Petrobras Scandal is the Wake-up Call Brazil Needs to Break Free from Fossil Fuels

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Petrobras Scandal is the Wake-up Call Brazil Needs to Break Free from Fossil Fuels

"We are all at risk from a warming planet," writes Kayagang, "so we are left with no choice but to scale up direct peaceful action." (Photo: Juliano B. Araújo)

Brazil is being pushed to its limits, environmentally, socially and economically. The increasing amount of government officials facing charges linked to the Petrobras scandal proves yet again how destructive the fossil fuel industry is. We are told that at least US$3bn has been stolen from the state-run firm, by racketeering, bribery and money laundering. All of this while our economy is on the brink of collapse.

"As the transition from dirty energy to clean and efficient energy systems grows stronger and faster, communities and private citizens around the world will continue to hold governments and corporations accountable."

The planet is also facing its own tipping point, 2015 was the warmest year on record, and Brazil’s globally treasured ecology is coming under increased pressures, while its inhabitants are abused. However, Brazil is the world’s 5th largest emitter, and our country is hurting because of this. It is time for the interests of the indigenous people and the whole nation, are put ahead of those 103 politicians and executives who have so far been indicted in the Petrobras scandal.

The peoples of Brazil are engaged in the discussions about the alternatives to "extractivism," and how together we can build a new agenda. The desires of the people are in complete opposition to that of the federal drive to expand fossil fuel extraction no matter the environmental and social costs.

Thankfully we are already seeing the signs of a change in direction. On 18 March, Brazil’s Federal Court declared the prohibition to use the hydraulic fracturing technology (fracking) to extract fossil fuels in the states of Alagoas and Sergipe. Following Piauí, Sao Paulo, Acre, Bahia and Paraná - Alagoas and Sergipe thus became the sixth and seventh Brazilian states to prohibit fracking in its territory. We are winning and we will defeat the fossil fuels industry.

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This victory comes thanks to Coalizão Não Fracking Brasil (No-Fracking Brazil Coalition), which worked tirelessly by holding meetings, public hearings and outreach actions to engage communities and local governments in preventing the use of fracking to keep Brazilian communities, the environment and crucial water resources safe from the threats this technology represent.

The Coalizão Não Fracking Brasil along with communities and local partners are now gearing up to take part in the global wave of actions to “Break Free from Fossil Fuels” that will take place this May. Climate and social environmental movements, indigenous and traditional communities, family farmers and fishermen will all unite to show the world that these projects only benefit a few oil and gas companies, and no one else.

The interests of the colossal fossil and mining projects all over Brazil, or the entire planet can no longer be put ahead of those of human and indigenous rights.

Mobilizations across the states of Acre, Ceará, Espírito Santo and Paraná will highlight the negative impacts of the country’s extractive policies, including oil, gas, fracking and mining, as well as the great potential that the country’s natural resources offer to develop clean energy sources, keep the forests standing and avoid the worst impacts of climate change.  

We will continue to contest fracking in the southern cities of Londrina, Maringá, Toledo and Umuarama. Geological studies in this region are already causing earthquakes, which in turn is creating fear of the longer term impacts for the local populations.

In the southeast we will gather at the Jurong Aracruz shipyard located on the coast of Espírito Santo, built to provide drilling rigs of oil and gas for Petrobras. Its controversial construction destroyed coral reefs where unique species lived as well as impacted the lives of thousands of people – including artisanal fishermen who depend on the sea to survive.  The Jurong region also has a centuries-long history of the native and traditional populations being abused and the environment being damaged. Recently, it has suffered by being in the impact zone of the toxic sludge from mining company, Samarco.

We will also protest at the Pecém thermal power plant, located in Ceará in the northeast. It is the largest thermal power plant in the country. In addition to using coal from Colombia for its boilers, the power plant consumes millions of gallons of water in a region that has historical problems of water shortage and the enormous potential for clean renewable energy sources such as solar and wind.

In the Pan-Amazonian region our movement will focus on the city of Cruzeiro do Sul, in Acre where an  indigenous march “Oil: you buy and nature pays” aims to protest against the exploitation of fossil fuels in the Amazon rainforest, especially in the Juruá and Javari Valleys and neighbouring countries. Aside from the rich Amazonian biodiversity, this region still has the largest number of uncontacted indigenous peoples in the world, and so must be free of oil and gas once and for all.

Throughout all of these actions, the indigenous communities will show their strength and bravery in ways that will definitively demonstrate that the time has come to keep fossil fuels in the ground to build a healthier and more just world in its place. We are close to a historic shift in our energy system both nationally and globally. The way we get there is by action that confronts those who are profiting from climate change and takes power back for the people.

The fossil fuel industry is pushing our climate to the brink faster than anyone expected. We are all at risk from a warming planet, so we are left with no choice but to scale up direct peaceful action. As the transition from dirty energy to clean and efficient energy systems grows stronger and faster, communities and private citizens around the world will continue to hold governments and corporations accountable to their promises, and to science.

Break Free is at the forefront of this movement and is an unprecedented moment of local and international organizations undertaking bold mobilisations to stop fossil fuel projects not just in Brazil but also on six continents; demonstrating their resolve to transition off fossil fuels and build the new kind of economy that we know is possible – centered on a just transition to 100% renewable energy systems.

Kreta Kayagang

Kreta Kayagang is from the Kaygang people, he is representative of APIB, the National Articulation of Indigenous Peoples in Brazil. His father was also a known activist for indigenous rights, killed during the dictatorship regime.

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