Amazon Reef: BP Drilling Plans Dealt Another Blow by Brazilian Regulator
By Joe Sandler Clarke, Unearthed
BP's plans to drill for oil near a huge coral reef in the mouth of Amazon river have been dealt a further blow after a regulator questioned the company's environmental risk assessment.
Ibama, Brazil's federal environmental agency, rejected an environmental study from the British oil giant, further delaying the company's plans to drill in the region.
In a technical note [in Portuguese], the agency criticized the study for a lack of detail on oil spill modeling and the impact drilling could have on local wildlife, and said it required more information before allowing the company to proceed with plans to drill in the region.
The news comes just a few weeks after Unearthed revealed that the British oil giant discussed concerns over environmental licensing in Brazil with a UK government minister.
Department of International Trade (DIT) minister Greg Hands then personally lobbied Brazil's deputy mines and energy minister Paulo Pedrosa on the issue.
When asked to comment on that story, a spokesperson for DIT said, "it is absolutely not true that our ministers lobbied to loosen environmental restrictions in Brazil—the meeting was about improving the environmental licensing process, ensuring a level playing field for both domestic and foreign companies, and in particular helping to speed up the licensing process and make it more transparent, which in turn will protect environmental standards."
Geologists believe there could be as much as 14 billion barrels of oil in the region, known as the Foz do Amazonas basin.
But a massive coral reef has thrown plans to drill in the area into doubt.
Scientists had long suspected there might be a reef in the region, but its size and depth was not confirmed until five years ago, just as the Brazilian government was putting out drilling licenses to tender.
BP, along with French company Total and Brazil's Petrobras, snapped up five exploration blocks in the mouth of the Amazon in 2013.
In order to drill for oil in the region, companies have to submit environmental impact assessments (EIA) to Ibama.
Ibama said the methodology in BP's EIA for the FZA-M-59 block was "very limited" and the regulator needed more information about what the impact of a oil spill might be in the region. BP holds a 70 percent stake in the block, with the remaining 30 percent owned by Petrobras.
Contacted by Unearthed, BP said that "requests for clarifications" from the regulator may occur several times before a permit is issued.
"As part of the licensing process for drilling a well on the FZA-M-59 block, BP has received the first technical opinion requesting clarifications to the environmental impact study that was presented.
"Under Brazilian legislation and the licensing process managed by IBAMA, requests for clarifications related to the environmental study typically can and do occur several times before the issuance of an environmental permit."
30 percent chance of a spill hitting the reef
Previous assessments filed by the oil majors have caused controversy.
Earlier this year, Unearthed reported that documents filed by Total and BP to Ibama showed that there was a 30 percent chance that a prospective spill from the company's shared blocks could reach the reef.
At the time, a BP spokesperson told us, "Operations on the blocks will only proceed when fully permitted by the Brazilian regulators."
Just a few weeks later, Unearthed found a document showing that BP intended to use a chemical known as Corexit in the event of an oil spill in the region.
The chemical dispersant was used extensively during the Deepwater Horizon disaster in 2010 and three years later, scientists found that the chemical had a negative impact on coral larvae in the Gulf of Mexico.
BP still intends to drill in the region in 2018.
British government lobbying
The news comes as BP finds itself embroiled in a political controversy in Brazil.
We previously reported that a diplomatic telegram from the British government, obtained by Unearthed, showed that, at a "private breakfast" in Rio de Janeiro, BP—together with Shell and Premier Oil—relayed their concerns "around taxation and environmental licensing" to Greg Hands, who then raised them "directly" with Brazilian official Pedrosa.
Now a group of politicians in Brazil are asking prosecutors to investigate whether there may have been any breach of Brazilian law in the award of offshore oil blocks to international companies, including BP.
Reposted with permission from our media associate Unearthed.
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Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker vetoed a sweeping climate bill on Thursday that would have put the commonwealth on a path to eliminating carbon emissions by 2050.
By Ajit Niranjan
World leaders and businesses are not putting enough money into adapting to dangerous changes in the climate and must "urgently step up action," according to a report published Thursday by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP).
Adaptation Has a Long Way to Go<p>The Adaptation Gap Report, now in its 5th year, finds "huge gaps" between what world leaders agreed to do under the 2015 <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/5-years-paris-climate-agreement/a-55901139" target="_blank">Paris Agreement</a> and what they need to do to keep their citizens safe from climate change.</p><p>A review by the Global Adaptation Mapping Initiative of almost 1,700 examples of climate adaptation found that a third were in the early stages of implementation — and only 3% had reached the point of reducing risks.</p><p>Disasters like storms and droughts have grown stronger than they should be because people have warmed the planet by burning fossil fuels and chopping down rainforests. The world has heated by more than 1.1 degrees Celsius since the Industrial Revolution and is on track to warm by about 3°C by the end of the century.</p><p>If world leaders <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/climate-change-performance-index-how-far-have-we-come/a-55846406" target="_blank">deliver on recent pledges</a> to bring emissions to <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/joe-bidens-climate-pledges-are-they-realistic/a-56173821" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">net-zero</a> by the middle of the century, they could almost limit warming to 2°C. The target of the Paris Agreement, however, is to reach a target well below that — ideally 1.5°C. </p><p>There are two ways, scientists say, to lessen the pain that warming will bring: mitigating climate change by cutting carbon pollution and adapting to the hotter, less stable world it brings.</p>
The Cost of Climate Adaptation<p>About three-quarters of the world's countries have national plans to adapt to climate change, according to the report, but most lack the regulations, incentives and funding to make them work.</p><p>More than a decade ago, rich countries most responsible for climate change pledged to mobilize $100 billion a year by 2020 in climate finance for poorer countries. UNEP says it is "impossible to answer" whether that goal has been met, while an OECD study published in November found that between 2013 and 2018, the target sum had not once been achieved. Even in 2018, which recorded the highest level of contributions, rich countries were still $20 billion short.</p><p>The yearly adaptation costs for developing countries alone are estimated at $70 billion. This figure is expected to at least double by the end of the decade as temperatures rise, and will hit $280-500 billion by 2050, according to the report.</p><p>But failing to adapt is even more expensive.</p><p>When powerful storms like cyclones Fani and Bulbul struck South Asia, early-warning systems allowed governments to move millions of people out of danger at short notice. Storms of similar strength that have hit East Africa, like <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/zimbabwe-after-cyclone-idai-building-climate-friendly-practices/a-54251885" target="_blank">cyclones Idai</a> and Kenneth, have proved more deadly because fewer people were evacuated before disaster struck.</p><p>The Global Commission on Adaptation estimated in 2019 that a $1.8 trillion investment in early warning systems, buildings, agriculture, mangroves and water resources could reap $7.1 trillion in benefits from economic activity and avoided costs when disasters strike.</p>
Exploring Nature-Based Solutions<p>The report also highlights how restoring nature can protect people from climate change while benefiting local communities and ecology.</p><p><a href="https://www.dw.com/en/climate-fires-risk-climate-change-bushfires-australia-california-extreme-weather-firefighters/a-54817927" target="_blank">Wildfires</a>, for instance, could be made less punishing by restoring grasslands and regularly burning the land in controlled settings. Indigenous communities from Australia to Canada have done this for millennia in a way that encourages plant growth while reducing the risk of uncontrolled wildfires. Reforestation, meanwhile, can stop soil erosion and flooding during heavy rainfall while trapping carbon and protecting wildlife.</p><p>In countries like Brazil and Malaysia, governments could better protect coastal homes from floods and storms by restoring <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/mudflats-mangroves-and-marshes-the-great-coastal-protectors/a-50628747" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">mangroves</a> — tangled trees that grow in tropical swamps. As well as anchoring sediments and absorbing the crash of waves, mangroves can store carbon, help fish populations grow and boost local economies through tourism. </p><p>While nature-based solutions are often cheaper than building hard infrastructure, their funding makes up a "tiny fraction" of adaptation finance, the report authors wrote. An analysis of four global climate funds that spent $94 billion on adaptation projects found that just $12 billion went to nature-based solutions and little of this was spent implementing projects on the ground.</p><p>But little is known about their long-term effectiveness. At higher temperatures, the effects of climate change may be so great that they overwhelm natural defenses like mangroves.</p><p>By 2050, <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/rising-sea-levels-should-we-let-the-ocean-in-a-50704953/a-50704953" target="_blank">coastal floods</a> that used to hit once a century will strike many cities every year, according to a 2019 report on oceans by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the gold standard on climate science. This could force dense cities on low-lying coasts to build higher sea walls, like in Indonesia and South Korea, or evacuate entire communities from sinking islands, like in Fiji.</p><p>It's not a case of replacing infrastructure, said Matthias Garschagen, a geographer at Ludwig Maximilian University in Germany and IPCC author, who was not involved in the UNEP report. "The case for nature-based solutions is often misinterpreted as a battle... but they're part of a toolkit that we've ignored for too long."</p>
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