The media in Uganda both print and social media has been awash with opinions and articles alleging that there is a lot of misinformation around the operation of the oil project and an exaggeration of the negative environmental impact it may have. They have gone further to claim that the environmental activists are doing so under the influence of foreigners since according to them the activists are ‘funded’ by Europeans and Americans.
These opinions talk less about shareholding for EACOP. And I find pretence in this because EACOP is supposed to be funded to a tune of 5bn USD and the funders will be TotalEnergies (62% shareholding), the Ugandan and Tanzanian governments (15% shareholding each) and China National Offshore Oil Corporation (8% shareholding).
By these allocations alone TotalEnergies which is a French company and therefore European will have the lion’s share, interestingly even the governments of Tanzania and Uganda are likely to borrow money from Americans and Europeans to fund the pipeline save for CNOOC which might use the Chinese banks. So, in brief, there is nothing African about EACOP, it is actually very foreign and a typical example of neo-colonialism where the global North continue to extract resources from the global South damaging the environment and displacing thousands of people.
So, the allegation that Stop EACOP promoters are funded by Europeans and Americans can’t stand since EACOP itself is a European-funded project.
These writers and promoters of EACOP continue to downplay the environmental impacts that will come with EACOP and I think intentionally forget to highlight that if constructed, EACOP will be the longest electrically-heated crude oil pipeline in the world. The activists call EACOP a climate bomb rightly so because the full value chain emission estimates over the EACOP’s 25-year lifetime are 377.6 million metric tonnes of carbon.
These include the carbon emissions from the construction phase (0.24 Metric Tonnes of CO2 -Uganda only), operational emissions (6.55 Metric tonnes of CO2), refining emissions (34.52 million tonnes CO2), and product use emissions (330.71M tones).
These emissions can’t be downplayed and talked about casually the way he did in the article. In addition to this EACOP is set to, directly and indirectly, affect forests, national parks, game reserves, lakes, rivers, wetlands and others in Uganda and Tanzania. In 2017, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) noted that the EACOP will affect 2,000km2 of protected areas and will fragment habitats for elephants, chimpanzees and other endangered animals hence affecting the growing tourism sector.
Some of the protected areas to be affected by EACOP include Bugoma, Wambabya and Taala forests in Uganda as well as Minziro Nature Forest Reserve and Burigi-Biharamulo Game Reserve in Tanzania. These are habitats for internationally-recognized endangered species. Notably, the Bugoma forest hosts over 600 chimpanzees or 12% of Uganda’s chimpanzee population and the wetland systems set to be affected by the EACOP are important bird areas for both migratory and other bird species.
In addition, the EACOP promoters are also not following the global trends in the oil and gas sector and they continue to paint a rosy picture of the economy not highlighting the Economic risks from debt that EACOP comes with. This is because the Construction and operation of EACOP will be expensive, and there’s no guarantee that revenues from the sale of oil will cover the costs. The project’s construction costs stand at $5 billion.
Additional costs will be incurred to operate the pipeline. The risk that the EACOP will generate less than expected revenues is real since countries around the world have made commitments to reduce their oil consumption, which could hamper demand for the oil transported by the EACOP. Notably, the International Energy Agency predicts that oil prices will drop by one-third over the next two decades.
The stark reality is that there is a high probability that Uganda and Tanzania will borrow money to build the EACOP and then have little revenue to pay off the debt. If that happens, the governments will have to repay the debt by diverting money meant for other priorities such as building schools, health centres, roads, and others. This could make ordinary Ugandans and Tanzanians economically worse off.
In Conclusion therefore the environmental activists whether from Europe, America, Africa or any other part of the world must work together to Stop EACOP and not look at the blackmail being traded by the EACOP developers trying to argue that EACOP is African and that Europeans and Americans are responsible for its opposition. Yet the same promoters are waiting on European banks and governments to fund EACOP. There should be no division all environmental and human rights defenders working together can stop this carbon bomb for the people of Uganda, Africa and the world.
Atuheire Brian Batenda
The author is the Executive Director at African Initiative on Food Security and Environment (AIFE-Uganda)