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Tom Goldtooth: Carbon Trading is “Fraudulent” Scheme to Privatize Air & Forests to Permit Pollution

StoryNovember 17, 2017
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In South Dakota, the energy company TransCanada says it shut down part of its pipeline Thursday after a rupture spilled 210,000 gallons of oil in a field near Amherst. The pipeline carries a highly polluting form of oil called “diluted bitumen.” This comes amid a new report titled “Carbon Pricing: A Critical Perspective for Community Resistance,” which exposes the dangers of carbon trading, a scheme in which major companies purchase carbon credits from countries who agree to plant trees or protect existing forests. We speak with one of the report’s co-authors, Tom Goldtooth, executive director of the Indigenous Environmental Network, and Isabella Zizi from Richmond, California, home to a massive Chevron oil refinery. Chevron has said it will purchase carbon credits to offset increased pollution from a recent expansion of the Richmond refinery.

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Video squareStoryNov 19, 2014As Sioux Tribe Calls Keystone XL an “Act of War”, TransCanada Hires PR Firm to Probe Critics
Transcript
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman. We are broadcasting live from the final day of the U.N. climate summit here in Bonn, Germany.

Back in the U.S., in South Dakota, the energy company TransCanada says it shut part of its Keystone 1 pipeline Thursday after a rupture spilled 210,000 gallons of oil in a field near the small town of Amherst in the northeastern part of the state. The pipeline carries a highly polluting form of oil called “diluted bitumen” from Canada’s tar sands region in Alberta to refineries as far away as the Gulf of Mexico. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Keystone pipeline has been plagued by spills, with 35 incidents in the U.S. and Canada during its first year of operation alone. Documents obtained by DeSmogBlog reveal one section of the pipeline was 95 percent corroded.

The spill comes just days before Nebraska’s Public Service Commission is set to decide whether to approve TransCanada’s proposed expansion of the pipeline, the Keystone XL, which was canceled by President Obama, following a massive multiyear campaign by environmentalists and indigenous activists, only to be revived by President Trump.

All this comes as a new report is exposing the dangers of carbon trading, a scheme in which major companies purchase carbon credits from countries who agree to plant trees or protect existing forests. Critics say carbon trading amounts to paying to pollute.

For more, we speak with the co-author of the report—it’s called “Carbon Pricing: A Critical Perspective for Community Resistance”—Tom Goldtooth, executive director of the Indigenous Environmental Network, member of the Dine and Dakota Nations. We’re also joined by Isabella Zizi from Richmond, California, home to a massive Chevron oil refinery. Chevron said it’ll purchase carbon credits to offset increased pollution from a recent expansion of the Richmond refinery.

We welcome you both to Democracy Now! Tom Goldtooth, there is so much to talk about. But first, this report you put out on carbon pricing, what are your major concerns? And right before you answer that, you just heard about the Keystone spill in South Dakota. You were one of the leaders in fighting the Keystone XL. You finally prevailed, after years pressing President Obama. Trump has reversed this. What’s your response to South Dakota right now?

TOM GOLDTOOTH: Well, you know, with the solidarity between the tribes and the prairie land, the traditional society, spiritual leaders, our women, our youth, our grassroots, non-Native, the Cowboy Indian Alliance, we stopped it three times. And as you said, we’re under a different administration.

AMY GOODMAN: Explain the Cowboy Indian Alliance.

TOM GOLDTOOTH: The Cowboy Indian Alliance is that—it’s about political power, of bringing the Native indigenous peoples’ voices together on a long history of fighting for our treaty rights, and with the colonial government of U.S. basically continuing to ignore. So, on these issues of extractive industries like fossil fuels, it’s a political issue.

So how do we get political strength? And one of those strategies we use is form unification, solidarity with the private landowners, the ones who live out there, as well, that understand the importance of environmental protection. So how do we use these issues to break down racism that keeps us divided? So we formed the CIA, Cowboy Indian Alliance, working in mining issues in Wisconsin, in South Dakota with uranium issues, and now with pipelines.

AMY GOODMAN: The report that you have just put out?

TOM GOLDTOOTH: Well, this is one of the issues that’s very dear to us, not only in the North, in U.S., Alaska, Canada, but also our brothers and sisters of the Global South—the Sarayaku, for an example, in the Ecuadorean Amazon, where oil concessions are there. So this issue of oil and how do we strategize to keep fossil fuels in the ground and prevent these destructive pipelines. Every pipeline is going to leak. We know that. And that’s evident in this issue with the Keystone, first Keystone pipeline, where it’s very corrosive.

So, we’re looking for real solutions here. We’ve been here constantly since 1999. And our articulation throughout those years, again, is looking at real solutions. And this whole market regime is very serious to us, coming out of the Paris Agreement. That agreement is nothing but a trade agreement. Nothing more. And it privatizes, commodifies and sells forests in these carbon offset schemes, and they’re fraudulent, in a system that allows the polluters off the hook. And that’s why we continually organize and educate people in these hallways, but also back home, on how we need to reject these fraudulent schemes, that it also is a process of privatizing air, the atmosphere, which is a violation of the indigenous worldview, the cosmovision. It’s selling air, selling water, privatizing the whole Mother Earth.

AMY GOODMAN: Isabella Zizi, how does the story of your town, your city, Richmond, California, fit into carbon pricing?

ISABELLA ZIZI: So, in Richmond, California, there’s the Chevron refinery. And so, the Chevron refinery actually does extract oil from the crude down in the Amazon and also tar sands up in Canada and in our First Nations territory and indigenous territories, like the Sarayaku down in the Amazon.

And so, with our policies in California, you know, there’s the cap-and-trade bill that Jerry Brown had passed. And that really permits us and any of the refineries to, you know, put a cap, and it’s—all the offsets that are being done are being done down in the Amazon. You know, they’re continuing to extract and emit fossil fuels in our towns, and it’s directly impacting us as indigenous peoples, people of color, low-income communities, like Richmond.

AMY GOODMAN: You’re a member of what tribe?

ISABELLA ZIZI: I am a member of the Northern Cheyenne, Arikara and Muskogee Creek.

AMY GOODMAN: Now, explain this, because you both have called this “paying to pollute.” What happens—what does Chevron do in Richmond and then offset it by what they do, for example, in Ecuador or Brazil? I don’t think most people can understand this.

TOM GOLDTOOTH: What’s happening is that Governor Jerry Brown is continuing to implement climate legislation in the state of California that has four provisions of carbon offsets. One of those is jurisdictional REDD—reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation. One of the areas in the regions they’re looking at is the state of Acre, Brazil. And in this case and this carbon offset regime at the state level or subnational level of California, which is their main objective, is that it will allow polluting industry, like Shell, for an example, that operates refineries in Martinez, California, or Chevron in the community of Isabella, to continue to pollute, with no plan to decrease emission, creating respiratory illnesses. So this scheme has a local toxic hotspot scenario with it.

So, in this process, Chevron does operate a carbon offset project called REDD in the Atlantic Forest of Brazil. And they have the green police, the green force, that is a police system that basically has a history of shooting at local forest-dependent communities that try to come into their forest for subsistence. So there’s human rights with these issues that we’re trying to lift up. And that’s why we published this “Carbon Pricing” publication.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to quickly ask you about what happened on Saturday. Jerry Brown was speaking, a part of the We are Still In coalition. Many Native Americans disrupted the California governor here in Bonn, calling on California to ban fracking. The protesters kept yelling “Keep it in the ground!” This was Jerry Brown’s response.

PROTESTERS: California’s fracking spreads pollution!

GOV. JERRY BROWN: Yeah, I wish—I wish we could have no pollution, but we have to have our automobiles.

PROTESTERS: In the ground!

GOV. JERRY BROWN: In the ground.

PROTESTERS: In the ground!

GOV. JERRY BROWN: I agree with you. In the ground. Let’s put you in the ground so we can get on with the show here. Anyway—

AMY GOODMAN: So they called, “Keep it in the ground!”—they, the protesters. Both of you were there chanting. And Jerry Brown said we’ll “put you in the ground.” He later told me this was just a joke. Your response, Tom Goldtooth and Isabella?

ISABELLA ZIZI: That was definitely not a joke, because, in reality, slowly, we are being put into the ground, with the cap and trade and with the offsets that are happening. It’s directly impacting our health. They’re commodifying our air, our right to breathe. And, you know, that is slowly killing us. You know, we have these autoimmune diseases. We have these cancers, these birth defects that are happening. And that’s not right for a governor to say that.

AMY GOODMAN: Ten seconds. Tom Goldtooth?

TOM GOLDTOOTH: Well, we have Earth defenders, water protectors, you know, like Berta in Honduras. We’ve submitted a report to the Honduras delegation called the “Dam Report.” But these are Earth protectors, as you know, water protectors on the DAPL. So we are here to defend them, as well.

AMY GOODMAN: We have to leave it at that, Tom Goldtooth of Indigenous Environmental Network and Isabella Zizi of Idle No More. That does it for our week of broadcasting from here. A special thanks to our crew here in Bonn.

The original content of this program is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License. Please attribute legal copies of this work to democracynow.org. Some of the work(s) that this program incorporates, however, may be separately licensed. For further information or additional permissions, contact us.

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