PBI-Canada sees free, prior and informed consent as crucial in COP26 clean power talks

Published by Brent Patterson on

The Indigenous Zapotec community of Union Hidalgo on the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, Oaxaca has long resisted wind power megaprojects that violate their territory.

The Energy Transition Council, launched by the United Kingdom as part of its presidency of the United Nations COP26 climate summit, recently highlighted: “A rapid and just transition to clean power is vital, to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement [reached at COP21].”

Hydro, wind, and solar power are presented as clean and renewable sources of power to replace fossil fuels, including oil, gas, and coal.

And yet while it is crucial to make this transition, clean power has also resulted in violence against Indigenous land and environmental rights defenders.

At COP24 in Poland in 2018, then UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Victoria Tauli-Corpuz stated: “I’ve seen how renewable projects like wind farms and hydropower electric dams have been done without consultation with indigenous peoples. And in the process, indigenous peoples are expelled or worse yet, killed.”

Peace Brigades International has observed this too.

PBI-Mexico has noted: “Throughout 2013, PBI observed with concern an increase in the level of violence in the context of wind farms, particularly against [defenders] and community leaders whose work involves the defence of those affected by these developments.”

PBI-Guatemala accompanies the Peaceful Resistance Cahabón and Maya Q’eqchi land defender Bernardo Caal Xol who is now serving a seven-year sentence in prison for his opposition to hydroelectric dams on the Cahabón River.

And PBI-Honduras has accompanied the Honduran Centre for the Promotion of Community Development (CEHPRODEC) to observe a community consultation after land defenders in Choluteca were criminalized for their opposition to a photovoltaic (solar power) concession granted to a Norwegian transnational.

Bogotá-based journalist Christina Noriega has commented: “Just as European colonization and a slew of modern development projects have displaced native communities from their fertile lands, [the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre/BHHRC] reports that clean energy companies are stripping Indigenous people of their territories, particularly for hydroelectric development, but also increasingly for wind farms.”

The BHHRC has noted: “Our outreach to 50 wind and hydropower companies around the world revealed that most renewable energy firms do not yet have adequate due diligence practices—including identifying whether a project will impact indigenous peoples and reaching consent prior to the start of a project—to prevent human rights abuse.”

As COP26 approaches this coming November 1-12, PBI-Canada will be working on ways to highlight that while a rapid transition to clean energy is needed that transition must also be accompanied by recognition of the Indigenous right to free, prior and informed consent and not the criminalization of defenders who uphold that right.

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