Milestones developed by the Environmental Paper Network, a network of 120 NGOs internationally and endorsed by WWF, Greenpeace, Rainforest Action Network and Wahana Bumi Hijau among others. The Milestones set out specific performance benchmarks for implementation of the FCP as well as describe and set out performance milestones for a number of fundamental gaps in APP’s commitments. In summary, aside from the commendable cessation of logging activities in most of the operations of APP and its supply chain, even after one year, it is too soon to confirm that tangible conservation or social benefits have taken place on the ground as a result of APP’s policy. Most of the progress APP has made in the past year has been in collecting HCV and HCS data – most of which has yet to be shared making an assessment impossible – and in setting up teams, systems and processes such as consultants to conduct HCV assessments, protocols for standard operating procedures and the “dash board.” These are laudable and an essential component of implementing and broadening the company’s commitments, however they do not allow for evaluating whether promised reforms are having any impact. Even in the area of setting up teams and collecting data, much has yet to be done - from the need for securing stakeholder input and agreement with the interpretation and use of this data for forest management plans to the urgent need to address peatland issues, initiate FPIC processes, and scale up land and social conflict resolution. It has been a disappointment to learn how much tropical forest, much on deep peat, was cleared by APP and suppliers in the lead up to the moratorium established by the FCP thereby erasing many potential conservation gains. By the time of the moratorium, APP’s old concessions, covering 2.6 million hectares of formerly mostly forested and often peatlands had relatively small areas of forest remaining. This reality, APP’s track record of broken promises, along with the many land and social conflicts between APP, its suppliers, and rural communities underscore the need for comprehensive and ambitious restoration, compensation, and conflict resolution to address APP’s legacy of adverse social and environmental impacts. We welcome the news that APP has engaged the Rainforest Alliance to conduct an independent audit of its performance. It is imperative that the audit develop robust indicators for and then verifies not only APP performance in implementing the FCP, but also the EPN targets and milestones, including the gaps in the FCP including, for example, restoration/compensation for APP’s legacy of negative impacts, measuring and reducing the company’s carbon footprint and a permanent prohibition on the use of fiber from tropical natural forests. It is premature for potential customers and investors to consider establishing business ties with APP before such audit criteria have been agreed and before it has been independently verified that APP is meeting them. Based on our evaluation we recommend
  • that companies do not buy products from the APP group and avoid investing in their infrastructure expansion projects;
  • that buyers and investors encourage APP to formally commit to expand its so far limited policy to cover all aspects of sustainable and responsible operations as recommended in the EPN Performance Targets and Milestones; and
  • that buyers and investors wait for verification by independent NGOs and an independent auditor that the implementation of the expanded policy has resulted in real, measurable, and permanent achievements on the ground
 

APRIL Misses the Mark with New Forest Management Policy

insetOn Tuesday, Indonesia's second largest pulp and paper company, Asia Pacific Resources International Limited (APRIL), released an updated Sustainable Forest Management Policy. While this policy is notable, especially given APRIL’s recent suspension from the World Business Council on Sustainable Development (WBCSD), it falls far short of what is needed for APRIL to clean up its act. It should also be noted that over the years, APRIL has repeatedly failed to meet similar commitments, raising the possibility that this is simply another PR move to alleviate pressure and scrutiny from consumers and NGO’s.

For years, APRIL has been the subject of controversy related to deforestation and human rights violations, due to ethically dubious business practices on the part of both APRIL and its owner Sukanto Tanoto.

Sukanto Tanoto, an Indonesian business tycoon, is also the head of Royal Golden Eagle International (RGE), and has dealings in palm oil and viscose staples fiber (dissolving pulp) as well. This new commitment is rife with policy gaps and, in fact, could allow the continued pulping of rainforests for paper until 2020. APRIL has not committed to stop natural forest conversion until the end of this year, and is continuing to feed its 2 million ton-capacity mill with rainforest fiber. Furthermore, the commitment does not address the fact that April and suppliers have cleared and converted vast areas of high conservation value and natural rainforest, despite these areas being identified as HCVs in need of protection.

APRIL has also omitted any safeguards to prevent ongoing land-grabs and human rights abuses by Toba Pulp Lestari (an RGE-affiliated company) perpetrated on Indigenous people in areas under development. As recently as last week, new protests over land-grabs have broken out near PT RAPP, where APRIL’s massive pulp mill is located.  Local community members are blocking logging trucks to the mill and organizing to resist APRIL encroachment, highlighting the continued non-cooperation with local people impacted by APRIL’s operation.

In order to translate to change on the ground, the commitment must extend to all of RGE and APRIL’s sister companies and suppliers, and must close loopholes on the critical issues of human rights, peatland development and high conservation value forests. Even the commitment itself is murky, as APRIL fails to disclose the most basic information needed to understand what is being promised and assess the company's performance. Transparency and reporting on progress are necessary to ensure that commitments are met.

While, this is a positive commitment, APRIL has yet to undertake a path to true reform. Pulp and paper customers must demand more before considering doing business with any of Sukanto Tanoto's vast network of companies, which still remain entirely unaccountable for the consequences of their actions. In the meantime, the WBCSD should continue high level scrutiny of APRIL's actions until APRIL has proven that it can fully turn its practices around.


Thank You

You know what I’m thankful for this year? You. Everything RAN has accomplished this past year is thanks to you. Please don't think for a second that I'm just saying that. RAN’s people-powered campaigns literally cannot be won without you. Corporate decision-makers can destroy our planet with impunity if no one calls them out—but you not only call them out, you demand accountability. And that really does make such a huge difference. Without you, we can’t protect forests, defend human rights, or move this country past fossil fuels. So the RAN team put together this video to say thank you and show you the incredible power of the network you are an integral part of. (You might even see yourself in it!) [youtube bZPPO_hB54k 550] Here is a short but by no means comprehensive list of what you achieved this year:
  • You made “Conflict Palm Oil” an international issue discussed in the pages of the New York Times, Businessweek and The Guardian.
  • You made it possible for more than 76,000 people to get the training and resources they need to take peaceful direct action and demand President Obama reject the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline.
  • By sending nearly 12,000 emails, you convinced the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil to sit down with community members from Papua New Guinea and mediate their dispute with KLK, a notorious forest-destroyer and labor rights abuser.
  • You sent over 18,000 emails to Bank of America and Goldman Sachs calling them out for funding Coal India, a company that has been tied to numerous environmental violations. Thanks to you, BofA and Goldman Sachs were forced to go back to Coal India and wring environmental concessions from the company before proceeding.
  • More than 25,000 of you called out Cargill for its ties to a palm plantation that uses forced and child labor.
  • And the truth about Conflict Palm Oil is currently being broadcast from a Jumbo-Tron in Times Square and has been viewed on YouTube almost half-a-million times.
I also have to offer my sincerest, most heartfelt thanks to you for standing with us during one of the hardest periods in RAN’s history. When Becky Tarbotton—our friend, leader, and executive director—died unexpectedly last December, it was your support, your love, your belief in our core purpose and the importance of our role in the world that helped us get through it. Even when our hearts were broken and things seemed impossibly dark, we were able to come together and persevere. I honestly can’t think of a more fitting tribute to Becky than this past year—one of the most successful years in RAN history. Hope you enjoy the video we made for you. Thank you for everything you're doing. You are making an incredible difference.

RAN Channels Small Grants to Two Major Indigenous Mobilizations in South America

Indigenous communities are mobilizing in Brazil and Ecuador, challenging the respective national governments’ plans to push large-scale expansion of oil development in the rainforest (Ecuador) and clear the way for roads, dams, agribusiness and development of other mega-projects (Brazil) that would devastate ecosystems and undermine the internationally recognized standard of Free, Prior, and Informed Consent (FPIC). In Brazil, the powerful ruralista voting bloc of Congress that represents the country’s burgeoning agribusiness sector is seeking to modify Article 231 of the constitution to reduce Indigenous autonomy over their traditional territory in cases of “relevant public interest,” while simultaneously attempting to roll back the demarcation of new Indigenous territories. In a related effort, President Dilma is trying to push through measures to unilaterally reduce the boundaries of protected areas and Indigenous lands in order to build 3 major dams on the Tapajós River, and a series of additional large and medium-sized dams on its tributaries. These dams together would flood 230,000 acres of conservation units and national parks. The Chacorão Dam would also flood 50,000 acres of the Munduruku Indigenous Lands. This is illegal under Brazilian law, but those protections are threatened by these dangerous proposals. In response, in the beginning of October, a National Indigenous Mobilization, perhaps the most significant in the last 25 years in Brazil, brought together 1,500 representatives of nearly 100 Indigenous ethnicities to Brasilia for a high-profile gathering and protest at the Brazilian Congress. RAN, working in coordination with Amazon Watch and Brazilian organization Socio-Environmental Fund CASA, channeled a $5,000 Protect-an-Acre grant to support the mobilization and the fight of Munduruku community members to stop the Tapajós dams. [caption id="attachment_22295" align="alignleft" width="403"]National Indigenous Mobilization in Brasilia, Photo by Maira Irigaray National Indigenous Mobilization in Brasilia, Photo by Maira Irigaray[/caption] As Amazon Watch’s Christain Poirer reported: Based steps away from Brazil’s congressional buildings, federal ministries, and the presidential palace, the mobilization encampment proved an ideal staging point for acts of steadfast Indigenous resistance. Days were punctuated with spirited protest marches that provoked an overwhelming police response, and congressional security indiscriminately pepper spraying peaceful protestors. Yet brutality and intimidation could not dampen a hunger for justice and for respect…Targeting the heart of the agribusiness lobby in Brasilia, hundreds of protestors occupied the headquarters of the National Confederation of Agriculture, singing and dancing in celebration of a symbolic victory against the ruralistsas. Legendary Kayapo leader, Chief Raoni Metuktire, stated: “We are here because Congress wants to take our rights and extinguish our people. This assembly is important because it aims to unite our peoples against this threat.” Two weeks later, in Ecuador, close to 150 Indigenous women began an 4 day, 150 mile walk from the Amazon city of Puyo, walking high into the Andes mountains to the capital city of Quito as part of a Mobilization for Life to demonstrate the unified resistance of all 7 Indigenous nationalities potentially impacted by the Ecuadorian government’s attempts to open up 16 new oil blocks in the southern Amazon to development, as well as to call for not drilling in Yasuni National Park. Hundreds of additional supporters joined the march along the way. RAN was also able to channel a $5,000 grant to this mobilization via Global Greengrants Fund and in coordination with Land is Life and the Association of Sapara Women. Gloria Ushigua, president of the Association of Sapara Women stated: “We are marching; we are going to arrive in Quito and we are going to speak to Mr. Rafael Correa. We don’t want oil, maybe there is another way of life. We are organized, we have been organized for years, and we don’t want oil.” These two videos (in Spanish) feature the Mobilization for Life, which arrived in Quito last week: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=EN-LXCeBKLI http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=wj3PgqDbPeA

Coal India to Investors: What’s a Few Billion Tons of Coal Between Friends?

cil pic 2Yesterday, Greenpeace and the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA) released a report that reveals that Coal India, the world’s largest coal miner, may be overstating its coal reserves by an estimated 3.5 billion metric tons. As the company and its bankers prepare a new offering of Coal India shares to the investing public, this revelation adds to concerns Greenpeace, RAN, and others have raised about Coal India’s egregious environmental, human rights, and legal compliance record. Prior to Coal India’s 2010 initial public offering, the company told investors that it had 21.7 billion metric tons of extractable coal reserves. But an internal study by the company’s exploration arm estimated that it had reserves of only 18.2 billion tons as of 2011. If this internal figure turns out to be correct, the 16% difference between Coal India’s official and internal reserve figures would have reduced Coal India’s valuation by approximately $4.25 billion as of April 2011. However, the company has not disclosed or accounted for this discrepancy to shareholders, India’s financial regulators, or stock exchanges. The Greenpeace/IEEFA report notes that Coal India's reserves reporting discrepancy calls into question the company’s ability to meet its aggressive 8% annual growth target. Furthermore, if the company somehow achieves its annual production goals (which it failed to meet from 2010-2012), it would be on track to exhaust its reserves by 2030, leaving India’s current and planned coal-fired power plants without adequate fuel supplies. When considered along with evidence of Coal India’s widespread violations of India’s environmental laws and severe corruption problems, the company’s reserves reporting raises a deeper concern for investors: If company executives are flouting the law and stealing from their employer, why would you expect them to look out for the best interests of shareholders? In combination, Coal India’s environmental, human rights, legal, and reporting messes leave the company’s bankers with a problem. With their reputations and client relationships on the line, how do Bank of America, Credit Suisse, Deutsche Bank, and Goldman Sachs plan to sell the company’s share offering to investors? It would be bad enough for their sales pitch to skip over evidence that the company’s mines have forcibly evicted vulnerable forest communities, destroyed endangered species habitat, and used child labor. But investors are unlikely to forget the banks that sold them stock in a mining company that turned out to be missing 3.5 billion tons of coal.

Ignoring Human Rights Abuses and Coal’s Uncertain Future, Big Banks Line Up for Piece of World’s Largest Coal Miner

HarshadBarveGPThis is a guest post by Ashish Fernandes, a climate campaigner with Greenpeace. Green is in on Wall Street. Or so you’d think, if you believe the sustainability policies of some of the United States’ biggest banks. Bank of America, Citi, Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan and Morgan Stanley all have paid lip service to environmental sustainability and the transition to a low carbon future. And yet these same institutions all lined up for a piece of Coal India Limited, one of the world’s largest coal miners, and perpetrator of environmental and social injustice in some of India’s poorest regions, showing that when it comes to issues of justice and sustainability, they all have a long way to go when it comes to walking the talk. The government of India intends to sell 5% of its stake in Coal India, hoping to raise over a billion dollars in the international markets. Reports from India indicate that Bank of America, Goldman Sachs, Credit Suisse and Deutsche Bank are going to help raise that money, by managing the share sale. The previous share offer in 2010 attracted over two billion dollars in international capital, but given the company’s struggles since then, and a global downturn for coal, this time it might not be such an easy sell. Coal India Limited is one of the largest coal miners in the world, and almost all of its coal comes from destructive open pit mines, most of them in forest regions of Central and Eastern India. Forests that tribal communities depend on for their daily livelihood. The same forests that inspired Rudyard Kipling’s Jungle Book, and that today still harbor tigers, leopards, sloth bears and elephants. When Coal India descends on these remote locations, what follows is predictable: tribals displaced and left with no source of livelihood, forced to move into cement and tin boxes that serve as houses, forests clear-felled, streams and rivers fouled. A few of the displaced might be “lucky” enough to get manual labour jobs in the pit that replaces their forest. Their children often end up working along side them or scavenging coal to sell in the informal market—a shocking violation of India’s child labor and safety laws. This company’s business model is devastating: destroy forests and endangered wildlife, uproot ancient tribal cultures, forcibly displace those who refuse to move, replace aforementioned forests/cultures with an industrial wasteland. Above all, don’t let respect for human rights or the environment come in the way. All this to produce coal, the burning of which is responsible for approximately 100,000 deaths a year in India. This is the company that Bank of America, Goldman Sachs and others are so eager to lend their services to. If ethical and environmental reasons aren’t enough to steer clear of coal, there are serious financial risks that Coal India poses to any investor. The company’s stock price has nosedived. Production continues to lag far behind demand. The government of India continues to subsidize coal by keeping the prices artificially low even as cost of production increases, meaning that the share price is likely to remain under pressure and shareholder value is not unlocked. The financial problems faced by coal are not particular to India, but are part of a larger global shift. Goldman Sachs itself has predicted that coal is going to be eroded by environmental regulations, renewable energies and energy efficiency, warning that the window for profitable investments in coal is rapidly closing. Right now, the CEOs of Bank of America and Goldman Sachs are probably figuring out how to spin their involvement with Coal India while continuing to claim a commitment to social justice and a more sustainable, low carbon economy. They will probably trot out the tired myths about the poor in the developing world having no choice but to rely on coal—but here’s the thing: That lie no longer works. Clean energy from wind power and the sun are now almost as cheap (and in some cases cheaper) as new coal, with mainstream research from the likes of HSBC predicting that coal will be as expensive as solar photovoltaics within 5 years. Others have a tighter timeframe of 3-4 years. The moral justification for supporting coal in India has been demolished. And the financial case for moving capital out of the coal sector has never been stronger. Will the big banks read the writing on the wall?   AshishAshish Fernandes is US-India Climate Adviser with Greenpeace. His work highlights the often-ignored environmental, social and financial risks inherent in the Indian coal sector, to drive home the message that India's reliance on coal is a problem for individual companies, investors, the economy and the country at large. Prior to his work on coal, he focused on issues of deforestation and ocean protection in India, and has 15 years of experience in the environmental sector with a range of non-profits and media outlets.

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