China is reported to be a leading country in implementing and achieving its renewable energy (RE) targets. Also, Chinese firms have been actively investing in various countries to obtain minerals for RE sector.
But the recent report released by The Business & Human Rights Resource Centre, titled “Unpacking clean energy Human Rights Impacts of Chinese Overseas Investment In Transition Mineral”–has revealed a dark side of China’s RE growth story, where it has accused Chinese firms for more than 100 human rights and environmental abuses around the world since 2021.
The Business & Human Rights Resource Centre, an international NGO, has logged 102 alleged cases of abuse committed by Chinese firms involved in sourcing transitional minerals overseas between January 2021 and December 2022.
China has invested into facilities in resource-rich countries such as Indonesia, Peru and the Democratic Republic of Congo. It may be noted that China leads in the processing and refining of minerals critical to the transition to renewables such as, copper, nickel and cobalt.However, quarter allegedly took place in Indonesia.
“Our data shows human rights and environmental abuse is prevalent in the exploration, extraction and processing of transition minerals,” a spokesperson for the NGO said.
He continued, “Local communities are bearing the brunt of these abuses.Of the total alleged cases of abuse across 18 countries by Chinese firms, the NGO found 27 in Indonesia, 16 in Peru, 12 in DRC, 11 in Myanmar and seven in Zimbabwe.”
“China has been blamed for environmental damage and poor workers’ rights in Indonesia, where electric battery-producing companies hungry for nickel have worsened pollution and stoked tensions over sub-par working conditions at their facilities,” informed the report.
Though the Chinese government has committed to not construct any more coal-burning plants abroad, but the NGO said its green pledges have been “overshadowed by the serious human rights risks associated with their overseas business operations”,said the report.
“More than two-thirds of the total allegations involved rights abuses against local communities and over half involved harmful environmental impacts including water pollution, effects on wildlife and preventing access to water,” as per the report.
Further, more than a third were allegations of harming workers’ rights. The accusations concerned 39 Chinese companies, of which only seven have published human rights policies, according to the report.
As the world is moving towards transition, it is bound to increase the demand of minerals required for RE by six-fold by 2040. Thus, NGO called on China and the governments that welcome its companies to take “urgent action” to mitigate the harm caused in the transition. “Given their vital role in energy sectors globally, Chinese actors are well placed to lead a responsible energy transition,” its spokesperson said.
“However, this can only be achieved if Chinese businesses and regulators take proactive measures to address endemic human rights and environmental abuses,” he said.