Opinion piece

Rio+20: Where's the debate about corporate power?

A response to the proposal for a Convention on Corporate Sustainability Reporting

June 2012

Helena Paul

In the face of the multiple crises of biodiversity loss, ecosystem degradation and climate change plus economic turbulence and injustice, it is strange that there is so little discussion about controlling corporate power and exploitation in the run-up to Rio+20. There are proposals for increasing the participation of women, youth and communities in decision-making. There are calls to reduce land degradation and deforestation, promote sustainable production and consumption, increase energy and resource-use efficiency, and protect ecosystems. But there is almost nothing about tackling the corporations that are doing so much of the damage. There is also no visible discussion about the advertising and public relations activities that corporations use to promote consumption and drive forward the wasteful consumerist development model that generates corporate profits but that also threatens the wellbeing and even survival of present and future generations.

Why we should continue to oppose the inclusion of agriculture in the climate negotiations

February 2012

Helena Paul

The World Bank is pushing hard to extend the life of carbon markets. It sees agriculture as an essential part of the strategy. That is just one reason why we should continue to oppose the inclusion of agriculture in the climate negotiations. For those who are accredited to the Climate Convention, the deadline to respond regarding a programme on agriculture is 5th March.
For all of us it's important to understand clearly what is behind all the talk of "climate-smart" agriculture and "sustainable intensification".

Calling the corporations to account

September 2011

Helena Paul

The first Earth Summit took place in 1992 in Rio de Janeiro, - this was the UN Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), from which the three major environmental agreements on climate, biodiversity and desertification (UNFCCC, CBD, UNCCD) emerged. The Precautionary Principle was established as a fundamental part of the CBD. Just a few months later, in December 1992, the UN Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD) was created “to ensure effective follow-up of Rio Earth Summit”. There were high hopes that at last the international community would begin to address some of the major collective issues of planetary health: biodiversity loss, climate change and desertification.

Corporations are not human, so why should they have human rights?

September 2011

Helena Paul

We live in a world where corporations wield immense power. They operate at global level, beyond the reach of national governments. They play a major part in dictating the kind of development path humanity is following, based on the concept of endless economic growth. Now we are beginning to reach the limits of what the planetary ecosystem can sustain, but there is apparently no limit to the ambition of large corporations. Yet attempts to control them and limit their power and reach have not been successful to date. One little known fact is that, in addition to all their other privileges, corporations actually enjoy human rights, even though they clearly are not human beings. The article looks briefly at how this came about and proposes one way to tackle corporate human rights.

Synthetic Biology

Letter to New Scientist

August 2010

Helena Paul and Ricarda Steinbrecher

"We consider that during the dialogue, several scientists made statements about synthetic biology that bore no relation to current knowledge, and did not mention the uncertainties involved. In particular, we felt that the principle of scientific uncertainty was not always fully conveyed, despite, in our opinion, the public being perfectly capable of understanding it."

Syndicate content