In July 2011, the CDM Board approved a palm oil biogas project by Grupo Dinant, a company involved in land conflicts linked to serious human rights abuses, including murders in the Aguan Valley (Bajo Aguan). The decision was made despite representations from many NGOs worldwide, including an Open Letter signed by 77 organisations and networks worldwide. The approval came after EDF Trading, initially the project partner who was to purchase the CDM credits, publicly withdrew from the project and application due to human rights concerns. The UK government who had authorised the initial application, however, refused to denounce the project. The Chair of the CDM Board, Martin Hession from the UK Government (DECC) justified the project approval by claiming the CDM Board was not ‘equipped’ to investigate the human rights abuses. In the context of complete immunity for those responsible for the deaths of now around 50 peasants in the Bajo Aguan, the CDM Board thus gave Grupo Dinant the benefit of the doubt.
A biogas plant will almost certainly allow Grupo Dinant to have their palm oil classed as ‘sustainable’ as an EU biofuel feedstock. Human rights are entirely ignored under the EU Renewable Energy Directive (and thus under UK law, too). However, without methane capture, palm oil is far less likely to meet the EU’s minimum greenhouse gas standards for biofuels – a biogas plant will allow Grupo Dinant to pass that hurdle.
Since July’s CDM Board decision, the human rights situation in Bajo Aguan has escalated once again. 11 people were massacred on 14th/15th August and two peasants were killed on 20th and 21st August. Since the middle of August, 600-1000 soldiers have been deployed in a military occupation of the Bajo Aguan, which coexists with the deployment of paramilitary security forces by companies including Grupo Dinant. Six of the murders during August took place on a Grupo Dinant oil palm plantation.
For more information about the situation in Bajo Aguan see:
+ Honduras: Human Rights Violations in Bajo Aguan, International Fact Finding Mission Report, published by FIAN, July 2011