Nairobi — The largest heated crude oil pipeline in the world, set for East Africa, is facing stiff resistance from religious groups.
This opposition to the East African Crude Oil Pipeline (Eacop), a project with major backing from the French government and Total Energies, amplifies calls for the abandonment of fossil fuels in place of renewable energy sources like geothermal, wind and solar.
Eacop is expected to run from Uganda through to Tanzania’s port for export.
Its construction will displace thousands of small landholder farmers.
When completed, the Eacop will be the largest heated crude oil pipeline in the world.
However, during a global multi-faith event dubbed Faiths 4 Climate Justice, marked on October 17 and 18, participants called on nations drilling oil and gas, and their funders and partners to focus on renewable energy sources.
More than 250 communities and countries worldwide took part in the event organised by GreenFaith International Network and co-sponsored by more than 50 organisations.
In France, Tanzania and Uganda, religious groups planned actions to oppose the Eacop.
“This is exactly the kind of project that the world cannot afford because of the climate emergency,” said the Reverend Fletcher Harper, an Episcopal priest and Executive Director at GreenFaith International.
He reminded different faiths of their duty to conserve the environment.
The Eacop is expected to transport 216 000 barrels of oil daily.
Experts say it will produce more than 34 million tonnes of carbon annually – significantly greater than the current combined emissions of Uganda and Tanzania.
“The moral insanity of Eacop becomes even more evident when we recognise that barely 25 percent of Ugandans and fewer than 35 percent of Tanzanians have access to modern sources of energy,” Harper said.
“Eacop will not improve these figures. These countries need investments to help them ensure universal access to clean, affordable energy – not a fossil fuel pipeline that will accelerate climate change,” the reverend explained.
Speaking to locals on the Eacop project in Tanga, Tanzania, it became evident that some were worried about the sustainability of their economic mainstay.
Halima Salim, a local, told GreenFaith coordinators that they were afraid that the fuel pipeline will displace thousands, yet compensation would not be guaranteed.
In addition, land for farming is expected to shrink significantly.
Baraka Lenga and Baraka Machumu, the GreenFaith’s Tanzania coordinators, provided capacity building for locals about climate change and how the Eacop was linked to climate crisis.
“The project will exacerbate the climate crisis and the future generation is likely to suffer more than we suffer now,” Lenga said.
Machumu said furthermore, Eacop threatens to displace thousands of families and farmers from their land.
“It will place at risk vital water sources that millions of people rely upon for drinking and food production,” he said.
“It will destroy some of the world’s most important elephant, lion and chimpanzee reserves, and open up more critical ecosystems to even more oil extraction,” Machumu added.
Cosmas Daud, representing the Catholic Church in Chongoliani village in Tanzania, said their farm land was taken with little compensation, and now they cannot afford another to farm.
He said such actions would exacerbate poor living conditions.
“Today many have no place to call home,” he lamented.
Over 400 events to make demands from authorities and places of worship were held in some 41 countries. More than 60 organisations, denominations, and lineages stood in support of these events, and vowed not to stand idly and watch Earth’s desecration.
In Zimbabwe youth came out to strongly state the bare minimum for Africa in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change’s CoP26 that will take place in Glasgow.
Jonathan Chiwai, a youth activist and GreenFaith coordinator in Harare, led a team of youth in song and display of placards as they marched on Harare streets with the demands they had for negotiators at the CoP26.
“Major energy firms and our governments should invest in universal access to clean, affordable energy for our communities, not a fossil fuel pipeline that will displace thousands of farmers and accelerate climate change,” Chiwai said.
“Most Ugandans and Tanzanians lack regular access to electricity. Our countries need clean and affordable natural energy for absolutely everyone, not a pipeline to export oil that will destroy the climate but benefit only a few,” said a Uganda Interfaith leader.
“Eacop will not change this; instead, it will endanger our drinking water and open up more of our country to oil extraction. How can our governments support a project that will do this to our countries? It is morally incomprehensible,” he added.
According to Rt Rev Nathan Kyamanywa, a former Diocesan Bishop of Bunyoro – Kitara Diocese in Uganda’s Church of Uganda – Anglican, and who is also the Climate Change Ambassador for IRCU, East African governments should look beyond the ‘now ‘, see beyond themselves and invest in sustainable natural energy rather than something that will destroy the future before it comes.
In solidarity with Tanzanians and Ugandans opposed to the Eacop, were multi-faith action implementers in Paris, where grassroots people of faith demonstrated outside the global headquarters of Total Energies, the multinational providing much of the backing for Eacop. French religious groups called on Total to end its involvement in the project.
“The moral logic behind this project does not exist,” said Martin Kopp of GreenFaith, the sponsor of the action in Paris. “French people from diverse religious backgrounds are calling on Total to stop the project,” Kopp said.
In New York City, Jewish youth activists and interfaith allies blockaded the entrance to the headquarters of BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager, which invests billions of dollars in oil, gas, and deforestation projects.
In the United Kingdom, host to the CoP26, an interfaith group marched to the Prime Minister’s residence at 10 Downing Street in London and presented demands and religious petitions, then later projected climate demands onto the Houses of Parliament.
Churches across the UK hung banners calling on the government to end new fossil fuel projects and instead provide generous financial support for climate-vulnerable countries.
In Jakarta, Indonesia, the largest mosque in Southeast Asia, unfurled a banner across the street from the national capital complex calling on the government to end coal production. The adjacent Catholic cathedral and a large nearby Protestant church responded with banners calling for an end to deforestation and a surge in renewable energy development.
Religious leaders in Australia held a multi-faith prayer service outside the local office of Prime Minister Scott Morrison, unfurling a large banner that said, “Scott Morrison: Protect Creation – Bold Climate Action Before 2030.”
Over 200 high-level faith leaders and 50 religious groups representing more than 50 million members have signed onto a raft of demands against fossil fuel projects, tropical deforestation and related financing.
They are advocating for universal access to renewable energy and policies aimed at creating green jobs.