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Tuesday, March 9 marks the deadline for candidate
countries to complete external "validation" of their implementation of
the Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative (EITI), a voluntary
initiative to increase transparent and accountable management of
natural resource wealth. Of the 22 countries subject to the deadline,
the fact that 20 have not completed validation will further test the
credibility of the EITI process.
While these countries are at various stages of implementation - some
making laudable progress - many have shown a lack of political will to
fully open their books on oil, gas, and mining payments in these
countries, says international aid agency Oxfam.
With more than half of the world's poorest people living in
countries rich in natural resources, the problems associated with oil,
gas, and mining booms - increased corruption, conflict, and
environmental degradation - are pressing concerns for Oxfam and its
partners around the world. Transparency of financial flows is an
important condition needed to unlock billions of dollars in oil and
mining revenues to help fight poverty.
"These industries generate billions of dollars per year in poor
countries. The revenues amount to far more than official aid flows and
could fund health, education, and other essential services, but are too
often squandered or siphoned off by government officials," said Raymond
C. Offenheiser, president of Oxfam America. "The goal of EITI is to increase accountability and transparency in
those countries where it is most needed. It's disappointing that many
countries haven't yet cleared this hurdle, and it's clear that other
complementary measures focused on company and government disclosure are
Only two countries - Liberia and Azerbaijan - met the deadline and
were subsequently judged compliant by the EITI board. While several
countries, such as Ghana, Nigeria, Mongolia, and Timor-Leste have
completed draft validation reports, others, such as Mali, Mauritania,
Niger, Equatorial Guinea, and Peru are further behind. According to
EITI's rules, countries that fail to meet the deadline will be "delisted" or dropped from EITI with
the option to reapply for candidate status. Countries have been advised
that they may apply for an extension if they provide evidence of
"exceptional and unforeseen circumstances" outside the country's
control that prevented them from meeting the deadline.
"The validation deadline was an important test of political will for
governments who say that they are implementing EITI. The EITI board
must carry out a fair, transparent process for granting any possible
extensions to ensure that the initiative maintains credibility. In
addition, supporting countries such as Spain should more actively
promote the implementation of EITI within their bilateral and
multilateral relationships," said Laura Ruiz Alvarez, extractive
industries advocacy officer of Intermon Oxfam (Spain).
A lack of transparency in the oil, gas, and mining sectors
- including secret payments, contracts, and opaque government budgets -
is a major contributor to the problems in these countries. Oxfam
affiliates and local partners around the world have pressed for greater
disclosure of information on payments from companies to governments,
contracts, and how revenues are spent.
Despite weak government capacity - as in many resource-rich
countries - Liberia was able to be validated and achieve "compliant
status" in 2009, proving that even very poor, post-conflict countries
can meet the deadline when EITI is strongly supported and promoted at
the highest levels of government. "For those governments truly
interested in implementation, millions of dollars of technical
assistance from donor governments are available. The board should not
accept sluggish government implementation as sufficient reasons for
extensions. If extensions are given, the board should explicitly
disclose the reasons for the extension cited by the country in its
request," said Offenheiser.
Since October 2006, a strong governance structure has been in place for EITI,
including a multi-stakeholder board including company, government, and
civil society representatives as well as a clear process for
implementation and validation. In 2008, the first 22 candidate
countries were given the March 9, 2010 deadline to assess their
progress as input into a board decision as to whether or not they are
fully "compliant" with the rules of the initiative.
The EITI board will consider all extension requests received by the March 9 deadline at its meeting on April 15/16. Oxfam International believes that any extensions given should be based on the existing EITI rules and contain a hard deadline
whereby a country failing to meet the new deadline would be
automatically dropped from the initiative without any further board
Oxfam International has been supporting civil society partners
- many part of the global Publish What You Pay coalition - in several
EITI implementing countries who are working to ensure that their
governments faithfully follow through on EITI commitments. In several
EITI implementing countries, civil society activists promoting revenue
transparency have faced harassment, criminal charges, and jail time
merely for exercising their rights to freedom of expression as part of
their anti-corruption campaigning. Unfettered and independent civil
society participation at every step of the EITI process is
non-negotiable. In addition, transparency is needed in other areas to
ensure that citizens receive a fair deal from the development of
extractive industries. This includes disclosure of contracts and easy
access to government budget and expenditure information.
While the burden of implementation is on host governments, EITI does
not require international oil and mining companies to act unless host
governments decide to join the initiative. Given uneven EITI progress
to date, additional disclosure rules for oil, gas and mining companies are needed.
One such measure, The Energy Security through Transparency Act
(ESTT), is a bi-partisan piece of legislation introduced in the United
States Senate in September 2009 by Senators Lugar and Cardin. This
legislation would require all oil, gas, and mining companies to
disclose payments to host countries and extend transparency as a truly
global standard for company operations. The ESTT Act would apply not
only to US companies, but to all companies registered with the US
Securities and Exchange Commission. This includes European companies,
such as Shell and BP, as well as those in emerging markets like China,
India, and Brazil. In addition to the US passage of this law, other
financial jurisdictions in Europe and elsewhere should pass similar
"Those countries that are the headquarters for the global mining industry including Australia, Canada, and the US should also lead by example
by committing to become EITI countries themselves. They should also
emphasize the importance of EITI implementation in their bilateral
relations with resource-rich countries" said Serena Lillywhite of Oxfam
"The decisions made by the EITI board following this deadline are
crucial for real progress in the global movement for oil, gas, and
mining industry transparency. Faithful implementation of the EITI,
complemented by other disclosure requirements, such as the Energy
Security through Transparency Act, will create a new global standard
for transparency and help citizens hold their governments accountable
for directing revenues to essential services like health and
education," said Offenheiser.
Oxfam International is a global movement of people who are fighting inequality to end poverty and injustice. We are working across regions in about 70 countries, with thousands of partners, and allies, supporting communities to build better lives for themselves, grow resilience and protect lives and livelihoods also in times of crisis.
"The utility industry's custom of shutting off power punishes people for being poor," said the authors of a new report.
Energy justice campaigners on Monday called for "a permanent ban" on energy shutoffs by utilities as they released a report showing that major power companies have shut off millions of struggling customers' electricity and heat due to missed payments—while raking in record profits and spending billions of dollars on executive compensation, shareholder dividends, and stock buybacks.
"The utility industry's custom of shutting off power punishes people for being poor," reads a new report by the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD), the Energy and Policy Institute, and BailoutWatch. "This barbaric practice—and related punitive measures, like resale of debt to predatory private companies—must end."
The authors of the report, titled Powerless in the United States, analyzed shutoff data from 30 states between January and October 2022, finding that utilities cut power to households more than 1.5 million times. Based on the rate of shutoffs recorded, 4.2 million households suffered utility shutoffs across the country in the first 10 months of 2022.
Combined with data gathered in the groups' earlier energy justice reports, they found "a staggering 5.7 million electricity shutoffs against U.S. households from January 2020 through October 2022."
\u201cNEW RELEASE: Utilities shutoff power to families over 5.7 million times since 2020 while raking in billions. #NoShutoffs\nRead our new report @CenterforBioDiv @EnergyandPolicy @bailoutwatchorg: https://t.co/oS4Rc5cZ28\u201d— Jean Su \u8607\u5b89\u541b (@Jean Su \u8607\u5b89\u541b) 1675088291
The vast majority of shutoffs between 2020 and 2022 were perpetrated by just a dozen companies, the groups said, including NextEra Energy Inc., Duke Energy Corporation, Exelon Corporation, FirstEnergy Corporation, and Ameren Corporation.
The 12 "Hall of Shame corporations," as the report calls them, were on average less profitable than other utilities profiled in the report, but were still "prone to rewarding executives with lavish pay." They were behind 37% of the dividends paid out to shareholders and 32% of disclosed CEO pay between 2019 and 2021.
They collectively paid their top 70 executives $1.2 billion—about $5.9 million per executive each year.
On average the 12 worst-offending companies spent about $4 billion on dividends each, but the customer debt they were owed by households struggling to pay accounted for about 1% of that amount.
"These 12 companies could have forgiven all 4.9 million documented shutoffs 90 times over using their dividends from 2020 through the third quarter of 2022."
"These 12 companies could have forgiven all 4.9 million documented shutoffs 90 times over using their dividends from 2020 through the third quarter of 2022," reads the report.
Selah Goodson Bell, an energy justice campaigner with CBD who co-authored the study, toldThe Guardian that the research shows how "a small scrape of the amount of money that utilities are shelling out to shareholders... could really change lives in millions of households."
FirstEnergy, which serves customers in Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Ohio, shut off power nearly 240,000 times between 2020 and October 2022, punishing households for their inability to pay bills totaling about $25 million. Meanwhile, the company was able to afford spending $2.3 billion on dividends for its shareholders.
Similarly, Duke Energy cut power more than 600,000 times over that period. Customers owed them about $63 million, while shareholders were lavished with $8.3 billion.
As utility companies have enjoyed record profits, rising fossil fuel prices have driven inflation and have resulted in higher heating and electricity bills as household budgets have been stretched thin. Extreme weather like the winter storm that plunged millions of Texans into darkness in 2021 and the deadly heat wave in the Pacific Northwest that same year could also increase "energy insecurity among poor households and communities of color, which are 'less able to prepare for, respond to, and recover
from disaster events,'" the report reads.
"Heating a house with fossil gas this winter is expected to cost 66% more than it did two years ago," reads the report. "Electricity prices have also risen approximately 12% compared to 2020. The average family could pay more than $1,200 to heat their home this winter—$175 more than last winter and $300 more than the 2020 winter."
As households continue to struggle to afford necessities, utilities' punitive shutoffs and rewards for executives and investors show no sign of slowing down, according to the report. Researchers found a 29% increase in power disconnections and a 76% rise in gas shutoffs between January and October 2022, compared to the same period in 2021.
To address the shutoffs crisis, said the authors, the U.S. Energy Information Administration and Congress could require reporting on utility disconnections, while Congress "should vastly increase" funding for energy assistance programs for low-income households. Addressing the "underlying conditions"—reliance on fossil fuels for energy—and phasing out the use of oil, gas, and coal is also key to stopping punitive shutoffs.
Congress must also "enact a nationwide ban on utility shutoffs and other punitive collection practices for unpaid household utility bills for households meeting poverty criteria," said the authors, expanding on pandemic-era legislation.
"Access to electricity is a basic human right," reads the analysis. "People rely on electricity for water, physical safety, food security, medical care, and telecommunications. When these essentials are taken away, the harm spreads like ripples across a pond."
"The preventable practice of disconnections keeps millions of Americans in poverty and narrows their avenues of escape," the authors added. "By giving utility companies the power to penalize poverty, we license them to perpetuate it."
Allowing Sultan al-Jaber, head of the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company, to preside over the next U.N. climate conference "risks undermining the very essence of what is trying to be accomplished."
More than two dozen members of Congress have called on top U.S. climate diplomat John Kerry to push the United Arab Emirates to replace Sultan Ahmed al-Jaber, head of the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company, as president-designate of the United Nations COP28 meeting set to begin this November.
In a Friday letter to Kerry, 27 U.S. lawmakers wrote that "the decision to name the chief executive of one of the world's largest oil and gas companies as president of the next U.N. Climate Change Conference risks jeopardizing climate progress."
The U.A.E.'s move earlier this month to appoint al-Jaber as leader of the upcoming round of international climate negotiations has been widely condemned. So too has Kerry's celebration of the pick as "a terrific choice."
Led by Rep. Jared Huffman (D-Calif.) and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), the lawmakers wrote: "To help ensure that COP28 is a serious and productive climate summit, we believe the United States should urge the United Arab Emirates to name a different lead for COP28 or, at a minimum, seek assurances that it will promote an ambitious COP28 aligned with the 1.5°C limit and Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) findings and take concrete steps to demonstrate domestic and regional leadership toward this end."
"Having a fossil fuel champion in charge of the world's most important climate negotiations would be like having the CEO of a cigarette conglomerate in charge of global tobacco policy."
Like the 26 annual U.N. climate gatherings that preceded it, COP27 ended last November with no commitment to a swift and just global phase-out of oil, gas, and coal. Despite scientists' repeated warnings that expanding fossil fuel production will intensify the deadly impacts of the climate emergency, hundreds of corporations—including several based in the U.S. and the U.A.E.—are planning to ramp up planet-heating pollution in the years ahead.
Progressive critics have connected the dots between policymakers' ongoing failure to directly confront the fossil fuel industry—whose drive to maximize short-term profits is putting the future of humanity at risk—and Big Oil's corrupting influence at U.N. climate talks. While climate justice activists were heavily policed throughout the resort city of Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt during COP27, more than 630 fossil fuel lobbyists were granted access to the meeting.
In their letter to Kerry, members of Congress argued that allowing al-Jaber to preside over debates about the scale and pace of decarbonization threatens to exacerbate this untenable situation, leading to further delays in needed climate action.
"The appointment of an oil company executive to head COP28 poses a risk to the negotiation process as well as the whole conference itself," wrote the lawmakers. "Having a fossil fuel champion in charge of the world's most important climate negotiations would be like having the CEO of a cigarette conglomerate in charge of global tobacco policy. It risks undermining the very essence of what is trying to be accomplished."
"Future COPs should require any participating company to submit an audited corporate political influencing statement that discloses climate-related lobbying, campaign contributions, and funding of trade associations and organizations active on energy and climate issues," they continued.
"COPs should not provide a stage for greenwashing," the members of Congress added. "They should be convenings for serious climate actors and actions. Such commonsense reforms to help restore public faith in the COP process will obviously be impossible with an oil company executive at the helm."
Signatories include Sens. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), as well as Democratic Reps. Jamaal Bowman (N.Y.), Raúl Grijalva (Ariz.), Barbara Lee (Calif.), Ilhan Omar (Minn.), Jan Schakowsky (Ill.), Rashida Tlaib (Mich.), and Bonnie Watson Coleman (N.J.).
The lawmakers' letter to Kerry came one day after a global network of more than 450 climate justice organizations wrote in a letter to U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres that "no COP overseen by a fossil fuel executive can be seen as legitimate."
"This latest act of sabotage conducted via a military attack inside Iran is a dangerous escalation and should be cause for concern for everyone who opposes war," said one campaigner.
Unnamed U.S. officials on Sunday confirmed suspicions that Israel was behind the weekend drone attack on a purported military facility in the Iranian city of Isfahan, heightening concerns that the far-right government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is gearing up for a broader assault on Iran as international nuclear talks remain at a standstill.
The New York Timesreported that the drone attack—which Iran says it mostly thwarted—was "the work of the Mossad, Israel's premier intelligence agency, according to senior intelligence officials who were familiar with the dialogue between Israel and the United States about the incident."
"American officials quickly sent out word on Sunday morning that the United States was not responsible for the attack," the Times noted. "One official confirmed that it had been conducted by Israel but did not have details about the target."
The Times added that the "facility that was struck on Saturday was in the middle of the city and did not appear to be nuclear-related."
The Wall Street Journal also reported Sunday that Israel carried out the attack, which was launched hours before U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrived in the Middle East for planned trips to Israel, Egypt, and the occupied West Bank.
Last week, CIA Director William Burns made an unannounced trip to Israel to discuss "Iran and other regional issues," according to the Journal.
Jamal Abdi, president of the National Iranian American Council (NIAC), said in a statement that he is "deeply concerned by the gathering clouds of war in the Middle East."
"This latest act of sabotage conducted via a military attack inside Iran is a dangerous escalation and should be cause for concern for everyone who opposes war," said Abdi. "War will only further empower the most violent and repressive forces inside Iran at the expense of ordinary Iranians demanding freedom, and will embolden reactionary elements in Iran, Israel, Saudi Arabia, and the U.S."
"It is vital that we call for all sides to exercise restraint and to prioritize non-military solutions to the tensions threatening the region."
Israel's latest attack inside Iran's borders came after negotiations aimed at bringing the U.S. back into the Iran nuclear accord—which former President Donald Trump violated in 2018—hit a wall. President Joe Biden told a rallygoer in November that the Iran deal "is dead, but we're not gonna announce it."
Israel's spy agency has made clear that a newly negotiated nuclear accord would not stop its attacks on Iran.
"Even if a nuclear deal is signed, it will not give Iran immunity from the Mossad operations," Mossad chief David Barnea said in September. "We won't take part in this charade and we don't close our eyes to the proven truth."
Earlier this month, Netanyahu—a longtime Iran hawk who has been making false predictions about Tehran's supposed nuclear bomb ambitions for years—vowed to "act powerfully and openly on the international level against the return to the nuclear agreement."
In the absence of a nuclear agreement, the Journal reported Sunday that the U.S. and Israel are looking for "new ways to contain" Iran, which condemned the Saturday attack as "cowardly."
Citing the Journal's story, Trita Parsi of the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft tweeted Sunday that "unlike before, when U.S. officials stayed silent or only confirmed Israel's role in attacks on Iran days later, now U.S. officials immediately name Israel and appear to hint that it is part of a joint effort to 'contain' Iran."
"War is clearly back on the agenda," Parsi added.
Abdi of NIAC echoed that warning, arguing that "the Islamic Republic's brutal crackdown against the Iranian people, its assistance in Russia's illegal invasion of Ukraine, and its rapidly expanding nuclear program freed from the restraints of the JCPOA have pushed tensions to a boiling point."
"This, coupled with the rise of a hardline administration in Israel that appears determined to push the envelope militarily, an increasingly assertive Saudi royal family, and a U.S. that has been unable to turn the page on the Trump administration's destabilizing Middle East policies, makes for an exceedingly volatile cocktail," Abdi said. "For those of us who favor democracy, human rights, and peace, it is vital that we call for all sides to exercise restraint and to prioritize non-military solutions to the tensions threatening the region."