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extractive industries

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Recent research from WRI and the Rights and Resources Initiative found that the world’s 513 million hectares of legally recognized community forests store 37 billion tonnes of carbon—29 times the annual carbon footprint of the world’s passenger vehicles.

The impacts of oil extraction in Ecuador illustrate why secure community forest rights are necessary to protect both livelihoods and the environment.

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The “resource curse" describes the paradox where countries rich in oil, gas, and minerals remain largely impoverished. Better transparency—both in how governments spend extractive revenues and how natural resource decisions are made—could help tackle this problem. While some new initiatives are making progress on this front, more needs to be done to ensure that drilling and mining doesn’t come at the expense of communities and the land, water, and wildlife they rely on.

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Many countries in Africa are rich with trees, wildlife, minerals, and other natural resources. But as new WRI research and an interactive map show, few national laws provide communities with strong, secure rights to the resources on their land.

WRI conducted a systematic review of the national framework laws for five natural resources—water, trees, wildlife, minerals, and petroleum—in 49 sub-Saharan African countries. The results are presented in our new Rights to Resources map.

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Uganda is one of only 10 African countries with a national access to information (ATI) law. These types of laws are essential to human rights, providing citizens with legal access to the government-held information that directly impacts them—information on issues like mining permits, logging concessions, air quality data, and more. But as researchers are learning, ATI laws on the books do not necessarily guarantee freedom of information.

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U.S. natural gas production is booming. According to the Energy Information Administration (EIA), production grew by 23 percent from 2007 to 2012. Now—with production projected to continue growing in the decades ahead—U.S. lawmakers and companies are considering exporting this resource internationally. But what are the climate implications of doing so?

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The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently released its annual greenhouse gas (GHG) inventory report. Using new data and information, the EPA lowered its estimate of fugitive methane emissions from natural gas development by 33 percent, from 10.3 million metric tons (MMT) in 2010 to 6.9 MMT in 2011. While such a reduction, if confirmed by measurement data, would undeniably be a welcome development, it doesn’t mean that the problem is solved.

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New data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) reveals a troubling trend: Coal-fired power generation—and its associated greenhouse gas emissions—were on the rise as 2012 came to an end.

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The latest International Energy Agency’s (IEA) Medium-Term Coal Market Report 2012 re-confirms the dangerous path the world is on--a path of increasing dependence on coal, which carries serious environmental risks for people and the planet. According to the report, the world will burn 1.2 billion metric tons more coal per year by 2017 compared to today, surpassing oil as the world’s top energy source.

Coal already contributes 40 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions--the IEA projects this figure to grow to 50 percent over the next 25 years. Greenhouse gas emissions--which again reached record levels this year--are driving global climate change, the impacts of which we’re already seeing through more extreme weather events, droughts, and rising sea levels.

To alter course and avoid the worst impacts of climate change, we need a new approach that’s grounded by stable long-term policies, investments, and innovation that leads to a global transition to clean energy. While it may seem that the road to greater coal production is inevitable, the reality is that we can avoid this pathway--if we start now.

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With significant areas of overlapping high biodiversity resources and mineral wealth, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) faces increasing pressure from competing uses of land widely considered incompatible. This policy paper reviews the rise of commercial mining and the mining concessions afforded ostensibly at the expense of conservation efforts where protected areas and mining permits overlap. The paper highlights the need for the DRC to review and harmonize multiple and often contradictory laws, strengthen land use laws, and build implemetation and enforcement capacity.

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The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently issued final rules to reduce air pollution at natural gas wells and other sources in the oil and gas industry. The rules—a New Source Performance Standard (NSPS) for volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and National Emissions Standards for hazardous air pollutants—establish the first federal standards for emissions from production wells (natural gas processing plants were already covered). They are designed to limit the release of VOCs and other air toxics that contribute significantly to smog and are associated with a wide range of adverse health effects. (For more on the oil and gas rules, see M.J. Bradley & Associates’ Issue Brief.)

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Since the discovery of an abundance of oil in 2008, and despite the Parliament’s drafting of the Resolution of Parliament on the oil sector in 2011, Uganda’s extractive sector has avoided public disclosure of its oil production contracts and their revenue streams. But experiences in other African countries, such as Botswana, Ghana, the Republic of Congo, Liberia and Nigeria, provide evidence that the growth of extractive industries need not go hand-in-hand with secret government agreements and revenue corruption. While the path is not always smooth, as these countries progress toward greater transparency, they provide examples for Uganda to consider as its oil industry develops.

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For many of us, the term “ecosystems” conjures up thoughts of environmental protection and restoration. While that is one part of the picture, this view misses the critical role that ecosystems also play in underpinning economies and the business sector. Ecosystem services— the benefits that businesses and people derive from nature such as food, freshwater, pollination, and climate regulation— are the link between nature and economic development. This viewpoint enables governments and corporate leaders to move beyond a narrow mindset of protecting nature from economic development to focus on how to invest in nature for development.

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Now twice delayed during the public comment and rule-drafting periods, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is due to release regulations for Section 1504 of the Wall Street Reform Act in late August. Recent developments in Uganda’s oil industry have made the release of these transparency provisions more urgent than ever.

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