Human Rights Violations in Honduras linked to Aguan Biogas Project continue (Newsletter #13)

Two months on from our first report[1] about the Aguan biogas project[2] in Honduras which is currently seeking registration under the CDM, human rights violations continue.

See a video documentary (9.45 minutes) of March 2011 giving a good but shocking overview about how the current situation in Honduras is linked to the protests in the Aguan valley and the CDM project in question – please note that the video contains disturbing images.

Also a second CDM application by the same project participants – Exportadora del Atlantico and EDF Trading, authorised by the UK government – is awaiting validation. Both projects would, if approved, generate around 23,000 and 25,500 CERs annually, equaling to about €276,000 and €306,000 respectively for the two projects.

The company behind the project, Grupo Dinant subsidiary Exportadora del Atlantico, is implicated in assassinations and other serious human rights abuses in Honduras and there are grave concerns that additional funding through the CDM could be used to pay for more armed paramilitaries.

The applications were authorised by the UK government and would allow the energy company EDF Trading to buy carbon offsets from Grupo Dinant in respect of biogas capture at two palm oil mills.

A recent report by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in Honduras confirms that 23 people have been killed between January 2010 and February 2011 in land conflicts involving Grupo Dinant. The violence and assassinations have involved paramilitaries armed by Grupo Dinant’s owner, Miguel Facussee, some of whom are reported to be hired death squads responsible for large numbers of murders in Colombia, as well as the military and police. If CDM funding is granted, this will generate more profits for a company likely to spend them on more paramilitaries and more oppression of peasant communities, many of which are trying to reclaim land to which they are legally entitled.

See a recent report by Giorgio Trucchi (translation V.C.) published on 26 March 2011.

The massacre must not be supported by the CDM

Current CDM rules rely on the CDM host country government to assess whether a project contributes to sustainable development. This places the assessment of sustainable development in the hands of governments that would like to see more investment in their respective countries. As a consequence, no CDM project has ever been rejected on the basis that it did not contribute to sustainable development.

Allegations of serious human rights abuses related to CDM project applications in Honduras and Panama have caused an outcry amongst civil society organisations and widespread dismay that human rights are not being taken seriously under the CDM.

This issue clearly needs to be addressed at the next climate change conference in Durban, South Africa (COP-17). However, in the meantime the CDM Executive Board must re-assess their mandate and find ways of preventing projects that are linked to any sort of violations of international laws from acquiring eligibility under the CDM. A stringent requirement for DOEs to check conformity with international human rights law when validating the project would be an option. Another more efficient option would be to link remedies to the monitoring periods of a given project. The detection of non-conformities, e.g. incidents that involve human rights violations should lead to the project being stripped of CDM eligibility or at the very least lead to the suspension of issuance. This would only be a logical move given that responsible investor would not be interested in buying carbon credits from projects that do not comply with minimum international standards.

Perspectives GmbH which initially drafted the PDD has already publicly distanced itself from the project. Civil society representatives are now calling on other Parties involved to follow this example and to take a stand against human rights abuses in Honduras, especially in the context of the CDM.

On 4th February, an Open Letter signed by 76 organisations was sent to the UK’s Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC), calling on them to withdraw their authorisation and thus to stop the project from going ahead.

Yet after more than two months, neither the UK Government nor EDF Trading has responded to these grave concerns. Also a letter sent to the CDM Executive Board on 4 January remains without a response.

The CDM Executive Board must take this issue seriously. If there are no rules in place that allow for the rejection of the project based on human rights abuses, it is time to change this now.


[2] Project 3197 : Aguan biogas recovery from Palm Oil Mill Effluent (POME) ponds and biogas utilisation – Exportadora del Atlántico, Aguan/Honduras http://cdm.unfccc.int/Projects/DB/TUEV-SUED1260202521.42/view