Friends of the Earth Australia News

Friends of the Earth supporters

Published in Chain Reaction #135, April 2019. National magazine of Friends of the Earth Australia.

Contents

Assassination of Sergio Rojas in Costa Rica

Good news from FoE Malaysia

Cyclone devastates Mozambique

Australian drinking water quality hotspots

Damning logging report finds Victorian department neither 'effective nor respected'

Federal ALP Policy Platform

Made in Morwell ‒ Dignified green jobs in coal country

Act on Climate update: The push for bold climate action in 2019

FoE Melbourne's Radical Renovation is underway!

Use your shares for action on climate change

Cleaning up corporate Australia

Assassination of Sergio Rojas in Costa Rica

Friends of the Earth Latin America and the Caribbean (ATALC) denounces and condemns the assassination Sergio Rojas, a Costa Rican indigenous defender of indigenous peoples' rights and defender of the Bribri del Salitre territory in the south of Costa Rica who was throughout his lifetime an unyielding fighter for indigenous peoples' autonomy and self-determination who stood up to confront the land-grabbers.

His murder was perpetrated on the night of Monday 18th March in Sergio's home in the community of Yeri, where the defender of territorial rights was shot 15 times. Hours before his assassination, together with other members of the indigenous community, he filed complaints with the Public Prosecutor's Office regarding the usurpation of land by non-indigenous persons in their territories, and the constant threats they have suffered for several years without any effective response from the Costa Rican authorities.

This horrible crime took place despite the precautionary measures issued by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) for Salitre, a fact that has shocked the indigenous peoples and social movements in the Mesoamerican country and the entire Latin American region.

As an environmental organization committed to the pursuit of environmental, social, economic and gender justice, working for peoples' rights and the rights of defenders of territories, ATALC expresses our solidarity with the Costa Rican people, the indigenous communities and the extended family of Sergio Rojas.

We also call on the government of Costa Rica and the competent authorities and institutions to expedite the investigations to find the intellectual and material perpetrators of this grim crime. We claim it is critical that clear explanations be given as to why indigenous peoples and their representatives, as in the case of Sergio, who are exposed to permanent violence due to their struggle for justice and the defense of their rights, do not have the special protection they are entitled to have, which is also granted to them by the precautionary measures issued by the IACHR.

We believe the only way to prevent the repetition of cases such as Sergio's and the continued actions of extermination against peoples and their rights to self-determination and their territories is combating impunity and enforcing strict compliance with the rights to autonomy of indigenous peoples in Costa Rica, based on the effective action of the State.

 www.foei.org/features/condemnation-assassination-sergio-rojas-costa-rica

Good news from FoE Malaysia

14 Feb. 2019 statement from FoE Malaysia (SAM)

We would like to share the victory of a community that SAM has been working with for years. This is the Bukit Koman community who live very close to a gold mining facility in Raub, Pahang who have been fighting for years to shut down the mine.

The Vice Chairperson of Bukit Koman Anti Cyanide Committee, Sherly Hue, was sued by Raub Australian Gold Mining company for defamation along with two other residents in separate suits. This was for statements she made during a press conference announcing the results for surveys conducted by the communities who were ill as a result of the mining company's activities in the vicinity of their village. Yesterday, the Federal Court (the highest court) dismissed the appeal of the mining company and reiterated the decisions of the Court of Appeal and the High Court. 

What was important from yesterday's decision was that the court recognised the rights of activists to bring to the attention of the authorities when there were issues affecting communities. The Court of Appeal said: "We must not lose sight of the fact that the existence of activists group is very much part of today's society, so much so that it is undeniable that they have contributed much to the general well-being of the society at large." 

The gold mining company is no longer in operation and is under liquidation but we continue to fight because the mine now needs to be closed and rehabilitated. The question remains as to who will pay for the rehabilitation cost. We have taken this issue up with the government and we are waiting to see what they intend to do.

Both SAM and the Bukit Koman community would like to record our sincere thanks and appreciation to Friends of the Earth International and to friends who have supported this community one way or another. Theirs is a sweet victory after years of fighting against this mining company.

Interview with legal counsel Gurdial Singh Nijar: www.youtube.com/watch?v=WdcFTvN0Acs

www.foe-malaysia.org

www.facebook.com/FriendsoftheEarthMalaysia

Cyclone devastates Mozambique

Tropical Cyclone Idai is regarded as one of the worst tropical cyclones on record to affect Africa and the Southern Hemisphere as a whole. The storm caused catastrophic damage in multiple nations, leaving more than 400 people dead and hundreds more missing.

Justica Ambiental (Environmental justice) Mozambique – the Friends of the Earth member group in that country ‒ said in response to the devastating impacts of the cyclone: "We in Mozambique didn't create the climate crisis but our people are dying due to more intense weather events like Cyclone Idai, which hit Mozambique and neighbouring countries, and causing utter devastation and suffering. The people of central Mozambique need emergency relief from the floods. We need solidarity.

"We also need the whole world especially rich countries to stop dirty energy now, and stop funding fossil fuel extraction and dams in our countries! We need Climate Justice!"

Justica Ambiental: https://ja4change.wordpress.com, www.facebook.com/ja4change

Australian drinking water quality hotspots

Anthony Amis:

Since November 2017, I have been working on adding data to the Australian drinking water map, online at https://water.australianmap.net

The idea of the map was quite ambitious. It was an attempt to try and identify what are the most common substances breaching the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines and which communities are most impacted. The information so far provided is the tip of the iceberg with a mountain of water quality information that could be added to the site, when time allows. Over 1,300 locations have now been included in the map.

The information used for the website is almost all exclusively from published water authority water quality monitoring data. The quality of the data varies from state to state and some of the information has also necessitated Freedom of Information requests.

New South Wales and to a lesser extent Queensland, have been the most difficult in terms of getting information. Almost all rural water supplies in these states are supplied by local governments and some testing is infrequent and limited due to the costs involved.

In past issues of Chain Reaction I have discussed what substances are the most frequently detected, but have not discussed which communities could be the most impacted. By using Google Analytics it is possible to determine which pages on the website have been receiving the most attention. From these searches it is also possible to determine which communities have received the most traffic. Most of the communities frequently listed are small communities with populations <15,000 people. The top 10 are Roma (Queensland), Queenstown (Tasmania), Kingaroy (Qld), Katherine (NT), Port Augusta (SA), Healesville (Victoria), Oakey (Qld), Griffith (NSW), Zeehan (Tas), and Cobram (Vic).

Governments will spend the most money in terms of water supply protection in major cities where the bulk of the population live. It is often smaller, sometimes isolated communities that bare the brunt of poorer water quality as infrastructure costs are not so easily met. These smaller communities also are possibly more aware of drinking water issues than cities, where the quality is generally better, so perhaps the statistics reveal which communities are most concerned about what they are drinking and bathing in.

Damning logging report finds Victorian department neither 'effective nor respected'

The Guardian reported on 25 March 2019:

Victoria's environment department has been so ineffective at regulating logging in state forests that the government-owned forestry enterprise VicForests has effectively been left to self-regulate, according to an independent review. The report finds that the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning is "neither an effective nor respected regulator" and the state's logging regime is "dated, complex, convoluted – indeed labyrinthine – and difficult to use".

Ed Hill, a forest campaigner with the Goongerah Environment Centre and FoE Melbourne, said the report "shows the department aren't regulating at all". He welcomed the findings but said the review did not offer a solution "to the ongoing environmental crisis in our forests caused by unsustainable logging".

"The absence of policy certainty for industry and conservation must be resolved before any more effort is directed to working out how to better regulate an industry that is already on a pathway to inevitable change," Hill said.

www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2019/mar/25/damning-logging-report-finds-victorian-department-neither-effective-nor-respected

Federal ALP Policy Platform

The ALP met for three days in late December in Adelaide to finalise their national policy platform for the next three years. There were wins for the environment with the party promising to set up a new Federal Environment Protection Agency and new environmental laws in their first term of government. This was achieved by a grassroots campaign within the party by rank-and-file members engaged by internal volunteer lobby group the Labor Environment Action Network. 

The important work of environmental organisations was acknowledged: "Labor shares the passion of local environment conservation and health groups. Their contribution to protecting and preserving Australia's environment and the wellbeing of all Australians is invaluable. These groups play an important role in mobilising government action on local environmental issues and are critical, active participants in broader national conversations on issues such as climate change."

Specific mention is made in the platform that "Labor will ensure the knowledge and rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are central in environment protection laws, programs and policies".

Climate change and environmental protections are addressed in Chapter 4: "Tackling climate change, securing our energy future & addressing our environmental challenges". On climate change the platform says: "There is no longer any credible or serious scientific doubt that human-induced climate change represents a massive risk to Australia and the world. The recent IPCC report indicates that we are experiencing a climate emergency, and as a result, meaningful action on climate change is urgent, at home and internationally. Labor will take strong action on climate change to mitigate the risks and impacts of climate change on Australian society and economy, and to take advantage of the opportunities transitioning to a low pollution economy represent for workers, businesses and Australia more broadly."

The policy on national nuclear waste has been updated to: "Labor acknowledges that radioactive waste management is a complex policy challenge that requires the highest levels of transparency and evidence, while balancing the need of the community to benefit from treatments for diseases like cancer. Accordingly, Labor will act in accordance with scientific evidence, and with full transparency, broad public input and best practice technical and consultative standards, taking into account the views of traditional owners, to progress responsible radioactive waste management."

It will be up to us to evaluate Labor's election promises they make in reference to the policy platform during the upcoming federal election campaign.

The 309-page ALP national policy platform is posted at www.alp.org.au/about/national-platform

‒ Robyn Wood, FoE Adelaide

Made in Morwell ‒ Dignified green jobs in coal country

FoE Australia affiliate Earthworker reports:

Production has started at the Earthworker Energy Manufacturing Cooperative (EEMC), a worker-run solar hot water factory in Morwell, in the heart of Victoria's coal region. EEMC is a part of the broader Earthworker ecosystem, which includes the Redgum Cleaning Cooperative (redgumcleaning.coop), and several other emerging worker-cooperatives.

As a worker-cooperative where each member has an equal say, EEMC is a model of economic democracy. It is also a practical example of the green jobs we need to ensure regional communities are not left behind as fossil fuels are inevitably phased out. Importantly, EEMC is a rebuke to the argument that we must always choose between jobs and a healthy ecology.

EEMC is now able to fulfill orders for solar hot water systems ‒ made in Morwell ‒ including a new high performing CO2 heat pump and evacuated tube solar hot water systems. The Victorian Government is currently offering Solar Hot Water Rebates that can be used with EEMC systems. Getting an energy saving solar hot water product for your home, school, business or community group is a powerful way to support the growth of a strong, democratic social sector of the economy ‒ and help foster a 'just transition' for the Latrobe Valley.

EEMC: https://earthworkerenergy.coop

Earthworker Cooperative: https://earthworkercooperative.com.au

Act on Climate update: The push for bold climate action in 2019

FoE Melbourne's Act on Climate collective is rested, recharged, and ready for another big year. Before we fill you in on our priorities in 2019, it's worth noting our impact during the Victorian state election year. Our sustained campaign to hold the Liberal Party to account for a head-in-the sand approach to climate change had a huge impact. The absence of a climate policy is considered a key reason why the Coalition haemorrhaged votes in the November election. In his first press conference, new opposition leader Michael O'Brien noted the need to engage with climate policy and has appointed David Morris as the Coalition's first Shadow Minister for Climate Change.

In an acknowledgment that our call for investment in climate action is being heard by Labor, Minister for Climate Change Lily D'Ambrosio recently announced a $1 million grant scheme for regions to investigate change impacts. Yet a greater level of investment is needed.

Now the dust has settled from the state election we're returning our focus securing bold and ambitious climate action in Victoria.

Our priorities in 2019:

1. Finding the front lines of climate change impacts. The communities affected by coal power generation, those resisting new fossil fuel projects, and those benefitting from the transition to renewable energy are well known. But a voice missing from the debate are the communities already facing climate impacts. In 2019, Act on Climate will be undertaking detective work to unearth communities impacted by climate change, amplifying their voices, and getting them organised and on the radar of politicians.

2. Bold and ambitious climate targets in Victoria. Almost a decade ago, climate campaigners secured the passage of the Victorian Climate Change Act. In 2017 the act was strengthened, legislating a target of zero-net emissions by 2050 and requirement to set interim Emissions Reduction Targets every five years. Today's climate campaigners have a responsibility to engage in the process and push for bold and ambitious Emissions Reduction Targets. The state government will soon resume the process of setting Victoria's first climate targets for 2025 and 2030.

3. Building momentum for a Climate Budget. We will continue our long-term campaign for Victoria's first Climate Budget. The government must ramp up investment if it's to deliver emissions cuts and protect communities from impacts. The investment in public transport, renewable energy, and infrastructure upgrades a Climate Budget would deliver will create thousands of jobs, and draws parallels to the 'Green New Deal' gathering momentum in the United States.

The community members that drive the Act on Climate campaign meet every Monday night to plan actions and make things happen. You're welcome to join us at Friends of the Earth in Collingwood for an action group meeting. They kick off at 6pm.

Contact: leigh.ewbank@foe.org.au, or 0406 316 176

www.actonclimate.org.au

FoE Melbourne's Radical Renovation is underway!

For 45 years, Friends of the Earth Melbourne has been a hub for creative action planning, workshops, campaign info nights and meetings of activist collectives fighting for social and environmental justice. With more people than ever getting involved in environmental issues, we have started to rock the foundations of our humble home on Smith Street! The space is literally starting to fall apart around us.

In 2018, we secured a grant to help us renovate and work started over the summer break with essential safety upgrades (repairing floors, wiring, and getting to work on the kitchen). There's just one problem ... we blew the budget. No work has been done on the space for nearly two decades, so costs for the first stage of the project have exceeded all our expectations. With 13 collectives and many volunteers relying on the space to use daily, we need your help to get this project finished, so that we can get back to the job of campaigning for social and environmental justice.

There's a reason we haven't spent money on the space until now. As a grassroots group without a huge cash flow, we put as many resources as possible into supporting community activism for climate action. And with good reason. Investing in community and volunteers has won us a Victorian Renewable Energy Target, banned fracking in Victoria, protected the Strzelecki forests and much, much more! All with people power! Please help us get back to the work we are great at!

The renovations are underway, but with increasing costs, every penny we spend over budget will detract from spending on the really important stuff ‒ like shutting down the fossil fuel industry, and protecting the last of Victoria's precious old growth forests.

Please make a tax-deductible donation to help us finish our Radical Renovation at www.chuffed.org/project/radical-reno or www.melbourne.foe.org.au/donate

Use your shares for action on climate change

Rachel Deans, Shareholder Campaigner at FoE affiliate Market Forces:

If you have shares in a company, you have power to influence how that company operates. As a shareholder, you own a piece of the company ‒ so you can demand that the company adopts better policies to protect human rights and the environment.

The executive board member of the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA), Geoff Summerhayes, has said 'the weight of money, pushed by commercial imperatives such as investment, innovation and reputational factors, is increasingly driving that shift (to action on climate), rather than scientists or policymakers.' This implies that the mechanisms of capitalism might actually be more effective at bringing about action on climate change than governmental policy ‒ and as customers and shareholders, we can really make our voices heard.

Shareholder resolutions: One of the ways shareholders can maximise their influence on a company is by signing onto a shareholder resolution ‒ a non-binding recommendation put forward to the company board. In Australia if 100 shareholders sign onto a resolution and it is lodged, it has to be discussed at the company's annual general meeting and all shareholders must vote for or against (one vote per share).

In the past two years, Market Forces have coordinated several company resolutions pushing for disclosure of companies' climate change risk. Some of the companies targeted include insurer QBE, Origin Energy, Commonwealth Bank, Santos and Oil Search. Many of these resolutions have been successful in influencing companies to take climate risk into account in their business operations. But we know this is just a first step so we're ramping up the heat and asking 10 companies to operate in line with 1.5°C. They include AGL, ANZ, BHP, Commonwealth Bank, Macquarie, NAB, Origin, QBE, Rio Tinto and Westpac.

Superannuation funds: Resolutions put forward by Market Forces push companies to adopt better climate policies, and they also help to determine the extent to which individual superannuation funds are supporting action on climate change, versus just paying it lip service. Super funds manage billions of dollars of retirement savings, using it to invest in companies from the Australian Stock Exchange. Because they have a lot of money to invest, they often have significant shareholdings in individual companies, meaning their vote has a lot of weight. They can use the large number of votes they have to send a really strong signal about what shareholders want the company to do. Disappointingly, we have seen many super funds, who otherwise claim to support climate change action, voting against even the most basic resolutions such as disclosure of the companies' climate risks. That's why Market Forces is also working with people to influence their superannuation fund and guide them to take action on climate change.

There are a number of ways that you can help to bring about much-needed change"

  • If you own shares, let us know which companies you're a shareholder of.
    Go to www.marketforces.org.au/get-involved/use-your-shares/ and fill out our form so we can get in touch.
  • If you have shares in AGL, ANZ, BHP, Commonwealth bank, Macquarie, NAB, Origin, QBE, Rio Tinto or Westpac you can ask them to operate within 1.5°C by signing on at www.marketforces.org.au/get-involved/2019-shareholder-resolutions/
  • If your retirement savings are being managed by a super fund, go to superswitch.org.au/funds and see if your money is being invested in fossil fuels. You can then fill out a form to either thank your super fund for doing the right thing, or ask them to do more to take action on climate change.

For more information on Market Forces and to support our work, visit www.marketforces.org.au

Cleaning up corporate Australia

Julien Vincent from FoE affiliate Market Forces reported on 8 March 2019:

One way to tell we're on the right track is when Resources Minister Matthew Canavan attacks us. Well, today, he went "full online troll" on us, calling Market Forces "the greatest hypocrite on Earth" for living in homes that contain steel. We'd just filed a shareholder resolution on Rio Tinto, a massive producer of steel-making iron ore, which is a commodity at risk if the world is going to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement. Rio Tinto even acknowledges it has a problem with iron ore mining, the resolution just asks the company to set targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. That would limit the risk faced by the company, but also the planet's risk of hitting runaway climate change.

And then in stumbled Canavan, ranting that people who had steel products were hypocritical for wanting to do something about climate change, and it should be left to politicians to work out. This is the same bloke who also said "now" is the time to be building new coal power stations. Um… no thanks, Matt.

All of us live in a world that is still dominated by fossil fuels and their products. We live and work in buildings that contain steel and concrete. We get around in ways that burn fossil fuels at least some of the time. We consume food that contains embedded emissions. That doesn't make you, or me, or anyone in this movement hypocrites. It just means we need to change the system we live in. And that's what we're doing.

The resolution we filed with Rio Tinto is one of ten we have begun to coordinate with shareholders eager to see companies line up their actions with the goals of the Paris Agreement. In total, the companies we're targeting (so far) are worth $607 billion, nearly 40% of the ASX 100. Together, we are pushing corporate Australia to be part of the climate solution.

www.marketforces.org.au


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