Category Archives: Energy and Society

A Deadly Ring of Coal:

VALE’s poisoned gift to Mozambique

By: Estacio Valoi*

15 years ago, when the Mozambican government signed the contract with VALE, almost everybody in Mozambique believed that coal would develop the country. This investigation exposes part of the destruction that VALE Moçambique is preparing to leave behind now that it has announced an agreement to sell its projects to Vulcan Minerals for US $270 million.

Located in the Province of Tete, in Mozambique, the Moatize Coal Mine was officially inaugurated in May 2011. It is owned by VALE Moçambique and Mitsui Corp and it produces 11.3 million tonnes of coal per annum.

In its 2009 annual report, VALE stated that it had 1.087 million tonnes of coal resources (both proven and probable) across all its mines and projects, of which 954 million were in the Moatize mine. The report also stated that the projected depletion date of the project was 2046.

In January 2021, VALE announced plans to pull out of the project. Then, in December 2021, VALE announced it had entered into a binding agreement with Vulcan Minerals – a company that is part of the Jindal Group – to sell the Moatize coal mine and the Nacala Logistics Corridor for US$ 270 million. However, this transaction can only take place if the Government of Mozambique approves it.

But in those brown, black concession areas held by the transnational company in the hot province of Tete, we found a troubling pattern of violence, land-grabbing and death that completely contradicts VALE’s claim of “responsibly sourced” coal.

Between 2009 and 2010, VALE resettled 1,365 families – in the Cateme and 25 de Setembro resettlements areas – in order to install the Moatize mine. Along the Nacala Corridor, an additional 2,000 families were resettled. Most of the families resettled by VALE relied on subsistence agriculture and cattle raising in order to survive.

The resettlement areas were plagued by a number of problems which have already been widely documented, such as unsafe housing (e.g. faulty infrastructure and poorly installed electrical and sewage systems), andland unsuitable for subsistence agriculture (due to bad quality of soil, no access to water and being far from markets). Although these problems have long been denounced by affected communities and various organizations at national and international level, the vast majority of them are yet to be resolved.

The Mozambican Police (PRM), including its Rapid Intervention Unit (UIR), have been “used” by VALE in several occasions. They have dispersed and repressed protesters by beating them up or shooting at them with rubber bullets and even live ammunition, and they have arbitrarily detained local brickmakers (a.k.a. oleiros) – who still seek compensation for losing their livelihoods.

To make matters worse, local journalists are being intimidated and threatened by local authorities – including the Mayor of Moatize, Carlos Portimão – and told not to report on these issues.

If you want to report about VALE, talk with its directors, not with the locals nor with the oleiros.” – local radio directors are telling their reporters.

To make place for open-pit mining, the people who lived inside the concession areas were “forcefully removed” from their homes, from the small family farms that kept them fed, from the rivers that provided them with plenty of water and from the river banks where they produced clay bricks for a living. Today, “pushed” outside the fence, these people, along with tens of thousands of others who already lived in the outskirts of the mine, are facing a very harsh reality: there is no water left. The rivers that used to provide them with water for farming, cattle and other basic needs, have either been diverted to supply water to the mine, polluted or simply burried by tons of sand – a shameful and blatant violation of their human rights.

Unlike what some may think, the number of people severely affected by VALE goes way beyond those who have been resettled and the thousands of families who live in Bagamoyo, Nhantchere, Primeiro de Maio or Liberdade – the neighbourhoods that border the mine, under a permanent cloud of dust and whose inhabitants get sistematically sick from VALE’s pollution. The oleiros are a good example of a different kind of highly impacted group. Even though VALE has compensated some of those who were forced to hand over their land to the mining company, many others claim they were left out of the agreements.

In 2019, for example, when VALE started the expansion of the Moatize III Mine, the company cut Primeiro de Maio, Liberdade and Paiol’s access to the Moatize River, affecting brickmakers and peasants from those communities. Since then, several meetings were held between the affected people, VALE and the government. More recently VALE changed the tone and started stating that no compensation is owed to any brickmakers. While this process is dragging on, more than 4,000 oleiros are having a very hard time supporting themselves and their families.

In the Province of Tete, with the abetment of the Mozambican government, roughly half a million people are currently abandoned to their fate: to live in a deadly ring of coal for (at least) 35 years.

VALE’s arrival and the communities’ downfall

Zita, a forty-some year old widow, told us she lived with her late husband Refo Agostinho – held by many as the best brickmaker in Moatize – before they were gradually forced to give their land away to VALE. Mother of four, she and her husband Refo had brick making as their main source of income. The money was used to feed their children, pay for school and cover other needs. “They all grew up supported by money from brickwork.”

In 1993, both unemployed at the time, with no one to support them and already with a daughter to raise (the eldest), Zita and Refo decided to make a life plan and thus guarantee their family’s livelihood. It was then that they began to work in pottery and brick production near the Paiol area. At first, they were generating around 30,000 Meticais (approximately US$470) per month (depending on the season). Soon, to meet demand, they had to hire workers.

First we had five workers, then ten and then fifteen… Payment depended on the kind of work and on each worker’s results. Some workers could make 3,000 bricks a day for about 900 to 1,000 Meticais (approximately US$15). With the money from brick making we could buy curry, we were able to build our own house, we also bought a car. At home, Refo ran other businesses. With the bricks, he set up mills and he was a welder and a panel beater too. We also used our car to transport the bricks to where our clients needed them… For 20 years we developed this activity”.

Refo died of stress and grief: he had a heart attack

Refo lost his life after things changed. VALE took everything from us. In Chipanga, where we used to make bricks, our property was large: one hectare. My machamba [farm] was elsewhere, in Canchoeiro. VALE took us out of there but they did not want to pay us compensation (for the land), nor for having us cease our activities. They would say process X had to go to position Y, but they refused to give us money, always talking but without a solution. So, they [the brickmakers] had to organise demonstrations to receive the money. When they protested, the police arrived, intimidated him and took him to jail. He stayed (in jail) for a week, then left and continued to fight until VALE compensated us. I’m not sure how much money it was, but I heard it was about 60,000 Meticais (approximately US$940).”

But the brickmaker’s life was never the same again. “After losing the land where he worked, Refo began to suffer from stomach aches and having blood pressure problems, and with that, he died. Now, I support the children and they all go to school. I depend of a single mill, which he left to us”.

Tampered community survey lists

We were in the District of Moatize when the representative of the Nhankweva brickmakers commission, Nordino Timba Chaúque, told us he was fed up with VALE’s neverending promises and unfulfilled agreements with local communities over the years. “The company is doing things the community doesn’t like.”

They started to list the brickmakers and peasants who had to be compensated in Nhankweva and other neighbourhoods in 2020, but the process is still unfinished. “A long time ago, we met with VALE to discuss these payments. The company promised us that it would pay us all – a group of 571 brickmakers – and each of us would receive 125,000 Meticais (approximately US$1960). We stopped our activities. They only paid for the trucks that took our bricks from the place they occupied to somewhere else. We were not compensated. This Wednesday, again, the company told us to come back on December 22, 2021.”

But from one Wednesday to the next, the situation remains unresolved, and now VALE says it will no longer pay any compensation to these brickmakers.

About 500 or so people, each received 60,000 Meticais (approximately US$940) to stop their activities, but they still had to pay us 125,000 Meticais each (approximately US$1960) – the value of the compensation. At one point VALE just said that it no longer recognized us and that we are not part of the registration lists.

VALE subcontracted a company – MP – to carry out the registration. The people from that company were trained and qualified professionals. But later on – in order to stall or avoid payment – VALE told us that those lists, made by their people, had been tampered by infiltrated people from the community! VALE surveyed Chipanga in 2009. They know the job. One cannot say that there were infiltrated people from the community because there were local authorities in place: government staff, technical staff from the municipality too. So, where and how did the people infiltrate?! The entire local authorities from all the neighbourhoods followed this process” – said another brickmaker.

VALE and the government keep playing hot potato. “These are VALE’s maneuvers to avoid paying us. They are the ones who used to do the registration, but they chose MP to do this registration. So, they must have the numbers. We have 3,000 people [on our list].” – says the President of the brickmakers commission.

Former employees of MP confirm that VALE claims to have 5,000 people on its list and accuses the company’s employees of tampering with the numbers. According to them, this is but a maneuver by VALE to stall the process. “We were even expelled! They confiscated our private phones and searched them. They accused us of putting extra people on the lists in exchange for money, which is not true.”

Little to nothing has been done to address all the 2008, 2010 or 2012 pending processes and cases regarding compensations, new land allocations and social projects

Paulo Vítor Maferrano, 41 years old, from Chipanga, Moatize, claims that he too made around 30,000 Meticais (approximately US$470) per month.

Chipanga is our area. The mining company started occupying it in 2008. In the beginning, VALE said that it would not occupy Chipanga, so people who were removed from other areas came to Chipanga to make their machambas. But suddenly, VALE started moving people out of Chipanga too, which meant they had to negotiate with those people too. 2021 is about to end and people have not been compensated yet.”

Paulo’s reality is no different from that of other brickmakers. He was also left without his machamba and without his brickworks – his main source of income. “We already tried to send the documents. We went to the government, and VALE really did say that it would not pay us. So we tried to turn to other forums. (…) VALE only started working on this specific area in May 2021, these are the new lands VALE is expanding to. Neither the company nor we know the extent of the mine concession. When VALE arrived, they said that first they were going to give us 60,000 Meticais (approximately US$940) so we would leave our fields and stop our activities immediately, and then they would give us 125,000 Meticais (approximately US$1960) in compensation. But so far, they have not given us anything.”

Police violence against brickmakers and local communities

Cases of police violence – carried out by State forces to protect the interests of the mining company – date back to the beginning of the project. People have been arrested, beaten, shot with rubber bullets and sometimes real bullets and tear gas has also been used on citizens, including on pregnant women and children.

On the 20th of November 2021, four members of the Nhantchere community, who had been representing families whose homes have cracks on the walls caused by the mine explosions, were unjustly detained and remained in prison for 3 days. Shortly afterwards, on December 23rd, two brickmakers were detained for five days during a meeting where they were debating with their community what to do about VALE’s refusal to pay compensation to the expropriated brickmakers and peasants. Community members who play leading roles in the negotiation processes with VALE tend to suffer increasing reprisals and intimidation, including arbitrary and illegal detentions.

Vasco was shot inside his own home

On the 6th of May 2021, tired of VALE’s lack of interest in resolving the compensations and payments owed to people from the Primeiro de Maio neighbourhood who lost land and access to the river, a group of brickmakers and peasants occupied Section 6 of the mine and blocked the road that grants access to it, demanding answers from the company. This demonstration ended peacefully, when brickmakers reached an agreement with representatives of VALE and the government – who went to the site – and agreed that the matter would be debated the following day with the entire community, in the neighbourhood square.

But the agreed meeting on the 7th of May 2021, in Primeiro de Maio’s square, was a ‘ambush’ set up by VALE and the local government. Representatives of VALE and the local government did not come to the site. Instead, the Police – including agents of the Rapid Intervention Unit (UIR) – showed up at the square and decided to intervene by repressing the community that was lawfully demanding its rights.

Vasco was at home. At the square, just outside his door, the population was gathering, eager to hear what the company and the government would have to say about their destroyed farms and lost lands. Neighbourhood leaderships insisted on summoning all the people in the community to await the arrival of government and VALE representatives.

Suddenly, we realised UIR and the people were moving from one place to another. There were gunshots. They threw tear gas. People were running around, so I decided to pick up my 6 year old son from school immediately. When I got back home, we got inside the house and I shut the door. But everytime they have a meeting here at the headquarters, they come to borrow my chairs, and that day I had lent the chairs to my neighbour. So, amidst the havoc, the neighbour came to return the chairs. He knocked on the door, I peeked out the window and only saw him. I didn’t know he was accompanied by a UIR agent. I opened the door and he shot me in the stomach. No questions asked. Nothing. He just said ‘these are the agitators’ and fired the gun at me.”

Vasco was abandoned and left to die

I was in pain. My 6-year-old son managed to take my phone out of my pocket and called his mother to inform her of the situation. His mother called a taxi driver and they managed to take me to the local hospital, but due to the serious situation I had to be urgently transferred to the city hospital [in Tete], where a doctor helped me promptly. If it hadn’t been quick, I don’t know what would have happened. I arrived unconscious and only woke up after the operation. I had a bandage around my belly, when I tried to find out I was informed that they had operated on my belly and that I had ‘dirt’ inside. They had to operate to remove it, I was in hospital for 7 days.”

Vasco had black particles inside his body – ‘dirt’. “Yes, the doctor informed me. It was because of the bullet I got in my stomach. It could even be because of the dust we inhale every day.”

Unemployed at the time, Vasco was applying for a job opening. “They called me and I was still in the hospital, but because I was in no condition to go, I asked them to give me another week, and they accepted.” Still weak from both being shot and the surgery, he was called in for the interview. At the time, with no choice, and after a long time looking for a job, he decided that, weak or not, he was going to show up at the interview. “It was sad. I was called in, and I needed to find a way to earn some money while my wound was healing. I went there but I was still unwell.”

While Vasco was in hospital, his wife sustained the family by selling cookies and other casual work from home. But since he was shot, Vasco’s health is not the same. He can’t do tasks like weeding or carrying water, and at work he has to maneuver the car using the seat belt.

When I put on the seat belt, it goes through my belly here, and I still have stitches. I have been feeling pain whenever there are changes in temperature or when it is about to rain. The people who did this to me were not held responsible and I did not have any support. I would like to point out that the government was aware of what happened to me, and nobody came here to, at least, see how I was doing these days. So far, I have no information or response from them”.

Prosecuting VALE

At least two cases were brought up against the mining company VALE Moçambique regarding access to public interest information: one by the non-governmental organization Justiça Ambiental (JA!), and the other by the Mozambican Bar Association (OAM).

JA! demanded that “VALE’s environmental monitoring reports between 2013 and 2020 be made available, as they are public documents that should be widely known, especially by the communities that have to live with VALE’s operations on a daily basis.”

VALE claims to be a “transparent company” but denies access to documents of public interest, trying to argue in different ways against court decisions that, more than once, went Justiça Ambiental’s and OAM’s way. In the appeal filed by the mining company, VALE argues that “there is no doubt that the reports that contain the information requested by the applicant […] are of a confidential nature”.

This argument was refuted by Justiça Ambiental, who stood its ground.

Regarding case No. 26/2020, the Administrative Court – through Ruling No. 130/2020, of December 30th 2020 – gave reason to the civil society organization, concluding that “the intended information cannot be classified as confidential” since “it has to do with mining operations, namely, whether or not they are harmful to the environment” and reiterated that “the Constitution of the Republic defines the environment as a citizen’s right and determines everyone’s duties regarding this right”. Yet again, VALE appealed this decision.

OAM, in turn, asked the court to subpoena the mining company VALE Moçambique, S.A., to make available various information of public interest, including the Memorandums of Understanding and other agreements signed between the Government, VALE Moçambique and the affected communities; information regarding the total amount of taxes paid by VALE to the Mozambican State; information on ongoing resettlement processes; among others.

The Administrative Court of the City of Maputo agreed with the OAM and mandated VALE to provide the information in question. Not satisfied with this decision, VALE filed an appeal. Once the process was filed and the allegations and counter-claims presented were analyzed, the Counselor Judges of the First Chamber of the Administrative Court – through Ruling No. 119/2020, of December 15, 2020, referring to case No. 131/2020 – decided to dismiss the appeal filed by the mining company, for lack of legal basis to reverse the appealed decision, and agreed with the previous decision that condemned VALE for violating the right to information of public interest.

VALE S.A.’s posture (and VALE Moçambique is no exception) in regards to providing any relevant information of their impacts is renowned. Publicly, and in meetings, they will tell you they are keen to share any information requested by citizens and/or civil society organizations, but they never do.

In April 2021, during the General Shareholders’ Meeting of VALE S.A. in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, some company’s shareholders voted not to approve the management report, as it omitted important information about the project in Mozambique. These shareholders also requested numerous documents of public interest, including documents requested by Mozambican civil society organizations regarding VALE Moçambique’s activities in Moatize. Senior executives of the company pledged to send the requested documents, but these promises, too, were not kept.

Despite so much reluctance to inform the general public about the real impacts of its activities, VALE strives to greenwash its image and constantly claims to be a transparent, ethical and honest company.

Continuous and systematic Human Rights violations

In Moatize, thick black clouds blanket the skies every time dynamite is blasted in the mine. The air is polluted, the surfaces are always covered with black dust, and maize flour can no longer be left to dry in the open air. The roads, used by VALE’s trucks, are a source of dust too.

There is a great lack of water, and the water that comes out of the tap is black like coal. The company closed, diverted, or polluted the rivers that fed thousands of people. Animals and plants are struggling too. The cattle were left without pasture and are surviving on garbage dumps scattered throughout the city of Moatize. Walking through the city, you may even get confused, and think that dogs are unusually large in the area, with leashes and all. But no, it’s cattle turned stray.

With the violent and almost daily explosions in the mines of Moatize, more than 1,000 houses in the neighbourhoods of Primeiro de Maio, Nhantchere, Liberdade and Bagamoyo have cracked walls, and many have already collapsed. These cracks in the houses of the mine’s neighbouring districts have become a registered trademark of the company in the area. The affected families have for years been demanding compensation for these damages and a decent resettlement in a place where they do not have to live with this situation.

The surroundings of VALE’s mine are also full of tragic stories that show the true face of their so-called “development”.

In September 2014, little Ester, from Primeiro de Maio, lost her life while playing in a hole opened by VALE. She was accidentally buried alive by a dump truck hired by the mining company. All that VALE did was to give the child’s familly 5,000 Meticais to help with the funeral expenses. In November 2020, in Cateme, a child died and four others were seriously injured while playing in their grandfather’s machamba, inside the resettlement built by VALE. The children found a buried object: an old war mine that exploded. Another tragic case concerns a group of children who were bathing in an open hole abandoned by VALE, which had been filled with water during the rainy season. Two children drowned because they didn’t know the hole was so deep. Neither the company nor the government were held responsible for any of these cases.

Open-pit mining: sky-high levels of pollution and public health endangerment

Here, when people cough, black stuff comes out (of their throats), and the doctors say it’s mine dust. VALE, the government and a team from the hospital came to test people for a week. They saw that they had a cough, and that they were spitting out black things. Hence, the company never came here to give us an answer”, said one of the community members.

The levels of water and air pollution in Moatize put thousands of people at risk, many of them ending up in hospitals with respiratory problems, acute cough, tuberculosis. But for the mining company only profit matters. In 2021, the pollution situation in Moatize worsened.

According to laboratory analyses carried out on water (Liberdade neighbourhood) in 2021 at JA’s request, water and air pollution are three times above the national and international limits established by law. For example, Cadmium (Cd) levels of 0.009 mg/l were recorded in VALE’s concession area, while the levels considered admissible by Mozambique and the World Health Organization are 0.003 mg/l. Cadmium is a heavy metal that causes damage to the nervous system and can cause disturbances in fetal development, even in low concentrations.

According to hospital sources, most of the people treated at the Moatize Hospital are diagnosed with tuberculosis.

“Every day, here at the hospital, we receive a greater number of people who are diagnosed with tuberculosis due to the pollution caused by VALE here in Moatize. Pollution is affecting a lot of people, this company is hurting us, even I am feeling sick. I saw many people drinking dirty water from the river, the water is not coming as it used to. With Section 6, that VALE has just opened, all the dirt, chemicals that leave the mine, flow into the Moatize river, up to where the Revúboé river flows. This is just wrong.”

*This investigation was conducted in partnership with Mozambican NGO Justiça Ambiental JA!

Where is Ibrahimo?

7 September 2021

Today, the 7 September 2021 has been exactly 17 months since Mozambican journalist Ibrahimo Abu Mbaruco disappeared in Cabo Delgado. His last message was to a colleague saying that the army was coming towards him.

Ibrahimo worked for Palma Community Radio and had been reporting on the violence in the area. Since then, what effort has the government put into finding him and bringing him back to his family? Absolutely nothing.

Since 2017 Cabo Delgado has been ravaged by a fatal conflict between insurgents, the Mozambican military, Russian and South African mercenaries and now the Rwandan and South African armies as well, that has created 800 000 refugees. This violence is deeply linked to the gas industry that has exploded over the last few years. The industry is headed by Total (France), Eni (Italy) and ExxonMobil (US), and is one industry filled with a great amount of treachery in the Mozambican and other states involved, which forms part of the corruption trial currently in the Mozambican courts.

Over the last few months several media outlets have arrived in Cabo Delgado, after at least three years of the area being closed to international journalists.

It is a good thing that Mozambican and international media has finally been allowed there, since free media is a crucial part of any democracy. However, journalists who actually live in Cabo Delgado and were the first to report on the happenings since 2017, have not been allowed to work in the conflict areas, unless they are from state-owned media outlets.

In an article in O Pais 26 August, Cabo Delgado-based journalist Hizidine Acha wrote that journalists from the area are being humiliated by having to report on the topic from a distance, even though they are the ones who know the terrain and the local language. They fear that the lack of reporting in local languages might lead to disinformation among the communities. The article quotes journalist Emanuel Muthemba as saying, “Journalists from here have to be on the front line, because we have basic knowledge about the reality of the province, the people and the languages spoken by the population, which is very important,”; and journalist Assane Issa says “speculation grows that we are not capable of doing this type of coverage – that only those from the country’s capital are. But this is not true, because we are the ones who have been reporting on the daily life of the province.”

In fact, the article continues saying that recently 20 local journalists were invited to cover the conflict, but for reasons they were never told, were never actually able to leave Cabo Delgado’s capital and largest city, Pemba.

But even if they were able to report, the government has made it clear that they will not make it easy. On 11 April, on the ‘Day of the Mozambican Journalist’, even though his general rhetoric has been about free press, President Felipe Nyusi sent a document to O Pais, saying, journalists must report with “rigour, professionalism and patriotism”. He said “the Mozambican journalist should not be a reproducer of wishes contrary to our unity.” And he followed this in May saying that journalists have to be “disciplined”: “To have discipline is to report only the truth, to combat fake news and not to incite violence and hatred.”

This is not freedom. This is a threat. This is saying that journalists have the ‘freedom’ to write or to film or to record for radio, as long as this is in aligned with the state’s narrative. Or else.

The public media and many international journalists are reporting on the violence in the province as only a humanitarian issue created by violence caused by insurgents, and not on how many of these refugees were actually already displaced from their villages, and had lost everything, because of the Afungi Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) Park that Total is building to house the support facilities for the industry. Reporting in this way allows the gas industry off the hook for the part they have played in this humanitarian crisis and conflict, including how Total has left the displaced communities who were relying on them for compensation and aid with nothing as they pulled out of the country when claiming force majeure.

International journalists are protected by having foreign passports. But who is protecting local journalists from non-state outlets, like Ibrahimo, or like Amade Abubacar from the Nacedje Community Radio who was arrested, tortured and held without charge for 3 months in 2019 after interviewing a group of displaced people? Or the journalists of Canal de Moçambique whose office was bombed in 2020 after exposing corruption between the government and gas companies?

In April 2020, Reporters Without Borders and 16 other press freedom organisations wrote an open letter to President Filipe Nyusi, who ignored it, just like the military and relevant government officials did not even bother to respond, and the police treated it like a joke. On 8 June 2020, Ibrahimo’s brother contacted the local police to inform them that he had called Ibrahimo’s phone and it rang. He reported it to the public investigators responsible for finding him, the National Agency for Criminal Investigations. They promised they would look into it, but since then there has been silence.

But we must not stop fighting!

In January, the African Union (AU) launched the Digital Platform for Safety of Journalists in Africa. At the launch, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, who was AU chairperson at the time said: Media freedom “requires that we rigorously defend the right of journalists to do their work, to write, to publish, and to also broadcast what they like, even if we disagree with some or all of it.. The digital platform for the safety of journalists in Africa is an important tool in promoting the safety of journalists and other media workers across Africa.”

Now they must put their money where their mouth is, by holding the Mozambican government accountable for its violent media oppression and pressurise it to stop, and they must recognise how part of this oppression is to protect the gas industry. The platform was supported by the United Nations, and both they and the AU have the responsibility to find out what has happened to Ibrahimo, and must use their power to do so.

It is clear that Mozambican journalists cannot rely on their state for their protection – the very people who are obliged to protect them, but sadly are reliant rather on non-governmental organisations and media groups – both international, and local, who themselves are putting their safety on the line just by speaking out. When journalists are told they need to report with “patriotism” and “discipline”, it is clear that, just as history has shown, they cannot know that they are safe. They cannot know their colleagues will not be arrested and tortured or that their offices won’t be attacked. They cannot know that they, too, will not disappear and be another Ibrahimo.

We must not stop pushing to find out, where is Ibrahimo?

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PRESS RELEASE

Historic process continues at the UN: States resume substantive negotiations on the text for a binding treaty on transnational corporations with respect to human rights

28 October 2020, Geneva:

Amidst the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic, the United Nations (UN) Open Ended Inter-governmental Working Group (OEIGWG) enters its sixth round of negotiations on a treaty on “transnational corporations and other business enterprises with respect to human rights,”1 from 26 -30 October. UN member states will negotiate a second revised draft of this groundbreaking treaty, which aims to elaborate an international legally binding instrument to regulate, in international human rights law, the activities of transnational corporations.

Interest in the process continues to grow as evidenced by the significant presence of UN member state delegates taking part in negotiations.

The Global Interparliamentarian Network (GIN) has issued a statement in support of the UN Binding Treaty urging “states to actively engage in this UN process and to work towards an effective and legally binding instrument, to ensure that people´s dignity enshrined by universal political, economic, social and cultural rights, is prioritised and guaranteed worldwide over private profits.”2

Mayors and City Council Members of cities including Barcelona, Strasbourg and, Paris have issued a call to local authorities around the world to support the UN Binding Treaty on Transnational Corporations and Human Rights.3

The continued presence each year since 2015 – the start of this process – of hundreds of representatives from affected communities, civil society organisations, trade unions and social movements makes it one of the most strongly supported in the story of the OEIGWG. This year, however, due to COVID19 restrictions, physical presence in Geneva is limited, although remote participation has been enabled through various online platforms. In this context, the Global Campaign to Reclaim Peoples Sovereignty, Dismantle Corporate Power and Stop Impunity (Global Campaign)4 together with the GIN hosted a virtual Press Conference (full recording here) with high level political and civil society actors.

Leïla Chaibi, Member of the European Parliament, France insoumise (GUE/NGL) remarked :

“Today there is no Binding International Treaty that protects people, but there are treaties that protect the investments of large corporations. Thanks to initiatives such as the Toxic Tour, I was able to see how these companies destroy health and communities in Mexico. The EU has had no problem signing free trade agreements with third countries and this is deeply unfair. Along with many of my deputies, we continue to ask that we cannot put ourselves in the sidelines in the face of these human rights violations by transnational corporations.”

Charles Santiago. Member of the Malaysian Parliament. Chairperson of ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights stated:

“At present, 43 million people have been infected by the Corona virus and more than one million have died. It is a catastrophe. Developing a Covid-19 vaccine is critical and has to be a global public good. Prices and profits need to be regulated. Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) provisions in the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) agreement need to be suspended to allow patent production of generic and bio similar products.

Transnational corporations (TNCs) and rich countries are refusing to suspend IPR provisions because, they claim, it would undermine patent protection. A global mechanism must be developed to regulate big pharmaceuticals on prices, profits and IPR. Transnational corporations’ ‘business as usual approach’ which prioritises profit during a global pandemic is not politically sustainable. The UN Binding Treaty is the best place to reset and enhance accountability of TNCs.”

Dr. Manoela Carneiro Roland. HOMA’s Coordinator (Human Rights and Business Center) Prof Federal University of Juiz de Fora, Brazil stated:

“We must regulate transnational corporations. This implies establishing direct obligations for them. Transnational companies already have rights established in the 3,000 plus signed investment agreements. We need to transform the paradigm of due diligence because it is a framework that erroneously leaves the task of self-monitoring to companies. We must establish effective control mechanisms, such as an International Court that has competence to judge transnational companies.”

Keamogetswe Seipato. Coordinator of the Southern African Campaign to Dismantle Corporate Power. Alternative Information & Development Center (AIDC), South Africa. claimed:

“We have to reduce or limit the power of companies. The African continent is a breeding ground for human rights violations. The primacy of human rights must be respected. It is a question of underlining the need for companies to be accountable because they cannot come to our countries to expand and neglect the main Human Rights Conventions. We must remember that the UN Binding Treaty must be a mechanism to help communities access redress for human rights violations – one that provides both the assistance and support affected people need.”

(1) This mandate is a result of resolution 26/9 adopted by the Human Rights Council in 2014. Official page: https://www.ohchr.org/en/

(2) Global Interparliamentarian Network in support of the UN Binding Treaty is formed by more than 300 members of parliaments from all over the world. https://bindingtreaty.org

(3) https://bindingtreaty.org/

Galp Must Fall!

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JA!’s friends in Portugal contest the AGM of Galp Energia, part of the destructive gas industry in Cabo Delgado

Cabo Delgado, the northernmost province of Mozambique is being ripped apart by the gas industry. Companies like Galp, who are part of the industry are taking homes, land and livelihoods from people who have lived, farmed and fished there for generations. And now, the gas industry has brought the disastrous COVID-19 pandemic to Cabo Delgado province, in Mozambique, and it is the people, and surrounding communities who will suffer.

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Last week, Portuguese company Galp Energia held its Annual General Meeting (AGM), and JA!’s friends in Portugal created a tremendous online direct action that brought over 400 people together. This is just the beginning of what will clearly be a fierce and powerful fight: Galp Must Fall!

 

JA! is part of the No to Gas campaign! in Mozambique campaign that is targeting Galp as one of the companies involved in the devastating liquid natural gas industry in Cabo Delgado in the north of Mozambique, where multinational fossil fuel giants like Eni, Exxon and Total are committing human rights and environmental violations, and irreversibly damaging the climate to extract gas. Galp owns 10% of Coral LNG, one of these projects.

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The action was created by Climaximo, a Lisbon-based organisation working on climate justice, just transition  and energy democracy; 2degrees artivism, a Lisbon-based artivist collective; and Greve Climática Estudantil, Portugal’s Fridays for Future hub. JA! Has been working closely with Climaximo leading up to this action.

As part of Galp Must Fall, three Climaximo activists took part in the AGM and asked questions directly to the board of executives. And while this was happening, more than 400 people were watching a live show with real-time concerts, talks and an online demonstration.

Sinan Eden, a Climaximo activist and one organiser of the action, said “Galp Must Fall is an action that had various elements. It was online and offline, inside and outside the AGM, in connection with national and international struggles, with activist and artivist elements.

We consider Galp’s AGM as a crime scene and the global fossil fuel industry as international organized crime against humanity. So our approach was to denounce the social and climate injustices of Galp in all spaces available.”

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This year, like most AGM’s around the world, the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown meant that the AGM was virtual, and shareholders had to stream in. This meant that the CEO or Chairman could cut off a shareholder with a click of a button, so the activists had to ask very succinct questions. The three activists who attended had to submit questions in writing, which the board then screened before asking it to the CEO.

Sinan points out that, “In Portugal, the tactics of entering in AGMs was nonexistent so far in the social movements in general. Climáximo’s theory of change informs us that a dialogue with the industry would not produce real solutions, so our approach inside the AGM was more contesting and denouncing than debating.”

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Activists inside the AGM:

The Climaximo activists asked questions (they should have been four, but Galp blocked the fourth at the last minute claiming some administrative issues). They submitted 15 questions, mostly about Mozambique, which JA! Had worked with them on. They received 5 responses from the board, which were very evasive and vague, repeating the usual rhetoric about Galp’s commitment to economic development in Mozambique, as they claim to do in every country in the global South where they have projects.

One of the activists who was part of the AGM, Manuel Araujo, described his experience at the AGM: “We asked about the ongoing climate crisis and their criminal business model of resource and social extractivism, which they answered by repeating their commitment to natural gas as a transition fuel, even though it is known to be a major source of GHG emissions. Predictably, they had no comment on the compatibility of their planned 50% increase in fossil fuel extraction over the next ten years with the emissions goals set in the Paris agreement.”

Manuel says the CEO, Carlos Gomes da Silva, made a particularly absurd argument, comparing the hypothetical emissions cuts obtained by replacing every car by an electric car (3.5%) with those obtained by replacing coal with gas in electricity generation (15%), as if these were the only two alternatives on the table.

They also asked what is usually the most uncomfortable question for executives – Why does the board and other top level executives earn absurdly high salaries and why do shareholders receive a ridiculous € 580 million, when this money could be better spent on a program of just transition for the company’s workers.

In 2019, da Silva received € 1.8 million in remuneration. The salaries to the board in total was € 6.6 million, half of which were bonuses.

Manuel says: “We got only evasive answers, but it was worth it to hear the President of the GM Board ask the Company Secretary what makes it legitimate for the CEO of Galp to earn 197 times the minimum wage.”

Ines Teles, who also asked a question, took this away from her experience: “During the AGM, the management of Galp revealed once again their profound disregard for questions related to climate and social justice. They are unable to see past the profits they reap from the sea of destruction they cause, proudly distributing their dividends amongst themselves.”

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Galp Must Fall Live

While this was happening, “outside” the AGM, 400 people took part in the other component of the Galp Must Fall direct action, which included a twitter storm, live interviews with activists, including from JA!, an online demonstration, and the shareholder questions also streamed live.

Part of this action was Galp Must Fall Live – a live show, via instagram, convening emergent artists and long-standing activists from countries that Galp is co2lonizing: Mozambique, Brazil, Guinea-Bissau and Cape Verde.

The organization of this live event was made possible by 2degrees artivism, and Greve Climática Estudantil.

Diogo Silva, one of the organisers of the action from 2degrees artivism, and believes that art is crucial for revolution says: “This event marked a lot of firsts in Portugal: the first time Portuguese activists stormed Galp shareholder meeting; the first direct action involving mostly online means; the first fully-online live artivist action; and the first online demonstration.”

From here on, our goal as an artivist community based in Portugal is to build stronger links, to empower each-other and to mobilize a new generation of artivism for climate justice. Another world is possible and it’s not our revolution if art is not involved”.

This action and this year’s AGM was the first that the No to Gas! Campaign and JA! Has confronted Galp and built awareness specifically about this company. The amount of attention and support that Galp Must Fall received was very inspiring, the social media following was great, this was is a strong beginning to what is clearly going to be a powerful collective campaign. Next year will be even stronger.

We will certainly be updating all of you, our friends on what comes next in the Galp Must Fall campaign.

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Sinan says: “I’d like to be clear about one thing: We must dismantle Galp, because if it instead collapses, we all will be underneath its ruins. Galp must be dismantled by a democratic, planned and deliberate process. A rapid and just transition and climate justice based on global solidarity are only possible through a publicly owned, democratically controlled, 100% renewable energy sector.”

And lastly, some words from Daniel Ribeiro, of JA!:

Galp is planning to make millions in Mozambique, at the cost of grabbing land from peasant communities and sea access of fisherfolk, loss of their livelihoods, human rights abuses and conflict. Galp’s investment is also serving as an amplifier of the country’s corruption, injustices and even assassinations of activists and journalists. Galp must stop, Galp must fall, if they do not want the blood of those crimes on their hands. They must start putting people before profits.”

For more info on the Galp Must Fall campaign:

https://galpmustfall.climaximo.pt/galp-tem-de-cair/galp-must-fall/

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JA! is taking on Sasol

Over the last month, JA! has been confronting South African energy company Sasol in several ways, interrogating them on what they’re really getting up to in Mozambique.

Most recently, last week JA! attended the Sasol 2019 Annual General Meeting (AGM) in Johannesburg, along with four other civil society organisations, to question the board and inform shareholders about what the company is currently doing, and planning to do, in Mozambique.PHOTO-2019-11-27-09-12-09

Leading up to the AGM, JA! sent the company questions to understand the technicalities of their present and future projects, followed by a meeting with five vice presidents at their headquarters in Johannesburg, with the support of a fellow activist from partner organisation groundWork.

JA! raised two issues at the AGM:

The first was about the Pande and Temane gas fields in Inhambane that Sasol has been operating since 2006 after removing many community members from their homes and creating only 300 permanent jobs. Sasol has been accused of transfer pricing in this operation – Sasol Petroleum International (now Sasol Africa) is the sole purchaser of the gas extracted here by its wholly-owned subsidiary Sasol Petroleum Temane, which it buys at a tiny percentage of the market value.

The second question was about Sasol’s planned shallow-water drilling off the coast of Vilankulos, also in Inhambane. The drilling will destructively affect fishing communities, endangered species of animals and plants, and the tourism industry, a huge income generator for the province. Accompanying JA! Was a member of the Protect Bazaruto Campaign, which is working to stop the project.

Here are the questions asked by JA!:

1. The first subject is the Pande and Temane project in Inhambane.

To give context, Sasol has regularly insisted that the fields have brought benefits to the surrounding communities since operations began in 2006. However, setting aside schools and soccer fields, the rate of literacy and employment has increased only in line with the rest of the country, including those provinces without extractive industries. Furthermore, 12 years later, according to the World Bank, only 25% of the population of Inhambane has access to electricity, which is less than the country as a whole, at 27%.

When communities were relocated from their homes in 2006, they were given once- off compensation of R 12 000. I emphasise, R 12 000. However, Sasol signed a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) with the government which promises annual benefits to the people. Note that this amount is a mere 2.75% of the 6% production tax that the company pays to the government.

JA! questions are:

  • Why has Sasol not paid the annual benefits to the communities as per the PPA for the last four years?

  • Does Sasol recognise that the amount it offers as benefits is too little to maintain the livelihood of a family?

  • And will Sasol renegotiate the terms of the PPA to increase the amount of the benefit, by using total revenue as a basis as opposed to production tax, now that it has the option to do so?

2. The second subject regards Sasol’s planned seismic testing and drilling for gas in the shallow waters off the coast of Vilankulos

Sasol plans to do seismic testing and drilling in ocean shallow water ocean blocks 16 and 19 in Bazaruto, a national park and IUCN Important marine mammal area. Block 16 is home to the only viable dugong species in the Western Indian Ocean as well as two important reefs for commercial and subsistence fishing for many communities.

The best case scenario for this drilling is impacting critically endangered species such as dugong; Fish stocks and livelihoods of fishing communities; sustainable tourism which is central to the economy and can outlast oil and gas.

While Sasol maintains that it is taking all necessary actions to avoid environmental damage, it has been well documented that mitigation of the impacts of gas drilling and seismic testing is impossible. Communities, too, have shown strong resistance to the project.

JA! question is:

  • As it is scientifically certain that seismic testing and drilling will diminish the last viable population of dugong in the Western Indian Ocean, why does Sasol believe it has the right to contribute to the extinction of an iconic species, violate national laws protecting national parks, and detrimentally affecting the livelihood of fishing communities?”

Responses:

At the end of the round of questions, we received a verbal response from Jon Harris, Executive Vice President: Upstream, who JA! has engaged with on previous occasions.

His response was vague, a public relations exercise and in it he repeated the same story of the great benefits that the company had allegedly brought, and that we need to look at smaller sections of the population of Inhambane, those in the immediate vicinity of the plant, and not the province as a whole. He said he was not aware of whether people had been receiving benefits or not, and did not answer whether they would renegotiate their PPA with the government, which would enable the people to receive more benefits.

Regarding Vilankulos, he said that seismic drilling has no impact on the environment, and that they are putting the utmost care into avoiding any impact on animals.

There are several aims of JA! Attending an AGM like this – to confront the board, to inform shareholders, to ask questions, to receive information and to alert the media. There is always the risk that the responses will not be helpful, or even relevant, but our presence there was imperative – were it not for JA!’s presence few people would have known about Sasol’s crimes in Mozambique.

Outside protesters, against Sasol, and same are about to hand over the memorandum to Sasol Vice President Marcel Mitchelson

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Greed, Arrogance, Power & Air-Conditioning: The Four Horsemen of the Climate Apocalypse

The climate crisis has caused a rush for solutions, many of which are false, often linked to corporate greed taking advantage of the desperation to further accumulate wealth and control, by pushing more and more of humanity’s collective wealth into markets, and in turn into the hands of the wealthy elites.

As always, energy is central to the problem, and its’ solutions critical in dealing with the climate crisis. This article explores how the energy sector can move towards a carbon-free and socially-just energy world. The current trend within the energy debate is heavily-focused on technological solutions and fixes, with very little focus on changing the systems that have created the destructive, wasteful, unjust and carbon-intensive energy world that has been a major cause of the climate crisis. This raises the question of whether we are too focused on looking further forward down the same road versus trying a new path, even looking back to explore past solutions that we have abandoned, but that may be very relevant to our current reality.

Our current paths are based on power relationships, resulting in linear, hierarchical structures and dynamics. The advancement of technology, especially after the Industrial Revolution, has changed our relationship with nature, from adapting and being in balance to one of dominating nature. Humanity began to see itself as above nature, more powerful and smarter than nature… We believed that our technological advancements made us invincible. We entered the Age of Arrogance. Now we are in a climate crisis, but still believing that we can overcome this crisis with technology. We need to look back and learn from our mistakes and focus on system change. “Sit down…be humble”, as the song goes.

This reality can be seen everywhere, but to illustrate the issue in a more specific way, we look at air conditioning (A/C). This is something many of us in hot climates know well, but don’t realize how this technology has molded today’s world and many of its problems.

Before the era of A/C, local communities dealt with harsh, hot climates by adapting their behavior and structures to the environment. Nature set the rules and reality, and we adapted; we found ways to be in balance. Even today in Mozambique, communities are more active during the early and late parts of the day when temperatures are lower, and they rest during the hottest part of the day in shady, green and cooler areas. Many hot countries had and still have similar habits to protect themselves, such as the ‘siesta’ in Latin countries.

Keeping living areas cooler was achieved by using local materials that had good thermal characteristics for the local climate, combined with orientation/ placement of buildings and construction methods, and even simpler options like using light colours, that all aided in managing high temperatures.

For example, in hot and dry areas, it is common to use hefty materials with high thermal mass such as stone, calcareous rock, adobe, etc, which soak up heat during the day and release it during the cold nights. The construction often has flat roofs, small windows that allow for air circulation, but minimal heat radiation and greenhouse effect.

In hot and humid climates, it’s more common to build high roofs or ‘copulas’, breeze ways, screens in sleeping quarters, large shaded areas, verandas and more. Hot climates often used numerous features and methods such as courtyards, openings, buffer spaces, water bodies, wind traps, air circulation channels, deflectors, cavity walls and much, much more to make hot areas cooler and more comfortable. Numerous studies have shown the success of traditional vernacular construction where indoor temperatures can be 6 to 10°C lower than outside temperatures.

Even the layout of traditional settlements take into account the local climate with building spacing, placement and alignment being constructed to maximize shade, minimize the surfaces exposed to the sun (linear houses with north-south orientation), and to maximize cooling by the prevailing winds. It has been recently shown that many modern cities have higher temperatures just due to the layout of high-rise buildings and their relationship with the local climate, especially winds. For example Tokyo has areas that have an average increase of 2.5°C due to the placement, layout, distance of buildings and how they interact with the local climate. Computer modeling and experiments in new, emerging mega-cities, such as in China, have shown that not only can one avoid this temperature increase, but even decrease the local temperatures just by taking into account these factors that many ancient cultures have been using for thousands of years. So if just a building can have a temperature decrease of 6 to 10°C, when one includes settlement layout there is a huge potential, and it makes one understand how people managed to live relatively comfortably in these hot climates without the existence of A/C.

So, now we in a good position to start the story of A/C. Once A/C became readily available, we stopped trying to build efficient buildings. We thought we were no longer at the mercy of nature and could dominate nature. We could have any type of building in the hottest desert kept at almost any temperature, and today we have lush green golf courses and even snow-laden ski-slopes in the Dubai desert.

The big shift started after World War II, with numerous industries promoting A/C, especially in the US where the construction sector wanted to increase profits, decrease costs, and saw A/C as a way to drop the heftier thermal materials and move away from locally-adapted construction methods towards a standardized, quick, light and cheap construction model. They took away the responsibility of keeping the interior cool and comfortable, from the architects and toward the engineers through adhoc A/C installations. At the same time, the energy sector was also pushing strategies to increase energy consumption in the US, especially in households. The adoption of A/C was central to the growth and profit of the energy sector. Thermally-inefficient households and buildings, were perfect for creating a dependency on A/C and guarantee a high energy and A/C use.

As always, these interests went hand-in-hand with lobby groups, policy pushes and marketing. Lobby groups pushed forward regulations and policies that set narrow interior temperatures for working and public spaces, but they were not based on research and science. Instead they were influenced by the interest of lobby groups that pushed for lower indoor working temperatures in hot climates, in order to increase the areas that would require artificial temperature regulation. In addition, they refer to the interior spaces to have such temperatures, and not just the areas were people work, so less-used areas like emergency stairways, storage rooms, etc, are still kept at these lower temperatures even though no people use these spaces. Marketing strategies pushed air conditioners (A/Cs) as an essential component of modern living, and highlighted the heath benefits of A/Cs, through misleading, industry-funded research. Some of the false claims were that the air was healthier, interiors were free from pollen, dust and other pollutants, and even that it improved eating.

The boom of A/C also contributed to huge changes in settlement patterns in the uncomfortably hot southern part of the US, often referred to as the hot belt. This area saw a huge boom in population. Prior to the adoption of A/C, only 28% of the US population lived in these areas, but today it counts for almost 50% of the US population, with many studies showing settlement patterns and migration linked to the spread of A/C. Florida grew from 1 million inhabitants in 1920 to over 7 million 50 years later; Houston doubled its population with the A/C boom, and numerous other US cities doubled and some even quadrupled in size.

In the US today, there are huge 3000 cubic metre homes in 35°C+ climates being kept at 23°C during the day while all their occupants are out at work. The A/C energy use has doubled between 1993 and 2005. The energy use on A/C alone is more than energy use of all sectors in 1955. This results in greenhouse gas emissions of over 500 million tons per year, more than the construction sector, including from the production of materials such as cement. If we use Africa as a comparison, it becomes even more shocking. In 2010, the US energy use for A/C was more than the entire energy use of Africa for all proposes! That’s why changing our energy system is so vital in dealing with the climate crisis.

This article’s data is very US based, partly because a lot of data exists for the US, which makes it easier to highlight the issues in detail, but the other reason is the role of the US in exporting and pushing its model around the world and influencing how other countries develop. Here at home in Mozambique, this is clear to see, not only do our emerging middle class and elites strive to live the life of US decadence, but our governments also sees this as the development path for Mozambique. Africa, and certainly Mozambique, are going through a strong population and urbanization boom and if this boom follows the US model it will result in scary climate consequences.

Today’s “modern” buildings without A/C have interior temperatures higher than the outside temperatures, while our older traditional buildings had interiors that were significantly cooler than the outside. Too much of today’s architecture has lost a sense of place, dropping function to focus on form and style. However, when we do look back at our past solutions and add some modern ideas the potential is amazing. For example, the Pearl Academy of Fashion on the outskirts of Jaipur, India is located in a very hot, dry desert climate (over 40°C temperatures), but the architects did a great job of looking back at old traditional Indian buildings and including modern interpretations of different cooling systems, such as open courtyards, water bodies, baoli (step-well), jaalis (perforated stone screen), and more. The result is a building with 17°C cooler temperature than the outside climate and no need for artificial cooling. Furthermore, the construction costs weren’t significantly higher than the mainstream alternatives, and the long-term savings in energy bills, equipment maintenance, etc are huge. Plus, they are more independent and less affected by the unstable energy supply of the area.

The above example was mostly based on simpler traditional cooling solutions, but many buildings have combined traditional solutions with more modern options and achieved amazing results. For example the ‘New Office of Munich’ in Germany consumes 73% less energy than a equivalent standard office building. Even skyscrapers can be made to use less energy for cooling. For example, the Pearl River Tower in Guangzhou, China uses 53% less energy than conventional skyscrapers, and uses its built-in turbines and solar panels to often produce energy in excess of its needs and can feed it into the grid. The Pixel building in Melbourne has gone even further and produces all of its energy and water needs with a mix of traditional solutions like a living roof, passive cooling, shades, blinds, rainwater harvesting, etc, coupled with modern option like turbines, solar, software and more. Old buildings can also be retrofitted to improve energy efficiency. The Empire State building’s retrofit managed to decrease its energy consumption by 38%, corresponding to 4 million dollars savings per year. The examples are many and growing by the day, and some of the more technically complex options may not be viable for Mozambique’s reality, but there are many traditional and simple options that are very cost-effective and suitable for our reality.

However, the focus of this article isn’t to discuss which solutions to use or not, but for us to shift from the arrogance of thinking we can dominate nature through technology and that same approach can solve the climate crisis. Whatever solutions we think are best should come from harmony and balance with nature, and be centred on social justice. We have used many of these solutions in the past, before technology made humanity think we were gods. Sometimes the solution is just stopping with the bad. By ending this age of arrogance and greed, we allow for true and just solutions to grow. Like in a forest, when one tree falls, it is not replaced by another fully grown tree, it is the gap created that gives rise to a new tree to grow in its place. Let us remove the shadows of arrogance, greed and power, and allow the sun to shine on the true solutions and let them grow us out of these crises.

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JA! speaks truth to TNC’s in Europe!

Lobby tour participants and organisers FoE Spain in Madrid

 

Over the past few weeks, JA! took part in a lobby tour organised in Europe, by Friends of the Earth Europe, where we met with current partners, made new allies, shared our anti-gas struggle and confronted the companies and banks who make up the liquid natural gas industry in northern Mozambique. This tour was imperative for the campaign, because so many of the companies and banks involved in the industry are based in Europe.

Lobby tour participants outside the EU Brussels

The tour, which went through Rome, Madrid, Amsterdam, Paris and Brussels, was aimed at creating awareness about our struggle against the gas industry in Mozambique and demonstrating the critical need for a Binding Treaty on Human Rights and Transnational Corporations (TNCs) at the United Nations. Currently, there is no accountability mechanism at the UN, only guiding principles which companies do not abide by, as they see them as an impediment to their greed and profit.

 

Our partners had arranged for JA!, along with activists from the DRC and the Phillipines to meet with current and new partners and allies, as well as industry players and state authorities.
Panel discussion with lobby tour participants and parliamentarians in the Hague2

Our confrontations with the industry were often met with blatant hostility, when we tried to hold them accountable for their actions, and when we raised questions they didn’t like. We attended four annual general meetings (AGM’s), those of Shell, Natixis, Eni and Total.

Intervention at natixis AGM

Natixis, the French bank which arranged for the entrance of three major French banks to finance the Coral LNG Project1, was so hostile at their AGM that when JA! attempted to ask a question about their negligence and ineptness in the project, they turned off the microphone and refused to answer the question. Shareholders were shouting “go home!” as JA! and partner organisations walked out of the meeting.

 

At the Shell AGM in Amsterdam, we were part of a large contingent of civil society organisations, mostly Dutch but also some European. Shell has a sale and purchase agreement (SPA) with Mozambique LNG to buy 2 million tonnes of gas per year for 13 years.

 

JA! and an organisation from Nigeria were the only attendees from the global South. The response to our questions was, as expected, vague, but our voice had been heard and carried in the Dutch media. Shell had little respect for activists – when the Nigerian activist raised the impacts that Anadarko’s project was having on their community in the Niger Delta, the Charles Holliday, Shell’s Chairman, responded that he should approach the ‘helpdesk’ in the foyer for assistance.

Interview with online news outlet madrid2

The third AGM we attended was that of Total in Paris, which is the new owner of the Mozambique LNG Project2, since May when it purchased Anadarko’s Africa assets. Anadarko, however, is still operating the project, and plan to hand over the lead to Total at the end of the year. After Greenpeace disrupted the AGM last year, there was a large police presence, and for some reason that was not properly explained to us, even though dozens of activists had arranged for access to the AGM, only JA! and an activist from Greenpeace were allowed into the plenary. JA!’s question was met with a dismissive answer, with Total evading responsibility for the impacts of the gas industry on the ground, claiming that responsibility lies with Anadarko.

 

This was a theme that came up in all AGM’s that we attended, including the fourth one, that of Italian company Eni, in Rome. Eni, along with ExxonMobil has the biggest stake in operating the Coral South LNG Project in Mozambique. We found that all the companies that we confronted, including during the one-on-one meetings we had with industry financiers BNP Paribas and BPI (French Public Investment Bank) put all the blame for the impacts on Anadarko. When we pushed them for answers, it became clear that none of these companies had even looked at the Environmental Impact Assessment that Anadarko had made in 2014, and yet were blaming them for all the climate injustices that were taking place. They are conveniently ignorant.

 

JA!’s partners had arranged for us to hold meetings with several authoritative bodies, including Michel Forst, UN Rapporteur on HRD; French parliamentarians from the working group on human rights and TNC’s; the deputy director of the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs; a parliamentarian from political party ally in Spain, Unidas Podemos; Belgian parliamentarians, and party representatives at the European Union.

 

We also met with other organisations, including Oxfam, Amnesty International, Food First Information and Action Network (FIAN), the Centre for Research on Multinational Corporations (SOMO) and Action Aid.

 

In each country we spoke at events, to full houses of activists, journalists and the general public, some meetings of over 100 people. Our partners organising the tour had built a media campaign around our visit. Here are links to some of the articles about our struggle in European media and blogs:

 

Publico (Spain)

 

Les Echos (France)

 

Basta (France)

 

Observatories de Multinationales

 

L’Humanite (France)

 

Banktrack

 

Foe Scotland

 

It was great to see the amount of interest in our campaign, once people were made aware of the issue, and on the flipside, frightening to see how little attention the industry had been given in European media. But we believe that this tour has taken us several steps forward in the following ways:

  •  We have made many new partners and allies in the campaign throughout Europe, strengthening our coalition
  • We have shared the campaign with people working on or interested in the issue of fossil fuels and climate justice, including activists, journalists, academics and students.
  • We have directly questioned industry players one on one, from which we received some crucial information
  • We raised the issue in large industry public platforms, AGM’s, leading to attention on written and social media, and making shareholders aware
  • We have brought the issue to the radar of high level individuals on an EU level, and on the level of political parties, parliament and ministries

Now that we have strengthened the foundation of the Campaign in Europe, we must continue to push for answers and accountability. Push for activists in Europe to take their power as European citizens to hold their companies to account, and push them to force their governments, at national and EU level, to take responsibility for those corporations from whom they receive their tax.

1 Area 4 is operated by MRV, a joint venture company comprising ExxonMobil, Eni and CNPC, which holds a 70% interest in the concession for prospection and production in that area. Galp, KOGAS and Empresa Nacional de Hidrocarbonetos de Moçambique each hold 10% interest. ExxonMobil will lead the construction and operation of liquefied natural gas production facilities and related infrastructure on behalf of MRV, and Eni will lead the construction and operation of upstream infrastructure, extracting gas from offshore deposits and piping it to the plant.

2 The Area 1 block is operated by Anadarko Mozambique Area 1, Ltd, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Anadarko Petroleum group, with a 26.5% stake, ENH Rovuma Area One, a subsidiary of state-owned Empresa Nacional de Hidrocarbonetos, with 15%, Mitsui E&P Mozambique Area1 Ltd.(20%), ONGC Videsh Ltd. (10%), Beas Rovuma Energy Mozambique Limited (10%), BPRL Ventures Mozambique BV (10%), and PTTEP Mozambique Area 1 Limited (8.5%).

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JA! causes a ruckus at the Eni AGM

On Wednesday 14 May, JA! Attended the AGM of Italian oil and gas giant Eni, in Rome, where we put CEO, Claudio Descalzi, Chairperson Emma Marcegaglia and the board of executives on the spot in front of about 50 shareholders, by asking them questions about their work on gas in Mozambique and oil in South Africa that they really did not want to deal with. This was the first time we had been at the Eni AGM and we were able to go with the help of our Italian partners, Re:Common.

The meeting started at 10am and went on till 9pm, unusually late. After submitting written questions two weeks ago, we received the written answers, in Italian, literally as we walked into the meeting, and had to study them while the meeting was already in session, to see what they had or had not answered sufficiently before we were given a chance to speak.

JA! was given 10 minutes for an intervention. We first gave the context of the way Enis Coral Liquid Natural Gas Project was destroying endangered flora and fauna, and forcing people off their land before operations had even started, as well as their oil exploration in Block ER236, off the South Coast of Durban, affecting the livelihoods of at least 20 fishing communities and followed this with a barrage of questions about both of these issues, none of which were properly answered by CEO Descalzi.

While we asked many questions covering a range of topics, the main issues we raised were:

– Why did Eni begin operations in Mozambique in 2006, when they only received their license in 2015, and only completed their environmental impact assessment (EIA) in 2014? (This EIA was done in conjunction with Anadarko)

– Why is Enis gas project in Mozambique releasing greenhouse gases that will increase the whole of Mozambiques carbon emissions by 9.4% by 2022, when their main focus for the next ten years is decarbonisation?

– Why did Eni ignore the poor and marginilised communities of the South Coast of Durban, while only engaging with the wealthy communities at country clubs and upmarket hotels, to do their EIA?

Descalzi was extremely patronising in his responses, saying that Eni had not done any drillingin South Africa, so he is not sure about the forced removals of fishing communities that you (Ilham) are talking about.

He also interrupted JA, to say that Eni is not involved in Area 1 so the EIA for Mozambique But this is a lie, as Enis logo is on the front page of the EIA.

He did not answer the questions about them beginning operations in Mozambique before they received their license. He also claimed that the resettlement process of what we know to be forcefully-removed communities in Mozambique was in line with the EIA.

He said that the answers to the other questions were in the document of written responses, which will be released next month.

After the end of the AGM, Descalzi sought out JA !representative, and thanked JA! for the questions, to which JA! responded that none of the questions had actually been sufficiently answered, and that his so-called responses were offensiveas they contradicted what JA! Has seen on the ground, and which we are told by affected communities. He is basically, JA! said, saying that we are either ignorant or lying.

It was clear that we, and our partners Re:Common had an impact on Descalzi as he was answering our questions, he stumbled, saying Im well-cooked, an Italian saying meaning that he was extremely tired. That he sought Ilham out before anybody else was quite telling, offering her his personal contact details. Now lets see what happens

JA! will publish a more detailed post, the questions asked, and the verbal responses from Descalzi, as well as an analysis. Its important to note that Eni, and Descalzi, along with Shell, are currently defendants in a court case, charged with one of the worlds biggest corruption scandals, allegedly paying $ 1.3 billion in bribes, to Nigerian politicians for the purchase of an oil field in Nigeria. Lets see now, if he keeps his word by responding fully and personally to the questions he has offered to personally answer, while also remembering, Can we trust one of the most corrupt men in the world?

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Justica Ambiental’s intervention at Eni Annual General Meeting

14 June 2019

Rome

I represent an organisation called Justica Ambiental/Friends of the Earth Mozambique in maputo. Ive come quite a long way to ask Eni some questionsI will ask in particular questions about the onshore and offshore work in Area 1 and Area 4 of the Rovuma Basin in Mozambique, which includes the Coral Floating Liquid Natural Gas Project, and the Mozambique Liquid Natural Gas Project, and the offshore oil and gas exploration in Block ER236 off the South Coast of Durban in South Africa.

we want to give some context to the shareholders:

Although the extraction in Mozambique has not yet begun, already the project has taken land from thousands of local communities and forcefully removed them from their homes. We work with and visit most regularly the villages of Milamba. Senga and Quitupo. The project has taken away peoples agricultural land, and has instead provided them with compensatory land which is far from their homes and in many cases, inarable. Fishing communities which live within 100 metres of the sea are now being moved 10 km inland.

Furthermore, the noise from the drilling will chase fish away from the regular fishing area, and the drilling and dredging will raise mud from the seabed which will make fishing even more difficult with little visibility.

There is little to no information about the type of compensation people will receive. Communities think the ways in which peoples compensation has been measured and assessed is ridiculous. For example, the company assesses someones land by counting their belongings and compensating them financially for those goods. Another way is by counting the number of palm trees that one person has on their land. Most people have been given a standard size of land of 1 hectare. This is regardless of whether they currently have 1 hectare, 5 hectares, or even ten hectares.

80% of Mozambicans dont have access to electricity, and need energy to live dignified lives. Despite this incredibly low electricity rate, the LNG projects will not help Mozambique and its people benefit from its resources. Instead the LNG will be processes and exported to other countries, in particular Asia and Europe.

The projects will have a huge negative impact on the local environment, destroying areas of pristine coral reefs, mangroves, and seagrass beds, including endangered flora and fauna in the Quirimbas Archipelago, a UNESCO Biosphere.

Mozambique is a country that is already facing the impacts of climate change. In the last two months, two cyclones hit the country hard, as we saw most recent with Cyclone Idai and Cyclone Kenneth that together killed over 600 people and affected at least 2 million.. The EIA admits that the contribution of the projects greenhouse gases to Mozambiques carbon emissions will be major.

This project will require a huge investment by the Mozambican government, which would be better spent on social programs and renewable energy development. The project itself will require an investment of up US$ 30 billion. This project will divert funds that should be going to education and other social necessities, including $2 billion that the World Bank estimates is necessary to rebuild the country after the cyclones, in order to build and maintain infrastructure needed for the gas projects.

Over the last year and a half, there as been a scourge of attacks on communities in the gas region, which many communities believe are linked to the gas projects because they only began once gas companies became visible. In order to ensure the security of the gas companies and contractors, the military has been deployed in the area and maintains a strong presence, and several foreign private security companies have been contracted by the companies.


SOUTH AFRICA

While the human rights and environmental violations against the people of the South Coast are many, the particular issue Id like to raise is that of the lack of meaningful public participation with the affected communities, who were totally excluded from the process.

Exclusivity of meetings:

Eni held a total of 5 meetings.

Three of them were at upper end hotels and country clubs in the middle class areas of Richards Bay, Port Shepstone and in Durban. This is extremely unrepresentative of the vast majority of people who will be affected, many of whom live in dire poverty: communities of as Kosi Bay, Sodwana Bay, St Lucia,, Hluluwe, Mtubatuba, Mtunzini, Stanger, Tongaat, La Mercy, Umdloti, Verulam, Umhlanga, Central Durban, Bluff, Merebank, Isipingo, Amanzimtoti, Illovu, Umkomaas, Ifafa Beach, Scottsburgh, Margate, Mtwalume, Port Edward and surrounding townships like Chatsworth, Inanda, Umlazi, Phoenix and KwaMakhuta. This is blatant social exclusion and discrimination.

During the two so-called public participation meetings with poorer communities in February and October 2018, attended by both Eni and consultants Environmental Resources Management, the majority of people affected were not invited. The meetings, held by Allesandro Gelmetti and Fabrizio Fecoraro were held in a tiny room with no chairs. Eni had not invited any government officials.

[Sasol head of group medial liaison Alex Anderson, confirming the meeting, said: Eni, our partner, is the operator and the entity managing this process. Sasol is committed to open and transparent engagement with all stakeholders on this project, as its an ongoing process over the coming year. We value the engagement and the feedback we receive, so that we consider stakeholder concerns into the development of the project.]

Eni says it dropped the finalised EIAs off at 5 libraries for the interested parties to read. However these libraries are difficult for most of the affected communities to travel to, and one of the libraries, Port Shepstone library, was in fact closed for renovations at the time.

QUESTIONS:

Civil society in Mozambique:

The response to our question was not answered, and I would like to reformulate it.

Is Eni working with any Mozambican organisations as part of its community engagement, and which are they?

Is Eni working with any organisations, Mozambican and from elsewhere, who are NOT paid by the company?

Reforestation:

Id like to quote an article in the FT article David Sheppard and Leslie Cook 15 March 2019- Eni to plant vast forest in push to cut greenhouse gas emissions, which says, I quote:

by planting trees which absorb CO2 from the atmosphere, companies like Eni are looking to offset their pollution that their traditional operations create.

Italian energy giant Eni will plant a forest 4 times the size of Wales as part of plans to cut greenhouse gas emissions

1. Does Eni dispute the truthfulness of the Financial Times article

Eni says that it has already begun the contract process with the governments of the countries in Southern Africa, where these forest projects will take place.

1. Has the company assessed whether there actually is 81 000 hectares of unused land available for this project?

2. Has Eni already held any public participation meetings with the communities who live on the land that will be used for ?

3. who is doing this assessment and when will it begin

4. how many communities and people will be affected?

EIA s:

1. In the case of Area 1, Eni responded that the responsibility for ongoing public participation with the communities of Cabo Delgado lies with Anadarko for the joint EIA. Does Eni confirm it is relying on another company to guarantee that its own project fulfills requirements for an EIA?

2. Also on Area 1, the last EIA was done in 2014? Why does Eni rely on an impact assessment that is 5 years old?

3. Eni has responded that it only concluded its EIA in 2014, but had already begun seismic studies in 2007 and prepared for exploration in 2010. Furthermore, Eni only received its license from the Mozambique government in 2015. This is a whole 8 years after it had begun seismic studies.

Why did Eni begin studies that affect the environment and people before completing an EIA?

Decarbonisation:

This question was not sufficiently answered: I have asked why Enis decarbonisation strategy does not align with its actions in Mozambique, where the EIA says, and I quote from Chapter 12: The project is expected to emit approximately 13 million tonnes of CO2 during full operation of 6 LNG trains.

By 2022 the project will increase the level of Mozambiques GHG emissions by 9.4%

The duration of the impact is regarded as permanent, as science has indicated that the persistence of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is said to range between 100 and 500 years, and therefore continues beyond the life of the project.

I ask again, how does this align with Enis decarbonisation strategy?

Private security:

1. Who is Eni using as their private security companies in Mozambique and in South Africa?

2. What was the legal process the company went through to contract these private security companies?

3. If any companies are not registered locally, what legal process did Eni go through to bring them to Mozambique and South Africa?

Contractors:

1. Will Eni provide us with a list of all their contractors in Mozambique and in South Africa?

2. if not why not?

Jobs in South Africa:

You have not answered our question here

How many jobs will Eni create at its operation in SA?

How many of these jobs will be paid by Eni?

Contract

I ask this in the name of the South Durban Community Environmental Alliance. The organisation requested Eni to make available the contract signed with the Dept of Environmental Affairs and Petroleum Agency South Africa that gives Eni permission to conduct seismic testing. Eni has said no, because the right to the document lies with a contractor.

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Petitions to government institutions fall into oblivion

On the 21st of September 2016, Justiça Ambiental, in partnership with the World Rainforest Movement, submitted to the Ministry of Land, Environment and Rural Development, to the Ministry of Agriculture and Food, to Green Resources and to Portucel a petition signed by 12332 people exposing the numerous conflicts and social, environmental and economic impacts – especially in the local communities directly affected. The petition stated the following:

“On September 21st, on the occasion of the International Day of Struggle Against Tree Monocultures, we, the undersigned organizations, groups, movements and individuals, expressed our solidarity and support to the communities that are fighting against the expansion of these large plantations. We demand that Green Resources, Portucel and all other companies and financial capital investors who are usurping land or planning to support the capture of fertile agricultural land for tree monocultures in eastern and southern Africa return it to the communities. By doing so, they can help prevent new conflicts between plantation companies and governments and contribute to solve the many that already exist across the region. We demand that the Government of Mozambique maintain its Land Law and ensure that the rights of communities to land, water and food are duly respected.”

The conflicts and impacts of monoculture plantations are not exclusive to rural communities in Mozambique. In fact, they are a characteristic of this type of investment and can be found everywhere where plantations of this type are promoted.

The petition was submitted to the aforementioned bodies with the knowledge of:

The Office of the President of the Republic

The Parliament

The Attorney General’s Office

The Governor of the Province of Zambézia

The Governor of the Province of Niassa

The Governor of the Province of Nampula

However, to date, after more than 2 years, none of the institutions above deigned to respond…

These public institutions, that we are told exist to serve and defend the interests of the people, are the ones who systematically ignore their concerns, demands and petitions…

In August 2018, Justiça Ambiental, ADECRU (Academic Action for the Development of Rural Communities) and Nampula’s UPC (Provincial Peasants Union) facilitated the process of drafting and submitting a petition on behalf of the communities affected by Green Resources, which contained some 3406 signatures from members of affected communities. The petition exposed in detail the innumerable situations these communities were subjected to and the various attempts at conflict resolution that have had no results at all. This last petition was submitted to the following institutions:

Ministry of Agriculture and Food Safety, addressed to the Minister;

Ministry of Land, Environment and Rural Development, addressed to the Minister;

The Parliament’s 5th Committee – Committee on Agriculture, Economy and the Environment;

Green Resources Mozambique;

Mozambican Bar Association;

Norfund;

Embassy of Norway in Mozambique; and

National Commission on Human Rights

Of these institutions, only the National Human Rights Commission responded and was showed interest in investigating the matter, however, so far nothing else has happened.

Land conflicts persist, communities affected and deceived with promises of better living and employment are still waiting for a response, they continue to wait for a solution to their many complaints, and to believe that there will be answers to their many appeals !!!

More frightening than our government’s silence and inaction over these petitions and complaints regarding this type of investment, is that it continues to promote the monoculture plantations business, it continues to invite investors and distribute land that is not vacant, nor is it infertile or marginal – as they claim in order to defend their investments.

The latest versions of the Forestry Policy and Implementation Strategy, of the 2035 Forest Agenda and of the National Forestry Program, which are allegedly still under public discussion, clearly demonstrate that our government, particularly the environment and forest sectors, is far from realizing the scale of the social, environmental and even economic impacts of this investment.

Even more serious than the complete absence of current knowledge about the negative impacts of large monoculture plantations on the environment, in particular on maintaining the ecological balance on which we all depend, is the arrogance with which they refuse to learn from the many examples that exist throughout the world. It is completely unacceptable and absurd to hear a forestry technician effusively defend that monoculture plantations are forests and then insist by asking “are those not trees?”! It is equally unacceptable that the definition of forests can be altered to accommodate the interests of many false solutions such as REDD and the commodification of nature. Yet, this is precisely what is happening in the sector.

Important instruments such as the 2035 Forest Agenda and the National Forestry Program are being developed under the leadership of government’s “strategic partners”, with tremendous economic interests in the sector, such as the World Bank that has poured millions and millions of dollars in these “make-believe” processes. Yet we, the Mozambican organizations that stand our ground against the complete pillage of our resources, are the ones who are constantly accused of serving foreign interests. The influence and power enjoyed by these “strategic partners” who finance and direct these processes is visible and frightening. Who rules our country? Are we really sovereign? Or is that speech valid only when your “strategic partners” and our eternal “financiers” are angry with your crazy adventures with public money? Are we only sovereign then?

Public participation is still a huge challenge, and it does not seem to us that there is a real desire to improve, since this way it is much easier to conduct the processes without much resistance. Mozambican civil society barely participates in public discussion processes, whether about environmental aspects or other issues. The participants of these meetings are mostly representatives of civil society organizations and other organizations and sometimes some students. This weak participation also tells us a great deal about the way citizens feel about these processes and, above all, what can be expected of them.

In the case of the above-mentioned instruments, it should be noted that technical committees have been set up for the elaboration and discussion of these, but the space attributed to civil society organizations is always very small and it is not clear how organizations are “chosen” to participate . JA! participated in the technical committee and despite the numerous comments on the various versions of the document, nothing was really considered and properly analyzed. Our natural resources, our forests and ecosystems are only treated as profit-making resources, we do not consider their biological importance and the fact that we are part of this planet and depend on the biological services that these ecosystems provide us and that allow life on Earth.

It seems childish to remember that we do not own Planet Earth and nature, we are part of it. We are the most stupid and destructive part of it…

Our stupidity is demonstrated over and over again by the state of our planet, by the state of our forests, rivers and other ecosystems… We don’t see the other animals – the ones we call irrational – destroying their habitat as humans do… for profit!

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