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“A Carbon Bomb”: Kumi Naidoo on Fight to Stop Construction of EACOP, Proposed Pipeline in East Africa

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Image Credit: Twitter @ferronpedro (left)

The proposed 900-mile East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP), which would carry crude oil from Uganda south to neighboring Tanzania before being exported to refineries in the Netherlands, is facing continued resistance from climate activists around the world. Protesters disrupted the annual shareholder meeting of potential EACOP lender Standard Bank in Johannesburg Monday. Among them was our guest Kumi Naidoo, the former head of Greenpeace International and Amnesty International. Naidoo was forcibly removed from the building during the peaceful protest. “It’s extraction at its worst — it’s colonial,” Naidoo says of the pipeline. We speak to him about stemming climate change at its source by cutting off the flow of capital to carbon-polluting projects.

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StoryNov 16, 2022“A Carbon Bomb”: Movement Grows Against EACOP East African Pipeline Funded by France’s Total & China
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!,, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman, with Nermeen Shaikh.

We end today’s show in South Africa, where climate campaigners attempted to disrupt the annual shareholders’ meeting for Standard Bank to protest the bank’s financing of the proposed East African Crude Oil Pipeline, known as EACOP. The 900-mile pipeline would carry crude oil from Uganda to Tanzania. France’s TotalEnergies and the China National Offshore Oil Corporation are behind EACOP, working with Ugandan and Tanzanian state-owned oil firms. Kumi Naidoo, former head of Greenpeace and Amnesty International, and Extinction Rebellion activist Malik Dasoo were forcibly removed from Standard Bank during their peaceful protest.

Kumi Naidoo joins us now from Johannesburg, South Africa.

Kumi, welcome back to Democracy Now! Explain your protest. And explain exactly, for a global audience, what EACOP is.

KUMI NAIDOO: So, basically, Standard Bank, like many other banks around the world, on the one hand, now recognize that we are in a climate emergency, recognize that they must change, but their actions appear to be contradictory when it comes to an increase in fossil fuel investments that we are seeing, as was the case with Standard Bank.

In particular, the East African Crude Oil Pipeline project will see about 100,000 Tanzanians and Ugandans displaced. We’ve already seen the signs of human rights violations. Of course, as always, they will promise that there’s going to be massive numbers of jobs. We know most of the jobs are transient. Most of the early jobs, in fact, at the higher-paid level will be people from outside of community.

The bottom line, though, is that this East African Crude Oil Pipeline is a carbon bomb. The amount of carbon that this would put into the atmosphere will be catastrophic. Right? That would be the equivalent of sort of 9 million cars, for example, on the road.

And so, in addition to that, Standard Bank is also supporting the Cabo Delgado gas projects in Mozambique. And here in South Africa, in KwaZulu-Natal, they have been supporting Tendele Coal, a project that has seen activists being killed and so on.

And essentially, what we are saying to Standard Bank and to other banks, that you need to recognize that you are now legitimate targets of protests, that we do not have time right now to go after every oil, coal, gas company, every deforestation company and so on. We have to follow the money and shut the flow of capital at source. And basically, this might have been aimed specifically at Standard Bank, but it is also a call and an encouragement to activists all over the world: Let’s follow the money, and let’s shut the flow of capital to dirty energy and start redirecting it to clean energy.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: And, Kumi Naidoo, so, could you explain who are — what are the companies that are backing this pipeline, the Chinese corporation, the National Offshore Oil Corporation, as well as TotalEnergies, the French company?

KUMI NAIDOO: Well, Total is the biggest player in all of this. And here’s the — here’s the kicker, right? Assuming that this was OK in environmental terms — right? — let’s just for a moment say all of our concerns are misplaced, right? — but all of this is — nothing is going to Africa. All of this is going to Europe. OK? So it’s extraction at its worst — it’s colonial. It’s going to potentially put the investors in this project, like other investors that are putting money into carbon bombs right now — the threat that they must understand is that activism against that is rising all around the world. And the possibility of them ending up with what they like to call “standard carbon assets” is becoming more and more a reality.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: [inaudible] just oil, the wealth of natural resources across the continent of Africa, why so many of them, and certainly the profits, are going to Europe, to China and elsewhere, but not to the continent itself.

KUMI NAIDOO: I think we’ve lost each other.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you hear us, Kumi? Can you hear us, Kumi?

KUMI NAIDOO: I don’t hear them anymore.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re talking to — we’re talking to Kumi Naidoo in Johannesburg, South Africa. He may have just lost the line to us. He’s the former head of Greenpeace International and also Amnesty International. And he was just thrown out of a Standard Bank meeting in South Africa, protesting EACOP. Let me go to Extinction Rebellion activist Malik Dasoo, who was also thrown out, with Kumi, speaking outside Standard Bank’s AGM.

MALIK DASOO: We want them to invest in renewable energy for the mass populations, vulnerable communities, directed where it’s needed. The concept of energy justice should be the primary guiding principle that informs all their investment strategies in energy from now on.

AMY GOODMAN: Germany also held Stop EACOP protests in Bonn, where they gathered for a COP28 prep conference. This year’s United Nations-sponsored climate summit will be hosted by one of the world’s biggest fossil fuel producers, the United Arab Emirates. The meeting will be presided over by the head of UAE’s national oil company, Sultan Al Jaber. On Tuesday, the Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg, who recently graduated from high school, spoke at the conference.

GRETA THUNBERG: It is what we decide now that will define the rest of humanity’s future. And whether we choose to do that or not, if we don’t, it will be a death sentence to countless of people. And it is already a death sentence to countless of people living on the frontlines of the climate crisis today.

AMY GOODMAN: On Tuesday, the U.S. special climate envoy, John Kerry, told the U.N. Security Council global steps to tackle climate change must be ramped up, and the world needs to more aggressively reduce its reliance on coal and other fossil fuels.

JOHN KERRY: It’s now indisputable — indisputable — that the climate crisis is one of the top security threats, not just to the developed world but to the entire planet, to life on the planet itself. And it is a crisis that already today costs countries billions of dollars each year, which we spend not even to prevent at this point, but just to clean up the mess. And most importantly, it costs the world millions of lives. It’s an active threat against the livelihoods and the peace of people everywhere on this planet.

AMY GOODMAN: In May, over 130 U.S. lawmakers and members of the European Parliament sent a joint letter to President Biden, to the European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, as well as the U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres, demanding the removal of Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, head of the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company, as president of the upcoming U.N. climate summit, COP28, in the UAE. The lawmakers include Senators Ed Markey and Bernie Sanders, who wrote, “One of the largest barriers to strong climate action has been and remains the political influence and obstruction of the fossil fuel industry and other major polluting industries.”

We want to thank Kumi Naidoo in Johannesburg, South Africa, the former head of Greenpeace International and Amnesty International, who just got detained, along with Extinction Rebellion, thrown out of a Standard Bank meeting.

That does it for our show. Democracy Now! is produced with Mike Burke, Renée Feltz, Deena Guzder, Messiah Rhodes, María Taracena, Tami Woronoff, Charina Nadura, Sam Alcoff. I’m Amy Goodman, with Nermeen Shaikh. Thanks so much for joining us.

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“A Carbon Bomb”: Movement Grows Against EACOP East African Pipeline Funded by France’s Total & China

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