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Latin Americans pay the price for corporate climate destruction

Photo by Luka Tomac.Latin Americans pay the price for corporate climate
Photo by Luka Tomac

Information contained in a new report  that details how multi-national corporations are destroying the environment and causing serious climate damage in Latin America brings attention to an important area not being discussed at the UN COP 20 climate negotiations being held in Peru.

The report describes in detail how the destruction caused by three European multi-national corporations is typical of the damage caused by multi-nationals throughout the continent. 

While the climate discussions in Lima are focussing on what nation states need to do to reach a binding climate agreement a year from now, what is missing is a discussion about how corporations are not held accountable for the climate damage they cause in developing countries – damage that those countries are held accountable for. 

“Multinational corporations are relentlessly expanding their operations into ever more vulnerable and remote regions of the world,” says the report, written by three public interest groups: The Democracy Centre of San Francisco, the Corporate Europe Observatory of Brussels, and the Transnational Institute of Amsterdam.

Accused in the report are Repsol, the Spanish fossil fuels giant; the Swiss-based mining and resources conglomerate Glencore-Xstata; and Enel-Endesa, an Italian consortium:

 “In the case of Repsol, the Spanish fossil fuels giant, we see how the relentless pursuit of new gas and oil reserves in Peru takes direct aim at the region’s Indigenous territories and forests, leaving social destruction and in its wake,” says the report.

“Another Peruvian case is that of Glencore-Xstata . . . Political manipulation has allowed the Swiss-based mining and resources conglomerate to expand its copper mining operations in the region. Scarce water resources, already stretched by climate change, are being contaminated with impunity.”

“In Colombia, the Italian-based consortium Enel-Endesa is attempting to portray a massive hydroelectric dam as a ‘clean energy’ project via its Latin American subsidiary Emgesa. But rather than benefitting local people, the electricity is destined for dirty industry at discount prices.”

The results in Latin America of such poor corporate behaviour are environmental damage, overuse of water resources, increasingly high levels of carbon emissions, and often hardship for Indigenous communities.  

What is not being considered in the COP 20 talks is that most developing world governments are not capable of forcing corporations to be more respectful of the environment and climate. Moreover, back in Europe, corporations are not held accountable for what they do in developing countries.  

The Latin Americans lose in three ways: their climate and environment are severely damaged, they have to pay for their carbon surpluses, and practically all the profits from intrusive mega-projects go back to rich developed countries.

This irresponsible corporate behaviour is further reason for northern countries to agree to commit billions of dollars to the Special Climate Change Fund, which is intended to compensate Southern countries for damaged done by the North. 

With profits down at many Northern corporations since the 2011 recession, they are “invading” every country in Latin America. 

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