Category Archives: Energy and Society

Idai & Kenneth:

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Mudanças climáticas sentidas na pele”

Há já alguns anos que é quase impossível falar sobre mudanças climáticas sem mencionar Moçambique. Isto porque, a nível global, somos um dos países mais vulneráveis aos efeitos das mudanças climáticas – facto este que nos é confirmado por indicadores como a alteração de padrões de precipitação e temperatura e o consequente aumento na incidência de calamidades “naturais”.

A crescente intensidade e frequência de eventos climáticos extremos – como cheias e inundações, secas, tempestades de vento (incluindo ciclones tropicais) e a subida do nível das águas do mar – registados nos últimos anos, são manifestação clara das alterações climáticas, e só têm demonstrado o quão vulnerável o país é. Em virtude desses eventos climáticos extremos, Moçambique tem se debatido com a perda de vidas humanas, uma recorrente destruição de infraestruturas socioeconómicas, enormes perdas de produtividade agrícola e uma avultada degradação ambiental causada por uma erosão acelerada e por intrusão salina, entre outros.

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Não só em Moçambique mas a nível global, os últimos anos têm sido marcados por inesperados eventos climáticos extremos, tais como a ocorrência de ondas de calor intenso, secas cíclicas, inundações, cheias e ciclones tropicais de magnitudes nunca antes registadas e com impactos devastadores. Em Moçambique, o destaque vai para a recente ocorrência dos ciclones Idai e Kenneth que afectaram o país de forma assoladora, com impactos enormes nas províncias de Sofala e Cabo Delgado onde, respectivamente, entraram no continente. Estranhamente, os dois ciclones ocorreram no espaço de 2 meses, tendo o Idai ocorrido em Março e o Kenneth em Abril do corrente ano. Estes dois eventos climáticos extremos foram considerados os piores ciclones tropicais registados a nível do continente Africano e de todo o Hemisfério Sul, tendo causado a morte de mais de 1000 pessoas e deixado centenas de outras desaparecidas, bem como milhares de casas e outras infraestruturas sociais destruídas.

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Embora Idai e Kenneth tenham incidido principalmente nas duas províncias supracitadas, estes ciclones também se fizeram sentir tanto em outras províncias de Moçambique, como nos países vizinhos da região como o Malawi, o Zimbabwe ou a África do Sul. Sem quaisquer dúvidas, eles são indício inequívoco das mudanças climáticas.

O Ciclone Idai resultou de uma depressão tropical formada junto à costa de Moçambique no dia 4 de Março, tendo atingido terra e enfraquecido no final desse mesmo dia. Foi após esse aparente enfraquecimento que, volvidos alguns dias, voltou a intensificar-se – atingindo a sua intensidade máxima a 14 de Março, com ventos de cerca de 195 km/h e uma pressão central mínima de 940 hPa. Subsequentemente, perde força ao reaproximar-se da costa e, no dia 15 de Março, toca terra firme perto da Beira, com a classificação de ciclone tropical intenso. O resultado foi calamitoso: perda de vidas humanas, destruição de várias infraestruturas, morte de milhares de animais e destruição de diversos outros meios de subsistência, afectando mais de um milhão de pessoas.

Dois meses depois, embora significativamente menos devastador que o seu antecessor, registando ventos de 215 km/h, o Ciclone Kenneth torna-se o ciclone tropical mais intenso a atingir Moçambique.

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Os dois eventos, caracterizados por ventos fortes e chuvas torrenciais que causaram graves inundações, afectaram cerca de 3 milhões de pessoas de uma região compreendida por 4 países: Moçambique, Malawi, Zimbabwe e Tanzânia. A cidade da Beira foi a mais afectada, sendo que mais de 90% da cidade foi destruída pelo Idai, considerado o mais calamitoso ciclone do século. Sabe-se que só em Moçambique, as inundações causadas por estas depressões tropicais, mataram e feriram centenas de pessoas, tendo igualmente destruído centenas de milhares de casas, hospitais, salas de aulas, pontes e estradas. As inundações devastaram ainda milhares de hectares de culturas alimentares. Estima-se que serão necessários um pouco mais de 3 bilhões de dólares americanos em ajuda humanitária, incluindo para a reconstrução das infraestruturas destruídas por conta do ciclone nas províncias de Sofala e Cabo Delgado.

Apesar dos dados do Instituto Nacional de Gestão de Calamidades (INGC) mostrarem haver registo da ocorrência de calamidades similares às dos últimos anos nas décadas de 80, 90 e 2000, o diferencial na presente década é o facto destas calamidades estarem a ocorrer com maior frequência e intensidade. Os ciclones Idai e Kenneth e seus impactos são um exemplo claro disso e prova de que as mudanças climáticas são uma realidade.

Estudos mostram ainda que a exposição ao risco dos desastres naturais em Moçambique poderá aumentar de forma significativa ao longo dos próximos anos como resultado das mudanças climáticas, sendo que o clima será ainda mais extremo, com períodos de seca mais quentes e longos, e com chuvas mais imprevisíveis, havendo riscos ainda mais altos de fracas colheitas. Estima-se igualmente que aumente a proporção dos ciclones tropicais intensos e prevê-se que Moçambique passe por mudanças em termos de disponibilidade de água, e que até 2050 grande parte do país sofra maior pressão por falta de água (devido à procura aumentada do recurso, por um lado, e à redução das chuvas, por outro), algo que já se sente actualmente, sendo que o abastecimento de água é condicionado, pois o seu fornecimento é feito apenas em regime intercalado em quase todo território nacional. Ficar 24 horas sem água não é incomum para a maioria dos moçambicanos, o que torna a vida das pessoas – sobretudo de famílias de baixa renda – ainda mais dura.

Este cenário retrata o quão urgente é a tomada de decisões e medidas que visem a mitigação dos efeitos das mudanças climáticas, pois, tendo em conta a tendência e a previsão de aumento de tais eventos extremos e tendo em conta que Moçambique é um dos países mais vulneráveis aos mesmos, haverá um momento em que não poderemos mais nos adaptar a estas mudanças. Isto, caso não sejam tomadas medidas que visem a redução drástica de emissões, com vista a garantir que o aumento da temperatura média global não ultrapasse os 1,5ºC, conforme recomendam os vários estudos científicos e projecções.

Importa referir que o aumento (em intensidade e frequência) de eventos climáticos extremos como ciclones tropicais, cheias, inundações e secas, associado a fracas políticas na área de mudanças climáticas, irá aumentar significativamente a vulnerabilidade da população devido à redução de activos que garantem a sua subsistência, tais como: serviços de saúde e saneamento, abastecimento de água e infraestruturas. Tal afectará também a produção de alimentos, minando assim a possibilidade de melhoramento das condições de vida da maioria do moçambicanos.

Mais, a magnitude dos impactos das mudanças climáticas sobre Moçambique (conforme nos provaram o Idai e o Kenneth) dependerá da capacidade do país em termos de mitigação e adaptação. Por seu turno, isto dependerá em grande parte do curso de desenvolvimento socioeconómico e tecnológico que o país seguirá e do quadro de planificação para os próximos 10 anos. Contudo, a vulnerabilidade do país só aumenta, pois o Governo, ao invés de tomar medidas que visem a mitigação dos efeitos das mudanças climáticas, apenas concentra o seu limitado esforço em acções de adaptação, por um lado, e promove acções que contribuem para o aumento da emissão de gases de efeito de estufa – tais como a exploração e queima de combustíveis fósseis (carvão, gás e petróleo) – ignorando os impactos que estas têm sobre o clima, por outro. A queima de combustíveis fósseis é a principal causa da crise climática e planetária que assola o mundo.

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Neste momento, precisamos com urgência de uma resposta efectiva por parte do governo, de modo a resolver o problema das mudanças climáticas e seus impactos, ou pelo menos reduzir a vulnerabilidade do país. E para o efeito, é necessário que haja um foco institucional sistemático sobre esta matéria. Considerando os impactos que as mudanças climáticas terão na população, nos ecossistemas e na economia, uma resposta institucional requererá uma revisão do quadro legal que determine os papéis e as competências, incluindo a informação. À medida que os efeitos das mudanças climáticas se intensificam, pode-se esperar que essas condições climáticas extremas nos visitem com mais frequência.

A devastação causada pelos dois ciclones é mais um alerta, não só para Moçambique, mas para que o mundo inteiro implemente medidas ambiciosas de mitigação das mudanças climáticas, com vista a uma transição energética radical, por forma a reduzir de forma drástica a emissão dos gases de efeito de estufa.

É fundamental que os planificadores e tomadores de decisão, tanto a nível nacional como sectorial, sejam capazes de fazer uma análise do nosso grau de vulnerabilidade à variabilidade climática, dadas as actuais estratégias de desenvolvimento e programas sectoriais; que analisem de que forma estes programas impactam sobre as vulnerabilidades da população e do país; e que examinem as opções para a minimização dos riscos e a melhoria das capacidades de resposta.

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Estudos mostram ainda que, se as tendências de subida de temperatura média global que se verificam hoje prevalecerem nos próximos anos – o que é mais do que provável – até 2050 poderá registar-se um aumento de 2ºC à média global. Para Moçambique, isso significará um aumento de cerca de 4ºC. Esta subida de temperatura, por sua vez, significará precipitação pouco frequente mas em volumes muito elevados. Ou seja, teremos chuvas de maior intensidade e com muito poder destrutivo por um lado, e secas mais intensas, mais frequentes e extensas, por outro. Para mais, Moçambique tornar-se-á mais susceptível a ciclones, que se prevê que venham a ser mais frequentes, intensos e consequentemente mais destrutivos.

O facto da cidade da Beira localizar-se na costa e estar abaixo do nível das águas do mar é, por si só, um garante de que, em caso de ciclones, os danos serão indubitavelmente mais devastadores. As mudanças climáticas têm vindo a agravar as inundações costeiras aquando da ocorrência de ciclones. Normalmente, os danos causados pelos ciclones tropicais vêm de ventos excessivamente fortes, que danificam directamente a infraestrutura construída e o ambiente natural; e de inundações costeiras causadas por tempestades e chuvas fortes que frequentemente as acompanham.

Devido às mudanças climáticas, as tempestades têm ocorrido numa atmosfera mais energética e carregada de humidade, o que propicia o seu nível de destruição e, consequentemente, aumenta os seus custos sociais. Além de causarem danos a propriedades, infraestruturas e de ceifarem vidas humanas, os ciclones tropicais também afectam sobremaneira a saúde das pessoas, aumentando o risco de eclosão de doenças como a cólera e malária e causando ainda doenças de foro psicológico. Após ciclones como os que afectaram Moçambique no primeiro semestre deste ano, é normal que sobreviventes e outros afectados venham a padecer de depressões, fruto de stress emocional, o que sem dúvida afecta negativamente a capacidade de resiliência de indivíduos e comunidades afectadas, colocando mais carga física, emocional e financeira nos seus esforços de recuperação.

Segundo o secretário-geral da ONU António Guterres, que visitou o país recentemente, “Moçambique tem direito a exigir da comunidade internacional solidariedade e apoio em caso de desastres naturais”. Guterres apelou igualmente que a comunidade internacional prestasse mais apoio ao país e concretizasse as ajudas prometidas o mais rápido possível, sublinhando que os fundos postos à disposição de Moçambique, por si só, não chegam para suportar a reconstrução que deve ser feita.

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Neste sentido e reconhecendo a solidariedade e o apoio já recebido da comunidade internacional, é imperioso que os países ricos (principais emissores de gases de efeito de estufa) façam a parte que justamente lhes compete para resolver o problema das mudanças climáticas. Afinal, este problema é inegável resultado do seu egoísta trajecto rumo ao progresso económico e “desenvolvimento” de que hoje disfrutam. Que paguem a sua dívida climática para que os países mais pobres e em vias de desenvolvimento – que apesar de serem responsáveis por ínfima parte das emissões que estão a despoletar esta mudança climática são, por triste ironia, os mais vulneráveis às suas consequências – possam aumentar a sua capacidade de resposta, adaptação e resiliência a eventos climáticos extremos. E sem condicionalismos, pois não se trata de um empréstimo, mas sim do pagamento ao resto do planeta da dívida que contraíram em seu nome.

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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!

PRESS RELEASE About the insistence in Mphanda Nkuwa

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“Hydroelectric dams in Africa may be among the most enduring of colonial legacies. They persist in ways that laws or traditions or patterns of life do not. They stand fixed in the landscape, changing the world around them while they themselves prove stubbornly resistant to significant change. Cahora Bassa, completed on the Mozambican stretch of the Zambezi River in 1974, the year before the end of Portuguese rule, was catastrophic for the approximately half-million people who depended on the river and its delta for their livelihood and for the tens of thousands who were forcibly relocated when the dam’s lake was created. Even today, the flow management scheme required to maximize export of electricity to South Africa continues to wipe out dry-season crops and drastically reduce fishing, making life along the Zambezi barely supportable.

Despite the traumatic history of Cahora Bassa, the Frelimo government is committed to a colonial-era plan to build a second dam approximately sixty kilometers downriver from the first. In many respects, Mphanda Nkuwa, as the dam project is called, looks like a replay of the colonial past. Mozambique justifies the dam in language largely unchanged from the colonial era. The overarching economic imperative driving the dam is the same—cheap energy for South Africa.”[1]

 

In light of our Head of State’s, among others’, recent pronouncements regarding our government’s intention to go forward with the wretched Mphanda Nkuwa dam project, Justiça Ambiental hereby reiterates its position of total repudiation regarding this venture and, as is its duty, once again alerts civil society to the dangers that this project entails for the country, the region and the planet.

Environmentally speaking, it is absolutely obvious and unquestionable that this dam (or any other dam) on the Zambezi (or any other river) is a bad idea, and it’s not just us who are saying it, it’s an entire scientific community in unison. Moreover, in the specific case of the Mphanda Nkuwa hydroelectric plant, the environmental unfeasibility of which we speak is not solely justified within the fundamental scope of ecological preservation, because it also translates into an inevitable and comprehensive economic unfeasibility. This is because, according to reports from the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and International Rivers[2]“, for example, even without the dam in Mphanda Nkuwa, the Zambezi is one of the rivers in Africa that will suffer the most impacts from climate change due to the intense droughts and floods that are projected to the continent in the medium and long term, and such climatic events will certainly jeopardize the energy production of its many dams – particularly the Mozambican ones that are at the end of the line.

Equally troubling, if not more, is that regarding this project, several experts have already warned that building a new dam in a region where seismic risk is already naturally considerable, will substantially increase this risk. Needless to say, if a violent earthquake causes a dam to collapse, the consequences would be catastrophic.

Having said this, we plea to our government’s common sense, and appeal that, once and for all, they forget this madness. However, if they decide to squander the public purse in stubbornness – since the parties involved at least admit that the EIA of the project is out-dated (not to say that it was poorly drawn and / or that it is deeply biased) – we appeal that this time around, for the sake of Mozambique and Mozambicans, they conduct a careful, impartial, serious and inclusive assessment.

Still, before taking that step, in order to dispel understandable speculation about the economic motivations that are bringing this project back into the limelight – made evident in the news regarding investor and/ or pseudo-investors disputes brought up by the media last week – we would like to appeal to the Government that, before actually consulting Mozambicans, bluntly and with full transparency, they clearly and completely clarify the outlines, objectives and the rationale behind this project, including:

  • Where does the investment come from and in exchange for what?
  • Why is this project a priority for the country (taking into account the current socio-economic situation)?
  • Have we considered other alternatives? If so, which ones?
  • What is the real purpose of the dam and what hypothetical gains do you think it would bring to the country in the short and long term, including how do you plan to make it profitable (for example, given that Eskom is, in the world, the utility company that buys energy at a lower price – (guess whom from…?)

But because we are who we are, we can not fail to stress that at this point in time, we believe it is a gross mistake to invest in dams (for more of this dimension) as an energetic solution, when we know very well of its harmful effects. – This positioning is backed by the known and public withdrawal of countless countries from this type of solutions. (In the US alone, for example, in the last 100 years an estimated 1150 dams have been demolished!)
Why are we rowing against the tide, gentlemen?

 

Maputo, September 4th 2018

 

[1]  International Journal of African Historical Studies Vol. 45, Nr.2 (2012) “Harnessing the Zambezi: How Mozambique’s Planned Mphanda Nkuwa Dam Perpetuates the Colonial Past”, by Allen F. Isaacman, PHD (University of Minnesota and University of Western Cape) & David Morton (University of Minnesota)

[2] International Rivers “A Risky Climate for Southern African Hydro”, by Dr.Richard Beilfuss

Towards an Ecofeminist Just Transition

The world is facing many inter-connected crises. The one we hear about the most is the climate crisis, the earth is at a CO2 level not seen in 3 million years and our continent Africa will face the brunt of the crisis. But as we lament the climate crisis, we must not forget all the other crises we are confronting. We are facing an energy crisis; the numbers from mid 2017 show that over 60% of the people of Africa did not have access to electricity. We are facing a biodiversity crisis, a crisis of unemployment, a crisis of inequality as the world has never seen before.

As business elites made their way to Davos for the World Economic Forum in January 2018, Oxfam released a report stating that the richest 1% of people on the planet own 82% of the wealth of the planet. From March 2016 to March 2017, the number of billionaires increased by one every two days! Talk about gross domestic product. Oxfam reports that in four days a fashion industry CEO makes the same money as a Bangladeshi woman garment worker will earn in her whole lifetime. Women earn less than men and occupy the lowest-paid and most insecure jobs. This is nothing if not a crisis of planetary proportions.

Why do we need to look at inter-connected crises? Can’t we just deal with the climate crisis now and then deal with the others? The basis of climate justice is that we must deal with inter-connected crises all at once, because if we only try to confront the climate crisis, we will only exacerbate other crises. The basis of climate justice is that in dealing with the climate crisis we must also alleviate the other crises. Climate change is a symptom and a cause of the dysfunction of the system.

So we need a transition, but the transition has to be just, it has to be fair. We need to construct a different world. As Arundhati Roy wrote in her book ‘War Talk’ 15 years ago, “another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing.”

What is womens’ role in this system and in the resistance? Why does Roy refer to ‘another world’ as feminine? Similarly, why do the Latin American movements call the earth as ‘madre tierra’ (mother Earth)? This notion is based on the understanding that there is a dependency between human beings and nature, and that we must live on this earth in conjunction with nature and not against nature. Ecofeminism also asserts that capitalism exploits both women and nature, hence those oppressions need to be resisted together.

Capitalism organizes the world into the public sphere and the private sphere, based on the sexual division of labour. Men usually dominate the public sphere, the market, where money is handled and economic decisions are made. This is also the sphere where all the planet-killing decisions are made, such as fossil fuel exploitation, damming rivers, genetically modifying crops, etc. Women are often relegated to the private sphere of the home, where the reproduction of labour happens. This also includes most of the low paid, precarious jobs that women often hold. The way we understand it, the issue is not the division of labour per se, but the different values attributed to different tasks. The public sphere mostly dominated by men is considered important while the private sphere mostly dominated by women is considered inferior.

I believe that capitalism’s exploitative ways are based on exploiting the unpaid care labour of women. Capitalism needs and uses the free labour of women to take care of workers when they come home from the factory, to nurse the coal miners when black lung disease puts them on their deathbeds, to literally give birth to the next generation of workers for capital to exploit.

This does not mean that women do not occupy exploitative roles. We see some women in the public sphere, often making decisions that can be the same or worse for the planet or for vulnerable people. We also see some women being protected by the patriarchy. That’s when we remember that not only is capitalism entrenched along with patriarchy, it is also entrenched along with racism, classism, neocolonialism, the fossil fuel extractivist economy, etc. We need to dismantle all these oppressive systems, not just one or two of them, but all of them, because they reinforce each other. The way our societies are currently structured, the mutual reinforcement between these oppressions is what is destroying the planet and many of her most marginalized people. We need to understand the way structures operate, not individual examples, because these prop up and reinforce each other.

So women must be part of the resistance to this system which has left us reeling from these inter-connected crises. We must move from a world of competition to a world of cooperation and care. Care work should not only be womens’ work, it should be everyone’s work. We must change the culture and values of this current system. As stated beautifully by an organization called Movement Generation in their Just Transition publication called ‘From Banks and Tanks to Cooperation and Caring’, “in humble cooperation with the rest of the living world, we must rip out concrete and build soil; we must undam rivers and cap oil wells like our lives depend on it.”

Because our lives literally depend on it. This is a small step towards what an ecofeminist just transition can look like.

 

 

“NATURE-BASED TOURISM INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE”

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It was with pomp and circumstance that the “NATURE-BASED TOURISM INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE” took place between the 7th and 9th of June 2018 in one of the most expensive hotels in Maputo. A gala dinner and a bunch of speeches by people who all seemed to be very aware that we should have a nature-oriented tourism…

News about the Conference filled the media every day, and there was not a single STV newscast that did not feature it, bringing it straight to our homes.

All entrepreneurs, investors, government members, statesmen and former presidents, as well as world conservation specialists, were present at the great event of the month, advertised daily in prime-time television, with beautiful images of Mozambique’s fauna and flora enchanting our eyes – such is the natural beauty of this country.

But unfortunately, the reality is different. Nature was only a pretext. A beautiful word. An excuse to call in more investors. Because being sustainable, protecting the environment and being environmentally conscious is very fashionable today.

All these beautiful words are only meant to try to secure more and more investments. Hypocrisy abounds in our social environment. And if, this time around, this is the chosen narrative, in other occasions pollution-prone activities that damage the environment severely are shamelessly promoted: like coal mining in Tete or the oil and gas industries offshore drilling in one of Mozambique’s most beautiful nature sanctuaries: Cabo Delgado – the province of the crystal clear waters of Pemba, Ibo, Quirimbas, Mocímboa da Praia and many other beaches.

From Rovuma to Maputo, across the Mozambican coast, inland and on the islands along the Indian Ocean, there is immense tourist potential. However, the oil and gas industry, the timber industry, agribusiness and other environmentally damaging investments are competing with this potential. The countless beauties and natural riches scattered throughout Mozambique – such as the beautiful Inhambane Province with its beautiful beaches and the beautiful Bazaruto Archipelago, the plateaus and hills of Chimanimani, Mount Mabu, the beautiful Gorongosa or the unique biodiversity of our reserves and natural parks – are being threatened by pipelines, deep-sea ports, forest plantations, monocultures…

Throughout Mozambique many are the examples of this, and nature is definitely the last thing in their minds when they sign these great business deals, memorandum of understanding, mining concessions or even the fabulous contracts to build hotels or lodges in clear contempt for the most basic environmental standards.

Mozambique is suffering. There are huge open craters in the mountains, there are corals being destroyed by oil rigs, there are entire forests being (legally or illegaly) destroyed for its wood. And they still have the nerve to say that they are defending nature? What they are doing indeed is spending millions of meticals on yet another business conference in an expensive hotel with a gala dinner where the price of a meal is three times the value of a minimum wage. This, in a country where there are people dying of acute malnutrition. A country that carries on its back a huge debt. A country with all kinds of basic needs, from transport to health care.

“NATURE-BASED TOURISM INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE”? Forgive me gentlemen, but really?!! We need serious leaders that think about the good of the country and the improvement of life of the Mozambican people, not of leaders burping caviar at 5-star hotels in Maputo and selling nature by the square meter to the first crook that shows up!

Think seriously about nature and everything that is being destroyed instead of promoting these ridiculous deals in the name of the nature. Nature does not deserve this treatment, nor does the Mozambican People.

Dirty Energy at the Climate Justice Meeting

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The theme for Day 2 of our Climate Justice meeting that happened last week was Dirty Energy. The topics ranged from oil and gas to coal and waste management.

The day started with an input by Makhoma Lekalakala on the impacts of coal mines and coal-fired power stations in South Africa, but which happen around the world. These include water pollution from acid mine drainage, which continues even after the operations are over, because they are either not decommissioned or not closed properly. There is major air pollution, with nearby communities struggling with breathing. In fact, health degradation is the worst impact, and is an externality not included in the price of coal. Another issue is food insecurity, as people are displaced from their farmlands and water sources.

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Perito Alper Tarquinho talked about the situation of coal mining in Mozambique. When companies talk to communities about new coal operations, they say that this ‘development’ will bring them direct benefits and bring money to the country and the people. But this ‘development’ actually harms people. People are not respected in the companies’ decision making processes. What is most important to them is to satisfy their shareholders.

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Verónica da Silveira Reino took this further by giving the example of Vale who mines coal in Tete province in Mozambique. It doesn’t consult and forces community members to sign documents which will agree to their forced removals from their homes and their fertile land.

Indian company Jindal, also in Tete is operating where the community still lives.

Thomas Mnguni talked about Eskom, which knows its legal obligations but does not comply. The work they do as groundWork is to point out how Eskom, which is a state-owned entity violates our human rights, according the Bill of Rights in the South African Constitution. People deserve the right to health, land and a clean environment.

Niven Reddy explained the waste to energy system, which is the thermal treatment of waste. This enforces wasteful culture. For GAIA, burning waste is not the solution, recycling and composting is. If things can’t be re-used or recycled, they should not be produced in the first case.

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Daniel Ribeiro talked about the impacts of mega-dams. Rivers are vital for distribution of nutrients and sediments. Dams impede this cycle and aggravate erosion. 20% of river fish species were decimated due to mega-dams. 63% of all forced displacements are due to mega dams.

It’s also a water-grab, the wall of the dam is used to remove people from access to water. Mega-dams are also linked to increased seismic activity. Methane emissions are also another impacts of Dams. There are major human rights abuses against people fighting dams. Land is very central to rural communities, we must fight for it. Dams take up huge amount of land leading to loss of life, loss of culture and loss of traditional territories.

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Greg Muttitt spoke on the global politics of oil. The most important politics of oil, he says, is the struggle against the oil industry. He spoke of three activists from history from whom he gained inspiration to fight the oil industry. The first was American journalist Ida Tarbell who wrote a book about Standard Oil in the 1800’s which led to a successful court case against the oil industry.

The second was Mohammed Mosadegh, the Prime Minister of Iran, who forced BP out of the country in the 1950’s. He who was removed from power in a coup in 1953, by the Shah who was a big supporter of BP. This brought the oil companies back and created authoritarian rule.

The third was Nigerian activist Ken Saro-Wiwa, who led a non-violent campaign against Shell and other companies in the 1980’s. In 1994, the state framed him for murder and executed him.

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Something we keep seeing a lot through history is how companies go into a new country to drill for oil, and sign a bad deal with the government, who often does not have the same legal and financial expertise as the companies from the global North. When the oil is flowing, and the state realizes that the deal does not benefit them, it is too late.

Not only does the industry need to stop looking for more oil, it needs to stop building pipelines and terminals, and those in operation must be shut down before they run out. Solutions will not come from corporations but from social movements in the north and south. Our movements are stronger now than ever before.

Thuli Makama talked about the politics of oil in Africa and said that people often assume that if oil development happens in Africa, the profit will flow down to communities, but that is never the case. This is the nature of the beast. It is carefully engineered.

The discussions of what will happen with oil exploitation in Africa do not take place in Africa, but in European boardrooms with corporations, financial institutions and states present.

An issue is that extraction is preceded by conflict. Oil and conflict are cousins, it is most often that where you find the one you will find the other. Oil money also ends up funding armed conflict.

Another feature of oil in Africa is causes a lot of suffering at local level. In the Niger delta, oil operations kills farming, fishing and biodiversity, and the people can no longer feed themselves. African governments are captured and cannot rise against corporations.

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Mike Karipko said that the discovery of oil in your community is a declaration of war on your community! A war on your land, your daughters, your mothers. And oil is so cheap because all the costs to the environment, land rivers and the community are externalized, as big government officials are bought over by companies. Because the companies provide the government with bribes, the tax money of the people is no longer important, so they are not listened to.

Emem Okon talked about the impact that dirty energy has on women. Whatever the impact on a community, the impact on women will be triple, like we see in the Niger Delta. Women are the lifeline in a community and any bad impacts increases the burden on women. For example, women are the farmers and providers of food and water for their families. If their farmland is taken and water is polluted, and there is no other source of livelihood, they are traumatised.

Ike Teuling spoke about the campaign by the farming community of Groningen in the Netherlands, where Shell has gas fields. The drilling regularly created tremors and earthquakes. 100,000 houses were damaged and collapsed, each of these farming families are taking Shell to court individually. These are farmers who are often uneducated having to face Shell’s lawyers every day. The state constantly says that the safety of people in Groningen is most important, but the gas drilling cannot stop because they depend on it for power.

These people have realised that compensation is not enough – if Shell compensates them for the destruction of a house but they continue to drill, their next house will also collapse. So they joined the movement against gas completely.

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João Mosca said huge parts of corporate profits are not charged as tax, so the state doesn’t collect big amounts as revenues which could be spent on education and healthcare. Until 2016, the Mozambican economy was growing, but who actually benefited? We have a massive increasing external debt.

When companies come and promise job creation, they actually provide very few jobs, because the projects are capital intensive and not labour intensive. The jobs that are available are non-qualified positions leading to even more exploitation of labour.

Fatima Mimbire spoke on the Redistribution of Wealth and Investment in Community Development of the gas exploration in Mozambique to compensate the communities that are impacted by the gas exploration and the models of processes and regulations that needed to be installed. That the legal framework is fragile and that in reality there are many negative examples, all over the world.

Daniel Ribeiro presented on the impacts of gas in Mozambique. There are no examples in Africa that are able to escape this reality. Many impacts are difficult to predict. For example, when boats come from the other side of the world to transport gas, they come empty to carry the gas back. But they add water on the way to keep the ship stable. This brings ballast water which brings organisms not from our coast. This is a reason for the invasion of alien species int the coast.

Our bio system is already diminishing. When drilling takes place, more than 300 chemicals are released that are found to be cancer-causing, in humans, and more than 1000 which are fatal to animals and plants.

The gas industry is notorious for human rights violations. In fact, according to the UN, an increase in human rights violations is proportionate with an increase in dependancy on oil and gas.

Many countries are regarding gas as a ‘transition’ fuel to renewable energy, because they say it has less impact on climate change, because it emits less CO2 than oil. But gas emits methane which is 80% stronger than CO2 over 20 years. Apart from that, the process of exploiting gas is very difficult to control. There is a lot of leakage, and no technology currently available to solve these problems. We need to distinguish their lies from truth. When they say Mozambique will develop through gas, this is a lie. Our debts will only increase.

The discussions at the end of the presentations were intense and with many interventions arising from the participants. Unfortunately we had to end the debate, because we were already past the time and there was still the next day, full of more presentations and debates.

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Dirty minds don’t understand clean energy

Tech Energy vs Commodity Energy

Change is always difficult. Whatever system we are trying to change has evolved, adapted and solidified its behavior, vision, tendencies, bad habits and much more to a point of blind dependency. The more complex the system, the more linkages and tentacles of rootedness are working to keep things as they are.

This makes it hard to envision how a new system could work, even if our organizations are committed to system change in the face of multiple crises. Especially given the evermore specialization and compartmentalization of our current global system, change gets bogged down. Every time we look at a new, better sub-component of the system we notice how it doesn’t fit well with the other older components and deem it unsustainable, uncompetitive, etc. The problem lies in that we are focusing on improving the existing system instead of developing a new way of achieving a old goal.

We will be examining how this plays out in the energy sector and the vision towards a carbon-free future in the midst of the global climate crisis. Due to the length and diversity of the issues, we will be addressing it in a series of articles during the next few months, but for this article we would like to explore the notion of ‘Tech Energy’ and ‘Commodity Energy’, and the world of differences between them.

In large part, traders see energy as energy, and both are often traded in tandem. In general, most energy experts come from a commodity-based background and as alternative, clean, tech energy started appearing, they just added them to the list of options for achieved their energy goals. This was and continues to be a big mistake, because the economics of the two energy types are vastly different and require very different skill sets to deal with their obstacles, projections, feasibility, growth and general assessments for how to make each function.

To explore these differences, we will use the example of solar (tech energy) and oil (commodity energy). A photo-voltaic (PV) solar panel is, in simple terms, electrical circuitry embedded in a silicon wafer, a definition that could also be used to define a computer chip, hence PV manufacturers have been at times (misleadingly) defined them as “semiconductors”. However, even though using this definition for both fails short, it makes sense to use the same economic model for both, because PV solar panels and computer chips behave in similar ways economically, hence our use of the term ‘tech energy’. To highlight this reality, see the Graph 1 below.

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Graph 1: Costs of Computer Processing Power, Electricity from Solar PV, and Oil Price per Barrel, 1976-2014 (G.Jabusch 2015)

It is clear to see the similarity of drastic price declines in solar PV in cost per Watt (green line) and in computing power in cost per GigaFLOP (blue line) over a period of almost 4 decades. This decline is driven by increasing demand of new technologies, massive scaling up, and the ever-evolving technological frontier.

In comparison, oil follows the usual pattern of commodities that fluctuate in price according to demand and supply factors. Even though graph 1 shows that the cost PV solar has decreased by 170 times, if we compare it to oil, solar has improved its cost basis by 5,355 times relative to oil since 1970 (T. Seba ). Oil gets expensive when economies are growing, but PV decreases due to its sensitivity to demand/ scaling and its independence from a finite resource like oil which needs to be extracted from the ground. PV is also less geographically dependent and therefore more resistant to Geo-political risk, the threat of which will further increase when climate change impacts start causing more migration, water scarcity, land loss and ecological crashes.

Actually, technology is so sensitive to demand and scaling that it mainly gets cheaper over time. The other factors that make commodities fluctuate usually affect technologies in the rate of decrease, but the decrease is certain. Imagine the benefits if the global economy could apply this tech cost dynamic to energy. The more commodity-based energy we use, the more expensive it will get, always placing a weight on the growth, but with tech energy it gets cheaper the more we use.

Then there are the unavoidable costs of a commodity energy like oil. Oil costs a lot to explore, costs a lot to extract, costs a lot to refine, costs a lot to transport and if you consider the endless list of impacts at every level, it costs a hell of a lot to consume. In 2014 the world had one of the lowest levels of new fossil fuels discoveries in recent history (less than 5 months of global consumption), yet it was the highest cost ever for developing new oil supplies (almost 700 billion USD). Not only are these costs constantly increasing for lower returns, even when the barrel and pump prices are low or high, but these costs are transferred to all of us in numerous ways such as government subsidies, health costs, ecological costs and climate change.

For example, in 2013 for every $1 that any of the top 20 global oil and gas producers invested in new fossil fuel exploration, more than $2 were subsidized by the G-20 governments. In total, the G-20 provides $452 billion a year in subsidies to fossil fuel production, which is almost 4 times what the ENTIRE world provides in subsidies to renewables ($121 billion). We may think its only a rich country tendency, but no, in sub-Saharan Africa, energy subsidies (especially petroleum but also coal and gas) eat up on average around 5% of our GDP (IMF). Here in Mozambique we pay 1%-1,5% of our GDP for just petrol and diesel fuel subsidies alone and during the recent economic crisis our fuel debt was increasing at $7-10 million USD per month (IMF). Just to put this spending into perspective, at an African level, the percentage of GDP that goes to health is around an average of 6% based on the 2013 data for 51 African countries.

One additional interesting fact linked to health, the estimated cost of the impacts of fossil fuels on health, not only is it not covered by the fossil fuel sector, but is a huge part of the national health cost of many countries. In the US, 1/3 of healthcare costs are from burning fossil fuels ($9000/person/year, totaling to almost $900 billion) and worldwide 30-40% of deaths are due to pollution (A.Lightman 2014). In Europe it has been calculated that the health cost of burning coal are as high as 42.8 billion Euros per year (Heal 2013) and when you consider that the dirtiest power plants, industrial parks, mines, etc are in the global south we can only imagine the scale of the health impacts and their associated costs. However, we will cover the true cost of fossil fuels in a future article on the issue, including ecosystem loss, climate change and more.

All of this information is not new or unknown to our political elite, or at least it shouldn’t be. The truth of the matter is that the transition has been slow because the system doesn’t want it to happen. Research has shown that the biggest obstacle for clean energy to succeed is the lack of political will and proper polices, not technology, not costs and not economics. Another issue is that we often hear people discussing how to fix the system, the problem is that there isn’t anything to fix. The capitalist system and one of its founding pillars “fossil fuels” has been working the way it has been designed to, and very efficiently to the benefit of a small group of elites. Lets not forget the fact that “Just 8 men own same wealth as half the world” (Oxfam report 2017). So when we hear the excuses that solar is too expensive, not competitive, it isn’t reliable, can’t cope with big demand, etc, etc, please understand that either the person hasn’t done their home work, or has vested interests in fossil fuels, or has come from a commodity energy understanding of the economics. In the case of the last one, we can empathize, because at quick glance we also underestimated the power of tech based economics.

We remember when the cellular network was starting in Mozambique, we just couldn’t understand how it would work given the then super high cost for installation of the network, the air time cost and the extremely high cost of cell phones, etc. Especially in a poor country like Mozambique, with a small group of elites. The market seemed too small, but when we learned that the strategy was also focusing on the lower income urban population, and even rural areas, we were even more confused of how it could be sustainable. Luckily, we learned from a friend who was a telecommunications expert and had a good understanding of how the tech-based economics works, and when that person explained to us step by step, it was amazing how these obstacles are overcome and it was the first time we became aware of how sensitive technology based economics are to increasing demand, massive scaling and technological advancements.

For clean alternative energy to succeed we need to have the people with the right economic understanding for the unique differences that tech based energy brings, and if we continue to use the experts that come from dirty energy and commodity-based mindset, we will continue to delay, at a huge cost, the inevitability and necessity of a carbon-free future. Now, we understand that the use of the word inevitable may seem strong to some, but it is actually not.

As the cost of solar energy continues to decrease it will gain market shares from fossil fuels. Already in 42 of the 50 biggest U.S. cities, solar power is now cheaper than electricity from the power grid (G. Jabusch 2015). The higher cost for lower returns of exploring and extracting new fossil reserves, the pressure to mitigate climate change, the decreasing of subsidies and take up of the cost associated of the numerous impacts caused by fossil fuels, and more, are all trends that are gaining support and these pressures will sooner or later slowly strangle this monster called fossil fuels. Let us be humane and give this monster a quick death and move on to a new clean energy system, but this time we must also make it socially just. This topic we will cover in detail on one of our upcoming articles of our series around Good Energy.

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

 What is a Dam, large and Mega?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Values

Equity,

Sustainability,

Efficiency,

Participatory decision-making and

Accountability.

Priorities

Gaining public acceptance,
comprehensive options assessment,

Addressing existing dams,

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

Sharing rivers for peace, development and security.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chixoy: the grave on the Rio Negro

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

Banqiao: the dam that washed away

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

Yacyretá: the monument to corruption

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

Merowe: when Chinese dam builders went global

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

Glines Canyon: the dam that came down

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

Patagonia: the dams that were never built

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

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

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

climate_graphic2

References on WCD and more info:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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