Latest Developments, April 13

In the latest news and analysis…

Shell’s back
Agence France-Presse reports that oil giant Shell has returned to Nigeria’s “massively polluted” Ogoniland region 20 years after suspending its operations there due to unrest:

“The Anglo-Dutch oil major said the move was not part of an attempt to restart oil production in Ogoniland, describing it instead as a bid to comply with a 2011 UN report that called for one of the world’s biggest ever environmental clean-ups.

The report called for the oil industry and the Nigerian government to contribute $1 billion (762 million euros) to a clean-up fund for the region, adding that restoration could take up to 30 years.”

Fine rhetoric
Euractiv reports that the point person on the EU’s new transparency rules for global resource companies has accused the UK government of trying to water down the legislation during negotiations “despite the government’s public declarations that it supports more disclosure”:

“ ‘There is a general view really that they [Britain] were working very closely with Rio Tinto. Rio Tinto inspired a lot of their original proposal,’ [UK Labour MEP Arlene] McCarthy said of the British government’s negotiating position.
Britain hued closely during the talks on Tuesday to the industry position that companies should only disclose contracts at the government level, even though Prime Minister David Cameron had given a speech about a year ago saying that Britain was committed to the higher transparency standard of project-level reporting – a stance pressed by civil society, McCarthy said.

‘On the one hand, the rhetoric is fine, claiming that you are leading on the issues, but that certainly was not the case when it comes to practical negotiations or influencing other member countries to try and get a better deal. They did not push for anything like that at all,’ she said.”

Execution numbers
Amnesty International has released its annual report on executions and death sentences around the world:

“Only 21 of the world’s countries were recorded as having carried out executions in 2012 – the same number as in 2011, but down from 28 countries a decade earlier in 2003.

The top five executing countries in the world were once again China, Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and USA, with Yemen closely behind.

Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all cases without exception, regardless of the nature or circumstances of the crime; guilt, innocence or other characteristics of the individual; or the method used by the state to carry out the execution. The death penalty violates the right to life and is the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment.”

Ag-gag bills
The New York Times reports that “a dozen or so state legislatures” have proposed or adopted laws that would make it illegal for animal rights activists to videotape instances of cruelty on farms:

“Critics call them ‘Ag-Gag’ bills.
Some of the legislation appears inspired by the American Legislative Exchange Council, a business advocacy group with hundreds of state representatives from farm states as members. The group creates model bills, drafted by lobbyists and lawmakers, that in the past have included such things as ‘stand your ground’ gun laws and tighter voter identification rules.
One of the group’s model bills, ‘The Animal and Ecological Terrorism Act,’ prohibits filming or taking pictures on livestock farms to ‘defame the facility or its owner.’ Violators would be placed on a ‘terrorist registry.’ ”

Expanding war
The Wall Street Journal reports on America’s “escalating drug war across Africa”:

“Over the past two years, the U.S. government has spent about $100 million to expand its drug war into nearly every West African country, the State Department said. [Drug Enforcement Administration] officers are teaching police from Liberia and Cape Verde to board boats, and setting up drug squads in Nigeria and Ghana that would act on U.S. intelligence. The agency has five offices on the continent, with a sixth and seventh planned for Senegal and Morocco.”

Checkered past
The Associated Press reports that US private military contractor DynCorp, which was previously implicated in sex trafficking and extraordinary rendition, has won a new contract to support the UN peacekeeping mission in Haiti:

“The Falls Church, Virginia-based DynCorp International received the contract from the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs. It will recruit and finance up to 100 officers to join the U.N.’s police unit affiliated with the mission, known as UN Pol, and 10 U.N. correction advisers.

The DynCorp task order has a one-year base period with three, one-year options that carries a total value of $48.6 million.”

Dam disappointment
The Asia Times reports that a World Bank-funded hydroelectric project in Laos may not be the “kinder, gentler” type of dam that was promised:

“After three years of commercial operations and a vigorous public relations campaign, the [Nam Theun 2] dam is now contributing to wider, more intractable problems. These include emerging evidence that resettled villagers have resorted to poaching and illegal logging to sustain their communities as well as reports from the European Union-sponsored Global Climate Change Alliance that Laos has recently become a net emitter of [greenhouse gases] after previously serving as a valuable global carbon sink.”

Carbon equality
Princeton University’s Peter Singer and Tsinghua University’s Teng Fei use the concept of a “carbon Gini coefficient” to assess the fairness of proposed approaches to tackling climate change:

“If it proves too difficult to reach agreement on a substantive equity principle, then an agreement that some carbon Gini coefficients are simply too extreme to be fair could form the basis of a minimum consensus. For example, we can compare the grandfathering principle’s carbon Gini coefficient of 0.7 with the Gini coefficient of the US, which most people regard as highly inegalitarian, and yet is much lower, at about 0.38.
On the other hand, equal per capita annual emissions is based on a principle that at least has a claim to be considered fair, and has a Gini coefficient of less than 0.4. We therefore propose that any fair solution should have a carbon Gini coefficient of 0.0-0.4. Although the choice of a precise number is somewhat arbitrary, this ‘fair range’ should establish the boundaries for those committed to an equitable solution to the problem of climate change.”

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