Oil and gas companies, in their search for new oil and gas reserves, are now moving into remote areas of high biodiversity and low government or civil society capacity to ensure that the companies do not damage the environment or cause human rights abuses particularly to indigenous peoples who often inhabit these remote locations. The financial and political power of many of the oil and gas corporations is far greater than that of many developing countries and their influence extends to financing and consequently influencing the civil society institutions which should be helping to control them. Important areas of biodiversity and water catchments are also being damaged by legal and illegal logging and from some mining companies operations. Down stream pollution and siltation is damaging biodiversity and critical water resources vital to provide clean water for irrigated crops, fish ponds, domestic and commercial purposes. Vital fish breeding grounds in both fresh water as well as the shallow coastal environments are being affected.
Working with the private sector is essential in order to achieve conservation and sustainable development goals. There are companies who are making serious commitments to improve their environmental footprint, and show leadership in the world of sustainability, but there are also significant legacy issues that need to be addressed (particularly with extractive industries).
Many people remain sceptical of the potential of the private sector to achieve social and environmental goals through voluntary measures. There are large amounts of data that have been gathered by independent investigators demonstrating that many of the extractive industry projects not only continue to be environmentally destructive but also continue to deprive local communities of livelihoods and, in some cases, persecute those individuals who protest their activities. In some cases, governments look the other way or even collaborate with the industries in these actions.
Many citizens are calling for an energy revolution on the scale of the Industrial revolution “that will reduce the impact of oil and gas on climate change and biodiversity” by shifting from finite fossil fuel (coal, oil, gas) driven economies, to sustainable energy sources. and to dramatic improvement in the efficiency with which society produces and uses energy.
Some efforts to produce renewable energy are themselves causing serious environmental and social problems and a classic case is biofuels particularly agro-fuels. Efforts to produce them on a commercial scale are destroying vital forests for Palm and Soya oils, causing increased green house gases, damaging critical fish breeding grounds, depriving the population of valuable agricultural land and often causing human rights abuses as farmers are deprived their livelihoods and indigenous peoples of their human rights.
- How can civil societies have a greater impact on governments and National and International developing agencies that finance extractive industries and subsidise fossil fuels rather then renewables?
- How can we achieve power sharing between industries particularly the extractive industries such as oil, gas, mining, logging, fishing and stakeholders and achieve power sharing. Can Citizens Councils help in this regard?
- How do we increase financial transparency and the driving forces of business for good social and environmental conduct and persuade the financial and insurance sectors to ensure that they only support environmentally and socially acceptable companies?