A campaign success story – Deutsche Bank divests from Bumitama after pressure



Deutsche Bank has told Friends of the Earth Europe and Rettet den Regenwald (Save the Rainforest) that it sold its shares in the Indonesian palm oil supplier Bumitama, an important supplier to palm oil giant Wilmar, following months of campaigning by the two groups. Despite numerous promises to clean up its act, Bumitama continues to produce illegal palm oil.

Bumitama supplies palm oil to one of the largest global traders in palm oil, Wilmar International, and received financial support from well-known European banks including HSBC, Deutsche Bank and Rabobank. Deutsche Bank’s announcement was made during their AGM on Thursday May 22nd, after the German NGO Rettet den Regenwald presented 87,900 signatures from German citizens calling on Deutsche Bank to divest from Bumitama.

Rettet den Regenwald spokesperson Mathias Rittgerott, who presented the signatures to Anshu Jain  and Juergen Fitschen  – the CEOs of Deutsche Bank – commented: “It is high time that a financial institution like Deutsche Bank listens to the voices of both its customers and German citizens. We do not support palm oil production, and we do not want Deutsche Bank to give any support to destructive palm oil companies.”

Friends of the Earth Europe and Walhi-Friends of the Earth Indonesia have led campaigns against Deutsche Bank’s investments since October 2013.

Anton P. Widjaya, director of Walhi-Friends of the Earth West Kalimantan said: “Deutsche Bank’s divestment from Bumitama is a good start towards cleaning up the mess of Bumitama and this step must be followed by other banks and investors who wish to invest responsibly.”

Friends of the Earth Europe presented participants at the Deutsche Bank shareholder meeting in Frankfurt with numerous cases of land-grabbing by Wilmar in Africa and Indonesia, including cases by Bumitama.
Mr. Fitschen responded that Deutsche Bank is in dialogue with Wilmar but is not ready to divest from palm oil companies in general because there is as of yet no alternative to palm oil.

Anne van Schaik, sustainability campaigner at Friends of the Earth Europe said: “Deutsche Bank has taken a positive first step. Now it must continue along this path by divesting from Wilmar, who despite promises to improve its behaviour, have not solved its problems in the countries where they operate. The palm oil sector has so many cases of land grabbing, deforestation and environmental degradation that there is no excuse for responsible financiers to invest in it.”

American and European financiers hold €371 million worth of shares in Wilmar, and have €1.1 billion in loans outstanding to Wilmar. In the Netherlands, ING holds more than €26 million in shares; the British bank HSBC holds €298 million in loans, while BNP Paribas and Dutch Rabobank hold €189 million and €111 million respectively. Deutsche Bank holds €4 million in shares and €12 million in outstanding loans.

Leaked Memo Reveals TTIP Would Export Fracked Gas Restriction-Free From U.S. to EU


Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) Tanker. Photo credit: FrackCheckWV
Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) Tanker. Photo credit: FrackCheckWV

Wenonah Hauter is the executive director of Food & Water Watch

This week, negotiators from the U.S. and the EU began their fifth round of negotiations on the Transatlantic Free Trade Agreement, also known as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). Because the negotiations are all happening behind closed doors, the public is left largely in the dark about the content of the discussions. So what, exactly, do we know?

Officially, not much. But this week, an EU negotiation position “on raw materials and energy” was leaked to The Huffington Post. The text is nothing short of a wish list of demands from Big Oil and Gas, which will lock in any of their investments in fossil fuels in general, and shale gas and fracking in particular.

Article C of the document provides that no restrictions should apply to the “exports of energy goods” between the transatlantic trade partners. Any request, for example, for an export license to ship natural gas from the U.S. to the EU would be approved “automatically,” no questions asked—even if this would lead to environmental damage from widespread use of fracking, increased gas prices for U.S. consumers, increased import dependency, and so on. It would lock in our mutual dependence on unsustainable fossil fuels at the expense of our climate. While it would lock in more business and better quarterly profits for Big Oil and Gas, it is hard to see how this serves the public interest.

The EU’s ideas for free trade in energy with the U.S. would also be a frontal assault on the possibility for governments to impose a “public service obligation,” requiring utility companies to deliver natural gas at certain prices to consumers, for example. Any such public service obligation should be “clearly defined and of limited duration” and also not be “more burdensome than necessary.” With such vague wording, lawyers will have a field day to attack any price regulation in the energy sector.

This leak shows that civil society groups on both sides of the Atlantic have been right all along to be suspicious about what is being negotiated behind closed doors. The expression “No news is good news” clearly does not apply to the transatlantic free trade deal. The more we learn about the ongoing negotiations, the less we like it.

Original article from Eco Watch available here

Cognitive Dissonance: Why Are We So Complacent in the Face of Climate Change?


Elizabeth Peredo Beltran

It has rained incessantly recently in the Bolivian Amazon and in the Valleys. The waters that have flooded our territory since January, are thought to be the result of the worst rains in 40 years. More than 60,000 families have been affected—at least 350,000 people have had to leave their homes.

They have lost almost everything they own: their animals, their crops, their daily lives. UNICEF has reported that 60,000 Bolivian children have been affected. Nine hundred schools have had to suspend activities for almost a month due to high risk. More than fifty people have died and some of their bodies have still not been recovered. And we cannot yet tell what the magnitude of the impact on health, food and the ability of communities to rebuild their lives will be as the floodwaters recede and the extent of the destruction is slowly revealed. One small example of how poverty triggers the vulnerability of communities comes from the situation of the indigenous people in the Isiboro Sécure National Park and Indigenous Territory (TIPNIS) communities.Screen-Shot-2014-05-23-at-3.05.57-PM

Though reports speak of huge losses of corn, rice, potatoes, soybeans, vegetables and livestock—with estimates of more than 250,000 head of cattle missing—it remains to be seen in the next few months what the economic impact of floods will be for these peoples themselves, and what the impact will be at both regional and national levels.

In the face of the dramatic situation presented by this disaster both authorities and civilians across the whole country have mobilized to collect food, medicines and everything necessary to bring help to the affected communities. Above and beyond, these good intentions to come together to provide aid for those affected by the floods in the Amazon region and in the Bolivian valleys, we were far from being capable of confronting the dimension of such a disaster. Rainfalls are also far from being recognized as not an occasional event but rather as climate change events that will only repeat more frequently in the future.

Not far from this region, droughts are hitting hard: in both the Chiquitanía region and the Chaco regions of Santa Cruz and Tarija there have been losses of thousands of hectares of crops, which is resulting in a silent forced migration to the cities. Just some months back the Bolivian Defence Ministry reported 247,000 hectares of land affected by the lack of rain, by snow or by fire. Meanwhile the loss of our glaciers is a sorrow to which we are becoming accustomed.

Climate change is not just a scientific issue, nor is it just something which is of exclusive interest to UN negotiations, nor it is a warning for the future: it is already present in our times, in our territories and it comes with violence. Climate change affects people’s lives and it is already claiming many victims.

We share this grief with millions of people across the planet who are suffering the same consequences. Just a few months back more than 11 million people were affected by super typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines. A million people were without electricity after snowstorms caused by the late winter polar vortex in the U.S. Thousands of people affected in the UK in what was considered the worst flooding in 200 years. Thousands of hectares of forest burned annually in Australia by the alarming drought and heat. Thousands affected in Central America, Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Uruguay, Paraguay and other countries. Twenty-five million souls were driven into uncertainty by water shortages, the result of droughts and heat waves in California. A deadly landslide with more than one hundred people missing in Washington State, the result of heavy rains. Millions of humans and ecosystems at risk in various parts of the world … News that nobody wants to hear, but which we will inevitably be forced to confront in our own lifetimes, even though the news appears first as cold statistics in the press.

We need to connect the dots to realise that climate change is a phenomenon that challenges us to overcome short-term visions and the empty rhetoric of “Mother Earth,” devoid of concrete actions. Climate change is a consequence of the violent exploitation of nature, of endless economic growth systems based on fossil fuel consumption, understood as an irreplaceable condition for human “welfare.” This obsolete idea has been inculcated into our lives on a social, a psychological and on a cultural level. Continue reading