Oil extraction blocked in Ecuador
Indigenous communities have won a 12-month moratorium on all new oil and gas projects in Ecuador. This follows a year of struggle between President Guillermo Lasso – who has been trying to open up the Amazon to more oil extraction and mining – and a movement led by Indigenous communities that has been resisting with strikes, protests and blockades (NI 539). In February 2022, a boost came from a Supreme Court ruling that Indigenous communities needed to give free, prior and informed consent before any development on their territories. Mass protests over the summer, led by groups including the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (CONAIE), resulted in further government concessions and eventually an agreement was reached in September that no new oil extraction projects will be launched for at least one year.
Leonidas Iza, president of CONAIE, noted that although many important community demands had not yet been met, the deal had been reached thanks to ‘the pressure and force of the people in the streets.’
Out of the shadows
The Energy Charter Treaty – an international agreement that allows fossil fuel companies to sue national governments – was dealt a major blow in October 2022, when both Spain and the Netherlands announced they were pulling out of the deal. The ‘shadow courts’ created by the treaty are increasingly being used by oil, gas and coal companies to block climate action, or to force governments to pay ‘compensation’ to polluting corporations for lost profits caused by cleaner energy policies (NI 532). With Italy already gone and Poland planning to leave, the survival of the treaty is suddenly in doubt.
A funding stream dries up
UK-based Lloyds Banking Group announced in October 2022 that it will no longer directly invest in new oil and gas extraction, joining Dutch bank ING who made a similar statement in March. Lloyds’ decision follows years of pressure from climate campaigners, and should prevent millions of dollars from reaching new oil and gas fields.
According to sustainable investment group ShareAction, European banks provided over $400 billion to major oil and gas production companies between 2016 and 2021. However, only 8 per cent of this came in the form of direct project finance, with the remaining 92 per cent provided as general corporate loans to fossil fuel companies – loans that Lloyds is continuing to provide.
Indigenous islanders court victory
Torres Straits Islanders won a landmark legal ruling in September, when a UN tribunal ruled that the Australian government’s failure to tackle climate change had violated their human rights by leaving them at risk of serious climate impacts. Australia must now pay compensation to the islanders and take action to safeguard the survival of their lands. In the same week, Indigenous leaders from the Tiwi islands off the north coast of Australia won a federal court case against the major gas company Santos, blocking its plans to drill in their territorial waters.
Unmasking the oil giants
It’s been another successful year for the Fossil Free Culture movement. The UK’s National Portrait Gallery and Scottish Ballet ended their partnerships with the oil giant BP, and the Perth and Darwin arts festivals in Australia will no longer be sponsored by the fossil fuel companies Chevron and Santos, respectively. Firms have spent decades sponsoring arts and culture in order to ‘artwash’ their brand, deter public criticism and increase their access to political elites. Artists, activists and culture workers have now succeeded in ending oil, gas and coal company partnerships at dozens of arts institutions in multiple countries, helping to reduce their power and influence.
This article is from
the January-February 2023 issue
of New Internationalist.
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