News

Ivorian Ministry of Forest Pledges Progress on Joint Monitoring Program

In November 2017, the cocoa industry and the Government of Côte d'Ivoire pledged to halt deforestation caused by cocoa and "adopt a transparent satellite monitoring system whose results are independently validated and which provides an early warning of deforestation, quickly supplemented by field verification. This system [was] to be made available to the public immediately after the signing of the Common Framework for Action (CFA) so that all stakeholders can measure and monitor progress towards the overall deforestation target". Three years later, this has still not been achieved. 
 
It is in that context that Mighty Earth welcomes with great satisfaction the Ivorian Minister of Water and Forests' announcement, seconded by the President of the World Cocoa Foundation, of the rapid implementation of the long promised joint monitoring of deforestation and remedial measures. This announcement was made on February 25 during the last Cocoa and Forests Initiative (CFI) steering committee in which the two senior officials took part, along with 66 other participants. Joint monitoring is one of the CFI’s major commitments, and Mighty Earth has constantly called for its effective implementation. The launch of the Cocoa Accountability Map in 2020, recently updated in February 2021, is precisely an attempt to remedy this shortcoming.

Investigation reveals: three of the biggest US grocery chains sell Brazilian beef produced by a controversial meat company linked to the destruction of the Amazon rainforest

Exclusive: US chains Walmart, Costco and Kroger selling Brazilian beef produced by JBS linked to destruction of Brazilian rainforest

A Guardian investigation uncovers that Walmart, Costco Wholesale, and Kroger are selling beef from the most notorious deforester in Brazil, despite corruption and worse.

“Supermarkets need to go beyond their sustainability rhetoric by setting strict requirements for their suppliers, banning deforestation, monitoring their suppliers for compliance, and dropping contracts with the worst offenders like JBS,” said Mighty Earth.

Read the full story here.

Sign our petition to tell Costco: stop making American consumers complicit in buying the deforestation of the Amazon and get deforestation off our plates.

For more information on how cattle and soy companies like JBS and Cargill are linked to deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon and Cerrado, please visit our Soy and Cattle Deforestation Tracker.


Henry Waxman Honored with a "Baldy Award"

"Mighty Earth Chairman Henry Waxman has been honored with Bill Maher's inaugural "Baldy Award."

As Maher quotes, “50 percent of the social safety net was created by Henry Waxman when no one was looking.” And that’s the thing about being a workhorse instead of a show horse: no one is looking.

Ultimately, that’s the spirit we’re striving to emulate at Mighty Earth – drive transformative impact even if no one is looking.

See Maher's announcement here:

 


Mighty Earth Statement on the attack against Brazilian investigative journalists

Mighty Earth strongly condemns the series of online attacks perpetrated over the last days against the investigative journalism NGO, Repórter Brasil, that caused its website to crash and were followed by a demand to suppress investigative reports.

“Repórter Brasil does invaluable to work shine a light on slavery, human rights abuses and deforestation. These criminal attempts to intimidate and silence them should not be tolerated. We stand in solidarity with them and urge the authorities to carry out a robust investigation into the attacks and hold those responsible accountable to the fullest extent of the law,” Glenn Hurowitz, Mighty Earth’s CEO said today. “The world depends on journalism to protect the environment. Investigative journalists like Repórter Brasil are true heroes, and should not just be protected, but also celebrated."

 


Stop Biomass Power Generation with Large-scale Fuel Import

NGO Joint Statement

Recently, Japanese Prime Minister Suga announced a policy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to virtually zero by 2050. While we believe it is important to promote renewable energy, we are concerned that promoting large-scale biomass power generation which is predicated upon fuel imports could threaten biodiversity and accelerate climate change.

In Japan, biomass power generation is promoted by the FIT (Feed-in Tariff Program for Renewable Energy), using a levy added to our electricity bills, in the belief that it is good for the environment. In recent years, however, there has been an increase in the construction of large-scale biomass power plants reliant upon fuel imports from overseas, resulting in a rapid increase in fuel imports such as wood pellets and palm kernel shells (PKS).

In particular, the volume of wood pellets imported into Japan in 2012 was about 72,000 tons, and in 2019, it was about 1.61 million tons, an increase of more than 20 times.(1) In a few years, imports, mainly from North America, are expected to surge, totaling more than 3 million tons. However, in the United States and Canada, it is reported that due to the rapid increase in wood pellet production for export, natural forests such as wetland forests are being clear-cut with major impacts on ecosystems.(2)

In Canada, it has been pointed out that deforestation for wood pellet production is also affecting caribou habitats and indigenous peoples.(3) It is sometimes said that scrap wood from sawmills is used as the raw material for pellet production, but in reality, with the expansion of pellet production for export, whole logs are often used as the raw material. The large volumes utilized result in intensification of logging and in logging incursions to places such as swamp forests that otherwise would not have been economic to log.

Large-scale biomass fuel production will cause deforestation and forest degradation, which will have a major impact on biodiversity and accelerate climate change. At present, biomass power generation is regarded as "carbon neutral" and is automatically eligible for the FIT in Japan. However, when the production of biomass fuels contributes to deforestation and degradation, the carbon stock stored in forests and soil decreases and carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere. Even if forests regrow, until that time CO2 will have increased in the atmosphere for a period of decades or centuries. When the fuels are imported and burned to generate energy in Japan it results in large, immediate emissions to the atmosphere. This is however not counted as emissions of Japan. Also, fuel imports from overseas naturally emit a large amount of GHGs due to the long transportation distance. For example, Japan imports a large amount of wood pellets from Canada, and the GHG emissions from their transport amount to 17.2 g-CO2/MJ, which accounts for more than 70% of their total lifecycle GHG emissions.(4)(5) Therefore, biomass power generation is by no means carbon neutral. GHG emissions throughout the lifecycle should be evaluated and taken into consideration.

The current FIT planning guidelines do not include assessments of GHG emissions throughout the lifecycle of biomass power generation operations. In addition, the description of sustainability assessment for forest biomass fuels is ambiguous and left to the operators. This is not sufficient to prevent adverse impacts on forest ecosystems in extreme cases such as clear cutting of natural forests for fuel production. Projects that are not expected to reduce GHG emissions or that involve deforestation/forest degradation should be excluded from the FIT, including those that have already been approved.

We believe that biomass power generation should be small-scale and distributed, based on the principles of local production for local consumption and cascading use, and provide both heat and power. We believe that large-scale biomass power plants using imported fuels should be discontinued as they further accelerate the biodiversity and climate crisis.

In Japan, there have been reports that biomass fuels are co-fired with coal at inefficient coal-fired power plants, which is regarded as "high efficiency" but this is merely an accounting trick to prolong the life of coal-fired power plants and should not be permitted.

Signatories:
Friends of the Earth Japan
Kiko Network
Institute for Sustainable Energy Policies
Japan Center for a Sustainable Environment and Society
Greenpeace Japan
Biomass Industry Network
Global Environmental Forum
HUTAN Group
Japan Tropical Forest Action Network
Japan Community Power Association
Oratte Niigata Community Energy
ARA
Australian Forests and Climate Alliance
Biofuelwatch
Dogwood Alliance
Estonian Forest Aid (Eesti Metsa Abiks)
Fern
Friends of the Earth US
Global Justice Ecology Project
Healthy Forest Coalition Nova Scotia
Leefmilieu
Mighty Earth
NOAH Friends of the Earth Denmark
NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council)
Partnership for Policy Integrity
Pivot Point
Rainforest Action Network
Rettet den Regenwald e.V.
Save Estonian Forests
Solutions For Our Climate (SFOC)
Southern Environmental Law Center
WOLF Forest Protection Movement
Wild Europe


(1) Ministry of Finance. Trade Statistics.
(2) Stand. Earth. “Investigation - Canada’s growing wood pellet export industry threatens forests, wildlife and our climate.” Apr. 2020.
Partnership for Policy Integrity and Dogwood Alliance. “Carbon Emissions and Climate Change Disclosure by the Wood Pellet Industry – A Report to the SEC on Enviva Partners LP.” Mar. 2016.
(3) Stand. Earth. “Investigation - Canada’s growing wood pellet export industry threatens forests, wildlife and our climate.” Apr. 2020.
(4) Calculations derived from this METI commissioned report:
Mitsubishi UFJ Research and Consulting. Survey Report Regarding the Procurement of Stable Supplies of Biomass Fuel and Sustainability. Feb. 2019. p. 108 (Japanese)
(5) This excludes the emissions from combustion


Supreme Court Must Hold Cargill and Nestle Accountable for Child Slavery

Today, lawyers representing former child slaves working in cocoa will argue before the U.S. Supreme Court in Nestlé USA, Inc. v. John Doe I and Cargill, Inc. v. John Doe I. Six children who were trafficked, enslaved and forced to harvest cocoa for the cocoa industry first sued Nestle and Cargill in 2005 under the Alien Tort Statute. After the Court of Appeals ruled for the second time that the case could move forward, the companies appealed the decision to the Supreme Court.

Last night, Mighty Earth staged a protest to help put Cargill’s abuses on the spotlight. Volunteers gathered in front of the Supreme Court and projected the message “Cargill is GUILTY”. 

Today, in advance of oral arguments, Mighty Earth Campaign Director Etelle Higonnet released the following statement:

“Nestle and Cargill’s request to the Supreme Court is as simple as it is audacious: they are demanding immunity from international law for human rights violations. Rather than work to stop child slavery, Nestle and Cargill want legal immunity to continue profiting from it. If these companies win their case, it would set a dangerous precedent undermining the rule of law.

“The Roberts Court has long been a friend to big business, but is it really about to endorse an effort to legalize child slavery for corporations?

“As Americans rose up to protest for racial justice this year, Cargill CEO Dave MacLennan put out a statement purporting to ‘stand with all who have spoken up to say Black lives matter.’ Unfortunately, lip service to justice movements has been easier to deploy than meaningful efforts to definitively end child slavery and address other horrors in the company’s massive supply chain, including labor abuses, rampant deforestation, and the reckless use of dangerous pesticides that can be particularly harmful to the health of children still unjustly employed in cocoa.

“We call on Cargill and Nestle to abandon these harmful legal arguments for corporate impunity and establish meaningful, independent monitoring and certification systems that ensure no cocoa tied to social or environmental abuses enters their supply chains.”

Additional Resources


The Biden Moment on Climate

Dear Friends,

We’re excited to extend our warmest congratulations to President-elect Biden and Vice-President-elect Kamala Harris, with a sense of relief and hope for the next four years.

Congressman Henry Waxman, chairman of Mighty Earth, has worked with President-elect Biden for decades on environmental protection, health care, and other issues. We know Joe Biden to be a good man. President-elect Biden has not only supported ambitious climate and environmental legislation, but offered an ambitious and achievable action plan. He’s also assembled an impressive team, including expert alumni of Congressman Waxman’s staff.

We’ve waited far too long to reach this moment when movement for climate action is within reach and on the Administration’s agenda. And we’re determined to keep it there.

100 Days, 100 Environmental Protections

The first order of business for the environment will be undoing President Trump’s rollback of core protections. Indeed, just in the last two weeks, President Trump gutted protections for Alaska’s Tongass rainforest (one of the most carbon-dense ecosystems on the planet) and let threatened wolves start being gunned down.

Among the other approximately 100 top priority environmental protections to restore:

  • The Obama-Biden climate standards for cars and trucks, probably the single most important climate policy of the Obama administration
  • Limits on methane super-pollution from oil and gas
  • Protections for the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Bears Ears, Grand Staircase, Northeast Canyons National Monuments, and other public lands.

We look forward to working with the Biden administration to start to reverse these 100 rollbacks in the first 100 days.

A Perfect Storm for Decarbonization

At Mighty Earth, we believe the secret to our success has been creating “Perfect Storms” of grassroots activism, financial pressure, and media attention to transform industries and create irresistible political momentum. There’s rarely a silver bullet to achieve systemic change; we must pull every lever available. This approach has never been more relevant.

To be sure, there may be challenges enacting the Biden climate agenda from a divided Senate and right-wing Supreme Court. While they can’t be overlooked, a determined prioritization of climate in all policy-making forums, including those that are not traditionally environmental, can achieve Biden’s ambitious policy goals. Transportation policy, tax policy, infrastructure policy, and pandemic economic stimulus are all opportunities to drive decarbonization and create the green, living-wage jobs we need to spark an economic renaissance.

So far, the United States has spent trillions of dollars on stimulus, and while some of these efforts have provided much-needed aid to American families, we have flubbed the opportunity to use corporate bailout funds to invest in the green jobs of the future. The next round of stimulus can’t make the same mistake. All policy is climate policy now.

Pandemic Prevention

One of the top priorities for the Biden administration will be ending the coronavirus pandemic, but we must also focus on preventing the next pandemic. COVID-19, like SARS, MERS, Ebola, and AIDS before it, likely emerged from human-wildlife interaction fueled by deforestation. Indeed, destruction of native ecosystems is the single greatest risk factor for new pandemics. That’s why we support Senator Elizabeth Warren and Representative Ro Khanna’s call to include scaled up forest protection as part of a comprehensive pandemic protection plan. President-elect Biden also called during the first debate to mobilize $20 billion for rainforest conservation; we look forward to working with the administration to deliver on that pledge.

Presidential Climate Leadership Beyond Federal Policy

In order to achieve his climate goals, President Biden has far more at his disposal than just pulling the bureaucratic and legal levers available to him: he can set goals, provide tools, and demand action from the private sector, states and cities, and citizens alike. There’s more than one way for the president to drive decarbonization.

For our part, we’re scaling up our advocacy campaigns to transform agriculture and industry to drive rapid decarbonization. And states and cities such as those participating in America’s Climate Pledge are working hard on practical measures like clean electricity standards and changing local building codes.

President Biden can supercharge this agenda with some simple steps:

  • Demand that irresponsible U.S. companies like Cargill and ExxonMobil quit tarnishing America’s global reputation through destroying forests, polluting the atmosphere, and driving human rights abuses
  • Force foreign-owned business like top polluter JBS to act with respect for America’s waterways and communities; and push every large company join a race to the top for climate action;
  • Share the resources of the federal government to drive comprehensive action.

America’s Role in the World

We are relieved that the United States will once again be a leading voice for environmental protection. Change has already begun: Biden has promised to immediately rejoin the Paris Climate Agreement.

We look forward to working with the Biden administration to return to an era of honesty, integrity, and international cooperation to protect forests, climate, wildlife, and oceans, and secure the rights of Indigenous communities and courageous front-line defenders.

The United States and the world face enormous challenges crushing down on us all at once. But we believe that Joe Biden’s election can – with resolve, courage, and a LOT of grassroots organizing – represent a key pivot, a time when we turned away from the path that led to climate catastrophe and began to truly build back better.
Thanks for your continued support of Mighty Earth.

Sincerely,

             
Glenn Hurowitz            Kristin Urquiza
CEO, Mighty Earth       Deputy Director, Mighty Earth

Environmentalists Greet New Tyson CEO Dean Banks With “Welcome” Protest on First Week of Work 

NWA citizens rally at Tyson HQ as CEO starts job, calling for fulfilled promises, transparency, regenerative agricultural practices and community health 

Springdale, AR – As Dean Banks arrived at the Tyson Foods headquarters for his first week as CEO, he was greeted by over two dozen protestors telling him “Keep Your Promise.” In 2018, Tyson pledged to implement sustainable farming practices on 2 million acres by this year. However, just months away from the deadline, Tyson has provided no details on how the company will meet that goal. The activists showed up to the headquarters with a 15’ contract renewal, calling on Banks to sign. 

“After years of expanding the Dead Zone in the Gulf, emitting dangerous levels of greenhouse gases, and dirtying drinking water sources, Tyson cannot expect local communities to trust them in blind faith” Mighty Earth activist and University of Arkansas undergraduate Caroline Crawford said. “I came out to protest today so that Banks knows upfront that there’s a strong mandate for him to follow through on company promises and provide full information on how goals will be met.”  

“Regenerative agricultural methods that focus on soil health and micro-biology have been shown by academia and scientific trials to provide higher yields than Tyson's current grain operations that are dependent on the chemical fertilizers that leach into our watershed” permaculture designer and CEO of Biodesic Strategies Tas Zinck said. “The partnerships between these chemical companies and big agriculture and their influence on policy makes it nearly impossible for smaller farmers to transition to these healthier systems. Tyson must lead the way in this transition”  

The demonstrators called on Tyson to clean up the company’s supply chain by implementing a suite of sustainability measures, and specifically demanded that Tyson mitigate greenhouse gas emissions, protect soil health and reduce runoff and drinking water contamination. 

In February, dozens of citizens from Northwest Arkansas converged on the Tyson shareholder meeting calling on company executives to follow through on their commitment. Tyson responded to the protest by re-stating an intention to meet the goal, yet still refused to provide detail.

See Muskogee Phoenix and KNWA and Fox24 coverage


Leaders Pledge for Nature

Mighty Earth Helps Lobby Globally for a Successful Leaders' Pledge for Nature

Working with colleagues in the 250 organization-strong Planetary Emergency Partnership, Mighty Earth worked globally to help ensure 70 Heads of State and Government signed on to a breakthrough Leaders' Pledge for Nature unveiled September 28 at the United Nations in New York – committing to accelerate decisive action on nature in response to the planetary nature, climate, health, and biodiversity emergencies.

World leaders including France’s Emmanuel Macron, Germany’s Angela Merkel, New Zealand’s Jacinda Ardern, Canada’s Justin Trudeau, Costa Rica’s Carlos Quesada, Kenya’s Uhuru Kenyatta, and EU President Ursula von der Leyen were among 70 leaders who pledged to reverse biodiversity loss by 2030 and undertake an ambitious 10-point set of urgent actions over the next 10 years as part of the UN Decade of Action to achieve Sustainable Development. The Leaders’ Pledge highlights how the interdependent crises of biodiversity loss, ecosystem degradation, and climate change are causing irreversible harm to our life support systems, aggravating poverty and inequality, and increasing the risk of future zoonotic pandemics.

Coming days ahead of a major UN Summit on Biodiversity, the Leaders' Pledge for Nature commitments include a renewed effort to reduce deforestation, halt unsustainable fishing practices, clamp down on waste plastics, eliminate environmentally harmful subsidies, and accelerate the transition towards sustainable food production systems and circular economies.

“We’re so grateful to the visionary leadership of the Planetary Emergency group at this time of crisis, which has stepped up and leveraged people power to help set the stage for a stronger, successful COP -- even as some world leaders are turning their backs on the Paris agreement," said Etelle Higonnet, Senior Campaign Director at Mighty Earth. "We were excited to do our part, and approached our high-level contacts in dozens of countries to help ensure as many world leaders as possible signed this Leaders' Pledge for Nature to help protect and enhance nature and biodiversity. We hope this is a turning point, and that this moment will spark widespread recognition of the immense role that nature and biodiversity will need to play in tackling the global planetary emergency."

The Presidents of the U.S., Brazil, and China have all yet to sign the Leaders' Pledge, despite China’s President Xi hosting the post-2020 UN global biodiversity framework summit in Kunming in China next year.


Mighty Earth Stands for Racial Justice

A joint statement from all of us at Mighty Earth:

The tragic killing of George Floyd has left us saddened, angry, and hurt. We mourn for George Floyd as we have for Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and too many others.

Racism is endemic in the U.S., and we must speak the truth about it. We have seen it in our work, where so many of the issues we care about – air and water pollution, climate change, destruction of native ecosystems, and the global pandemic – disproportionately harm or target black communities, local communities, Indigenous peoples, and other communities of color. And we have seen it in our movement, because no organization, system, or campaign in this country is immune to the destructive influences of white supremacy and systemic racism.

Our fight against these ecological crises is therefore inextricable from our struggle against the systems of oppression. There is no climate justice without racial justice.

We at Mighty Earth condemn racism in all its forms and resolve to find new ways to fight it. We reject police brutality and defend the indispensable right to protest, so that individual and collective voices can fight for – and win – justice and equality.

We pledge to continue the hard but essential work to improve ourselves and our own behaviors, engage deeply with the communities in which we live and work while prioritizing the voices of those most affected, and challenge and heal the violence of structural oppression. 

We stand in solidarity with those targeted by police violence and the protesters demanding justice. Black Lives Matter.


Big Meat Companies Are Making the Pandemic Worse

As the coronavirus pandemic wreaks havoc with the meat supply chain, Mighty Earth CEO Glenn Hurowitz released the following statement:

"In the midst of a global crisis, the meat industry continues to pack people and animals into factories, fueling the spread of the current pandemic and making the next one more likely. The industry’s dangerous behavior and poor planning have led to the slow suffocation of millions of animals, even as unsafe working conditions force workers to risk sickness and death to keep their jobs.

"The industry’s destruction is also playing out on an international scale. The big meat companies like JBS and Cargill have driven the bulldozing and burning of the Amazon and other forests in South America to expand the area dedicated to raising cattle and planting crops to feed them. In addition to driving mass extinctions and accelerating climate change, this deforestation risks bringing humans into contact with dangerous new diseases. These tropical forest fires also overload health care facilities with new cases of respiratory problems and cause hundreds of thousands of premature deaths under normal circumstances. Allowing these practices to continue only further endangers people whose lungs have been damaged by the coronavirus.

"Supermarkets like Costco, Ahold Delhaize, Casino, and more must end their complicity and stop sending hundreds of millions of dollars in supplier contracts to companies like Cargill and JBS that are acting in such a cruel and reckless manner."


Mighty Earth Calls on Indonesian Government to Release Imprisoned Journalist Philip Jacobson

UPDATE, Jan. 25, 2020: Philip Jacobson has been released from prison. 

Mighty Earth's original statement is below.

-

As news broke of the arrest of Mongabay journalist Philip Jacobson, Mighty Earth CEO Glenn Hurowitz released the following statement:

“Indonesian President Jokowi came into office promising to fight corruption and uphold Indonesia’s democracy, but the arrest of prize-winning journalist Philip Jacobson undermines those commitments. Phil is a true champion of Indonesia’s natural resources and people, and instead of being detained under suspicious circumstances, he should be celebrated. We call on the Indonesian government to live up to its commitments to free press and the values of Pancasila by undoing this great injustice and offense to Indonesian openness and releasing Phil immediately.

"That Phil's arrest should come on the same day that President Bolsonaro's regime charged American journalist Glenn Greenwald with bogus crimes is no coincidence. The idea that American allies like Brazil and Indonesia would even imagine arresting American journalists for doing their jobs shows a failure of leadership on the part of the United States, which has stood for freedom of the press for generations. President Trump and Secretary of State Pompeo cannot just go soft when it comes to defending Americans in trouble overseas, and they have a sacred obligation to defend these unjustly imprisoned Americans.

“A free press is essential to creating the transparency and accountability necessary for both responsible governance and environmental stewardship, and Mighty Earth supports the right of journalists everywhere to conduct their work without fear of violence, persecution, or reprisal.”

Photo via Mongabay


Mighty Earth's Etelle Higonnet Named to France's National Order of Merit

French President Emmanuel Macron has named Mighty Earth Senior Campaign Director Etelle Higonnet (bio) a Chevalier of France’s Ordre national du Mérite (National Order of Merit), honoring her for her work to protect the environment. Mighty Earth Chairman Henry Waxman and CEO Glenn Hurowitz released the following statements celebrating the news.

Mighty Earth Chairman and former Congressman Henry Waxman:

"Etelle’s accomplishments – including transforming the cocoa industry and her pioneering legal work to drive major French and international companies to address serious human rights and environmental issues throughout their supply chains – are extraordinary. She is an inspiration to the team, a model for effective advocacy, and a truly wonderful person. I am so pleased that France has recognized her with this prestigious honor.

"At a time when too many governments are shirking their duty to protect the environment and address the climate crisis, Etelle is a force both of and for nature. I am honored to work alongside her and offer my sincere congratulations."

Mighty Earth CEO Glenn Hurowitz:

"Etelle is a towering figure in the global movement to protect the world’s forests, solve the climate crisis, and advance fundamental human rights.

"Etelle has been able to drive the transformation of some of the biggest industries in the world – cocoa, rubber, soy, and more – because of the way she combines her irresistible reservoir of moral force with a charm that inspires organizations, governments, and even cynical corporate executives to want to change.

"It is fitting that she has been awarded the Order of Merit. Those who do this work best do it not for external recognition but to have an impact on the world, and that is triply true of Etelle. But that kind of selfless commitment deserves celebration, and we hope that Etelle will serve as an example that will inspire many more people to understand the extraordinary changes that a combination of commitment and intelligence can achieve."


Mighty Earth, ArcelorMittal, Lendlease, Daimler, HSBC & Others Launch ResponsibleSteel™, The World's First Sustainability Standard For The Steel Industry

WOLLONGONG, NEW SOUTH WALES – Today, Mighty Earth joined leading steel companies, including ArcelorMittal and Blue Scope, leading construction and development company Lendlease, major automakers Daimler and BMW, and many other civil society partners to announce the launch of the ResponsibleSteel Standard, the world’s first international, multi-stakeholder standard for responsible production for steel making and processing sites. The announcement was made during the ResponsibleSteel’s Forum II in Wollongong, Australia.

The new standard seeks to holistically address many challenges in the steel manufacturing process, including how to dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions from steel production, implementing sustainable mining practices, and protecting labour rights, water quality, biodiversity, and human rights. The ResponsibleSteel Standard helps the steel industry address these challenges by setting a universal baseline, establishing the fundamental elements and the required levels of implementation for sourcing and production of steel to be labelled responsible. Taken together, the new standard supports ResponsibleSteel’s vision: to maximize steel's contribution to a sustainable society.

“In our work at Mighty Earth, we have seen entire industries transform when market leaders work together to advance ambitious voluntary commitments for climate, environment, and human rights,” said Mighty Earth Campaign Director Margaret Hansbrough. “Today, we are seeing leaders step forward in the steel industry, an industry responsible for approximately 7 to 9 percent of global emissions. When companies and civil society step up together, big things can happen. This rigorous yet accessible standard is the result of a deeply collaborative stakeholder process which we will continue to leverage to bring forth even bolder goals to ensure a 1.5-degree threshold is possible. This urgent work has only just begun.”

In the fall of 2018, Mighty Earth released two seismic reports, Cold Steel, Hot Climate and Construction Destruction, which helped to activate the global steel and construction industries to make commitments to clean energy and carbon neutrality. Through engagement with the steel industry and its biggest customers, Mighty Earth is starting to see real climate action taking shape. The launch of ResponsibleSteel marks a new milestone in this engagement.

Also announced at the forum were new members of ResponsibleSteel, including Lendlease, one of the top building and development companies in the world, which was named in the Construction Destruction report. Additional new members include Anglo American, Carport, Clean Air Task Force, Harsco and new Associate Members ACRS (Australasian Certification Authority for Reinforcing and Structural Steels certification), GUTcert GmbH, HERA (Heavy Engineering Research Association), RTQMS (Real Time Quality Management Services), Sustainable Steel Council, and United Certification Systems.

"This is a huge milestone for both ResponsibleSteel and for its members and supporters," said Matthew Wenban-Smith, Executive Director of ResponsibleSteel. "The ResponsibleSteel Standard has been developed through a rigorous process of public consultation, membership approval and board ratification, and we are pleased it is now available to support the responsible sourcing and production of steel. Civil society groups like Mighty Earth have been critical to making this standard the best it can be for people and the planet" (emphasis added).

The Standard consists of twelve principles: Corporate Leadership; Social Environmental and Governance Management Systems; Occupational Health and Safety; Labour Rights; Human Rights; Stakeholder Engagement and Communication; Local Communities; Climate Change and Greenhouse Gas Emissions; Noise, Emissions, Effluent and Waste; Water Stewardship; Biodiversity; and Decommissioning and Closure.

As a multi-stakeholder organization, ResponsibleSteel sought to engage the voices of its members and a broad range of interested parties in the standard development process. The Standard was approved by a ballot of the ResponsibleSteel membership and formally ratified by the ResponsibleSteel Board of Directors in November 2019, as member organizations are required to adopt science-based emissions reduction targets in line with a 1.5-degree scenario.

ResponsibleSteel has developed tools to help organizations implement the Standard, including Implementation Instructions and an Assurance Manual. The first auditor training workshop was held in London on 18-20 November. It is expected that the first certified steel sites audited with ResponsibleSteel Standard will be announced in the first half of 2020.

Additional Resources

###


House Legislation Would Extend Corporate Giveaways for Forest-Destroying Bioenergy

This week, the House Ways and Means Committee released a discussion draft of the Growing Renewable Energy and Efficiency Now (GREEN) Act. As drafted, the legislation would continue providing tax incentives for the biomass and biodiesel industries through 2024. In response, Mighty Earth Campaign Director Rose Garr released the following statement:

“The GREEN Act is a tremendous disappointment. While many of provisions are in line with the science on climate change and biodiversity, too many are corporate handouts that will hurt the environment. The provisions in this bill that extend tax breaks for biomass and biofuels will encourage the destruction and degradation of forests and other habitats in the U.S. and around the world by incentivizing dirty energy generation. These are giveaways to the timber and agribusiness lobbies and an insult to anyone who wants to save forests, protect endangered species, conserve land, and address the twin crises of climate change and biodiversity collapse.

“You can be a climate champion, or you can be a biodiesel and biomass supporter, but you cannot be both. Solving the climate crisis requires the leadership to not only advance solutions but to also reject false ones. It appears this distinction has been lost.”


New Investment By Largest Steel Producer in U.S. Proves Clean Energy Can Power Heavy Industry

Nucor aiming to sign wind energy agreement in Missouri

-

An E&E News story published today revealed that Nucor Steel, the number one steel producer in the US and number 11 globally, has filed a power purchase agreement for wind energy with Evergy Missouri (formally KCPL).

In response to this news, Margaret Hansbrough, a Missouri native and Campaign Director at Mighty Earth, released the following statement:

"Last year, Mighty Earth called upon Nucor and the entire steel industry to commit to carbon neutrality and clean energy, and for Nucor specifically to begin switching to clean electricity. Despite their initial claims that renewable energy could not handle the power generation needs of their steel mills, it took Nucor only a few months after we launched our public campaign to start filing papers for this wind agreement and begin transitioning to clean energy for a new mill in Sedalia, Missouri.

"We have said that switching to clean electricity is good for business, good for the climate, and good for clean energy jobs. Now we know that to be true. This approach builds on the natural competitive advantage electricity-produced steel has in the U.S. broadly and in states with cheap renewables in particular. Nucor's new mill in Sedalia is a compelling proof of concept. Nucor cuts costs and reduces the embodied carbon in its steel; the state of Missouri leverages clean, cheap electricity to bring new jobs to the state. It’s a win-win move, and we hope the company will repeat this practice in all the states where they are expanding."

 

James Owen, Executive Director of Renew Missouri, Missouri’s leading renewable energy advocacy organization, also provided a reaction to this news:

"The work between Evergy and Nucor shows that clean energy is a necessary economic development tool if Missouri is serious about jobs and attracting business. The Show-Me State benefits economically through high-paying construction and technician jobs. Cheap clean energy will be critical to attracting and retaining industrial jobs like steel production. Not only that, the steel industry and companies like Nucor benefit enormously from the expansion of electricity transmission infrastructure with projects like the Grain Belt Express as well as expanded generation on wind farms built with USA produced steel. If Missouri really wanted to walk the walk on job creation, we could change our laws that made Evergy and Nucor's contract a normal part of business. This would be good for communities and utility customers all over Missouri."

 

About Mighty Earth

Mighty Earth is a global campaign organization that works to protect the environment. We focus on big issues: conserving threatened landscapes like tropical rainforests, protecting oceans, and solving climate change. In the fall of 2018, Mighty Earth launched a global campaign calling on Nucor and other global steel leaders to commit to clean energy and carbon neutrality. The campaign released two groundbreaking reports: Cold Steel, Hot Climate and Construction Destruction. Both reports focused on advances the steel and construction industries must undertake right away to solve the climate crisis and specifically outlined ways for Nucor to lead the market in low carbon steel making by committing to clean electricity. For full reports and statements visit: www.mightyearth.org/steel.

 

About Renew Missouri

Renew Missouri was founded in 2006 to advance renewable energy and energy efficiency in the state of Missouri. In that time, Renew Missouri has advanced legislation, passed statewide ballot initiatives, crafted local ordinances, and represented these interests before state regulators on hundreds of cases. For more information, visit renewmo.org.


To Address Deforestation in Brazil, Mighty Earth Convenes Meeting Between Indigenous Leaders and Consumer Goods Forum

Deforestation in Brazil is a threat to ecosystems like the rainforests of the Amazon and the savannahs of the Cerrado. And the same economic forces that drive their destruction also trample on the rights and the lives of the Indigenous peoples who live there. Mighty Earth believes that we must break the link between ecological destruction and economic growth and that the voices of Indigenous peoples must be an integral part of that effort.

To that end, we were honored to convene a meeting between representatives from Brazilian Indigenous Peoples Articulation (APIB), a national coalition and the voice of the Indigenous movement in Brazil, and the Consumer Goods Forum (CGF), a global network of more than 400 retailers, manufacturers, service providers, and other stakeholders across 70 countries.

“The Indigenous peoples of the Amazon, like Indigenous peoples throughout the world, have protected the lands in which they live for millennia,” said Mat Jacboson, Senior Director for Forests at Mighty Earth. “It is critical that their voices be included in discussions about sustainability, and that their rights be protected in law and policy. We are honored to have been able to assist in the initiation of a dialogue between APIB and the Consumer Goods Forum.”


Investigation Finds Papua's Largest Palm Oil Operator Destroyed Vast Areas of Endangered Rainforest, Cheated and Abused Indigenous People

Investigation Finds Papua's Largest Palm Oil Operator Destroyed Vast Areas of Endangered Rainforest, Cheated and Abused Indigenous People

Despite significant censoring, newly released findings from the Forest Stewardship Council show Korindo Group destroyed over 30,000 hectares of rainforest in the past five years, systematically manipulated and underpaid indigenous landowners

BONN, GERMANY – Today, the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), a global certification body for responsible forest management, released summaries of its findings from a two-year investigation prompted by a complaint filed by Mighty Earth against the Korindo Group, a notorious Korean-Indonesian logging and palm oil conglomerate.

“The severity of Korindo’s wrongdoing revealed in these reports is just devastating, even with FSC and Korindo covering up more than 110 pages of the findings,” said Deborah Lapidus, Senior Campaigns Director at Mighty Earth. “Korindo has long justified its destruction of vast areas of pristine rainforests on the basis of ‘development’ but the reality is just the opposite. These investigations exposed how Korindo went to great lengths to manipulate, intimidate, and cheat local communities. There is no justification that the FSC has gone along with Korindo in burying the full report, as these sorts of practices are all too commonplace in Papua and rarely exposed. Remediation for communities is long overdue, and a full and honest disclosure of the FSC’s findings would do a lot of good.”

For years, even as Korindo engaged in deforestation on a massive scale in Papua and North Maluku, Indonesia, as documented by Mighty Earth, the group has been benefiting from FSC’s prestigious eco-forestry label to sell timber, plywood, pulpwood, biomass, and newsprint to customers such as Asia Pulp & Paper and APRIL (Indonesia), Sumitomo Forestry, Oji Corporation, and Marubeni (Japan), and News Corps Australia.

The FSC commissioned a Complaints Panel to conduct an investigation, and subsequently conducted two additional investigations into Mighty Earth’s allegations against Korindo.

Mighty Earth has consistently called on the FSC to release its findings in full. The main Complaints Panel report, which was originally at least 110 pages in length and scheduled to be released on September 5, was pulled after FSC received a “cease and desist” letter from Korindo. The document released by FSC today has been reduced to a mere one-page summary. The summaries of the two additional investigations include a number of redactions that FSC states are “due to a disagreement with Korindo”.

But even these partial reports paint a damning picture, concluding that Korindo was guilty of flouting FSC standards by violating indigenous peoples’ rights, carrying out significant conversion of natural forests, and destroying significant areas of High Conservation Value (HCVs). The reports detail Korindo’s destruction of over 30,000 hectares of rainforest and endangered species habitat in just the past five years (more than 50,000 overall), multiple failures of Korindo to obtain the Free, Prior, and Informed Consent (FPIC) of local indigenous communities to development on their lands, irreparable damage to ecosystems and watersheds that has led to communities being deprived of basic needs including land, food, water, and livelihoods, and the severe underpayment to communities of revenue from their forest resources. As a result of these findings, the Complaints Panel recommended that “Korindo should be disassociated from the FSC due to the clear and convincing evidence of violations of THR [Traditional and Human Rights] (as well as significant conversion),” as stated in the Social Analysis report released by FSC today (page 41).

Despite this recommendation, the FSC Board decided to reach an agreement with Korindo on improvement and remediation measures. In July 2019, the FSC Board announced that Korindo’s continued association with the FSC would be “dependent on Korindo’s complying with strict requirements towards social and environmental reparations and remedy.” Today, the FSC elaborated on those requirements.

“The remedial measures unveiled today are not proportionate to the extreme violations revealed in the investigative reports,” Lapidus said. “Notably, they fail to include restoration and remedy for Korindo’s clearing of over 50,000 hectares of rainforests and damage caused to the rivers and ecosystems, which violate FSC standards. It is also notable that Korindo’s first act after reaching the agreement with FSC was to bully FSC into censoring the details of its wrongdoing and its liabilities to communities. Korindo simply isn’t serious about accepting full responsibility for its violations of FSC standards.”

The FSC statement claims that the exact remedial measures will be determined in a forthcoming, FSC-led stakeholder consultation “roadmap” process. To date, no further details of this process have been released by FSC.

In September, when the FSC initially postponed the release of these materials, Mighty Earth’s call for accountability and transparency was echoed by community organizations working in Papua:

“Korindo has destroyed community lands and livelihoods without peoples’ consent, robbed communities of their natural resources, subjected people to violence and intimidation, and polluted their rivers – all while hiring mainly workers from outside Papua. Korindo is also not taking its corporate social responsibility seriously,” said Pastor Anselmus Amo from SKP-KAMe Meruake, a Papuan human rights organization. “FSC should consult directly with affected communities to better understand Korindo’s egregious actions and the communities’ views on what fair compensation and remediation measures would be. We stand ready to help resolve this long-standing conflict.”

“For two decades, Korindo has gotten away with violating indigenous peoples’ land rights without exposure, while selling itself in the media as a savior to the Papuan people,” said Franky Samperante of Yayasan Pusaka, which works to defend indigenous land rights in Papua. “Therefore, it is important that the world knows the reality of what has transpired in Papua and North Maluku.”

“Korindo has previously attempted to spin the FSC conclusions as exoneration, but the findings released today prove that claim to be utterly dishonest,” Lapidus said.  “If Korindo is serious about cleaning up its heavily damaged reputation, it must stop denying its culpability, embrace transparency, heed the FSC’s requirements for compensation and remediation, and resolve community grievances—including by returning customary lands. Until it does, no companies should be doing business with Korindo.”

“The FSC must stop acting like an industry apologist and release its findings in full. Affected communities and Korindo customers mustn’t be left in the dark. The FSC should immediately commence the process of securing remedy for the severe harms caused, in full consultation with affected communities,” said Lapidus.

Revealing excerpts from the public reports (emphasis added) include:

“The recommendations of the CP were set out clearly in the executive summary of their report (pp.8-9): that Korindo should be disassociated from the FSC due to the clear and convincing evidence of violations of THR [Traditional and Human Rights] (as well as of significant conversion).”

“The conversion was deemed to be significant among others due to its scale of more than 30,000ha in the last five years, due to the failure to protect adequate areas of natural vegetation, and due to the impact that it has had on local communities and in particular the failure to compensate landowners adequately for the timber taken.”

“The only possible conclusion that can be drawn is that extensive abuse has occurred of the rights that are part of the FSC system, as well as all similar standards…these are land rights, FPIC rights, and rights relating to the fulfillment of basic human needs.”

As a result of these violations, the affected communities have suffered considerable harms. These range from the threat and in some cases use of violence, in an ongoing atmosphere of intimidation (and above and beyond that associated with the prevailing local security setting); the inability to exercise their right to oppose the concession; and the highly disproportionate compensation payments, received by a minority of community members only, and with little knowledge or any participation on the part of many. Just as the CP [FSC Complaints Panel] concluded, this additional analysis thus also finds beyond any doubt that there are strong and sufficient grounds for the disassociation of all the companies associated with these serious violations.”

“Korindo’s activities involved the clearing of substantial areas of Southern New Guinea Lowland Rain Forest which is considered endangered/critical in the Global 200 classification…In addition, the conversion most likely destroyed some areas that provided critical resources for local communities.”

“The evidence is clear and convincing that these HCV’s were for all intents and purposes, destroyed. Rehabilitation efforts would stimulate recovery, but in an ecological context, the landscape has been irreparably altered by Korindo’s commercial activities.”

The clearing of the riparian areas (streams, rivers, springs, and adjacent to lakes) is not consistent with Indonesian law.”

“The nearly complete transformation of the southern peninsula of Halmahera Island from a mixture of Moluccan moist forest interspersed with shifting cultivation and small coconut groves to large-scale production of oil palm monocrop has had a profound impact on the landscape. The evidence and chronology of the immutable changes to the landscape is very clear and conciseThe loss of HCV 1 should be considered destruction because it is not feasible to restore/rehabilitate the area. The conversion of the PT GMM concession presents unique circumstances because it has changed the landscape of entire southern end of the island which also dominates the entire upper portion of the watershed.”

It is also recommended that the companies should also initiate a formal process of remedy with the communities concerned. The CP [Complaints Panel] report has clearly and in great detail verified and elaborated on both the broader patterns and the various individual acts of violation, as had previously also been described and compiled with much supporting evidence in the original reports and in the complaint. There is no more room for reasonable doubt that these multiple violations have occurred.’ ‘There is thus no reason for any further delay in starting the process of remedy that is now required, to be based on engagement with the affected communities in response to all the various violations that have been repeatedly identified, in relation to land acquisition, FPIC processes and HCV protection. A remedy process should be initiated with all the affected communities referred to in these documents as having expressed unhappiness, ongoing grievances and frustration with the outcomes of the operations, and/or well-substantiated allegations of violations of their THR [Traditional and Human Rights]’. 

Read more excerpts and background here

 


NYC Activists call on Cargill to Stop the Amazon Fires & Embrace Regenerative Agriculture

“Hey Cargill, you can’t hide--we charge you with ecocide.” 

Converging for an early morning action, over 40 New Yorkers chanted, sang, and held handmade signs as Cargill Senior Vice President Ruth Kimmelshue arrived at the Intercontinental Monday morning for an interview with the Wall Street Journal.

The action was sponsored by 30 organizations, including SumOfUs, Friends of the Earth, Amazon Watch, Defend Democracy in Brazil, and a variety of Sunrise Movement chapters.

The Wall Street Journal covered the demonstration in an article this week, noting:

Environmental groups also staged protests, targeting Cargill Inc. The supplier of agricultural commodities missed a deforestation target earlier this year.

“We engage with all those voices to create more sustainable supply chains,” said Ruth Kimmelshue, Cargill’s sustainability chief.

She said Cargill is also feeling pressure from consumer-food companies, which have heightened expectations around environmental practices and the impact of agriculture. “Their brands are on the lines,” she said.

Kimmelshue is right. Consumer-facing brands can continue sourcing from Cargill, or they can maintain a reputation as environmental leaders, but they can’t do both.

Mighty Earth staff and volunteers will next converge on the Consumer Goods Forum in Berlin later this month to mobilize consumer-facing companies and call on them to take swift action to eliminate deforestation-driving commodities from companies like Cargill from their supply chains.

 

Outside of Ruth Kimmelshue’s interview Todd Fernandez, a leader of 350NYC, rallied the crowd with an inspiring speech. “We cannot wait for Congress to act. We have to pressure these corporations” Fernandez said. “Everyone is on notice. There is no escaping the responsibility.”

The action caps off an eventful two-month period, which included a mass die-in at the Cargill Gallery of the Minneapolis Institute of Art, a vigil against deforestation at the Consumer Goods Forum, and an action at Cargill’s Women in Ag conference.


Global Architecture Community Sets Ambitious New Target: Zero Emissions by 2040

In response to Architecture 2030’s ambitious new carbon positive targets that were previewed at the Carbon Positive Summit in Chicago and publicly announced this week, Mighty Earth Campaign Director Margaret Hansbrough, who attended the summit and was present for the rollout of the targets, released the following statement:

“This is a historic moment in the fight against climate change. It is inspiring to see the global architecture community coming together to embrace a vision of zero emissions by 2040. But what Architecture 2030 has laid out is more than a vision, it’s also a much-needed framework that outlines the steps we must take to decarbonize some of the hardest to abate materials on the planet: steel, concrete, and aluminum.

“Construction material companies need to be looking at the targets outlined by Architecture 2030, including the near-term embodied carbon targets of 50 percent reduction by 2025 and 65 percent reduction by 2030. These companies – like Arcelor Mittal, Nucor, US Steel, Tata Steel, POSCO, and many others– must begin calibrating their own decarbonization plans accordingly or risk being left behind.

“For the steel industry, this is a critical demand signal from key customers. About half of all steel ends up in the built environment, and customers embracing these new targets will be looking for lowest carbon steel possible. The market for decarbonization is booming, and every steel company in the world should be looking at these targets and figuring out how they will meet the coming demand.

“These new targets and the companies that are rushing to embrace them are an encouraging sign and proof that the private sector can play a significant role in addressing climate change -- even in the absence of government action.”