Hundreds of civil society organisations have called on banks not to fund the $3.5 billion to $4 billion East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP) because of the threats it poses to local communities, water supplies and biodiversity.
In an open letter published this week, organisations from 49 countries — including 122 based in Africa — called on banks not to participate in loans to fund construction of what will be the world’s longest heated pipeline.
The StopEACOP alliance also warned the pipeline will fuel climate change by transporting oil that, it estimates, will generate over 34 million tonnes of carbon emissions each year.
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Signatories to the three-page letter include the Africa Institute for Energy Governance (Afiego), Friends of the Earth International, 350.org, the Catholic Agency for Overseas Development, Reclaim Finance, Sierra Club, Global Witness, the IUCN National Committee of the Netherlands, BankTrack and Inclusive Development International (IDI).
The letter was addressed to banks acting as financial advisors for the project — South Africa’s Standard Bank, Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation of Japan, plus the Industrial & Commercial Bank of China — and other institutions that recently provided finance to Total, operator of the Tilenga oilfield, and CNOOC International, which operates the Kingfisher field.
The 263 organisations demanded that Total provides full and fair compensation to communities already affected by the project and called on banks to publicly rule out providing any funding to the pipeline.
The letter stated that, “given the urgency of the matter, we seek a response... as soon as possible, but no later than 26 March”, adding that the organisations would welcome the opportunity to arrange a meeting to discuss these matters further.
Diana Nabiruma, communications head at Kampalas-based Afiego, said: “No responsible bank should finance EACOP, well knowing that the economic, environmental, climate change and social risks of the project are too immense.”
According to David Pred, executive director of US non-profit organisation IDI: “It is difficult to conceive of a more dangerous project at a more perilous moment for the planet than EACOP. The good news is that it’s not too late to stop this project and the global warming calamity that it would accelerate.”
Ryan Brightwell, BankTrack researcher, commented: “Banks have been made aware of the tremendous risks posed by this pipeline and... of the groundswell of opposition from communities and civil society locally and internationally.”
He said banks that choose to finance EACOP will be “among the most irresponsible in the industry”.
Landry Ninteretse, Africa’s regional director of US-headquartered 350.org, said EACOP “threatens to destroy the livelihoods of tens of thousands of people, while affecting a great portion of diverse ecosystems with incomparable biodiversity."
He said: "Financiers need to be on the right side of history and should focus on green projects which will positively transform East Africa’s economies for future generations.”
Christine Lain, co-founder of Save Virunga, an organisation focused on protecting the Virunga ecosystem in the Democratic Republic of Congo, worried that, once EACOP is up and running, it would trigger new oil licensing rounds in the DRC, potentially affecting protected areas.
Nearly a third of the pipeline will run west of Lake Victoria, on which more than 40 million people depend for water and food production.
It will also cross more than 200 rivers, run through thousands of farms and impact the Taala and Bugoma Forest Reserves in Uganda, according to the letter, as well as Ramsar wetland sites.
In Tanzania it will impact the Biharamulo Game Reserve and Wembere Steppe key biodiversity area and risk impacting ecologically or biologically significant marine areas near Tanga port, the letter said.
The letter also argued the project “does not stack up” economically due to low oil prices and risks driving Uganda and Tanzania “deeper into unsustainable debt for oil revenues which will amount to peanuts.”
Total’s upstream boss Arnaud Breuillac, speaking at CERAWeek by IHS Markit just after the letter was published, said Tilenga will be a “low cost... very resilient and low breakeven” project with an upstream carbon intensity of 13 kilogrammes per barrel of oil, less than the 20kg per barrel average for the company’s other projects.
He also said global oil production is forecast to remain stable through to 2030 and will remain a vital energy source for years to come.