JOIN THE DISCUSSION Fracking: Can communities, governments & businesses agree on an integrated approach?

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17 November 2014
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At the Global Landscapes Forum’s Youth Session, Laura Schuijers and Raquel Rosenberg will be facilitating a discussion on “implementation of integrated landscapes approaches.”

So, what is meant by an integrated landscapes approach?  In our view, “integration” needs to target different groups of stakeholders, as well as different environmental, agricultural and development sectors.  We’d love to hear your thoughts as well (see the bottom of this post for some questions and please share your ideas by commenting at the end of this article!).

At the Forum, we are going to mock up a stakeholder negotiation which addresses integration, by providing participants with a case study.  Our case study will look at an important environmental and landscapes issue – hydraulic fracturing (also known as “fracking”).  Fracking is a mining technique which pumps fluid into rock formations – often comprising of water, a proppant, and a mixture of chemicals – to extract natural gas from shale deposits under the earth’s surface.

The environmental impacts of fracking are still relatively uncertain, though major concerns revolve around contamination of groundwater with fracking fluids, air pollution, local environmental damage due to well and site construction and associated traffic infrastructure.  Another concern is the large volumes of water used, particularly in dry countries where water security is an issue.  On the other hand, some believe that using natural gas is a necessary way to bridge the transition between reliance on emissions-intensive coal and crude oil and renewable energy, because it is less emissions-intensive than current major energy sources, like coal.  We encourage participants to learn more about fracking in their own communities, and their local government’s stance on fracking, and share their experiences.

The fracking site in our case study is on indigenous land – an issue faced in a number of proposed or existing fracking sites around the world.  Its proximity to a local protected forest is of concern both to environmentalists worried about road traffic, fluid disposal and contamination, and to the indigenous community who rely on the forest for subsistence.  Its proximity to agricultural land has raised concerns about food security among those who believe that the impacts to the land and its water supply might threaten commercial food production.

But for the mining company who has been granted an exploration licence to start investigating shale gas potential, the economic opportunities are very attractive.  And for the government, the need to reduce emissions is a policy it takes seriously.

The ability to meet emissions reductions targets along with the financial gain from exploiting shale resources make fracking attractive to the government, as long as it is not left in a position where it has to bear the burden of remediating environmental damage and expending resources on social disputes and litigation.

As you can no doubt sense, social, environmental and political concerns across sectors are rife.

Further details about the specifics of the case study will be provided to participants prior to the Forum.  For now, we’re interested in hearing your thoughts about how projects like fracking demonstrate the need for an integrated landscapes approach, and how you think dialogue between stakeholders might be facilitated.

Here are some stakeholders we’ve identified.  At the Forum, we will ask participants to adopt the position of one of the below stakeholders and put forward an argument in the mock negotiation.

  1. The indigenous community
  2. The local Farmers Association
  3. Department of Energy
  4. Local community members concerned about water quality
  5. The National Protected Areas Commission (concerned primarily with biodiversity conservation)
  6. Forest Commission (concerned about socially developing forest management for conservation)
  7. Save Our Forests (an NGO closely linked to the indigenous communities)
  8. The Mining Corporation

Following our discussions, Beatriz Zavariz will be pitching a policy message to the Forum, with suggestions on aspects participants think should be considered in order to improve stakeholder negotiations that take into account legal and institutional frameworks and the need for better integration.

So:

  1. What do you think are the most significant differences in views amongst the stakeholders in this case study? Do you think it is possible to find common ground?
  2. Do you have any examples to share of other complex scenarios that have involved integration of stakeholder concerns and different sectors with successful results?
  3. What do you think is the greatest challenge to implementing a landscapes approach?
  4. How do fragmented legal and institutional regimes make it difficult for stakeholders to agree on an outcome, and how do laws and policies influence the relative power of different stakeholder groups?

Let us know what your thoughts are by commenting at the end of this article, and we look forward to sharing our case study with you soon!

Laura, Raquel and Bety.

Jared Rodriguez : Truthout

Jared Rodriguez : Truthout

En la sesión de jóvenes del Foro Global de Paisajes, Laura Shuijers y Raquel Rosenberg facilitarán una discusión sobre la “implementación de enfoques integrales para el manejo de paisajes”

Pero, ¿Qué es un enfoque integral para el manejo de paisajes? En nuestra visión, la “integración” debe involucrar a diferentes actores y a los sectores agrícolas, ambientales y de desarrollo dentro de un paisaje. Nos gustaría conocer tu idea sobre lo que es el “manejo integrado del paisaje” (al final de esta entrada de blog, puedes encontrar más preguntas y el espacio para compartir tus ideas).

En el foro, diferentes actores interesados negociarán dentro de un estudio de caso ficticio. Nuestro caso analizará un problema importante para el enfoque del paisaje –la fracturación hidráulica (también conocida como “fracking” en inglés).  El “fracking” es una técnica de extracción minera en la cual se inyecta fluido a formaciones rocosas- muchas veces el fluido inyectado es agua, arena y una mezcla de químicos – para extraer gas natural de depósitos de esquisto (gas “shale” en inglés) del subsuelo.

Los impactos ambientales del “fracking” no son del todo ciertos. Las mayores preocupaciones se centran en la contaminación de mantos freáticos con los fluidos del fracking, la contaminación del aire y el daño de ecosistemas locales por la construcción de infraestructura para la extracción y el movimiento del mineral. Otra preocupación es que el uso excesivo de agua, puede agravar la inseguridad de recursos hídricos particularmente en regiones áridas. Por otro lado, algunos creen que usar gas natural es una forma necesaria para lograr la transición de emisiones sucias dependientes de carbón y petróleo hacia la energía renovable ya que el gas shale es menos intensivo en cuanto a sus emisiones de gases efecto invernadero. Invitamos a los participantes a que conozcan más sobre el estado de “fracking” en sus propias comunidades y gobiernos locales y que compartan sus experiencias.

Nuestro caso de estudio se ubica en tierras de comunidades indígenas- un problema que se repite a través de diversos sitios aptos para el fracking alrededor del mundo. Su proximidad a bosques locales protegidos es una preocupación tanto para los ambientalistas (preocupados por la fragmentación del ecosistema, la generación de residuos y la contaminación) y para la comunidad indígena que depende del bosque para su subsistencia. La proximidad del sitio a suelo agrícola también ha generado preocupaciones relacionadas a la seguridad alimentaria entre aquellos que creen que el “fracking” puede afectar la calidad del agua y por lo tanto a la producción agrícola comercial.

Sin embargo, para la compañía minera que ha obtenido el permiso de exploración, las oportunidades económicas que representa la extracción del gas “shale” son muy atractivas. Además, para el gobierno, el gas “shale” es una opción viable para cumplir con sus compromisos internacionales de reducir emisiones de gases efecto invernadero.

La oportunidad de cumplir con las metas de reducción de gases efecto invernadero, así como el crecimiento económico que la actividad representa, hace al “fracking” atractivo para el gobierno. Siempre y cuando el gobierno no se vea en una posición donde tenga que gastar en remediar daños ambientales o en disputas sociales y litigios.

Como se puede notar, las preocupaciones sociales, ambientales y políticas son rampantes.

Más detalles sobre el caso de estudio serán disponibles antes del Foro. Por ahora, nos interesa conocer tu opinión sobre cómo proyectos como el “fracking” demuestran la necesidad de implementar enfoques de manejo integral de paisajes, y cómo crees que el diálogo entre los actores de un paisaje pueda ser facilitado.

Aquí hay algunos actores importantes que hemos identificado hasta ahora. En el foro solicitaremos a los miembros de nuestra discusión que adopten la posición de uno de ellos y que defiendan un argumento en la negociación ficticia.

  1. La comunidad indígena
  2. La Asociación local de productores agrícolas
  3. El Ministerio de Energía
  4. Los miembros de la comunidad local preocupados por la calidad del agua
  5. La comisión de Áreas Naturales Protegidas (se ocupan de temas relativos a biodiversidad y conservación)
  6. La Comisión Forestal (preocupados por el desarrollo del manejo forestal)
  7. Salvemos Nuestros Bosques (Una ONG que trabaja de cerca con la comunidad indígena)
  8. La corporación minera extranjera

Después de nuestra discusión, Beatriz Zavariz dará un “pitch” con un mensaje político a un panel de tomadores de decisiones. Este pitch recopilará las sugerencias que todos los participantes en la discusión para mejorar las negociaciones entre los actores de un paisaje tomando en cuenta marcos institucionales y legales y la necesidad de integrar sectores.

Así que:

  1. ¿Cuáles crees que son las diferencias más importantes entre los actores de este caso de estudio? ¿Crees que se pueda llegar a un acuerdo mutuo?
  2. ¿Puedes compartir algún caso que haya integrado la visión de diferentes actores y sectores con resultados exitosos?
  3. ¿Cuál crees que es el reto más importante para lograr un enfoque integrado de manejo al paisaje?
  4. ¿Cómo es que los marcos legales e institucionales fragmentados pueden dificultar el que los actores de un paisaje concuerden en un fin común? y; ¿Cómo crees que las leyes y políticas influyen a la distribución de poder entre los participantes de un paisaje?

Comparte tus ideas a través de un comentario al final de este artículo. ¡Muy pronto estaremos compartiendo nuestro caso de estudio con ustedes!

Laura, Raquel y Bety

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6 Responses to: JOIN THE DISCUSSION Fracking: Can communities, governments & businesses agree on an integrated approach?

  1. Pedro

    November 18th, 2014

    Fracking is awful for everyone it impacts. On the other hand fracking companies can make some money.

    Reply
    • Laura

      November 24th, 2014

      Hi Pedro. There have definitely been some terrible consequences of fracking. One question we need to think about in regard to each of the stakeholders is, are there any possible positive benefits? What are the alternatives in terms of energy supply? Eg, if a community is heavily reliant on coal, is that an acceptable alternative? Since we need to engage in a negotiation, we want to think about whether any compromise would be acceptable (for example, strict environmental conditions, or perhaps an expert scientific review, maybe the idea of benefit-sharing within the community) from the perspective of each of the stakeholders.

      Reply
  2. Mona Z

    November 18th, 2014

    I think the main difference will be in terms of the key priorities for each of the stakeholders. Indigenous communities are concerned about their livelihoods while government agencies want to ensure emissions reduction that do not affect economic growth, and private sector seeks for profit. So the main challenge will be in negotiating these priorities, making compromises , and settling on a long-term strategy that does not only focus on minimizing harm (which seems to
    be the focus of discussions so far) the but also maximizing long-term benefits.

    I think the main challenge is the fact that all stakeholders are mostly focused on short-term benefits or harms of fracking. The way in which fracking issue has been framed so far focuses the debate on two opposing extremes – environmental harm and economic profit. Yet fracking is a also a big health concern which is often overlooked, it also poses challenges to economic growth over the long-term as it only delays investment in, and development of renewable energy. And as it reduces prices, it does little to encourage people, communities and industries to reduce energy
    consumption!

    So the very first steps towards an integrated approach require focus on a more democratic process of decision-making and generating spaces for honest dialogues amongst different stakeholders to agree on a shared vision of what they want to achieve over the long term. So far it’s been the industry making decisions and lobbying for government support, and initiating fracking, with citizens watching or campaigning on the sidelines. The government and the institutional framework can actually play a very important role not only in steering discussions and negotiations and empowering citizens/communities but also in ensuring clarity in risk communication and accountability of the fracking industry and of regulatory frameworks and standards.

    Reply
    • Laura

      November 24th, 2014

      Thanks for your considered response, Mona! I think your idea about time scales is a really important consideration. Now we need to think about how legal and institutional frameworks might be able to play the role of facilitating and empowering multi-stakeholder discussions, and how best to communicate risk and apportion liability appropriately. If you have any examples either of ways in which this has been done well, or could improve, that would be great!

      Reply
  3. Graham

    November 22nd, 2014

    “The environmental impacts of fracking are still relatively uncertain, though major concerns revolve around contamination of groundwater with fracking fluids, air pollution, local environmental damage due to well and site construction and associated traffic infrastructure.”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Precautionary_principle

    That is all.

    Reply
    • Laura

      November 24th, 2014

      Hi Graham, thanks for your response. The precautionary principle is definitely an important part of the legal regime governing fracking. It is a principle of international law, and different countries’ domestic environmental legislation translates this principle in different ways. So a great first question to ask of the case study would be whether or not Ambrosia’s legislation takes a precuationary approach, or whether the decision-makers are required to adhere to the precuationary principle. Remember that we are looking at the perspectives of different stakeholders, so, some stakeholders in this scenario could use the precuationary principle to back their stance. I wonder how the Mining Corporation would respond?

      Reply

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