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Corporations Trampling on People’s Rights, Destroying Environment: Catholic Charity

The 2021 UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) logo displayed on a smartphone. Rafapress via Shutterstock.

As world powers prepare to conclude the landmark COP26 climate summit in Glasgow, the leadership of the overseas development agency of the Catholic Bishops of Ireland, Trócaire, has decried the role of powerful corporations in contributing to the climate crisis and environmental degradation.

In a Thursday, November 11 report obtained by ACI Africa, the CEO of Trócaire, Caoimhe de Barra calls on states to take “serious and far-reaching” transformations that are necessary in addressing effects of climate change.

Ms. Barra notes that while a negligible percentage of the global population is responsible for climate change, a majority of people are left to suffer the consequences.

“Just 100 companies, including the largest oil, coal and gas companies, are responsible for 70 percent of all global carbon emissions to date,” she notes, and adds, “It is clear that we cannot address the climate crisis without also addressing the issue of corporate accountability.”

In recent years, Ms. Barra says, “there has been a huge rush for natural resources, and corporations are trampling on people’s rights and destroying the environment in the process.”

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“Mining activities are poisoning rivers. Huge swathes of rainforests are being cut down in the pursuit for land and timber,” she laments.

In her report titled, “As our planet is being pushed to its limits, we need to talk about corporations,” Ms. Barra notes that the earth’s precious natural resources and fragile biodiversity are being devastated by corporate activities.

Making reference to the West African nation of Nigeria, the Trócaire’s CEO says, “Dutch oil giant Shell has been active since the 1950s, and a staggering 11 million barrels of oil have been estimated to have been spilled in the region since that time.”

“Oil spills are continuing on a weekly basis, and this has had a devastating effect on the fragile local ecosystem,” she says and adds, “Contamination levels in the water is 900 times above World Health Organization standards.”

However, Ms. Barra notes that on top of harming the environment, people’s lives and livelihoods are being affected by activities of the corporates.

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 “A reported 16,000 children die every single year as a result of the pollution, and life expectancy in the Niger Delta is ten years less than in the rest of Nigeria,” she says.

The CEO of the 48-year-old Catholic charity further says that for years, corporates have been allowed to thrive at the expense of the global economy and “profits soaring for the few.”

She finds it regrettable that communities adjacent to great natural wealth have suffered from exploitation and abuse, adding, “The legal framework hasn’t kept pace with this rapid globalization – and corporations are largely allowed to police themselves.”

The Trócaire CEO goes on to highlight some of the initiatives the Catholic Charity has taken to change the tide.

“This month, Trócaire, together with a coalition of 20 other organizations has published a new report – ‘Make it Your Business’ – which details cases of companies based in Ireland that are connected with human rights abuses and environmental damage,” Ms. Barra says.

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She explains that the entity has also set out a proposal for a strong and effective corporate accountability law, adding, “Without such a law, corporations have been effectively allowed to police themselves and voluntary measures are simply not working.”

“When you consider the fact that the fossil fuel industry reportedly has more representatives at the COP summit than any individual country at the negotiations, it is clear that the outsized power and influence of corporations needs to be addressed urgently,” Ms. Barra says in the November 11 report.

She further observes that “there are more fossil fuel lobbyists attending the COP than the delegates of Puerto Rico, Haiti, Philippines, Mozambique, Bahamas, Bangladesh & Pakistan combined.”

“People are increasingly fed up with the slow progress at these summits, and are frustrated by corporate actors being allowed such undue power and influence,” Ms. Barra says.

She appeals to states to step up and introduce new legislation to prevent corporate damage to the environment and human rights.

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