Peru’s dangerous environmental regression

Source: Al Jazeera

New laws cozy up to big mining companies and give police impunity in quelling eco-protests

This December, Peru will host the United Nations Climate Change Conference, during which representatives from 194 countries will convene in Lima to set the stage for a comprehensive international climate change agreement in 2015. The agreement would succeed the 1997 Kyoto Protocol on carbon emission reductions, which is set to expire in 2020.

Ironically, in the run-up to the conference, Peru has substantially pared domestic environmental regulations — arguing that this is necessary to attract investment. The Associated Press summarizes the terms of a new law enacted by Peruvian President Ollanta Humala in July:

The law … strips Peru’s six-year-old Environment Ministry of jurisdiction over air, soil and water quality standards, as well as its ability to set limits for harmful substances. It also eliminates the ministry’s power to establish nature reserves exempt from mining and oil drilling.

Also, the measure slashes fines for environmental violations, limits the duration of environmental impact assessments and enhances tax incentives for mining corporations.

In a letter addressed to Humala three days prior to the law’s enactment, Oxfam and more than 100 other international nongovernmental organizations warned against catering to the economic interests of the mining and fossil fuel sectors — both of which promote deforestation and thus contribute to climate change in addition to contaminating the environment with toxic waste. Such legislative reforms, the letter states, “may strengthen a misguided vision that environmental audits and regulations are serious limiting factors to desirable investments and national economic development.”

But Peru’s misguided vision is nothing new. The law is simply the latest in a series of moves that court foreign capital at the expense of local communities.

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