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Don't fund the EACOP

Author profile picture Sunny Morgan
20 October
Dear Sim Tshabalala,
As Africa’s biggest lender, Standard Bank has a responsibility to invest wisely, with a strong regard for the environmental and social impacts of the projects it finances. Yet, the bank is reportedly still considering contributing to financing the 1,443-kilometer East Africa Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP), which is planned to run through Uganda and Tanzania and become the longest heated crude oil pipeline in the world. A new fossil fuel project at this scale is at complete odds with the global imperative to tackle climate change through decarbonisation. It also runs counter to Standard Bank’s own commitment to support the Paris Climate Agreement under the UN’s Principles for Sustainable Banking. The IPCC’s 2021 report on climate change was declared “a code red for humanity” by UN Secretary General António Guterres, as we draw perilously close to the internationally-agreed threshold of 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels of global heating. To prevent us exceeding that threshold, we must see an urgent and concerted international effort. What we absolutely do not need is further expansion of the fossil fuels industry that has already been responsible for so much of the problem. Data from Global Carbon Atlas suggests that the oil carried through the EACOP, when burned, would add an estimated 34 million tonnes of carbon to the atmosphere each year, which is equivalent to the current annual emissions of Denmark. Africa is perhaps the one place in the world that has been most affected by the effects of climate change; that looks to continue and those impacts will worsen. The World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) has stated that ‘climate change is having a growing impact on the African continent, hitting the most vulnerable hardest, and contributing to food insecurity, population displacement and stress on water resources.’ This makes it doubly irresponsible for an African bank to continue to contribute to the problem instead of divesting in fossil fuels and instead supporting sustainable alternatives. Further, the irresponsibility of this project is not limited to its climate change implications. The EACOP would also have ecological impacts on biodiversity and water systems as well as social impacts on communities and indigenous rights. Much of the oil that is set to be transported through the pipeline currently lies beneath critical ecosystems. For example, 10 of the 31 drill pads for oil wells supplying the pipeline would lie within the boundaries of the Murchison Falls National Park, Uganda’s oldest national park and its largest protected area, which is home to 76 animal species, many of them threatened. The pipeline is set to be buried along a 30-metre-wide corridor that will be cleared of all structures, trees, and crops. Uganda already loses about 90,000 hectares of forest per year, and that loss would increase due to the EACOP. The World Wildlife Fund reports that the pipeline could have “major impacts” on nearly 800 square miles of protected wildlife habitats, and a 250-mile stretch of the Lake Victoria basin, which more than 30 million people depend on for water and food production. This is not to mention the potential for leaks of toxic crude oil that could cause further damage. International finance NGO BankTrack conducted a thorough review of the environmental, human rights, and climate risks and impacts associated with the EACOP project, as well as the commercial and reputational risks it poses to those involved, and outlined its findings in a series of finance risk briefing papers. These briefings concluded that the project poses ‘unacceptable risks and impacts to local communities through physical and economic displacement, threats to livelihoods and income generating activities; grave risks to critical water resources and biodiversity, including protected ecosystems; and unacceptable climate harm. It has become extremely clear what would be the right thing to do. Standard Bank’s domestic competitors ABSA, Nedbank and Investec have all already distanced themselves from the project, as has the African Development Bank. It is time for Standard Bank to follow suit, to stop placing profits over people and the planet, to rule out any financing of the EACOP, and instead to focus on investing in sustainable and socially considerate energy for Africa. Yours sincerely, Sunny Morgan

Sunny Morgan

Author profile picture Sunny Morgan

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