The Canadian Federal Government Fails to Hold Canadian Companies Accountable Overseas
The Okavango River Basin covers 125,000 square miles across Angola, Botswana and Namibia and is home to the largest remaining population of African elephants, lions, leopards, rhinos, giraffe, African buffalo, and hundreds of species of birds. Its vast water system transforms what could be one of the driest areas in the world to a biodiversity hotspot hosting a vibrant landscape. In 2014 it became a Unesco World Heritage site.
While humanity faces the dual calamities of biodiversity loss and the impacts of a rapidly heating climate, the urgent need to safeguard biodiversity rich places such as the Okavango River Basin becomes more urgent.
The WWF Living Planet report shows that wildlife populations have declined by 69% over the last 50 years.
Indeed, while elephants roamed the forests and savannas of Africa in the millions in the past, the 20th century has seen an accelerated assault on their lives with populations declining from 10 million in the early 1900s to approximately 450,000 today. Climate change, human wildlife conflict, and poaching continue to devastate elephant populations.
As Canadians, why is it important that we act expeditiously to help protect the Okavango Delta from intrusions that would devastate this region?
We know that the world we inhabit is deeply interconnected. We are one planet.
The destruction of the Amazon forest impacts us all. The destruction of the Okavango Delta impacts us all.
The systems humans built have led us to this state of multiple crises. Now we must rebuild a path forward reprioritizing the needs of the planet as an interconnected place where the importance of flora and fauna are equally considered in economic development.
Recon Africa is a small Canadian oil and gas-based exploration company that has begun drilling for oil and gas in this pristine basin. The news of its discovery increased share prices making a bundle for investors. The track record of Recon Africa has been suspect from the start, including stock manipulation, which has recently been extensively documented in Rolling Stone, and the Globe and Mail.
WHY SHOULD CANADIANS CARE?
The Canadian government cares about climate change. We know this because Canada signed on to the Paris Climate Agreement in 2016 pledging to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 30% below 2005 levels by 2030.
The Canadian government cares about biodiversity loss and is signatory to the first-ever biodiversity agreement. Among Canada’s main goals are protecting 30% of lands and waters by 2030, respecting the rights and roles of Indigenous peoples, and addressing the key drivers of biodiversity loss, such as pollution and overexploitation of nature. These elements were agreed upon in the final Framework.
With these large public commitments, it’s clear that Canada intends to play a leadership role on the global stage. In the recent federal budget the government committed millions to help industry and Canada transition to clean energy in response to the US Inflation Reduction Act.
CLOSE THE GAP – Canada does not have meaningful and enforceable oversight of how its corporations behave overseas, helping to ensure that collectively we will continue to fail our climate and biodiversity loss goals.
EMPOWER THE CANADIAN OMBUDSPERSON FOR RESPONSIBLE ENTERPRISE
Canada is home to many companies in the extractive sector, including over half of the worlds publicly listed mining companies. In 2018 CORE was launched to hold accountable laggard companies operating overseas. Although initially lauded as a big step toward corporate accountability that would hold mining and oil and gas companies accountable in extra territorial jurisdiction, in the last four years not a single case has been completed, meaning there have been zero investigations or reviews finished in CORE’s 4 years of operations.
Human rights and environmental groups have taken their complaints and concerns regarding Recon Africa’s corporate behavior to the RCMP and to unresponsive government departments.
Acting swiftly to close this gap would prevent 120 billion barrels of oil or 51.6 Gigatonnes of CO2, the equivalent of one sixth of the world’s remaining carbon budget, into the atmosphere.
It won’t matter what we do here if rogue resource sector businesses continue a trajectory of corporate malfeasance in other countries.
OPPORTUNITY AND NEXT STEPS
The Canadian government needs to give CORE the legal framework, power and resources to meaningfully hold companies accountable for environmental and human rights abuses in other countries.
Canada has the opportunity to lead the clean energy transition in Africa. Close the gaps and get serious about talking about climate change and protecting biodiversity. Everyone benefits from that.
VP – Elephanatics