This July, Presidents & Prime Ministers met in Italy for the first time since they barricaded themselves inside a red exclusion zone in Genova in 2001 and deployed paramilitary police forces armed with live ammunition against the hundreds of thousands on the streets. Little has changed in the last eight years in the “business-as-usual” discourse the eight leaders present. Hence, oppositional civil society movements and networks gathered in the ancient coal-mining region of Montevecchio, Sardinia from July 2-5 to develop an alternative vision.
*CLIMATE, ENERGY AND NATURAL RESOURCES MANAGEMENT CRISES*
The climate crises into which the world has been plunged is a crisis that will continue to deepen unless decisive steps are taken to halt the unsustainable consumption lifestyle dependent on increasing use of fossil fuels. Today the world has a clear path that needs to be taken to directly tackle the climate crisis and this is a common sense approach of simply keeping fossil fuels in the soil. We drilled our way into this crisis and further drilling will not get us out of it.
The climate crises finds its root causes in the energy crises, over-consumption of natural reources by the global North and elites worlwide, wasteful and harmful production patterns and a fundamentally undemocratic and anti-social way of managing natural resources, which systematically prevented local communities from their sovereignity on their own resources and development choices.
The story of the extractive industry has been the story of crude exploitation that defies boundaries of decency. Pristine environments, nature reserves, indigenous territories and biodiversity hotspots have not been respected by oil and mining corporations which have benefited of massive profits without giving reparation and enjoying immunity.
The resistance of local communities against large-scale mining and fossil fuel development is part of their historical struggle against the neo-liberal economic framework which continues to bring sufferings and injustice to the people. In many instances, the aggressive entry of large-scale mining and energy have violated the human rights and other rights of local communities, particularly the indigenous peoples and nature’s rights. These human rights violations are reflected in the forced physical and cultural displacements of communities, the misinterpretation or misuse of free, prior and informed consent (FPIC), the division of social relationships, and the loss of livelihoods and access to natural resources.
No global climate deal fixing general emission reduction targets in the long-term will be enough to tackle the climate emergency and responsibilities of those who generated it. Current climate talks do not refer to the need to implement different energy, transport, housing, agriculture policies and new approaches in other sectors of society. Nor do they foster the need to consume less, in particular in Northern countries. The global climate narrative is taking us away from the main goal that any action should have: to extract and consume less and less fossil fuels.
The Northern countries must adopt drastic changes in their consumption patterns and lifestyles, that will reduce the demands for energy and minerals. In turn this will eliminate the pressures from Southern countries to allocate lands for large-scale mining and fossil fuel development, thus reducing current harsh conflicts over land use. At the same time a radical transition out of the oil economy would stop plans for new large scale infrastructure, such as pipelines, refineries and transport facilities, connnected to the fossil fuel industry.
The G8 approach to the climate crises remains limited and confined in the territory of market based mechanisms and the primacy of the private sector. This approach has already proved to be a failure and to favour only corporations to accumulate more profits, does not pay for reparation for damages to the environment and communities generated so far and avoid transforming their business.
In a responsible and mature manner international social movements are proposing instead a comprehensive bottom-up strategy to tackle climate change, centred on individual, communities and public institutions’ responsibilities and aimed at limiting corporations’ capacity to avoid their legal and ethical responsibilities.
There are thousands of alternative practices at community and local administration’s level and already several policy proposals at local, national and international level have been tabled as part of this bottom-up strategy. Without public policies in the public interest transforming any sector of society no climate strategy will be effective and no just transition towards a sustainable and fair society will happen.
PHASING OUT THE OIL ECONOMY
Oil driven economics have led the world into unprecedented levels of diverse crises, wars and other conflicts, corrruption as well as other catastrophes that have been displaced from sources to their victims, who are found mostly in the South. Oil has been presented as a cheap energy source, but the truth is that the real cost of oil has been externalised and the burden has been placed on impoverished local communities as well as on the environment. Without realising it, the world has become addicted to crude oil and its derivatives in a way that virtually stuffs petroleum into our bodies. This addiction must be broken.
Carbon emissions should be drastically reduced and a transition to a different model of production and consumption is urgently needed in order to break the dependency of our economy on fossil fuels extraction. Oil extraction hardly ever brings benefits to the local communities and to the poor. To the contrary, it is a threat to food security and human rights of indigenous and local people.
The current market value of the oil is far less than the massive climate and ecological debt the product has accumulated. We declare that the oil economy is a bankrupt system that needs to be urgently jettisoned. Oil should be kept in the soil as the safest, most democratic and cheaper “carbon capture and storage”. Ecuadorian proposal not to extract oil in the Yasuni park and the Nigeria proposal to stop new oil exploration should be supported.
Keeping oil in the ground is a necessary condition to stop deforestation and protect natural forests, where most of new oil reserves are located.
STOPPING THE NEW OIL FRONTIER
Gluttony of energy makes the companies move onto new sources, such as tar sands and bitumen. These new frontiers of oil extraction are economically, environmentally and socially unsustainable and irresponsible. By using huge water, energy and land they cause irreversible damage to the environment and the climate, which is unprecedented in history. This new extraction causes more impacts than oil and it is set to raise new levels of conflicts and nature devastation. Even with the addition of these dirtier sources of oil, the unsatiable energy appetite will still not be satisfied.
In order to achieve the needed shift in our economy there should not be new oil exploration, both in the South and in the North. Governments should stop putting the private interest of oil companies before the public interest and the fundamental rights of communities in the South and in the North.
Today as access to new fields become more difficult, oil corporations are moving further into deep waters. Moving to deep waters may limit direct conflict with local communities but they pose great dangers of further polluting our global marine heritage. Exploitation in deep waters is also known to release higher levels of greenhouse gases thus further jeopardising the world climate. We demand that further oil explorations should be halted forthwith for the sake of the climate and for the sake of our collective patrimony.
STOP UNDER-MINING LOCAL DEVELOPMENT
It is necessary to clearly distinguish between traditional, indigenous, artisanal small-scale mining and large-scale mining. We have observed and documented that destructive large-scale mining is incompatible to many of the cultural systems of indigenous peoples and local communities.
In almost all large-scale mining operations and projects, there is lack of proper and genuine consultations with the communities who are going to be affected. In cases where public consultations are allegedly conducted, these are often superficial, not culturally-sensitive, biased and are in some cases, misleading or coercive. There have been too many documented cases of mining companies resorting to bribery of communities and employing “divide-and-rule” tactics.
There is a need for a serious assessment of what are the needs of society that justify the extraction of large volumes and quantities of minerals. In the case of gold, less than 5% is actually used for industrial purposes, about 65% is used for jewelry and ornaments, and about 30% are retained as gold reserves by national banks. An alternative framework on large-scale mining should be based on the rational need of the country for these minerals, the direct link of using these minerals for national industrialization, and ensuring the least impact of these mining operations on the rights of the communities and people and to the environment. Food security and sovereignty should always be prioritized as well as ecological balance, equity and social justice. There shall be no compromise on human rights, dignities and collectivities. In the context, the option of keeping the minerals in the ground becomes a possibility.
There is a need to expose the myth of “Responsible Mining”. This concept was a back-up framework of the International Council on Mines and Minerals (ICMM), after their original concept of “Sustainable Mining” was successfully debunked by many civil society organizations and movements. Responsible mining is a weak concept because it relies on voluntary compliance of mining companies, it highly depends on the ability of governments to enforce legal policies, it fails to address issues of corporate and state corruption, and merely gives token recognition to safeguards such as EIAs, FPICs, etc.).
Upholding the rights of indigenous peoples and local communities and prioritizing community-based and community-initiated development and management of resources should be the priority of social movements. While we continue to work in solidarity with countries in the North, community organizing and strengthening should always be given due importance. Capacities of indigenous peoples and local communities should be developed and strengthened to make them more capable of resisting development aggression. The same capacities will also enable them to identify, develop and implement appropriate and sustainable alternatives.
RECLAIMING PUBLIC POLICIES FOR THE COMMON GOOD
Time is running out and it is no more time for inactions or for embarking on the same journeys that led the world into the current crises. The climate debate must be reframed. Real actions such as moving away from over consumption is one path to take. It needs to be recognised that market frameworks have failed miserably on the financial and economic front and cannot help in tackling climate change. Carbon trading is not the solution, but risks to exhacerbate the problem.
Governments should stop once and for all to promote corporate interests and promote public policies aimed at supporting a different economic model centred on a sustainable use of natural recources, to reduce consumption, to consume mainly local productions, to protect the environment and human rights, including the rights of directly affected communities to choose how to manage the resources of their own territories.
Resources needed for financing such a change should be generated through fair, transparent and progressive taxation. At international level resources should not be allocated to international financial institutions which are still heavily supporting irresponsible mining activities and fossil fuel development worldwide.
The lifestyle change must also lead us to use sustainable local materials in tune with climate and weather realities in any productive sector of society, including building houses. This requires the simple acts of waste reduction, reusing and recycling. Technologies and new practices are not missing at all, the issue is democracy in the access to them and the need for social and just policies which guarantee access to all in the appropriate manner and in a democratic and controlled way, putting at the centre the communities and their right to decide which development to follow in the respect of nature and human rights.
An urgent transition to a post carbon economy is needed. Leaving new oil in the soil, coal in the hole and tar sand in the land is the right path to take now. It is time for the payment of ecological debt that the North owe to the South, that the rich owe to the poor!
The world needs to move to renewable, clean, and decentralized energy sources and meeting energy needs should not subvert food sovereignty. The world must move away from the fossil fuel intensive forms of industrial agriculture and rather support small holder farmers and agro-ecological approaches which have been shown to be more suitable and more productive than genetically engineered crops and others that depend on artificial chemical inputs.
The thinking that agrofuels are renewable energy sources and can replace fossil fuels is faulty and has already contributed to the food crisis, significant human rights violations and has triggerred massive land grabs estimated at 30 million hectares of land in the global South in attempts to meet energy and food needs of rich regions. This is a new form of colonialism that the world cannot afford. Therefore the struggle for food sovereignity should go hand in hand with the one of communities for their energy sovereignity.
We have to resist corporate globalization.
Building movements toward this end is very crucial as we pursue a common agenda for sustainable futures based on social justice, economic justice and ecological justice. There is a need to build or strengthen alliances among communities and support groups that are working on the issue of large-scale mining and fossil fuel extraction.
Coordination of actions at the global level is needed, as large-scale mining companies and oil and energy majors are some of the biggest and most sophisticated corporate structures, and have close links with international and multilateral financing institutions.
These venues and mechanisms of generating international solidarity are important links for local communities to elevate their struggles for a better and more just world which will respect nature and its rights.
Finally, we state that the G8 cannot decide for the world. The people must!