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Total gives assurance as banks threaten opt out of oil project

Friday April 02 2021
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By Daily Monitor

Kampala. Total E&P Uganda has maintained that the $3.5bn East Africa Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP) will be implemented in strict adherence to all environmental requirements despite some banks threatening to withdraw from the project.

Some international commercial banks are threatening to withdraw from funding the construction of the project proposed by French Oil Company Total and the China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC) over issues raised by some banks and non-state actors.

But Ms Linda Nabirye, the external communications coordinator for Total E&P Uganda, says on March 8, they released a press statement responding to some issues raised by the banks and the NGOs.

The release: “Uganda and Tanzania: Total acts in transparency on social and environmental stakes of the Lake Albert resources development project,” said projects Tilenga in Uganda and the EACOP in Uganda and Tanzania “are undertaken in a sensitive environmental context and require the implementation of land acquisition programmes with a specific attention to respecting the rights of the communities concerned.”

Total says environmental and social impact assessment (ESIA) studies have been conducted and approved by the Ugandan and Tanzanian authorities for both projects, which are carried out in compliance with the stringent performance standards of the International Finance Corporation (IFC).

Total also said it would work closely with Uganda Wildlife Authority and with IUCN experts to integrate the best practices for the protection of chimpanzees, particularly by promoting the conservation of forest habitats.

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The banks have provided statements making it clear they will not support the EACOP after an open letter endorsed by 263 organisations from around the world was sent to 25 banks considered most likely to be approached for financing,” a March 18 press release from Inclusive Development International, read in part.

“Barclays does not intend to participate in the financing of the East African Crude Oil Pipeline project,” it further read.

Credit Suisse is also said to share the same position with Barclays.

On this, an alliance of African and international environmental and human rights organisations have claimed another win in their campaign to stop the construction of the oil pipeline. Bank Track, which is among these organisations, raised the red flag over alleged ignored social and environmental concerns along with the project.

“The EACOP is manifestly incompatible with global efforts to reduce our carbon emissions. Banks simply can’t have it both ways – you can’t claim to be serious about climate change and support climate-destroying projects like the EACOP,” Mr Ryan Brightwell, the Researcher and Editor at BankTrack, said.

When Daily Monitor asked Mr Brightwell about the authenticity of the quoted bank statements in their release, responded in an email, “the banks provided the statements to us, with permission for us to publish them on the stopeacop.net website.

: https://www.stopeacop.net/banks-checklist. If you wish to confirm these statements with the banks themselves or seek further comment from them, may I suggest you contact their press offices.”

Daily Monitor sought confirmation from Credit Suisse through the Media Relations, Credit Suisse Group in Zurich, Switzerland, both on email and phone calls. “Thanks for reaching out. I can confirm: Credit Suisse is not considering participating in the EACOP project. Kind regards,” Mr Yannick Orto, the Credit Suisse Services Ag Group External Communications in Zürich, responded.

Mr Orto said as a bank policy, they will not give the reason why they are not supporting the EACOP and advised everyone to only use their “public statement”.

Daily Monitor could not reach Barclays Bank through its corporate and investment contacts as provided on the bank’s website for press and media. Our calls could not be answered by the bank and the voice mail message left was not returned.

However, the bank is quoted on the #STOPEACOP campaign: “Barclays does not intend to participate in the financing of the East African Crude Oil Pipeline project” as its public statement.

“Besides climate and environmental risks, our field investigations reveal serious human rights violations already caused by EACOP, with tens of thousands of people deprived of their livelihoods before having received any compensation. We call on French banks to commit themselves quickly and publicly not to finance this project,” Juliette Renaud, the senior campaigner at Friends of the Earth France, said.

It is, however, not clear whether the banks’ refusal to finance the project is related to the environment. Mr Samuel Okulony, the chief executive officer of the Uganda-based Environment Governance Institute, said the next 10 years will be critical for efforts to mitigate the severity of climate change and that the pipeline will generate an additional 34 million tonnes of carbon emissions each year, which is disastrous.

Mr David Pred, the executive director of Inclusive Development International, said it would be a significant blow to the project if Standard Bank was to walk away, given the key role it has played as a financial advisor in arranging the $2.5 billion project loan that is required to finance construction.

“Any credible assessment would find that this project is too risky for the millions of people whose water resources it would jeopardise and for our rapidly warming climate, which simply cannot afford another massive oil project,” Mr Pred said.

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