SEC Adopts Rules to Strengthen Transparency and Disclosure in Extractive Industries
Earthworks and other civil society groups welcomed the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) approval yesterday of its long-delayed rules for Section 1502 (conflict minerals) and Section 1504 (disclosure of payments) of the Dodd-Frank Act.
“The SEC’s rules on conflict minerals and payment disclosure represent a turning point in global efforts to reduce corruption and human rights abuses fueled by mineral extraction,” said Payal Sampat, international program director at Earthworks, a mining and energy industry watchdog group headquartered in Washington, DC. “Although industry groups lobbied hard and succeeded in winning delays and loopholes, the tide has clearly shifted in favor of greater transparency and accountability in the extractive industries. ”
Under the final conflict minerals rule, companies will be required to disclose their use of conflict minerals–including gold, tin, tantalum and tungsten–that originated in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) or neighboring countries. Gold and other minerals have financed armed conflict and brutal human rights violations in the eastern DRC. This disclosure requirement will apply to a wide range of products ranging from jewelry to electronics to canned food, and will apply where companies are deemed to have an influence over the manufacture of that product.
The final conflict minerals rule exempts companies that are considered to not have direct control over product manufacture–and this will likely include some of the largest retailers of gold, including Walmart, Best Buy and other Big Box stores. This exclusion represents a weakening of the draft rule, which had applied to these now-exempt retailers.
“We are disappointed about the free pass that’s been given to Big Box stores and other large retailers,” added Sampat. “These companies have tight control over their manufacturers when it comes to product cost and quality. Why, then, are they off the hook when it comes to human rights violations or corruption?”
The final rule relating to payment disclosure will require companies in the oil, gas and mining sectors to publicly report on payments–including royalties, bonuses and infrastructure improvements–they make to foreign governments.
U.S. retailers, trade associations and the Chamber of Commerce lobbied hard to weaken and delay the SEC’s final rulemaking–which they succeeded in holding up by close to two years. Companies will have until May 31, 2014 to file their first reports related to conflict minerals (and even longer for smaller companies)–representing an almost four year delay in implementing the intent of the Dodd-Frank Act.
The conflict minerals and payment transparency rules have had broad support from a range of stakeholders, from civil society groups around the world, to investors with $1.2 trillion in assets under management, to industry leaders such as Microsoft who broke from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s regressive stance on these issues, to the more than 60 members of Congress who wrote to the SEC calling on them to issue strong rules. Earthworks appreciates the leadership of Congressional supporters including Barney Frank, Jim McDermott, Ben Cardin, Richard Lugar, Patrick Leahy, Carl Levin, Charles Schumer, Maxine Waters and Edward Markey.
- Redwoods are the world's tallest trees.
- Now scientists have discovered they are even bigger than we thought.
- Using laser technology they map the 80-meter giants.
- Trees are a key plank in the fight against climate change.
They are among the largest trees in the world, descendants of forests where dinosaurs roamed.
Pixabay / Simi Luft<p><span>Until recently, measuring these trees meant scaling their 80 meter high trunks with a tape measure. Now, a team of scientists from University College London and the University of Maryland uses advanced laser scanning, to create 3D maps and calculate the total mass.</span></p><p>The results are striking: suggesting the trees <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-73733-6" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">may be as much as 30% larger than earlier measurements suggested.</a> Part of that could be due to the additional trunks the Redwoods can grow as they age, <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-73733-6" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">a process known as reiteration</a>.</p>
New 3D measurements of large redwood trees for biomass and structure. Nature / UCL<p>Measuring the trees more accurately is important because carbon capture will probably play a key role in the battle against climate change. Forest <a href="https://www.wri.org/blog/2020/09/carbon-sequestration-natural-forest-regrowth" target="_blank">growth could absorb billions of tons</a> of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere each year.</p><p>"The importance of big trees is widely-recognised in terms of carbon storage, demographics and impact on their surrounding ecosystems," the authors wrote<a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-73733-6" target="_blank"> in the journal Nature</a>. "Unfortunately the importance of big trees is in direct proportion to the difficulty of measuring them."</p><p>Redwoods are so long lived because of their ability to <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-73733-6" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">cope with climate change, resist disease and even survive fire damage</a>, the scientists say. Almost a fifth of their volume may be bark, which helps protect them.</p>
Carbon Capture Champions<p><span>Earlier research by scientists at Humboldt University and the University of Washington found that </span><a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0378112716302584" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Redwood forests store almost 2,600 tonnes of carbon per hectare</a><span>, their bark alone containing more carbon than any other neighboring species.</span></p><p>While the importance of trees in fighting climate change is widely accepted, not all species enjoy the same protection as California's coastal Redwoods. In 2019 the world lost the equivalent of <a href="https://www.worldwildlife.org/threats/deforestation-and-forest-degradation" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">30 soccer fields of forest cover every minute</a>, due to agricultural expansion, logging and fires, according to The Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF).</p>
Pixabay<p>Although <a href="https://c402277.ssl.cf1.rackcdn.com/publications/1420/files/original/Deforestation_fronts_-_drivers_and_responses_in_a_changing_world_-_full_report_%281%29.pdf?1610810475" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">the rate of loss is reported to have slowed in recent years</a>, reforesting the world to help stem climate change is a massive task.</p><p><span>That's why the World Economic Forum launched the Trillion Trees Challenge (</span><a href="https://www.1t.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">1t.org</a><span>) and is engaging organizations and individuals across the globe through its </span><a href="https://uplink.weforum.org/uplink/s/uplink-issue/a002o00000vOf09AAC/trillion-trees" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Uplink innovation crowdsourcing platform</a><span> to support the project.</span></p><p>That's backed up by research led by ETH Zurich/Crowther Lab showing there's potential to restore tree coverage across 2.2 billion acres of degraded land.</p><p>"Forests are critical to the health of the planet," according to <a href="https://www.1t.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">1t.org</a>. "They sequester carbon, regulate global temperatures and freshwater flows, recharge groundwater, anchor fertile soil and act as flood barriers."</p><p><em data-redactor-tag="em" data-verified="redactor">Reposted with permission from the </em><span><em data-redactor-tag="em" data-verified="redactor"><a href="https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2021/03/redwoods-store-more-co2-and-are-more-enormous-than-we-thought/" target="_blank">World Economic Forum</a>.</em></span></p>
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