Pages tagged "indigenous"


Double Trouble: Chevron's Ecuador Gameplan Slowly Unravels

Crossposted from Daily Kos In the last two days Chevron has been hit with two developments that will surely produce lasting doubts to the legality and authenticity of Chevron’s actions in what is being called the world’s largest environmental lawsuit. Chevron has been involved in the $27.3 billion for the last 17 years. The breathtaking figure represents the expensive pollution counting for over 18 billion gallons of toxic oil waste and 15 million gallons of crude oil left in the Amazon rainforest. Chevron has vehemently denied responsibility, claiming high cancer rates and polluted drinking water is due to "poor sanitation." However Chevron cannot, and as of yesterday now refuses to, backup any such claim. Yesterday Chevron was provided with the opportunity to submit to the court its own damages assessment. (Presumably to argue any discrepancies they found in the original damages assessment compiled by the court appointed expert.) Chevron in turn rejected the opportunity. A peculiar move considering Chevron has spent the last two years attacking the submission of independent damages assessment. The original assessment contained over 105 expert reports and more than 64,000 samples, many of which came from Chevron’s own team. This latest maneuver by Chevron has many in the legal and human rights world scratching their heads. However for those close to the lawsuit this latest development is seen as another indicator that Chevron is solely interested delaying the trial rather than letting the courts rule on the extent of their liability.
"We predict that Chevron’s bad faith will be on full display yet again," said Pablo Fajardo, the lead lawyer for the Amazonian communities. "Chevron complained that it did not have an opportunity to produce its own damages assessment. But when given the opportunity, company lawyers accuse the judge of bias against Chevron and launch attacks on the justice system." Fajardo said the Amazonian communities would submit their own damages assessment prepared by a team of scientific and medical experts to the court today."
The new damages report submission, comes a day after another major dilemma for Chevron’s defense in Ecuador. On Wednesday a Federal Judge ordered Diego Borja, a spy video operative and former Chevron employee, to appear for a deposition in San Francisco next week. The deposition is in regards to Borja’s involvement with Chevron in a potentially illegal entrapment scheme. Borja became a lightning rod of controversy in the lawsuit after partnering with a former drug runner and secretly videotaping themselves having conversations with the judge presiding over the trial. The videotape as been a key piece of evidence for the defendants and human rights activists claiming the Chevron continues to attempt to undermine the rule of law in Ecuador with "dirty tricks".
U.S. Magistrate Judge Edward Chen says "that Mr. Borja was not an innocent third party who just happened to learn of the alleged bribery scheme but rather was a long-time associate of Chevron whom Chevron would pay for any favorable testimony."
Chevron has denied any association with Borja, however an investigation uncovered that Chevron had arranged for his relocation from Ecuador to a $6000 a month Northern California townhouse, and is currently providing him legal counsel. Diego Borja’s deposition is scheduled for October 1st, pending any objections from Chevron.

Blockade at BP San Francisco Offices on 5th anniversary of Katrina; 15 Arrested

Great action today in San Francisco. The Mobilization for Climate Justice West (MCJ-West) turned out 150 people on a Monday afternoon and marched to the SF financial district offices of Chevron, the Environmental Protection Agency and BP calling for Big Oil to stop harming our environment and communities and pay up for the damage they've caused. A coalition of national, regional and local groups, activists with MCJ-West) blockaded the doors of the SF BP offices and the intersection in front of the building. With a set of demands, MCJ-West organized one of the largest direct actions at BP to date with 15 arrested. MCJ-West's demands include: * Moratorium on New Offshore Drilling. No Use of Dispersants. Full Access to Media and Civil Society. * Big Oil corporations pay their debt to all impacted communities – Gulf Coast to Richmond, CA and around the world. * Big Oil pay for community livelihood and ecosystem restoration, clean energy, public transportation, and healthcare for impacted communities. * Big Oil Out of Politics! Activists also delivered a letter from it's coalition to BP. Here's the letter: To: CEO’s of British Petroleum, Chevron, Shell, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil, Tesoro, and Valero August 30, 2010 In the wake of the recent BP disaster, we are writing to express our concern over the oil industry’s continued disregard for the health of communities and ecosystems around the world. Mobilization for Climate Justice West is a coalition of organizations, some of which represent communities directly impacted by the oil industry’s extraction and refining operations; we are dedicated to promoting effective and just solutions to the climate crisis. We call on the oil industry to accept responsibility for the damages your operations have caused worldwide and specifically to: 1. End the use of dispersants in cleaning up oil spills. Dispersants, such as the Corexit used in the BP disaster, are toxic chemicals whose long-term impact on ocean life is unknown. Using dispersants allows for better public relations for the oil industry since they make the oil less visible, while possibly making the long-term impact of spills even worse. 2. Grant full access to media and civil society in covering oil spills. During the BP disaster, there have been many complaints from journalists that BP restricted their access and ability to gain information. In July, the Society of Professional Journalists issued an open letter expressing their concerns over restrictions of press access to beaches and other sites in the Gulf. 3. Pay your debt to the communities that have been impacted by your operations. In the Gulf Coast, the oil spill has destroyed the livelihoods of many fishing and oystering communities. Communities are also impacted by oil extraction and refining in places like Nigeria, where an Exxon Valdez-sized spill has occurred every year since 1960; in Alberta, Canada where First Nations indigenous communities are experiencing abnormally high rates of cancer and a destruction of their traditional ways of life due to extreme water pollution from upstream tar sands operations; and in refining communities like Richmond, California where more than 25,000 people live within 3 miles of the refinery and the community suffers from high levels of asthma and other respiratory diseases. The oil industry must pay for the the restoration of ecosystems and community livelihoods, for the development of clean energy and public transportation solutions, and for healthcare to treat those whose health has been impacted by your pollution. 4. Stop funding fake “astro-turf” rallies. Last year the American Petroleum Institute, of which British Petroleum, Chevron, Shell, ConocoPhillips, and ExxonMobil are members, launched a fake grassroots campaign called “Energy Citizen” and bussed employees to lobbyist-organized rallies to oppose climate legislation that might limit climate pollution. Shell, publicly stated last year that it would not participate in “Energy Citizen” rallies. Now API is up to it again with a series of fake rallies to oppose removing billions in oil company tax breaks and opposing limits on offshore drilling. Will you join Shell’s pledge not to participate in what have been called “glorified company picnics”? 5. Stop lobbying against solutions to climate change and against regulations to protect our communities. Instead of using its profits to re-pay the debt to communities impacted by its operations, the oil industry funnels billions into lobbying to ensure that it will not be held responsible for its pollution. During the BP disaster, from April-June, 2010, the American Petroleum Institute spent $2.3 million on lobbying. According to the Washington Post, three fourths of all oil and gas lobbyists used to work for the federal government; the poor regulatory oversight of deepwater drilling is one result of this revolving door. The oil industry also lobbies against solutions to climate change; members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee who voted against the Waxman-Markey climate bill in 2009 received almost 3 times more in contributions from carbon-intensive industries than members who voted in favor of the legislation. In California, Tesoro and Valero are funding Proposition 23 on this November’s ballot to derail the implementation of California’s climate change legislation. Sincerely, Mobilization for Climate Justice West, Richmond Progressive Alliance, Communities for a Better Environment, Global Exchange, Greenpeace, Rainforest Action Network, West County Toxics Coalition, Gulf Restoration Network

Taking Steps to Heal the Tar Sands

This past weekend was a big step for the city of Fort McMurray, Alberta.  On Saturday August 14th, 2010 I joined local Indigenous community members along with supporters from across the country in the Tar Sands Healing Walk. We walked through the tar sands development zones calling for the healing of land and water.  This event was called by the Keepers of the Athabasca, who worked in partnership with many local ENGO’s.  This event was the first of it’s kind and never before has there been a community led event in Fort McMurray that opposes tar sands development. It was powerful and is just the beginning. The walk was long and powerful.  The day started with a ceremony at dawn in Lions Park in the heart of McMurray.  From there we shuttled the walkers to a point on Highway 63 near Suncor’s Crane Lake rehabilitation area where over 150 of us gathered to start the walk with prayer and stories.  As we circled together a large black bear appeared and stood on a ridge just above us and soon after a large bald eagle circled overhead.  Both were signs of the power and importance of the day.   From there we began our 13 kilometre trek through the heartland of destruction in the tar sands right past Syncrude and Suncor tailings ponds and past the Syncrude complex itself, the walk ended back at the Crane Lake parking lot. The 13-kilometer trek was filled with much needed prayer and song as we walked through blowing sands from the dried tailing sites and the air was thick with pollution coming out of the large smoke stacks. We stopped in the four directions along the walk and laid down offering of thanks and prayer and allowed us time to catch our breath and share important stories of the land.  The walkers crossed through generations with elders who had watched the land change over the last 80 years and children still clad in diapers and in their mothers arms.  Tantoo Cardinal, a well known actress (Dances with Wolves, Legends of the Fall), who grew up in Anzac, AB just south of Fort McMurray joined us for the day and offered her prayers and words to the day. The event was well organized with packed lunches, St. John’s Ambulance on site and a strong police presence along the road to help slow traffic along the route.  We carried two large banners that read “STOP the Destruction - START the HEALING” and one small banner with an old Cree proverb “Only when the last tree has been cut. Only when the last river has been polluted. Only when the last fish has been caught. Only then will they realize that we cannot eat money.” Many people that drove past honked their horns in support. Media came out and at some point many of us made jokes about how there were more cameras then people.  It truly was a testament to how momentous this event really was.  One of my favorite pieces that came out was the front page of Fort McMurray Today and features a large photo of my cousin Siouan Star Deranger.  My favorite quote from this piece comes from a collegue and comrade George Poitras "We have lived here for thousands of years. We rely on the land — our lives are intrinsically linked to the land. We are one and the same. It is very frustrating to see the unprecedented pace of development with little to no consideration of the land, as we call it, our mother earth — it gives us life," All in All the event was a huge success and a series of fantastic photos can be seen here on flickr. I followed up this great event with a trip to Fort Chipewyan where I had a chance to meet with the Elders, the IRC and Chief.  I also found some time to visit with family and take in a community that is so beautiful and reminder of what I am fighting for.

I Spy A Chevron Lie: Chevron Talking About Everything but the Truth in Ecuador

Chevron keeps on rolling out the “Doh!” moments as they continue to attempt (and spectacularly fail) to deflect attention from their responsibility in Ecuador with their sideline shenanigans. We’ve seen an illustrious chain of embarrassing Chevron snafus. There was the well-documented collusion with a known felon and former employee conspiring to bait an Ecuadorean judge. Then there was the instance in which Chevron did not like the media they were receiving on a national level. Following a scathing 60 Minutes piece exposing Chevron’s double speak and ill-crafted lies, Chevron conjured up the idea to produce their own “news reporting” for their YouTube audience. In this news report Chevron hired a retired CNN reporter to “report” their side of the story and pass it off as “journalism.” An event that nearly had the New York Times at the edge of their seat with laughter. Now Chevron has gone from YouTube news to flat out bribes.  That Chevron tried to manipulate the media is not news. I can’t blame them really. If I were Chevron I’d also be fearful the media will continue to non-objectively cover my responsibility to clean up my pollution in the Ecuadorean Amazon. Facts are a pesky thing when the media continues to report them.

Now Chevron, having used up any credibility as a genuine actor (outside of a few bloggers) in the $27 billion lawsuit, must now outsource their deceptions. They’ve enlisted the private investigation firm Kroll to do their dirty work. What was Kroll’s latest task for Chevron? Buying up a journalist to act as spy in Ecuador.

See part 2 of the new story here, with reaction to Chevron's attempts to buy journalists HERE In a well-publicized case, Kroll has been outed for offering to pay a journalist $20,000 to go to Ecuador undercover to “report” on Chevron’s behalf. To the reporter Mary Cuddehe’s credit she did not accept Chevron/Kroll’s offer, and instead reported on the shady dealings of Chevron in Ecuador. Chevron’s strategies read like juvenile pranks, yet unfortunately there is much more at stake than which table you get to sit at in the cafeteria. Chevron continues to trivialize, with games and delay tactics, the health and well being of over 30,000 Ecuadoreans. Chevron may very well continue to dig deeper into their bag of tricks as they reach for any way to distract the world from their responsibility in Ecuador.  Yet it’s clear at this point Chevron will only be building up their reputation as a disingenuous company with cynical motives, because the world is squarely focused on the facts of the lawsuit, the suffering Chevron is causing, and not the desperate efforts to distract from the truth.

Climate Camps Sprouting Up Around the World

What’s that rumbling I hear? It’s a movement thundering as they say “Ya Basta!” to climate change and fossil fuel extraction, and “Yes” to climate justice. Throughout the industrial North in Europe, North America, Australia and Aotearoa, Climate Camps are sprouting up next to their nation’s biggest polluters to take direct action. No more waiting on Obama, the United Nations, Duke Energy, Environmental Defense or whatever other all powerful entity to charge in and save the day. Like Neil Young once said “We’re finally on our own.Climate Camp UK is setting up their camp next to the Royal Bank of Scotland’s (RBS) HQ outside of Edinburgh, Scotland. RBS is a major funder of the highly destructive Canadian Tar Sands. In Montreal, the Camp is focusing on the Enbridge Trailbreaker project this year, a transcontinental pipeline that would bring dirty tar sands bitumen to Montreal and beyond to Maine, eventually ending up on tankers heading to refineries in the Gulf Coast. In Australia, the camp is taking place at the Bayswater coal fired power station in the Hunter Valley. Other camps have, or are, happening in Sweden, New Zealand, Ireland and Wales. [youtube -md598WLIL4&] In the U.S., there are no climate camps or convergences scheduled this year but much is still going on. Earth First! has had a revival and camps and rendezvous are happening from Colorado to upstate New York to Maine. Many of them focusing on corporate polluters. Much momentum is buiding around oil and gas lease auction monkey-wrencher Tim DeChristopher’s trial in Salt Lake City. Appalachians are joining activists from all over to country to rise up in Washington D.C. at a mass mobilization called “Appalachia Rising” on Sep 25-27. Climate Justice Action, the organizing body around the direct action that took place in Copenhagen last December, is calling for a Global Day of Action for Climate Justice on October 12. Since last year, we’ve had space open up for a global people’s climate justice movement. Mostly due to the inability of the ruling class to begin to resolve climate change. Here’s what the “powers that be” have done so far to open up our political space: * failed to give us an agreement in Copenhagen. * failed to pass legislation in the U.S. that would have regulated carbon emissions. (The bill that they did have was full of industry giveaways, so I’m not crying too hard about the loss of that one.) * And in contrast to the climate camps and people’s movements in the Global South, the Big Green NGO’s make climate and environmental movements look weak, craven and sold out. As long as we allow them to represent our movements, we are. Even Billl McKibben is beginning to sound like Peter Finch in Network. This past April at the World People’s Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth in Cochabamba, Bolivia, people’s movement from all over the world came together to once again converge indigenous movements and anti-corporate globalization movements (the last such convergence began in Chiapas when the Zapatistas rose up against NAFTA and carried our movements into Seattle, Prague and Genoa.) Climate Camps are fertile ground for our movements that need to look less like K Street and more like Chiapas.

Chevron Gets Sloppy: Longtime Strategy of Using Courts as PR Platform Exposed

Chevron has a playbook, a playbook they use to silence critics, dodge legal liability, create illusions of pollution clean-up, buy favorable media (or attempt to), and disempower communities, to name just a few. One of Chevron’s most tired tactics is that of masquerading public relations stunts as court claims. Chevron to their credit is very savvy when it comes to these kinds of games. Chevron lines up their bloggers and leans on their media contacts as they role out a meticulously manufactured story. So it should come as no surprise that last week Chevron filled, yet a again, to have their $27 billion court case in Ecuador to be dismissed. Chevron has done this a few times, always for PR never because of substance. Why, because Chevron is grasping for straws. This most recent charade struck me as desperately elaborate, even for Chevron. Chevron went to great lengths to manufacture their latest claim, and I was struck by the sloppy nature of how they executed the ploy. Last month Chevron won a court motion allowing them access to hundreds of hours of film footage from the documentary CRUDE. This request was met with fierce opposition from thousands of film-makers, journalist and 13 media giants like the Washington Post and Dow Jones who filed a "friend of the court brief" on behalf of  CRUDE filmmaker Joe Berlinger. The court, ignoring journalist privilege under the first amendment, decided to allow Chevron access to film footage under the strict stipulation that Chevron would only use the footage they acquired in judicial proceedings. In fact the Second Circuit court’s decision reads, “material produced under this order shall be used by the petitioners solely for litigation, arbitration, or submission to official bodies, either local or international.” So had Chevron’s intentions been genuine they would surely have honored the courts decision. Why risk the repercussions of violating a court order for a public relations stunt?...Unless all it is, is a public relations stunt. Fact is that is all it was, a new round of public relations trickery. First, Chevron has turned around and submitted blatantly edited video which was done so poorly that Joe Berlinger, the films director, explicitly called out Chevron’s tricks.
“The footage citations are being taken out of context and not being presented to the court in its entirety, creating numerous false impressions, precisely what we feared when we were first issued the original subpoena."
Secondly, Chevron has gone against the court’s order prohibiting Chevron from using the footage or PR. Instead of first filing a claim based on Chevron’s edited video Chevron actually went on a media blitz before they filed any such claim. Upon editing the video Chevron immediately distributed the material on Twitter and provided it to bloggers hours before it was even served to opposing lawyers.
According to Berlinger’s legal filing, Chevron’s violations of the court order include:
  • On August 3 at 7:47 p.m. -- more than two hours before Chevron served its motion on Berlinger’s lawyers -- a detailed article on the film outtakes was posted on the blog of the National Association of Manufacturers.
  • Nineteen minutes later and also well before the papers were served, Chevron posted “Crude' Footage Reveals Lies Behind Trial Lawyers' Suit Against Chevron" to its Twitter.com page, and linked to the above-referenced article.
  • On August 5 the San Francisco Chronicle posted an article entitled "Chevron: Outtakes prove collusion with expert," in which the author states that he was given the outtakes by Chevron.
As laid out in a recent press release, the simple above timeline shows Chevron’s intentions are only to divert attention from their responsibility, and the decades forth of pollution in the Amazon while dragging film directors, lawyers, and courts through another merry-go-round of deflection and delay. Deflection and delay that becomes more elaborate and desperate as Chevron realizes they have run out of options to obstruct justice any further.

Tar Sands, Enbridge and Indigenous Resistance

[caption id="attachment_7879" align="alignnone" width="433" caption="One of the great banners we made at the Action camp."][/caption] In mid-July I attended the 1st Annual ‘Unist’ot’en Environmental Action Camp in Unist’ot’en territory in Northern BC as a facilitator and participant. Members of the Wetsuweten nation, joined by First Nations activists and allies from across Canada and US - including Indigenous Environmental Network (IEN), Rainforest Action Network (RAN), and Ruckus Society - organized to offer participants training in non-violent direct action (NVDA) theory and planning, media messaging, as well as tactical sessions introducing blockades, climbing, and developing creative visuals.  The camp also included speakers that discussed carbon offsetting and the tar sands mega project. As part of the camp we took some of the theory of NVDA and put it into action.  The ‘Unist’ot’en of the Wet’suwet’en Nation led a rally on July 16th alongside their grassroots allies and supporters in Smithers, BC (the closest town to the action camp) designed to assert their title and rights on their ancient lands. The rally had a strong focus on opposition to the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline, the current consultation process, and the bodies that support and fund it. This of course includes the Royal Bank of Canada. Enbridge plans to build a pipeline that extends 1,172 kilometres from Bruderheim, just north of Edmonton, to Kitimat on the B.C. coast  running through traditional first nation lands, salmon runs and fragile eco-systems and it will carry an average of 525,000 barrels of tar sands per day. [caption id="attachment_7880" align="alignnone" width="433" caption="this is a great photo from a banner hang we did on main street in Smithers, BC"][/caption] The following list of demands was delivered to the Ministry offices who issue permits and licences for industry and private interests. 1. The Unist’ot’en are a legitimate governing body who have never ceded our surrendered our ancient lands to any party. A regulatory regime will be resurrected to ensure that all interests on ‘Unist’ot’en lands are solely and primarily directed to the rightful owners; 2. The ‘Unist’ot’en law (‘Inuk nu’ot’en) for any outside parties who want to do business on ‘Unist’ot’en Yintah (traditional territories) requires meaningful “Free, Prior, and Informed Consent” with legitimate Clan/House Group membership prior to any development on unceded traditional territories. This is a measure that will be enforced to prevent the infringement of their section 35(1) rights and title and infringement on ‘Unist’ot’en ‘Inik nu’ot’en; Just a little over a week following the camp we saw just how warranted pipeline opposition is and just how dangerous a spill from a pipeline can be.  On July 28, 2010 the Enbridge Lakehead pipeline system burst in Michigan unleashing more than three million litres of oil into a tributary of the Kalamazoo River further fueling the debate of dangers of the Northern Gateway pipeline. The Northern Gateway pipeline is supposed to cross 1,000 streams and rivers, including the Skeena and Fraser Rivers, which are valuable wild-salmon habitats and important to cultures and economies in B.C. Read more: http://www.vancouversun.com/Michigan+spill+fuels+debate+over+Enbridge+Alberta+pipeline/3337974/story.html#ixzz0v6dDuARV This was followed by a Greenpeace occupation of the Enbridge office in Vancouver demanding they halt plans to build the Northern Gateway pipeline.  http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/british-columbia/greenpeace-protest-against-enbridge-pipeline-ends-with-four-arrests/article1656131/ This is all very interesting considering RBC’s offer tabled to RAN at the beginning of July where their new policy acknowledges “free, prior and informed consent” (FPIC) as an international standard established by the UN, but requires it from clients only where FPIC is national law.” RBC also plans to develop a stronger Environmental policy that would help weed out bad apples that contribute to environmental devastation. http://understory.ran.org/2010/07/12/rbc-tables-an-offer-on-tar-sand/ It would seem to me that if the Royal Bank of Canada, or any bank for that matter, has any environmental and Indigenous rights policies in place they will steer clear of financing the Northern Gateway project.  I guess we’ll be keeping a close eye on how things progress with Enbridge and RBC in the coming year… “It is time for the Governments of Canada and B.C. to start honoring our traditional governance system of the ‘Unist’ot’en Chiefs. We have never ceded or surrendered our territory. Destruction of forest, waters, and wildlife will no longer be tolerated. True meaningful consultation must start taking place regarding all our territory” ~ Freda Huson of Wetsuweten Nation

The Power of Film: Indonesian Deforestation Exposed

Between major environmental campaigns, international policy negotiations, and increasingly critical threats to biodiversity and local communities, the issue of Indonesian rainforest destruction is gaining much needed recognition as a critical cause. Most recently, two incredible short films have been released detailing the intense realities of this environmental crisis: one from the perspective of an Indigenous community, another through the eyes of a dying orangutan. Orang Rimba- Happiness Lies in the Forest reveals the ongoing struggle of the Indigenous Orang Rimba community in Sumatra, Indonesia against palm oil giant Sinar Mas who is destroying their sacred homelands and converting them to palm oil plantations. The film highlights the powerless plight of forest communities trying to find leverage against huge corporations. [caption id="attachment_7864" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Green: The Film"]Green: The Film[/caption] GREEN brings to light the costs of our increasing worldwide consumption of paper and palm oil products by showing the heart-wrenching memories of a dying orangutan. This silent film presents poignant footage of the harsh realities that Indonesian rainforest destruction is inflicting upon endangered species like orangutans. GREEN and Orang Rimba not only allow the stories of those directly affected by Indonesian deforestation to be heard, but they also motivate viewers to be more informed as consumers and speak out against the practices of paper and palm oil giants. It is more important than ever that we use films like these to spread knowledge about the injustices going on in the forests of Indonesia and expose the key companies imposing them. If you would like to share these issues with your family and friends, sign up for Rainforest Action Network’s Hot August Nights to host a screening of GREEN and Orang Rimba.

Questions Raised on Billion Dollar Indonesia-Norway Deal

[caption id="attachment_7565" align="alignleft" width="251" caption="Forest communities must be consulted in a meaningful way for REDD to work."][/caption] Last week, Norman Jiwan of Sawit Watch, an Indonesian NGO ally concerned with the ongoing adverse social and environmental impacts of palm oil plantations, wrote an op-ed in the Jakarta Post. The op-ed entitled, Deforestation moratorium is not panacea?, stated his view on the recently signed $1 billion dollar Indonesia-Norway Letter of Intent (LoI) which is designed to reduce deforestation and related carbon emissions in Indonesia. The LoI has received significant international attention as the latest step by governments worldwide to push Reduced Emissions through avoided Deforestation and Degradation (REDD) into the forefront of climate change mitigation techniques. The LoI holds great promise to reduce rainforest destruction, serious and widespread land conflicts, and climate changing carbon emissions, but Jiwan said he was not alone in expressing concerns around this latest REDD initiative.
"Many environmental and social NGOs are skeptical with the moratorium commitment. Many question on whether the government can achieve the noble objective of the partnership. The palm oil industry is facing abundant dilemmas that might hamper the moratorium commitment due to an absence of a much needed system, institutions and implementing framework with strong and proper social, economic and cultural as well as environmental considerations."
From my time in Sumatra last month, I heard similar concerns from many of the communities and NGO's in the provinces of Riau and Aceh. To be effective in conserving forest and respecting basic human rights, it is clear that the perspectives of all stakeholders, including Indigenous and communities and civil society groups, must be fully included in the planning, implementation and evaluation of REDD projects in Indonesia. In his op-ed, Jiwan also pointed out that a freeze on new forest concessions in Indonesia starting in 2011 is not enough:
"The moratorium must be extended to zero conversion of primary forests and other high conservation value ecosystems within the existing concessions. The government also must ensure the effective monitoring of the slash and burning policy, evaluate and revoke the certificates for oil palm in disputed areas with local communities."
Thorough investigations into Indonesia's forestry sector have shown a lack of compliance with Indonesian law to be common at Indonesia's industrial logging and agriculture operations. As Jiwan stresses, "When plantation companies and mills committed illegal practices and irresponsible operations, the government must be firm in upholding the rules of the laws." Basic to any effort to control deforestation is a sturdy foundation for the rule of law, and until underlying issues of governance, corruption, and compliance are addressed in Indonesia, there is a chance that Norway's billion dollars and the prospect of a just, green, and low carbon development future for Indonesia could well be captured by the same elites and corporate interest that have fueled corruption, social conflict, and environmental harm in the past.

RBC Tables an Offer on Tar Sands

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A light at the end of the tunnel?Photo:  . SantiMB . via Flickr
The tar sands tide may finally be turning at Canada's biggest bank. RBC is among the largest financiers of Canada's Tar Sands but so far lacks policies adopted by other banks that seek to limit harm to Indigenous rights, water quality and climate. That may be changing. Last week, representatives from RBC showed us a summary of the new draft Environmental Risk policy that it hopes will fill the gap. It's too early to draw conclusions-- the early draft has yet to be ratified by the bank's Senior Management--but here's our initial take on where we see progress relative to other banks, and where we still see distance. Bottom line, we think bank is moving in the right direction on Indigenous rights and the environment but falls well short of establishing a significantly new standard for responsible banking. On a scale of 1 (worthless) to 10 (perfect), we gave the draft a 5. Here's why: On Indigenous rights, the policy acknowledges "free, prior and informed consent" (FPIC) as an international standard established by the UN, but requires it from clients only where FPIC is national law.  Elsewhere (including in Canada's tar sands), the bank relies on the weaker World Bank standard of "free, prior, informed consultation" and meaningful accommodation. Essentially, RBC is proposing the same "recognize" language on FPIC that TD adopted in 2007, though RBC claims its application will be more robust. We've been asking RBC's to require evidence of consent from its clients no matter where they operate, especially in Canada's tar sands where recent studies show that Indigneous communities are facing elevated rates of cancer. RBC maintains that demonstrating consent is impractical given the inconsistent interpretation of "consent", the lack of a legal framework for establishing "consent" in Canada and overlapping and unresolved land claims and interests. We disagree. Our view is that consent is really just the product of consultation that takes "no" for an answer. It's a hard pill for industry to swallow, but it's the right thing to do. On land and water, the bank singles out clients operating in "environmentally sensitive areas" which it defines as tropical forests, UNESCO world heritage sites, critical habitat for species at risk and High Conservation Value Forests. The policy would require an assessment of whether clients "prevent or mitigate" irreversible adverse impacts to these areas, but stops short of imposing clear penalties if they don't. We've been asking RBC to phase out financing to companies that can't do business without wrecking the environment. Despite the bank's assurances that these new guidelines will help weed out bad apples, we remain unconvinced. We like to see the bank defining "environmentally sensitive areas" but the policy lacks the teeth to avoid doing them harm. Finally, we've been asking RBC to meet Unicredit's commitment to measure and reduce its "financed emissions" of CO2 by reigning in financing to tar sands operators and other large CO2 emitters. They offered to encourage clients to disclose emissions under the Carbon Disclosure Project, but won't cut clients that don't. Again, good sentiment, but ultimately lacking teeth. We want to see the policy improve but really it’s the practice that counts. And there’s no shortage of test cases in the queue. Analysts expect more than $100 billion to flow into tar sands developments within the next decade. We’re keeping an eye on two: the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline strongly opposed by a number of well organized First Nations, and the Total Joslyn North Mine which threatens the Athabasca watershed with yet another toxic tailings pond. Both companies will likely come knocking at RBC for financial backing for these projects. How will RBC respond? But enough pontificating from us. Let's hear from you! One way or another, this policy will impact how the banks relate to the growing controversy over tar sands. How should we respond? Please give us your questions and ideas in the comments.

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