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TotalEnergies at 100 : A legacy of destruction in Africa

Displacements, environmental damage, and CO2 emissions from projects in Mozambique and Uganda are just the latest chapter in a long story

D 5 mai 2024     H 05:00     A CHARITY MIGWIMARCH     C 0 messages

Today, 28 March 2024, marks 100 years of the French oil and gas giant TotalEnergies. As we observe its centenary, it is time to reckon with the true cost of its legacy. It is time to acknowledge that the company’s relentless pursuit of profit has come at the expense of Africa’s most vulnerable communities and irreplaceable ecosystems.

TotalEnergies today has a foothold in over 130 countries and operations that encompass the entire spectrum of the fossil fuel sector, from exploration to production, and refining to distribution. Its first foray into Africa came in 1956. Since then, it has driven and profited from the exploitation of the continent’s natural resources. The French oil and gas major is the biggest hydrocarbon producer in Africa.

Yet it is also in Africa where its actions have left some of the deepest scars. Across the continent, the company’s profits have come at an enormous cost to local communities and the environment.

In Cabo Delgado in northern Mozambique, TotalEnergies’ Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) project has contributed to the emergence of a humanitarian crisis, with communities facing violence, displacement, and human rights abuses. By declaring force majeure in 2021, the company relieved itself of its commitments and contractual obligations while still holding the major benefits of being the project owner, prioritising profit over people’s well-being.

Moreover, the environmental impact of the project is staggering. Researchers estimate its total lifetime emissions to be around 3.3-4.5 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent – more than the combined annual greenhouse gas emissions of all 27 European Union countries. This clearly makes the project incompatible with the Paris Climate Agreement goal of limiting global temperature rise to 1.50C.

If this limit is surpassed, it is countries like Mozambique that will suffer most. In the past three years, it has been ravaged by Cyclones Idai, Kenneth, and Freddy, which have affected millions of people and left approximately 1,000 people dead. Due to the climate crisis, biodiversity hotspots like the Quirimbas National Park , a sanctuary for thousands of species of birds, mammals, reptiles, and flora, are under threat.

But Mozambique is just one among many examples. In Uganda, TotalEnergies is planning to produce nearly 200,000 barrels of oil per day in Tilenga and is involved in building the 1,433km-long East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP) to transport this fuel to the Tanzanian port of Tanga.

These projects pose further risks to communities and ecosystems. Combined, they are expected to directly impact the land of around 118,000 individuals. Many people who have already been displaced have been left in anguish due to delays in compensation, while several others have been intimidated for resisting the project and rejecting the terms of compensation. Members of civil society and journalists who speak up about the harms of TotalEnergies’ projects have been intimidated and even arrested on several occasions.

The projects also pose a threat to critical sources of water. Approximately 460km of EACOP will be in the freshwater basin of Lake Victoria, Africa’s largest lake. In the event of an oil spill, which is likely at some point, water sources that directly support the livelihoods of over 40 million people will be polluted. Extraction at the oil fields meanwhile will directly impact the Murchison Falls National Park, within which TotalEnergies plans to drill around 130 oil wells, posing a serious threat to biodiversity and rare and endangered species. Important tributaries of the Nile flowing nearby will also be endangered. Communities have expressed concerns over the possibility of oil spills and other pollution affecting the river and having impacts as distant as North Africa. A 2022 study by the Climate Accountability Institute (CAI) estimated the total emissions from the 25-year operation of the pipeline to total 379 million tonnes CO2 – 25 times the annual emissions of Uganda and Tanzania combined, making TotalEnergies a key contributor to Africa’s carbon footprint.

Despite mounting evidence of its destructive practices, TotalEnergies shows no signs of slowing down. Its pursuit of profit continues to trump concerns for people and the planet, perpetuating a cycle of exploitation and suffering. It’s time for countries to lead on a new vision that prioritises sustainability, justice, and respect for people and the planet. TotalEnergies’ century of exploitation must serve as a wake-up call, reminding governments of the urgent need to transition away from fossil fuels and towards a future that is truly sustainable for all.


Source from https://africanarguments.org