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Polluters are slowing down Africa’s progress

May 26, 2021

By Charity Migwi and Nicole Rodel*

The world has no business investing in new fossil fuel developments in our race to the 1.5°C
pathway. The International Energy Agency’s (IEA) newly released Net Zero by 2050 roadmap
has closed the door on new fossil fuel extraction, and fossil fuel giants have lost their claim to
fame of new oil and gas reserves being aligned with the Paris Agreement. It’s a small victory for
climate, and the big polluters, governments, and public finance institutions will have a tough
time giving grounds for dirty developments – but there is seemingly no slowing down Total SE,
Standard Bank and AfDB from riding their gravy train through Africa at full steam ahead.

Since 2012, Total SE has been the largest fossil fuel spender in Sub-Saharan Africa. The French
energy giant expanded its dominance in the region when it signed the Shareholding Agreement
(SHA) and the Tariff and Transportation Agreement (TTA) alongside the governments of
Uganda and Tanzania with Tanzania recently signing the Host Government Agreement (HGA).
This deal has paved the way for oil exploration in the Albertine Graben and the construction of
the longest heated pipeline in the world, the East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP). The
signing of this long awaited deal has spelled doom for communities affected by the project as
compensation delays and mixed messages have only triggered anguish and controversy among
the Project Affected Persons (PAPs). Not only will tens of thousands of people be displaced but
locals risk losing their land in exchange for peanuts as the valuation report used by the
government relies on old property rates. In consequence, Total will continue enriching itself at
the expense of already vulnerable East Africans.

EACOP is not the only African charm for the French energy giant. Its mega Liquified Natural Gas
(LNG) project in Mozambique is targeted for completion in 2024 – and the added conflict has
displaced hundreds of thousands of people from their homes, farmlands and fishing areas,
leaving them without livelihoods and reliant on food aid. Total’s operation in Mozambique has
ignited flames for the province of Cabo Delgado as the gas industry is fuelling social tensions.
The already vulnerable locals are feeling frustrated being caught up in the manifestation of the
paradox of plenty. Their resource rich province is being plundered by political and global
economic elites as they suffer violence, human rights abuses and massive displacements, amid
escalating insurgencies and security threats conveniently labelled as terrorism. In response,
Total declared force majeure on it’s $20 billion LNG project, thereby absolving itself of its
commitments and contractual obligations, while still holding the major benefits of being the
project concessionaire even at a time when survival is at stake.

The effect of Total’s presence ranges from human rights violations, violent conflict,
environmental destruction, displacement, and death; all while fueling the climate crisis.
Environmental racism has put black, indigenous, and people of colour communities in the path
of polluters and the climate crisis – one of the biggest global threats to ensuring human rights
and dignity for all.

At the forefront of championing these crises is Standard Bank, as they continue to play an
advisory role in organizing funding for the $3.5billion EACOP project as well as finance the
Mozambique LNG to a tune of $485 million, thereby fuelling a climate catastrophe. In the
meantime, Standard Bank prides itself in being a leading oil and gas sector banking team on the
continent. With its tremendous assets totalling over $162billion regionally, Standard Bank has
the potential of influencing positive transformation across the African continent through clean
renewable energy that will not only meet the continent’s energy needs but also create
thousands of jobs. Instead, the bank opts for life long long torture of already vulnerable
communities by investing in fossil fuels.

While governments and fossil fuel companies champion these projects under the guise of
economic revival, growing environmental, social, and governance concerns – and stranded
assets – are beginning to make their way into the boardrooms of the public finance institutions
footing the bill, in large part due to pressure from civil society and grassroots movements. The
African Development Bank Group (AfDB) – who poured $400 million into Total’s Mozambique
LNG project, but strongly refuted claims of its involvement in financing EACOP – recently
released its draft Climate Change and Green Growth Strategic Framework for public comment,
which finally put in writing that the Bank will “cease all investment in coal or coal-related
technologies, ensuring that it will not perpetuate or provide longevity to coal”. The strategic
framework tiptoes around the subject of natural gas, with the seemingly cuddlier cousin to coal
and oil set to play a limited and transitional role in Africa’s energy access development goals,
but no mention of oil is made whatsoever. However, a golden thread weaved throughout the
draft policy is the AfDB’s commitment to Paris Alignment – and with the IEA’s new stance
against oil and gas for a 1.5°C warmer world, it may be back to the drawing board for the AfDB
to uphold their goal of operationalising the Paris Agreement.

The climate crisis is already here and hurting the most vulnerable people. In 2020, the warmest
year on record, extreme climate disasters displaced more people globally than war. It is time for
governments, public finance institutions, and fossil fuel giants to take heed of what we, the
people, have been calling for, and reimagine our development pathway for a sustainable and
equitable future. The people and the planet do not need to be weighed against profit and
economic development. This is a climate emergency, and we need to use all of our energy and
might to fight for the Africa we want – one that puts its people, heritage, and environment at the
centre of our development.

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