Colombians to speak in Canada as fracking threatens human rights in their country
Three Colombian environmental activists will be speaking in Canada at a critical moment with respect to fracking, human rights and the peace process in their country.
Julia Figueroa and Andrea Nocove from the Luis Carlos Perez Lawyers’ Collective (CCALCP) and Ivan Madero from the Regional Corporation for the Defence of Human Rights (CREDHOS) will be speaking and attending meetings in Toronto (November 3), Ottawa (November 4-5), Vancouver (November 6-7) and Nanaimo (November 8).
What’s the latest from Colombia?
On September 17, Colombia’s top administrative court, the Council of State, clarified that the moratorium on fracking that it upheld in its ruling on September 10 does not prevent pilot projects from proceeding.
The pilot projects could move forward quickly. Colombia’s state-run oil company Ecopetrol says it will be ready to start fracking in the second half of 2020.
The locations and the corporations involved in those pilot projects have not been confirmed though two Canadian companies have been mentioned in media reports. Another Canadian company has been named as a minority owner of a Ecopetrol pipeline that would transport fracked oil as production ramps up.
Industry leaders say that the pilot projects would bring $5 billion in investments annually once they are in production. And the Colombian oil minister has stated that without fracking the country’s oil reserves could be depleted within six years which would have severe consequences for the economy.
And yet, there is strong community opposition. Earlier this year a poll found that 90 per cent of Colombians are opposed to fracking.
Further complicating the situation, a group of former commanders from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) announced in late August that it will launch a new armed offensive and noted that it will fight fracking.
Environmental activists are concerned about what this will mean for communities, the land and water, Indigenous rights, climate change and human rights.
Already, anti-fracking groups have spoken about their concern about being stigmatized in a newspaper opinion piece by the former vice-president of Colombia. They have voiced concerns about their safety in the context of the murder of 24 land and environment defenders in Colombia in 2018 alone.
The speaking tour also takes place just weeks prior to the United Nations COP25 climate summit that begins on December 2 in Santiago, Chile.
The UN Development Programme has highlighted that, “Colombia is at high risk from climate change impacts.”
And The Bogota Post has reported, “It is Colombia’s campesinos, who have already borne the brunt of a long conflict, who are likely to be hit hardest.”
That article adds, “The Amazon and Caribbean regions can expect 10-30% less rainfall, while the Andean region can expect 10-30% more. That is going to mean sea levels rise and glaciers and nevados [snowfall] thaw, while páramos [wetland ecosystems] and other fresh water sources dwindle. We can expect desertification, droughts, landslides and flooding – all of which will cause damage to infrastructure and a loss of agricultural productivity.”
The clock is ticking in this critical situation. The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) says that there are only 11 years left to take unprecedented action to keep global warming to a maximum of 1.5 degrees Celsius.
Last week, a global campaign backed by 450 activist groups and celebrities called on UN Secretary General António Guterres to endorse a global ban because fracking “torpedoes our global efforts to tackle climate change and violates basic human rights”.