AIDA – 2015-09-03 01:05:22
The New Climate Agreement Should
Help Nations Meet Existing Commitments
(August 25, 2015) — The governments of the world are working on the negotiating text of a new global agreement to combat climate change. It will be signed in December, during the Paris Conference of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, and will take effect in 2020.
AIDA is advocating for the new climate agreement to be a tool that adequately addresses the effects of extreme changes in climate, especially in the most vulnerable countries.
“We want the new climate agreement to help implement existing agreements effectively and strengthen national commitments made through the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change; we cannot start from scratch and the new agreement should not replace the Convention, but rather improve its implementation, “said Andrea Rodriguez, AIDA senior attorney.
With a view to the Paris Conference, delegates from various countries are meeting to work on the elements that will form the basis of the “Paris package.” The package includes a new climate agreement (overarching commitments) and a decision (provisions likely to change over time) that spell out commitments made under the Convention. The next meeting will be held in Bonn, Germany, from August 31 to September 4.
To contribute positively to the draft negotiating texts of the agreement and decision, AIDA prepared remarks for the negotiators aimed at strengthening two key issues: the financing of activities to combat climate change, and protection of human rights in carrying out such activities.
On climate financing, the comments emphasize the need for the new climate agreement to help mobilize sufficient, adequate and predictable financial resources effectively, establishing concrete commitments, such as terms of responsibilities and timeframes.
On the second point, the comments ask the Paris agreement countries to commit themselves to protecting human rights in all actions related to climate change, a commitment already made in the Cancun Agreements of 2010 that needs to be reaffirmed in the new legally binding climate change agreement in order to ensure compliance.
Countries have already committed to provide 100 billion dollars to the fight against climate change, beginning in 2020. “The Paris decision on climate finance must provide assurance that countries will make every effort to ensure that commitment from 2020 on; then we will be able to trust that the new climate agreement will actually work,” Rodriguez said.
Watch Out! The Mining Industry Wants
To Dump its Waste in the Ocean
Florencia OrtÃºzar and Karol RodrÃguez / AIDA
Mining gives rise to a serious problem: toxic waste
Tailings from ore extraction have been known to damage the environment and communities living near dump sites. Responsible management, then, is critical if we desire economic development that brings more benefits than problems.
The Ocean: delicate and mysterious cradle of life
In Chile, mine companies are running out of places to dump their dangerous byproducts. Inadequate disposal has already caused substantial harm; nobody wants toxic waste near their home or community. Even depositing tailings in dry areas with low biodiversity is not safe, because rain and floods can wash contaminants into communities.
In this context, Chilean mining companies have come up with the â€œbrilliantâ€ idea of depositing mine tailings into the sea, through a pipeline that would transport tons of waste to a valley on the ocean floor.
The ocean is one of the greatest mysteries on our planet. In fact, 95 percent of the ocean floor has not been mapped, which means we know only 5 percent of it. We know more about the surface of the moon than about the depths of the ocean.
Whatâ€™s more, oceans contain the most complex ecosystems on the planet. The variables involved in their health and dynamics are infinite. Given these unknowns, it is impossible to predict the effect that mine tailings would have on the ocean floor.
This uncertainty is reason enough to apply the precautionary principle, an important legal tool to prevent environmental degradation caused by human development. We donâ€™t know how the waste may affect complex marine ecosystems, their many species, or even ourselves, who take nourishment from fish and other seafood.
So how could we sleep soundly while a pipeline funnels contaminated, and certainly hazardous, waste into our oceans? The effects of the environmental damage could be large and uncontrollable, and, once the water is released into the ocean, there would be no turning back.
An international workshop on the idea
To understand more about this worrying initiative, two renowned Chilean environmentalists — Juan Pablo Orrego, president of Ecosistemas, and Flavia Liberona, executive director of Fundacion Terram — attended an international workshop in Lima in June.
Participants at the workshop, convened by the Joint Group of Experts on the Scientific Aspects of Marine Environmental Protection and the International Maritime Organization, discussed the viability of depositing mine tailings in the ocean. Orrego penned an article on the theme, which you can read here.
In the workshop they learned that dumping mine waste into the ocean is nothing new. It happens in Canada, Turkey, Papua New Guinea, and in some African countries. The Norwegian government recently authorized the use of a pristine fjord (a narrow sea inlet) as a repository for mine tailings from a rutile mine.
During the workshop, an official from the Norwegian government defended the decision, arguing, â€œThe social benefits from the mine outweigh the destruction of the fjord.â€ According to whom?
For and against
Supporters of the Chilean proposal claim that dumping tailings into the sea does not necessarily entail a hazard. They say the risks are minimal because thereâ€™s no oxygen on the bottom of the ocean, so the chemical reaction that causes toxicity on the surface would not occur.
Leonel Sierralta J., former official of Chileâ€™s Environmental Ministry and current scientific director of Sustainable Initiatives for Mining, penned an open letter in response to Orregoâ€™s article. In it, he says that although there have been disastrous cases involving mine waste in the ocean, there are also cases in developed countries in which waste dumping has been carried out based on science and following strict environmental criteria.
His arguments have not convinced those who oppose the proposal, including five Chilean senators who sponsored a bill to prohibit the discharge of tailings into the ocean.
An alternative: neutralize the risk
Orrego proposes to regulate mining more strictly. He says that before tailings are deposited, mining companies must extract from them all heavy metals and neutralize their chemical compounds.
In that way, it would be feasible to deposit practically inert tailings in places such as old mine shafts. It would even create an economic opportunity for companies to begin extracting and recycling dangerous elements. The neutralization of tailings is an appropriate alternative to continuing environmental destruction.
Orregoâ€™s proposal is sensible. Itâ€™s reasonable to assert that economic activities dangerous for the environment continue only if their impacts are neutralized.
If we generate more waste than we can deal with, itâ€™s because we are not acting sustainably, which means we are not assuring the conservation of a healthy planet for our descendants. This is why we at AIDA work daily to preserve the health of ecosystems in the face of highly polluting activities like mining.
AIDA is an international nonprofit organization that uses the law to protect the environment, primarily in Latin America. To learn more about our work visit
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