African activists call on banks and insurers not to back French oil giant Total’s “catastrophic” East African Crude Oil Pipeline

  • Fridays for Future activist and Time magazine cover star Vanessa Nakate joins activists calling for international banks and insurers to rule out financial support for the East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP)
  • French oil giant Total and the China National Offshore Oil Corporation’s controversial planned pipeline across Uganda and Tanzania will have catastrophic environmental and humanitarian consequences 
  • Banks and insurers including JPMorgan Chase, Citi, Deutsche Bank, Liberty Mutual, AIG, CHUBB and Lloyd’s of London have yet to publicly rule out financial support, while Standard Chartered is believed to be backing EACOP
  • So far 15 banks and seven insurers including HSBC, BNP Paribas and Swiss Re have responded to civil society pressure to deny financial backing to the pipeline
  • Nakate joins activists at “Africa’s People’s AGM on EACOP” organised by the #StopEACOP campaign to coincide with banks’ AGMs

As shareholders of global banks and insurers begin to gather at their Annual General Meetings, Rise Up Movement founder and Fridays for Future activist Vanessa Nakate is among African climate justice activists demanding international financial institutions publicly pledge not to provide financial backing to the construction of a controversial $5 billion oil pipeline that will span Uganda and Tanzania. 

If it goes ahead, the EACOP pipeline will have devastating consequences, displacing communities, endangering wildlife, and contributing to the climate crisis. 

Speaking at the Africa’s People’s AGM on EACOP, Nakate, who featured on the cover of Time magazine in November 2021, will ask financiers not to fund the controversial project, which campaigners say will have devastating consequences for communities, wildlife and the environment. She will be joined by activists including Hilda Nakabuye, founder of Fridays for Future Uganda, and Maria Sarungi Tsehai, founder of the Change Tanzania campaign. 

Fifteen banks and seven insurers, including BNP Paribas, HSBC, Barclays, Credit Suisse, Munich Re, Hannover Re, SCOR, Allianz and Swiss Re, have made public statements ruling out financial backing or underwriting services for the pipeline. 

Civil society organisations believe UK bank Standard Chartered, which chairs the Net Zero Banking Alliance and has committed to bringing its emissions down to net zero by 2050, is considering providing finance to the project. JP Morgan Chase, Citi and Deutsche Bank, also members of the Net Zero Banking Alliance, have yet to publicly rule out providing financial backing to the project. Insurers including Liberty Mutual, AIG, CHUBB and Lloyd’s of London have also so far failed to confirm whether they will abstain from providing underwriting services to the pipeline.

French oil giant TotalEnergies has sought to portray itself as a climate champion, committing to reaching net zero by 2050, but EACOP will tie it into decades more carbon emissions. TotalEnergies, which has some of the highest investments in Russian gas among European energy companies, has also come under fire recently for failing to follow in the footsteps of the likes of Shell and BP, who have withdrawn from business ventures in Russia in the wake of the war in Ukraine. 

Nakate says: “As the boards of leading global financial institutions, dominated mainly by white western men, meet during AGM season, we are holding our own alternative AGM for the people of Africa to send them a message. EACOP threatens the lives of millions of people and will cause devastating ecological and environmental damage. With the climate crisis already a lethal reality for many around the world, we’re calling on the world’s banks and insurers to do the right thing and cut off financial support for the project.”

EACOP is set to come online in 2024 in spite of  warnings from the IPCC last week that greenhouse gas emissions must start to drop by 2025 at the latest if humankind is to have a chance of securing a liveable future. The pipeline would transport an estimated 70 million barrels of oil per year, which is equivalent to 34 million metric tons of CO2 emissions being released into the atmosphere annually. The pipeline will also damage nature reserves that are home to rare and endangered species including elephants, lions and chimpanzees. 

The construction of the pipeline has already seen thousands of people across Uganda denied the use of their land to grow food without compensation, with the livelihoods of millions of people at risk if the project goes ahead. Local activists opposing the project have been arrested and detained, sparking human rights concerns. 

Running through an active seismic zone where earthquakes are a regular occurrence, EACOP would be the longest heated crude oil pipeline in the world. Environmental campaigners including WWF, Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth fear the pipeline could cause environmental catastrophe, with water pollution a key concern. The pipeline runs through the Lake Victoria Basin, Africa’s largest lake and a primary water source for over 40 million people that feeds into the River Nile. 

Last month Vanessa Nakate and Hilda Flavia Nakabuye were part of a delegation who travelled to Europe to make the case against EACOP. On the tour they spoke to Pope Francis and representatives for the French bank BNP Paribas, as well as European senior officials and world leaders including Kwasi Kwarteng, the British Secretary of State for Business Energy and Industrial Strategy, Annalena Baerbock, the German Minister for Foreign Affairs, and António Guterres the Secretary-General for the United Nations. Over 1 million people worldwide have signed a petition calling for the project to be scrapped.