Just as the processes of colonization devastated territories and peoples in the search for gold, silver and labour, today’s multinational corporations offer powerful echoes of the same. They come not on horseback but by jet, speaking the language of economic growth and prosperity but touting a business model that is destructive in many of the same ways.
The Corporate Conquistadors report shows how extractive industries cause damage on the ground, drive climate change in the atmosphere – and yet are able to push their own agenda through influence over climate policy-making processes.
Multinational corporations are relentlessly expanding their operations into ever more vulnerable and remote regions of the planet. As they do so they both drive the climate crisis and exacerbate its impacts. They bear responsibility for a global crisis which affects us all, and they bring social end environmental destruction to the local communities where they operate. A further legacy of their oil drilling, industrial mining and mega hydro-electric projects is the erosion of those communities’ resilience just as the impacts of climate change begin to take effect.
These same multinationals are also the biggest barrier to meaningful action on climate change, blocking urgently needed regulations and genuine transformational solutions.
In Colombia local communities are resisting the El Quimbo ‘megahydro’ dam project that threatens their homes and livelihoods.
Despite the amassed evidence of the great damage they are causing, corporations are gaining increasing access to climate policy-making spaces, both at national and international level, allowing them to put forward their own so-called ‘solutions’. But their market-based proposals are not aimed at tackling the crisis at all. Rather, they allow the biggest polluters to line their pockets with public money while continuing business as usual. Denouncing the connections between corporations and our decision makers, and de-legitimising the corporate seat at the policy-setting table, is crucial if we are to chart a different course.
Published to coincide with the UN’s climate negotiations in Lima, Peru in December 2014,Corporate Conquistadors is a collaboration with Corporate Europe Obervatory and the Transnational Institute which puts a spotlight on activities in the Andean region by three specific multinational corporations:
In the case of Repsol, the Spanish fossil fuels giant, we see how the relentless pursuit of new gas and oil reserves in Peru takes direct aim at the region’s indigenous territories and forests, leaving social destruction and environmental decimation in its wake. At the same time, Repsol’s complex web of national and international industry lobby groups has allowed it to cash in on carbon markets while blocking efforts to cut emissions at source.
Another Peruvian case is that of Glencore-Xstrata in Espinar, Cusco. Political manipulation has allowed the Swiss-based mining and resources conglomerate to expand its copper mining operations in the region. Scarce water resources, already stressed by climate change, are being contaminated with impunity. At the same time, its network of lobby groups has successfully promoted corporate-friendly policies which avoid any challenge to its dirty business model.
- In Colombia the Italy-based consortium Enel-Endesa is attempting to portray a massive hydroelectric dam as a ‘clean energy’ project via its Latin American subsidiary, Emgesa. But rather than benefiting local people, the electricity is destined for dirty industry at discount prices. Destroying whole communities, rivers and protected forests, it is the kind of false, self-serving response to the climate crisis that we see corporations pushing for. Once again, Enel’s lobbying efforts have ensured that climate policies benefit the main drivers of climate change and environmental destruction.
These emblematic cases – for their combination of environmental and social destruction and covert political manipulation at national, regional and international level – offer a chilling yet urgent look into the realities of the zero-sum game between climate change and corporate power.