ECOLOGICAL DEBT
WHO OWES WHO?
The North owes an Ecological
Debt to the South
Produced by RCADE, Barcelona, 2002
CONTENTS
FIRST PART
• Ecological Debt definition
• Elements that constitute the Ecological Debt
SECOND PART
• The relation between External debt and Ecological
debt
• Organizations that are working on the Ecological
Debt
• More information
DEFINITION
 The Ecological Debt is the obligation and the
responsibility that industrialized countries have
towards Third World countries, because of the plunder
of oil, minerals, forests, biodiversity, marine
resources; because of the occupation of their
environmental space and the destruction and pollution
of their natural capital and sources of subsistence.
 It does not put a price to nature
 It does not pretend to put environmental services on the market
 It does not put a price to the right to pollute
ELEMENTS CONSTITUTING THE ECOLOGICAL DEBT
The pollution by industrialized countries because of
their disproportionate emissions of gases that cause
the increase in the greenhouse effect and the
deterioration of the ozone layer. The illegitimate
appropriation of the atmosphere and of the carbon
absorption capacity of oceans. soils and vegetation.
?
Who owes who?
Who emits the CO2 that produces the climate change?
The environmental services supplied by Southern countries as “owners” of their
proportional part of atmosphere, oceans, soils and new vegetation that absorb
CO2 produced in Northern countries, are not taken into account
THE CO2 EMISSION PER CAPITA OF A CITIZEN IN USA IS 15 TIMES LARGER THAN IN INDIA
Who owes who?
Who will suffer most from climate change?
The effects produced now and in future by climate change on Southern
countries (sea level raise, increased hurricanes, stronger Niños...) are not
taken into account. This is a de facto application of The Polluter DOES
NOT PAY Principle!!
Who owes who?
ELEMENTS CONSTITUTING THE ECOLOGICAL DEBT
The excessive extraction of natural resources such as
oil, gas, minerals, marine resources, forests. These
resources are exported without taking into account
social and environmental damages. There is an
ecologically unequal exchange.
Who owes who?
THE TEXACO CASE (I)
One example from Ecuador
http://www.texacorainforest.org
Who owes who?
TEXACO in Ecuador (II)
SOME FIGURES IN THE TEXACO CASE
Extraction of more than 1.500.000.000 barrels of oil in 20 years of
activity in Ecuador 1970-90.
1.000.000 hectares directly and indirectly destroyed in tropical
forests
16.800.000 gallons of oil leaked
19.000.000.000 gallons of liquid wastes contaminating Amazonian
rivers
235.000.000.000 cubic feet of flared gas
300 pools filled with toxic wastes
Irreversible damages in Siona, Secoya, Cofán, Quichua
and Huaorani settlements
Who owes who?
Many other cases of liabilities by TNC
 Under the Alien Torts Claims Act (of the United States) there have
been many attempts to claim compensation from firms for
damage done in other countries.
• For instance, against Freeport McMoRan (Irian Jaya - West
Papua)
• Southern Peru Copper Corporation
• Dow Chemical and other firms (DBCP in banana plantations)
• Union Carbide (Bhopal)
 Also European firms (Elf, Agip, Repsol, Shell, Rio Tinto) refuse
environmental and social liabilities in their overseas operations.
Who owes who?
Who are the debtors?
The energy case (I)
The environmental impacts caused by the extraction of natural resources
necessary for the production of energy are not compensated in any form
Who owes who?
Who are the debtors?
The energy case (II)
The environmental impacts caused by the extraction of natural resources
for producing energy are not compensated in any form
20% rich est p o p u latio n
C o n su m ed E n erg y
20% p o o rest p o p u latio n
58%
L ess th an 4%
USA (5% of world population) consumes 25% of the world energy.
2000 million people in developing countries have no access to
electricity
Who owes who?
Other examples of overexploitation in order
to cover Northern countries’ consumption
Forced overexploitation by Northern countries is exhausting Southern
countries’ natural resources
A recent FAO’s document affirms that among the 17
world most important fisheries, 9 have been depleted.
They have been mainly exploited by European and
Japanese companies.
From 1991 to 1995, more than 11% of world forested
areas have been lost. Even though deforestation has
different causes, Southern countries are net exporters
of wood to Northern countries. Often forests are
depleted and then tree plantations (eucaliptus, oil
palms) for export are introduced.
Who owes who?
ELEMENTS CONSTITUTING THE ECOLOGICAL DEBT
?
The intellectual
appropriation and the
uncompensated use
of ancestral
knowledge related to
seeds, medicinal
plants and other
knowledge that
support
biotechnology and
modern agroindustry
.
EXAMPLES OF BIOPIRACY
The industrialized countries have stolen, and keep stealing, knowledge
and seeds of Southern countries
http://www.grain.org/
http://www.rafi.org
Harpadol, a traditional plant of Namibia,
Sudafrica and Bostwana. Only 0.06 % of
sales are for farmers. Companies of
Southern Korea, Germany and USA claim
for the property right of Harpadol. Many
other examples (Sangre de Drago,
Ayahuasca...). Also, old examples:
chinchona officinalis...
The tropical countries have maintained a high level of biodiversity.
Many of the species used in pharmacy and agroindustry come from
these countries, but they didn’t get anything for this.
Who owes who?
ELEMENTS THAT CONSTITUTE THE ECOLOGICAL DEBT
The degradation of the best land, water, air and
human energy by exporting agriculture, which
jeopardizes the food security and sovereignty, and
the culture of local communities.
?
?
Switch to agriculture or aquaculture for exports
Southern countries have been forced to substitute traditional
agriculture or resource use by export agriculture or aquaculture
Increase of Niño’s impact
because of reduction of
coast protection
Substitution of 70% of
the mangroves in
Ecuador by shrimp
farming for export
Substitution of
traditional agriculture in
fertile valleys in the
Andes by flower
production for exports
Pollution in
greenhouses, starvation
in years of scarce
harvest
Who owe who?
ELEMENTS CONSTITUTING THE ECOLOGICAL DEBT
Toxic wastes carried to
Third World countries
Some examples of “waste transport” (I)
Industrialized countries have contaminated, and keep contaminating with
their waste the developing areas
Nuclear tests map
6.) Atoll of Mururoa (France) and other atolls (UK): 220 tests
21.) Marshall Islands (US) -- 66 tests
Who owes who?
Some examples of “waste transport”(II)
Industrialized countries have contaminated, and keep contaminating with
their wastes the developing areas
ALANG (INDIA): industrialized countries send out ships to be
disassembled in this area. In 20 years levels of pollution
equivalent to an industrial area after 200 years of functioning
have been reached
Who owes who?
Some examples of “waste transport” (III)
Industrialized countries have contaminated, and keep contaminating, with
their waste the developing areas
http://www.greenpeace.org/~toxics/index.html
NEPAL: In 1998 70 tons of expired
pesticide have been discovered. They
have been imported under the
indication “development aid”. Some
with the labels of the USA embassy
PHILIPPINES: Tons of toxic material
have been discovered on some
American military basis when they
have been abandoned
Who owes who?
PARAGUAY: Delta & Pine sent out
lapsed polluted cotton seed, to
Rincon-i - some deaths, illnesses in
1998.
Relations between External debt and Ecological debt
External Debt
Loans conditioned upon an adjustment plan
Restraint
inflation
Reduction
internal
wages and
social
expenses
Plan to balance external accounts
(including payment of debt +
interests)
Improvement
of the terms
of trade
(unlikely!)
Increased
technical
efficiency
Overexploitation
of environment in
order to increase
exportations
Summary - up to now
MAIN ITEMS OF THE
ECOLOGICAL DEBT
– THE CARBON DEBT - how to calculate itDamage cost? Unpaid abatement cost?
– BIOPIRACY (medicinal, agricultural, the issue
of Farmers’ Rights)
– ECOLOGICALLY UNEQUAL TRADE
(unpaid local externalities - Texaco court case
under ATCA, etc).
– EXPORTS OF SOLID OR LIQUID TOXIC
WASTE (e.g. Thor Chemicals, South Africa)
Governments sometimes mistakenly
oppose environmental protection for the
sake of poverty alleviation.
They say, our priority is poverty, not the
environment.
However, people have fought for
livelihood and the environment (Chico
Mendes, Medha Patkar, Ken Saro-Wiwa...).
THE WSSD IN JOHANNESBURG 2002 IS AN
OPPORTUNITY FOR SOUTHERN GOVERNMENTS AND
CIVIL SOCIETY TO PRESENT THE CLAIM FOR THE
ECOLOGICAL DEBT. THIS WOULD SIMULTANEOUSLY
HELP THE ECOLOGICAL ADJUSTMENT THAT THE NORTH
MUST MAKE AND HELP WITH POVERTY ALLEVIATION IN
THE SOUTH
Organizations that are working on the Ecological Debt
Acción Ecológica Ecuador
http://www.ecuanex.net.ec/accion/
FOEI (Friends of Earth International)
http://www.foei.org/
Jubilee +
http://www.jubilee2000uk.org/ecological_debt/eco_main.htm
.....
RCADE-Red de Denuncia de la Deuda Ecológica
http://www.rcade.org/comisiones/deudaecologica.htm
Last campaigns and meetings
More information on the Ecological Debt
http:// www.cosmovisiones.com/DeudaEcologica/
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