However, Humala opted not to mention some of Peru’s impressive steps on climate change such as its pledge to reduce the net deforestation of primary forests to zero by 2021. Nor did he mention that it is among a handful of countries such as Brazil and South Africa that are designing mitigation actions plans and scenarios through its “PlanCC” launched in 2012 to establish the evidence base to support the transition to a low carbon economy.
This lack of attention paid to Peru’s domestic efforts coincides with Humala’s decision to orchestrate the rolling back of Peru’s environmental policy. In June 2014, the Peruvian Congress approved a bill proposed by the president that introduced a new set of economic norms that significantly limits the agency of Peru’s Ministry of the Environment (MINAM) and weakens environmental regulations.
As Peru’s economy relies heavily on foreign investment, particularly in resource extraction, the reform package aims to reactivate the economy and speed up investment as a response to a recent economic slowdown in Peru.
The reform package includes the sharp reduction of fines and sanctions for environmental violations; the time to conduct environmental impact assessments for new projects has been shortened to 30 days; and MINAM’s authority to set environmental standards has been undermined.
The reforms met with fierce criticism among Peruvian environmental groups, which deplore the unraveling of environmental legislation to speed up economic growth. The Minister of Environment, Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, who will preside over the U.N. climate negotiations, voted in vain against the reform package in cabinet.
Humala’s wobbly commitment to the environment and climate change was further exposed by his acceptance of the Gold Insigne Award from the Americas Society in New York. The award is sponsored by Pluspetrol, Barrick Gold Corporation and Freeport-McMoRan, which are some of the most controversial mining and oil corporations currently operating in Peru.
These corporations have been implicated in several environmental pollution scandals and social conflicts. As Humala accepted the award, citizens in the Peruvian region of Junin were protesting against Pluspetrol by blocking highways to expel the company from the area, accusing it of environmental damage and pollution. Meanwhile Peruvian activists in New York for the U.N. Climate Change Summit decried the decision outside the award ceremony.
At the Americas Society, Humala pointed out that “parallel to economic policy [he has] sought to strengthen social policy”. He emphasized that Peru has a multi-billion dollar investment portfolio in the mining sector, yet made no significant reference to the upholding of environmental or social standards for these activities.
Humala’s decision to weaken environmental legislation to boost growth while accepting the Gold Insigne Award exposes his lack of commitment to protecting the environment and concern for climate action.
If Peru is to build a prosperous, low carbon nation that is more resilient to climate impacts Humala should commit to a program for government which emphasizes the compatibility of climate action with development. This requires safeguarding environmental legislation and boosting action on climate change rather than resorting to lofty rhetoric.
This article was originally published here.