While the world is building off the hype that going green or carbon offsets are the new future, we here in Africa are building a pipeline aimed to continue to destroy the earth. Is it fair then that Africa doesn’t really matter in the grand “reset” of the global order, where western countries and companies are coming to dictate what needs to be done in Africa, as a means to drive profit? Much needs to be considered as we Africans are moving toward building energy economies.
It is the 21st Century, twenty plus years into the new millennium; we are a civilized learned people. We have digitized, gone paperless, our phones are smarter than us and we drive, or rather are driven by electric cars.
All in all, we have gone green. We do not use dirty polluting charcoal. We cook with gas; we do not burn fossil fuel or at least we are phasing it out. With all this progress to reduce our carbon footprint, is this really the time to fund a colossal fossil fuel gusher?
I ask because, someone once said, Africa and Asia are the ‘lungs of the world’ since they are the only places that still house large tropical forests, so it is a matter of concern that Tanzania and Uganda (and Kenya and DRC) have signed a deal to pump out and export crude oil.
Truth be told, it seems we have learnt very little even though the truth about fossil fuels is glaring in our very faces. Every year we are faced with worsening climate change effects. Unpredictable weather patterns, storms and droughts where there were none, melting ice caps and gaping holes in the ozone layer, the list goes on.
Yet despite these facts, at least two companies are looking for a whopping $3.5 billion to build a 1,445 kilometre pipeline to transport crude oil extracted from the very bowels of Mother Earth, deep below the Indian Ocean just off the Tanzanian coast.
France’s Total and China’s CNOOC want to pump out some 230,000 barrels of oil via an abomination christened the East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP) and are expecting to start oil export in early 2025.
Consider this, when it is up and running, the oil transported by this pipeline will emit 33 million tonnes of CO2 a year! That is thirty three million tonnes of suffocating, global warming carbon dioxide will be pumped into the atmosphere every year!
East Africa, one of the world’s poorest areas (as far as development goes at least), relies on agriculture for survival and is one of the worst climate change affected regions on the planet. Now it will be ground zero for the extraction and supply of almost a quarter million barrels of dirty crude oil.
Experts like David Pred, Executive Director of Inclusive Development International has expressed misgivings. “Total and CNOOC are going to struggle mightily to find enough banks and insurance providers willing to associate themselves with such a reckless project and assume its manifold risks on their books.”
Emphasis ‘a reckless project’ and Pred is not the only one who thinks so. Around the world, people who still reason and care for the future of this planet, the future of our children, the future of humanity, are putting pressure on investors to dump the burning of fossil fuels and seek green energy solutions.
Media notes ‘a consortium of 263 organisations wrote to the CEOs of 25 banks urging them to steer clear of the project’ – the East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP). Even though Tanzania and Uganda have signed the deal with Total and CNOOC, without the funding yet in place, the oil gusher is, as experts put it, “still far from a done deal.”
It is deeply reassuring that even banks have started to grow a consciousness, a sense of responsibility beyond financial profit. Responsible banks like Barclays and Credit Suisse have publicly declared they want no part in this atrocity.
Interestingly enough, even the UK has put its foot down saying no to adding any more greenhouse gases to our atmosphere, no to glaring holes in the ozone layer, our single protection from the harmful UV rays of the sun and no adding another degree of heat to global warming.
The UK has vowed not to support this ‘reckless’ pipeline and in fact, the once avid conqueror of the world for raw material to feed her industries has put an end to support for overseas fossil fuel projects as of March 31st.
That being the UK’s stand, Total’s hope for funding from the UK Export Finance (UKEF) has gone up in smoke, so to speak but who is to say there won’t arise another bank elsewhere in the world that will go ahead and fund the project?
None describes it better than Ryan Brightwell, researcher at BankTrack, who said the fact that the UKEF has refused to be part of this planet-killing project is ‘embarrassing’ to its supporters.
“Given the continuing human rights impacts and the huge risks to water, climate and nature from the project, many financiers are choosing to stay away,” he told media.
Lucie Pinson, founder of Reclaim Finance that has actively pushed for large funding institutions to cut financial support for projects involving fossil fuels is of the opinion Total’s participation in this dirty oil deal in one of the planet’s last green places is “…in blatant contradiction to the CEO’s attempt to depict the oil major as a climate-conscious, responsible, multi-energy company”.
Smoked Up: Little Hope for the Future
There is little hope that the project will be ditched; chances are funding will be secured by some means. Meanwhile, on the ground in East Africa, the project is being hailed as a cash cow that will employ tens of thousands of people.
Tanzania’s newly sworn-in President Samia Suluhu backs the monetary value of the project saying the pipeline will yield revenue and long-term employment opportunities. President Yoweri Museveni, Africa’s longest sitting president and her counterpart in neighbouring Uganda, shares the same view and in fact feels the crude oil industry for his country has taken too long to come alive. “This pipeline could turn out to be a very important project that may serve the region, not only in the short term but also in the medium, if not in the long term,” he said.
Notably and to some credit, the Ugandan arm of the Africa Institute for Energy Governance is also calling on lawmakers not to approve loans for the development of the project. The organisation warns that the proposed pipeline route cuts right through ‘…a number of sensitive biodiversity areas and wetlands of designated international importance…and threatens protected wildlife habitats and water sources for millions of people,’ not to mention the thousands of people who are facing displacement to give way to the project.
‘Reckless project’ is an understatement for, to add insult to injury, due to the low sulphur content, the crude will require heating above 50o for it to flow through the pipeline for which heating stations and a power supply line will have to be included alongside the pipeline.