The UN climate change conference currently taking place in Lima, Peru has given the rights of indigenous peoples greater prominence than any previous COP event. However, that does not excuse or hide the fact that Peru itself is undergoing a major conflict of interest between its native people and its submission to foreign oil companies.
Since the end of June, there have been five separate oil spills associated with Petroperú’s main northern pipeline, the North Peruvian. The first spill dumped an estimated 2,000 barrels (84,000 gallons) into the Amazonian jungle, according to Peruvian officials, and the latest spill is estimated to be several times larger.
Villagers in the area of a November 16 spill reported seeing the dead body of a capybara floating dead in a lagoon of crude oil and dead fish packed tight enough to nearly walk across.
“You could smell oil, and the leaves on the bank were black,” Piero Castillo, a Kukama villager from San Pedro, told the Guardian.
Exposure to oil from a June 30 spill near the village of Cuninico caused many natives to develop nose bleeds, nausea and stomach aches. Several villagers are believed to have eaten fish contaminated by the crude.
Though Peru has pledged to generate 60 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2025, it has also opened up 75 percent of its rainforest to oil companies. Over the summer, the government also lowered the maximum fines for environmental crimes by 50 percent and stripped its Environmental Ministry of the sole authority to designate protected areas.
“These kind of changes in environmental legislation are first and foremost to protect the oil industry and ensure the oil industry can go on as they want – in the run-up to the COP [Conference of the Parties, the Lima climate summit] they do that,” Anders Krogh, chief Amazon campaigner for the Norwegian Rainforest Foundation, told the Guardian.
Today, deforestation, agriculture and other types of land use account for 61 percent of Peru’s carbon emissions, according to the Carnegie Institute for Science.