En partenariat avec CRID Peuples Solidaires

2014 Winners2014 Winners

 

These awards are given by internet users, who choose between three nominees in each category. The 2014 public award ceremony took place on November 18th, 2014 at La Java in Paris.

The pictures of the public award ceremony are available here (© Alexandre Devos).

 

Shell drills like mad, at any cost

Shell drills like mad, at any cost
In the Netherlands, strong popular protests obtained a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing. This will not stop Shell, the first Dutch oil company, from finding shale gas elsewhere in the world.

Careful of the image in its country of origin, Shell acts as if shale gas holds no interest for them. While in fact, the company is a world leader in unconventional hydrocarbons (shale gas and oil), with concessions in the United States, as well as Argentina, Ukraine, Turkey, China, South Africa, and in Tunisia. Everywhere with the same problems: financial secrecy, violations of communities’ rights, and risks for the environment (notably in water resources).

Shell’s entrance in the Ukrainian market was done in dubious conditions. In January 2013, Shell reached an agreement of 10 billion dollars with the Ukrainian government and the business Nadra Yuzivska LLC. The latter, who receives half of the profits, is 90% owned by the State and 10% by a company linked to ousted President Viktor Ianoukovitch [1].

Organizations visited Shell sites in Ukraine, and there they discovered toxic drilling sludge in open bassins, separated from the groundwater by a simple plastic layer. The  toxic substances  contained in these waters (heavy metals, volatile organic compounds, radioactive materials) are extremely harmful to human health and the environment [2].

In Argentina, Shell is not doing any better, and has increasingly taken participation in concessions in Patagonia since the end of 2011, notably through the provincial company Gas y Petroleo de Neuquén (GyP) whose full operations and accounts are unknown. Two of these permits affect a protected natural area (one in association with Total), and another encroaches upon traditional cattle-breeding areas. Of the seven environmental reports done, three present omissions, errors, and procedural flaws [3].

Shell seems rather determined to extend operations as quickly as possible without worrying about the details. Given this situation, Shell’s fine-sounding environmental and social promises [4] are just idle talk!

More information:

[1] Article of the BBC on the signature of the Ukrainian contract.
[2] Field report from Friends of the Earth Ukraine (Zelenyi Svit) and Netherlands (Milieudefensie) on the Ukrainian case.
[3] Field report from Friends of the Earth France, Netherlands (Milieudefensie), and Europe, and Observatorio Petrolero on the Argentinian case.
[4] Shell’s Operating Principles .
 
Photo credit: Ike Teuling /  Shell unconventional well in Aguilas Moras in Patagonia (Argentina)

Crédit Agricole is financing the destruction of the Appalachians

Crédit Agricole is financing the destruction of the Appalachians
Crédit Agricole continues to support businesses that are destroying the Appalachian Mountains in the United States, by literally making them explode to extract coal… even now when the bank has finally promised to stop financing it!

“Mountaintop Removal” (or MTR) is a coal extraction technique that consists of blasting mountains with explosives to gain access to the coal they contain. This technique is notably practiced in the United States, in Appalachia, where there are drastic environmental, health, and social consequences. In 2013, a United Nations delegation recognized the risks to the surrounding populations’ right to health and water, as well as the risks towards people who dare protest against these mining projects [1].

Hazard a guess at who supports the businesses practicing this barbaric technique from behind the scenes? A “cooperative” French bank that flaunts itself as “the green bank”: Crédit Agricole!

Paul Corbit Brown, from the Keeper of the Mountains Foundation, testified at the latest General Assembly of the French bank in May 2014 [2]: “By supporting Arch Coal and Alpha Natural Resources, who are among the top three mining companies active in MTR, Crédit Agricole is participating in the destruction of one of the most beautiful mountain chains in the world. This industry uses more than 3,000 tons of explosives every day to blast our mountains, burying thousands of kilometers of running water and spreading poisonous showers on our communities in the process. MTR is not just an environmental crime, but constitutes a clear and present danger to the populations who are seeing cases of cancer multiply and whose life expectancy is close to twenty years less than the average in the United States.

A worsening situation for Crédit Agricole: under pressure from civil society, in 2013 they finally adopted a sector policy on mines that explicitly removes MTR [3]. But internal interpretation of these rules has driven the bank… to strictly not change anything about its practices unlike other banks, such as BNP Paribas or RBS. When will something finally be done about this?

More information:
[1] « Mountaintop Removal » dodgy deal profil , Banktrack (In English)
[2] Press release from Les Amis de la Terre France : « Assemblée Générale du Crédit Agricole : la banque soutient toujours la destruction des Appalaches » and an article from l'Humanité « Crédit agricole, la culture intensive de la finance »
[3] « CSR Policy Energy - Metals and Mining » from Crédit Agricole

Photo credit: Paul Corbit Brown -
Mountain Top Removal in the Appalachians (United States of America)

Total keep their foot on the gas in Egi, Nigeria

Total keep their foot on the gas in Egi, Nigeria
Total has succeeded in imposing its empire in Nigeria by splitting up local communities and creating further numerous Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programmes in order to more effectively mask the environmental damage and land grabbing caused by its oil and gas projects.  

Divide and rule – was that Total’s motto when they arrived in Egi, Nigeria, in 1964? At that time, more than 100,000 people were living peacefully, dependent on farming and fishing for their livelihood. Since then, the multinational oil company has taken over more and more of their land, and gas leaks and accidents are more and more frequent, as well as social conflicts and diseases. Is there a link here between cause and effect?

“The government intimidates people, very few jobs are created. There is a lack of fields, the food has gone. There are problems of asthma, respiratory diseases, all types of diseases that didn’t exist before” explains Che Ibwegura [1].

But Total continues to pride itself on its relationship of “mutual understanding” [2], thanks to its social projects and its exchanges with Egi People's Assembly – not in fact an assembly which represents the people, but one which apparently has c­loser ties with the ruling political party.

A vast majority of the community tells a different story. Since 2006, the situation has become even worse: some members of the Egi clan have been expropriated against their will and they have received no compensation. Why? Total is planning to extend their power plant, of course!

In 2010, Egi Oil and Gas Producing Families staged a protest against the non-application of the memorandum of understanding signed by Total. This resulted in two deaths and a number of injuries.

In March/April 2012, several big explosions occurred in Ibewa gas field, destroying the local ecosystem and acres of farmland. Total labelled it a “major accident”, and is said to have paid some compensation, but with great opacity and iniquity which worsened the internal divisions and inequalities [3].
 
Oil extraction in the Niger Delta is controlled by western multinationals, the drastic social and environmental impact of which has already resulted in a number of international lawsuits (against Shell) [4]. Total’s practices are as effective as those of their competitors; for example, the French company continues to this day to practise gas flaring [5] – a complete waste and misuse of gas, economically and ecologically speaking – even though officially this practice has been illegal since 1984.


More information:

[1] Field report of Friends of the Earth France and its partners, November 2011
[2] Total ‘Pathway(s)’ 2013 edition, p. 24-25: "Mutual Understanding"
[3] Field Report of Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA) and video of the gas explosions, compiled in the EJOLT atlas (2012).
[4] See UNEP report and Shell trial in the Netherlands
(5) Friends of the Earth Europe factsheet (2011) and Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA) report (2005) on the impacts of gas flaring.
 
Photo credit: Luca Tommasini - Gas flaring in Niger Delta (Nigeria)
 

Update : Friends of the Earth France and ERA/Friends of the Earth Nigeria have just published new testimonies from Egi communities.

GDF Suez's "bonds" are neither very green nor very binding

GDF Suez's

How to collect 2.5 billion euros from ethical investors and use the money to fund destructive projects whilst continuing to rely hugely on fossil fuels.


Last May, GDF Suez announced that they had issued the most important “green bond” ever conceived by a private company [1]. The firm collected 2.5 billion euros, mainly from “socially responsible” investors, supposedly intended to fund clean energy projects.


The problem is that the rules for the use of this money are anything but clear: the criteria are extremely vague [2] and no provision for public transparency or independent verification is made. Worse still, the funds made available in this way could be used to finance the construction of large dams, the social and environmental consequences of which are often catastrophic; the impact on the climate is disastrous and this cannot, in any case, be thought of as a source of renewable energy [3].


GDF Suez are involved in several large dam projects in tropical areas, notably in the unblemished Tapajós region in the Brazilian Amazon. The presentation made to investors even mentioned the Jirau mega-dam in Brazil as being “financialy eligible” despite it being almost complete and in fact considered the opposite of a sustainable project by all of civil society.


Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, this “green bond” does nothing to stop GDF Suez from continuing to make massive investments in fossil fuels. The group is currently constructing, or planning to construct, new coal-fired power stations in Europe and elsewhere, such as South Africa.


These “green bonds” are, therefore, nothing more than an additional financial tool invented by polluting enterprises in cahoots with the bank: whilst promising to work towards the energy transition and the progressive phasing out of fossil fuels, they are able peacefully to carry on doing the opposite, all the while generating a profit.


More information

[1] GDF Suez Press Release: «GDF SUEZ successfully issues the largest Green Bond to date» , May 12th 2014.
[2] See the analysis by Vigeo , the extra-financial rating agency on GDF Suez’s website and the letter from the Banktrack network addressed to banks regarding the “Green Bonds Principles”
[3] Ryan Brightwell, Zachary Hurwitz, ““Green Bond” Issue Risks Raising Finance for Destructive Dams” and Friends of the Earth France's campaign “Who benefits from large dams?”

 

Photo credit:  Amazon Watch - The Jirau dam in the Amazon (Brazil)

EDF in Serbia: "decarbonized" should not go hand in hand with Kolubara B

EDF in Serbia:
By continuing to invest in coal plants throughout the world and especially in Serbia, EDF contradicts its own ambition for a “diversified and carbon-free energy mix” [1].

EDF “brightens our future”, “gives [us] the energy to be the best”, and even invites us to “change energy together”. All of this and appearing as the company emitting the least CO2 among the large European energy companies. Great! Except in reality EDF continues to emit greenhouse gases [2]. Because in addition to their disputed investments in nuclear power and big dams, EDF also owns several coal plants throughout the world and has burnt 25 million tons of this fossil fuel in 2013!

In Serbia, EDF wants to invest in lignite, an extra polluting form of coal. Through its subsidiary Edison, the French company wants to build a new lignite plant, Kolubara B, with a capacity of 750 MW [3]. For a group who claims to want to diversify the energy mix, creating a new lignite plant is not a very wise decision: 69% of Serbian production already comes from lignite!

In addition to the climate impacts, the project will have significant social and environmental consequences. Several open-pit mines and plants border this area, exposing the population to a high level of pollution. It is estimated that there is more than 18,200 premature deaths per year in Europe due to air pollution coming from the coal [4]. On site, extending the mining basin is marred in irregularities: insufficient compensation, disappearing assets, suspicion of corruption… What an ideal land for a responsible investment!

In May 2014, the terrible floods in Serbia caused the death of 50 people, the displacement of dozens of thousands of others, and the flooding of the open-pit mines. Electricity production in the country and the social balance have been completely thrown off kilter. This may be the perfect time for the Serbian government and EDF to change course!

More information:
[1] EDF website : « The energy mix for a greener future »
[2] « EDF émet de plus en plus de CO2 » , Mediapart, June 20th, 2014.
[3] Fied report from Friends of the Earth France on Kolubara B project.
[4] Report from the Health and Environment Alliance.
 
Photo credit: Les Amis de la Terre France - Civic action against EDF coal projects

No need to reduce your emissions, Pur Projet will get you off the hook!

No need to reduce your emissions, Pur Projet will get you off the hook!
In the foothills of the Andes, Pur Projet is planting trees and protecting the forest to compensate for the pollution of multinational corporations such as Vinci, Nestlé and GDF Suez – and they are not even remotely bothered about the effect it will have on local communities.

“Carbon offsetting” allows companies or countries who produce high levels of greenhouse gases to “offset” their emissions instead of reducing them. How do they achieve this? Just by financing projects abroad, such as forest conservation programmes, so that, in theory, they become “carbon neutral” in their global emissions [1].

This is exactly what Pur Projet is doing in the region of San Martín, Peru. They claim to be acting in the interests of the communities, they claim that they were asked to carry out this work there, but, in reality, the rationale behind these projects is at odds with what the local people really need [2].

These projects are based on complex financial and contractual arrangements. In San Martín, for instance, whenever a tree is planted or a plot of forest receives protection, a land owner (from either the State or the local community) signs a carbon contract with local cocoa or coffee farmers’ cooperatives. Then, Pur Projet signs an exclusive 80-year transfer contract with these cooperatives for the rights to the carbon and resells them to polluting companies to facilitate their quest for “carbon purity” [3]. The local area’s regional government does not receive any benefit from this transaction and the local communities have absolutely no inkling of the amount of money generated by this deal, nor are they aware of the possible motivations and identity of the end clients.

Today, hundreds of migrants, who have been established in this community for years, are living in the forest in accordance with an exclusive contract made with Pur Projet. They had to abandon their mining provinces because the land was unfit for crops. However, since their property rights were never officially recognised, they were never formally consulted on the matter: so, evidently, they could not assert their opposition to the contractual monopolisation of their local area’s forests.

Pur Projet is adamant that it does not engage in a kind of land grabbing. Nevertheless, if it really wants to generate its precious carbon credits, it should work to reduce levels of deforestation. Ideally, by setting up alternative projects. Or if necessary, by restricting the access of local communities to natural resources on which they have traditionally always been dependent for their livelihood. Naturally, Pur Projet has therefore set aside a budget of €150,000 for “legal action against the transgression of migrants into conservation areas”.


More information:
[1] Friends of the Earth’s position on carbon offsetting and «  The story of REDD » video, to better understand the Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD) mechanism.
[2] Friends of the Earth France’s Field Report and Video (March 2014), and France Culture’s radio programme ‘Terre à Terre’
[3] Pur Projet’s Contract with the Acopagro cooperative and its Contract with the Oro Verde cooperative’s farmers.
 
Photo credit: Les Amis de la Terre France - Yurilamas' village, approached by Pur Projet for a REDD project (Peru)

Samsung: not-so-smart phones

Samsung: not-so-smart phones
Samsung is a leader in high-tech, always at the cutting edge of innovation.  Would you believe that the Korean multinational's products are made in China in shameful conditions, including by children?

A series of investigations, carried out since 2012 in Chinese factories, reveal the inhuman conditions in which the men and women who manufacture smartphones and other star products for Samsung are required to work.

Besides starvation wages, excessive working hours – up to 16 hours a day – and risks to the health and safety of the staff, the investigators attest to the presence of minors aged under 16 on the production lines, in contravention of local regulations [1].

These revelations go against the commitment by Samsung – which claims to be “a corporate citizen” and “socially responsible” – to conform to the highest standards with regard to workers’ rights and ensure that its suppliers do the same, as well as its “zero tolerance” policy regarding child labour.

In its sustainability report published in June this year, soberly titled “Global Harmony” [2], Samsung claims to have inspected the working conditions at 200 of its suppliers in 2013 and to have found “no cases of child labour”.

At the same time, however, an independent enquiry carried out by an NGO in July 2014 [3] at one of these factories, Shinyang Electronics, confirmed once again that a number of children were employed without a contract, subjected to 11-hour days and underpaid: further proof that audits and other checks on factories, when commissioned by the purchasing companies themselves, are ineffective.

One cannot but notice that Samsung devotes huge resources to its publicity, but behind its statements it does little in practical terms to improve the plight of Chinese factory workers. In fact, a legal complaint is being raised in France [4] to determine if Samsung’s statements of “social responsibility” (code of conduct, sustainability report, etc.) amount, purely and simply, to false advertising.

More information:
[1] Urgent Appeal by Peuples Solidaires, 23 October 2014
[2] Sustainability Report 2014  and « Values and philosophy » from Samsung
[3] Investigative reports of China Labor Watch on Samsung and the last one from July 2014.
[4] Launch of a preliminary investigation, following the complaint lodged by Peuples Solidaires, Sherpa and Indecosa-CGT against Samsung France.
 
Photo credit: China Labor Watch - Workers in the HEG Electronics factory, working for Samsung

Perenco invents "made in Bahamas" low cost oil

Perenco invents
Oil drilling in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) equates to plundering resources, financial secrecy, environmental damage and the repression of any objections from the local communities.

After thirty years of underground drilling, the village of Muanda in Lower-Congo has earned the title of “poorest oil town in the world”, an honour awarded it by its own inhabitants. Muanda is certainly a true representation of the resources curse: almost 95% of its active population are unemployed and lack sufficient access to safe water or electricity. The community also has no public roads. It is a reality a thousand miles away from the one represented in Muanda’s Wikipedia page, which boasts of Perenco’s activities in the area [1].

Perenco arrived in the area at the beginning of the 2000s when it acquired Chevron’s concessions. Recovering mature fields and drilling there using mostly disused facilities that major oil companies no longer want is this Franco-British-Bahaman group’s speciality. Perenco belongs to the Perrodo family – the 13th richest in France.

Perenco is a particularly secretive organisation: it is not listed on the stock exchange (making it exempt from any transparency obligations) and it has an established base in the Bahamas – a notorious tax haven. The secrecy surrounding its accounts and their structure is a major obstacle, which makes it difficult to file legal accusations against Perenco and its sister companies.

On the other hand, in Guatemala, Peru and Columbia, the social and environmental damage caused by its activities cannot be overlooked!

In the DRC, despite legal obligations, Perenco is the only extractive company whose contract has not been made public. In fact, it would be impossible to establish with any degree of certitude the volume of Perenco’s production.

In Muanda, any jobs Perenco creates are unstable and badly paid, and often rely on subcontracting. Accidents recur repeatedly and any protesters, whether they are locals or workers on strike, face reprisals. The environment is frequently contaminated by crude oil leaks, gas emissions from gas flares near houses, effluent discharges, and the practice of storing or burying waste. These activities also affect the livelihoods of the local population – farming and fishing – without ever providing any kind of compensation for the damages incurred [2].

More information:
[1] See also Perenco’s website, where the company advocates its micro-credit activities, its school renovations and its support provision for clinics.
[2] Field report by CCFD-Terre Solidaire, November 2013
Expert Report commissioned on the request of the Senate Enquiry Committee of the DRC
Investigative Report by the National Body for the Network of Natural Resources (in the DRC) and the International Peace Information Service (IPIS)], July 2009.
 
Photo credit: CCFD/ADEV - A Perenco's pipeline in Muanda (Democratic Republic of Congo)

Lyon-Turin Ferroviaire "erase" the Alps at the taxpayer's expense

Lyon-Turin Ferroviaire

Why improve existing lines when you can just dig new mega tunnels in the Alps, spending billions of euros for the sake of saving a few minutes?


As part of its TGV Lyon-Turin project, the company Lyon Turin Ferroviaire1 (LTF) (backed by the French government) wants to dig a series of extensive tunnels through the Alps. It has been toying with this project since 1980. Ever since this plan was announced, more and more people have been rallying together in Italy and France to condemn this large unnecessary and imposed mega project [1]. And why this tunnel in particular? Because they want to “erase the Alps”: of course, if you’re going to wreck the entire planet, you’ve got to start somewhere!


The operation’s estimated budget is constantly on the rise: 3 billion euros was the initial sum, which has now increased to 30 billion [2]. And all this for what exactly? To decrease journey time from Paris to Milan to 4 and a quarter hours. As it is currently, you can already make this connection in little more than 5 hours – so, 30 billion euros for the sake of gaining less than an hour! Luckily, the taxpayer will pick up the bill!


Obviously, no such project could be completed without major consequences for the environment. Millions of cubic metres of rock will be extracted, thousands of acres of land will be lost. The first tunnel will drain away between 60 and 125 million m3 of water – “the distribution of surface and ground water could be radically altered (…) [and] affect the environment in general” according to a report commissioned by the European Commission [3]. LTF has only promised in response the following: “we will do our best”.   


In the meantime, things are going swimmingly. The Chief Executive and the Construction Manager have been sentenced in Italy to time in prison for bid rigging [4] – but the LTF hasn’t even joined the proceedings. The Court of Auditors stated that the area has been involved at all decision-making and technical levels and the opposition has pointed out many conflicts of interest. Carabinieri have even spotted the mafia on the construction site [5].


To cover up the senselessness of its project, LTF is claiming that the new rail connection will benefit the environment by taking one million lorries off the roads. But nothing has been done to increase use of the existing modernized railway line, which in itself could carry all the goods which are transported everyday via the Northern Alps between France and Italy. On the contrary – the French government is reducing toll charges! Then again, why make things simple when you can just dig a giant tunnel in a mountain?

More information:
[1] Coalition for opposition to Lyon-Turin
[2] « Lyon-Turin, une aberration à 30 milliards d’euros » , Friends of the Earth Savoy
[3] The COWI ECORYS report (2006).
[4] See the sentencing of the Chief Executive and Construction Manager (2011).
[5] The Carabinieri report (2011).

Photo credit: Tifen Ducharne - Action in front of the courthouse by the opponents of the Lyon-Turin train line

 

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