Digging Deeper: The Human Rights Impacts of Coal in the Global South

With the Paris Conference of Parties (COP) about to take place and the world trying to come to an agreement on how to cap our carbon emissions, the campaign to phase out coal -- the single largest source of carbon dioxide emissions worldwide -- has been continually gaining ground.

Summary | Full Report | VideoBlog Series| Arabic report

But the issue of coal is as much about the human rights of the individuals and communities affected by coal operations as it is about the environment. And it is as much about ensuring accountability for violations of these rights as it is about making sure that we keep to our 2 degree Celsius limit.

In this project, we look at coal in four countries -- India, Colombia, South Africa, and Egypt --through a human rights lens. We focus on the Global South, where coal use and production are increasing despite the opposite trend in much of the Global North.

Dejusticia and Business & Human Rights Resource Centre release a report, a documentary and a blog series in our attempt to contribute to a greater understanding of the coal industry and how countries can better articulate their COP 21 commitments after Paris.

[Full report refers to Anglo American, BHP Billiton, Cerrejón Coal (joint venture Anglo American, BHP Billiton, Glencore), Coal India (CIL), Coal of Africa, Drummond, Engie (formerly GDF Suez), Eskom, Glencore, Goldman Sachs, LafargeHolcim, Peabody Energy, Prodeco (part of Glencore), Reliance Energy (part of Reliance ADA), Sasol, Tata Group, Colombian Natural Resources (was part of Goldman Sachs, now part of Murray Energy), CESC (part of RPG Group), Welspun Energy (part of Welspun Group), Reliance Energy (part of Reliance ADA), Damodar Valley Corp., Udupi Power (part of Adani Power), Tata Mundra (part of Tata Power), LaFarge (now LafargeHolcim), ItaliCementi, Misr-Beni Suef, Misr-Quena, Asuit Cement (part of Cemex), El Ammriya Cemen, Titan Cement, Al Sweedy for Cement, South-Valley for Cement, National Cement (Egypt), Arabian Cement. Business & Human Rights Resource Centre invited Cerrejon coal to respond; the response is provided below.]

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Article
9 December 2015

[blog] Digging deeper: the impact of coal on human rights

Author: Krizna Gomez, Dejusticia (Colombia) & Greg Regaignon, Business & Human Rights Resource Centre, on openDemocracy (UK)

With governments making commitments at the Paris Conference of Parties (COP21), global leaders must understand the impact and future of coal as a matter of human rights... We chose four specific country case studies—Colombia, India, South Africa and Egypt—because of their geographical representation, and the diversity of their profiles in terms of coal production and consumption... 

[We] came to six key findings. First, coal is not cheap, despite common misconceptions. Second, coal actually aggravates local poverty and may have very little positive net economic effect nationally. Third, the coal industry in the global South is being fuelled by both the South and the North—no one is exempt from responsibility. Fourth, human rights violations around the coal industry thrive in contexts of weak and/or repressive governance. Fifth, corporate social responsibility is simply not enough to guarantee true accountability. And finally, a just transition from coal is crucial for human rights—a “green” economy alone is not sufficient.

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Company response
1 December 2015

Response by Cerrejón Coal

Author: Cerrejon coal

...Cerrejón appreciates the opportunity to express our view and comments on the report... Cerrejón is respectful of the different positions around the use of coal as an energy resource but expects that the analysis of the social, labour and environmental performance of producing companies is done based on objective information and criteria…The Cerrejón company has operated in La Guajira (Colombia) since the 1980s, respecting Colombian legislation and complying with standards in force at the time. Cerrejón has complied with requirements for the payment of taxes and royalties (contributing almost US6 billion only since 2002). We contribute to boosting the local and national economies by providing over 13,000 decent jobs, local contracting in the amount of over US 50 million in 2014, preventing and mitigating environmental impacts, being committed to the welfare of our neighbouring communities, and promoting the sustainable development of the department of La Guajira. 1. Concerning the accusations of displacement and resettlements…The figure of 70,000 indigenous Wayuu being displaced by mining activity does not have any basis in reality…All land purchases from indigenous and non-indigenous peoples required at the start of the operation were undertaken following legislation and standards in force at the time. Recent land acquisitions and processes requiring the relocation of indigenous and non-indigenous settlements have been carried out in accordance with the social and environmental Performance Standards of the International Finance Corporation (IFC). 

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Report
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Author: Dejusticia (Colombia), Business and Human Rights Resource Centre (UK)

حالياً، ورغم النمو المتعثر في استهلاك الفحم في أوساط الدول المتقدمة والمطالبات القوية بالانتقال بعيداً عن الفحم إلى بدائل أخرى مع اقتراب مفاوضات التغير المناخي المزمعة في باريس، لم ينحسر إنتاج واستخدام الفحم عالمياً بعد. جُل الأمر يتعلق بتزايد إنتاج الفحم والطلب عليه في الجنوب العالمي ...هذا التقرير يُلقي الضوء على 3 قضايا أساسية:أولاً, صعود الفحم بشكل مطرد كصناعة في الجنوب العالمي. ثانياً, الفحم كقضية حقوق إنسان وثلاثاً, المحاسبة غائبة...في شتى بؤر صناعة الفحم في الجنوب العالمي، يعاني الكثير من العُمال من الأمراض، وتعرضوا – إلى جانب مدافعين آخرين عن حقوق الإنسان – للقتل والسجن المُجحف والتهديد جراء محاولة تنظيم احتجاجات دفاعاً عن حقوقهم...هذه الشركات في الجنوب العالمي تلجأ إلى هذه التوسعات الهائلة دون تفكير ممعن في كلفة هذه الآثار على الصحة وفقدان الإنتاجية والبيئة والفقر المحلي مع إزاحة الفحم لأنشطة إنتاجية أخرى. النتيجة أنه من المستحيل معرفة إن كانت الفائدة النهائية والصافية للفحم هي حقاً كما يزعم أنصاره، أو إن كان للفحم حقاً أثراً اجتماعياً اقتصادياً إيجابياً في التحليل الأخير

 

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