Extractive Industries, Climate Change and Human Rights Implications:
“The Boomerang Effect”
This article explores the downside of extractive industries contribution on the environment, its contribution towards climate change and the implications on human rights particularly in theSouth Pacific.
For resource depended economies extractive industries are the engine that drives development for the vast majority of economies that are rich in oil, gas and mineral resources. This is not only evident for the powerful industrialized nations but also for that South Pacific Island nation that are resource dependent.
In the south pacific island of New Caledonia for instance Nickel mining is a major sector of the economy. The islands contain about 7,100,000 tonnes of nickel, which is about 10% of the world’s nickel reserves. With the annual production of about 107,000 tonnes in 2009, New Caledonia was the world’s fifth largest producer after Russia (266,000), Indonesia (189,000), Canada (181,000) and Australia (167,000). Nickel production in New Caledonia accounts for 7–10% the country’s GDP and is responsible for as much as 80% towards foreign earnings. With the exclusion of tourism, nickel ore and derived metallurgical products represent about 97% of the total value
In Papua New Genuine: a resource-dependent economy is defined as one in which extractive industry contributes more than 50 percent of export earnings and more than 15 percent of GDP, then PNG has had a resource- dependent economy for most of the period since 1975 and all of the period since 1985 (Figure 1). Even at the time of Independence, when the Panguna copper mine was the only large-scale mining operation in the country, mineral exports accounted for 60 percent of the value of all PNG’s exports.
The resource sector still accounted for 18 percent of GDP (Figure 2). 
The rising demand for oil, gas, coal and mineral resources would mean that extractive industries would continue to thrive. Whilst they profit from the rising demand of these resources, in the midst of these thriving industry lurks an inevitable evil that many rather choose to ignore. Evil that has far reaching consequences that creates a chain reaction and boomerang effect of environment destruction, climate change and huge implications on human rights – one that is also commonly known as the resource curse.
Raw materials extracted by large industries are non-renewable resources. The exploitation of natural resources has far reaching consequences that has an irreversible effect on people that live in these countries.
Extraction of non-renewable resources is a euphemism for amputation. Once you extract a permanent tooth – there is no natural replacement. It is an amputation. Now consider an economy, which more than 30% of the GDP is attributed to resource extraction or more accurately resource amputation. This is like a saying – we are going to amputate a third f your body and sell them on the market. Of course we will make profits from this investment but you will benefit because we’ll compensate you with a nominal amount that will contribute to development and poverty alleviation (provided you do not tax us too much). In other words amputation leads to development – let me cut off your leg so you can walk better.
For Small Pacific Island Nations the depletion of natural resource such as land and harmful practices of dumping of chemical waste as result of extraction of minerals has a massive impact on the people. For most land and resource ownership is the peoples pride, wealth and cultural identity. It is the very core of their existence.
The amputation process carried out by extractive industries not only deprives people of their own means of subsistence and basic human rights but of their very existence. This sentiment is echoed in the words of a relocated Kapit man of Papua New Guinea:
One thing I find hard to understand is why they (LMC) live in a bigger and differently designed house than I, enjoy the luxury brought about by the gold found in my very own soil. I was given a house without any toilet, showers and kitchen compartments. Why can’t I also enjoy that privilege is sometimes what I ask myself. I was relocated from Kapit where the mine now stands. I lost everything, my land and the sea where I used to freely move around and get whatever I wanted. Now I am a prisoner. I got relocated onto a clan land, which means that I cannot use that freedom anymore. Now I am bound by decisions of Clan leaders. It is not the same as when I was on my own land. My biggest worry now is my children’s future! I have lost my land and my children will never own and enjoy that land as I did before. Maybe I was a fool! Even today I have to struggle to meet the school fees for my four children (thank god that a brother helps meet the cost for two), while the company allow their children to go through nearly free education at my cost of my lose.
Loss of native land results in the displacement of people from their homes, loss of property and shelter, loss of farmland, livestock and water supply. Chemical waste and harmful practices of extractive industries affecting the marine eco-system in turn affecting fish stock and food supply for the people. Resource dependent economies tend be the poorest and least developed in the world. There is inequality, conflict, strife and increased health and growing environmental and health impacts.The social and environmental issues associated with extractive industries have devastating impact on the people.
Apart from the direct impact the extractive industries have on the host country environment and eco-system, it also contributes to industry related greenhouse gas (GHG) that cause Climate Change.
Emissions from industry (30% of total global GHG emissions) arise mainly from material processing, i.e., the conversion of natural resources (ores, oil, biomass) or scrap into materials stocks which are then converted in manufacturing and construction into products. Pro-duction of just iron and steel and non-metallic minerals (predominately cement) results in 44% of all carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions (direct, indirect, and process-related) from industry. Other emission-intensive sectors are chemicals (including plastics) and fertilizers, pulp and paper, non-ferrous metals (in particular aluminium), food processing (food growing is covered in Chapter 11), and textiles.
It is long recognized that these greenhouse gases are the major culprits in Climate Change. Climate Change has a more profound effect not only on South Pacific Island nations but has a global impact. The “amputation” industry needs to recognize that if it does not act now the very resource it profits from will destroy the industry itself, the host nation and the world. Climate Change is the modern day evil, it knows no boundaries, race, nationality and affects both the rich and the poor. It violates the enjoyment of human rights for those living in affected area and across the planet.
The Legal Remedy: Litigation or Negotiation
Can we use the long arms of the law to reach across transnational boarders to litigate, mitigate or negotiate both domestic and trans boundary harms cause by extractive industries?
A groundbreaking case brought by group of Inuit in North America illustrates both the potential and the limitation of human rights litigation in the context of Climate Change.
In 2005 an alliance of the Inuit from Canada and the United States of America filed a petition with the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights. The petition alleged that the human rights of the plaintiff’s had been infringed and were being further violated due in large part to the failure of the United States to curb its greenhouse gas emissions. The petition provided a list of rights violations, including rights to enjoy the benefit of their culture to use and enjoy the lands they have traditionally occupied to use and enjoy personal property, preservation of health, to life, physical integrity and security, their own means of subsistence and to residence and movement and inviolability of the home.
The international tribunal was confronted with serious human rights consequences of global warming, the acts and omissions of the US government and the suffering of particular people located in climate sensitive territories at a distance.
The case interestingly sought to hold one state responsible for activities undertaken in several different states – applying both criminal law principles of joint liability and the UNFCCC’s own principle of “common but differentiated responsibility”. Whilst the Inuit case was inadmissible it did shed some light on the complexity and challenges of accountability and liability that underlie climate change harms.
For instance in one occasion the Commission asked in particular how one state could be held liable for actions also conducted in numerous states. Counsel for the petitioner pointed out the question in terms of the following “ like saying if two people stab a knife into someone together, we have to figure out how much each one is responsible” in order to assign liability.
The Inuit case reveals the complex legal issue of climate change not only for those seeking redress in domestic courts within a national jurisdiction but it also contemplates addressing those trans boundary harms on an international level. For instance countries such as Kiribati and Tuvalu, the challenge would be identifying which industrialized nation to be held accountable for the climate change wrongs and human rights breaches and with which jurisdiction do they file their petition.
No only that but majority of the Climate Change harms if not already felt lies in the near future. So the Courts will have to grapple with these issues.
This is also raised in the case of Massachusetts’s v EPA and other actions in the US:
The Supreme Court reasoning demonstrates that courts are more likely to take some steps in where harms are already “concrete”. … it provides impetus and argument to those wishing to challenge the actions of major emitters in other judicial fora both inside and outside the United States. Once again however such cases will be most effective after the fact when climate change impacts have been felt. Litigation in cases of future harms can only be indirect.
They may act as a deterrent if suits against private actors succeed; encouraged or obliged states to regulate or pass law where they no done so or otherwise clarify complex policy questions by closely examining the justice issues at stake.
On a positive note litigation is a step towards the right direction. Case litigated whether they may be successful or not draw radar to the ongoing fight against climate change. It exposes the reality that people face, a reality that profit making extractive industries in powerful industrilised nation would rather keep quiet about.
“It encourages states to regulate pass law where they have not done so or clarify complex policy issues…”
It moves the hand of policy makers, government and civil societies to take the appropriate action in dealing with Climate Change. Litigation raises a platform for negotiation for better forms of practices for industriliased nations for example control emission and sustainable development practices by extractive industries.
“By raising and shifting through hard questions of fault, liability, standing, jurisdiction, causality and harms, litigation can help clarify appropriate responses to climate change and thereby contribute to improved policy making …….”
“As Climate Change effect deepen, however other opportunities for litigation will present themselves. Cases have already been initiated in other fora and jurisdiction many of them rely on human rights norms. In addition to providing redress for actual human rights experienced by individuals and communities as a result of climate change, these cases may also fulfill a number of other roles.
They draw attention to policy gaps, prod states to take action individually or collectively, tease out complex questions of liability and accountability or provide and opportunity to detailed discussion of the allocation of benefits under a given climate change policy.”
The world cannot ignore the realities of deteriorating natural resources and climate change contributed by extractive industries. Extractive industries will be forced to come to the table with better solutions, sustainable practices and be open to dialogue with various stakeholders and members of the communities as sooner or later the “boomerang returns to the thrower” – industrialized nations will face the consequences of its own action – not one country can escape the global impact of Climate Change. To address Climate Change wrongs effectively stakeholders will have to work together, policies will have to be re-looked, laws have to be in place to monitor extractive industries, indigenous people will have to be involved and have a say as to the use and preservation of natural resource and protection of the environment. People have to be willing to be open to dialogues to deal with extractive industries, climate change, environmental degradation and human rights violation. Someone has to take the first step – a step towards the right direction for a better future.
 Case Study on Indigenous People, Extractive Industries and the World Bank, PNG, presented at University of Oxford, UK 14th and 15th April 2003.
 Firoze Manji – Development or amputation? The role of extractive industries.
 Case Study on Indigenous People, Extractive Industries and the World Bank, PNG, presented at University of Oxford, UK 14th and 15th April 2003.
Industry: [Fischedick M., J. Roy, A. Abdel-Aziz, A. Acquaye, J. M. Allwood, J.-P. Ceron, Y. Geng, H. Kheshgi, A. Lanza, D. Perczyk, L. Price, E. Santalla, C. Sheinbaum, and K. Tanaka, 2014: Industry. In: Climate Change 2014: Mitigation of Climate Change. Contri- bution of Working Group III to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [Edenhofer, O., R. Pichs-Madruga, Y. Sokona, E. Farahani, S. Kadner, K. Seyboth, A. Adler, I. Baum, S. Brunner, P. Eickemeier, B. Kriemann, J. Savolainen, S. Schlömer, C. von Stechow, T. Zwickel and J.C. Minx (eds.)]. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom and New York, NY, USA.]
 Climate Change and Human Rights A Rough Guide: http://www.ichrp.org
 Climate Change and Human Rights: A Rough Guide, 2008. International Council on Human Rights Policy. Versoix, Switzerland.
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