"It’s better for Marsh’s reputation, ability to recruit young people and long-term performance, to distance itself from fossil fuels."
Seventeen years ago, the Kingfisher oil field was discovered on the eastern bank of Lake Albert. This led to the development of the Uganda-Kenya Crude Oil Pipeline, later replaced by the Kenya Crude Oil Pipeline. In 2021, the Ugandan Parliament passed the East African Crude Oil Pipeline Special Provisions Bill, enabling the construction of the East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP), set to produce 34m tons of CO2 each year. At present, TotalEnergies (62%), Uganda National Pipeline Company (15%), Tanzania Petroleum Development Corporation (15%), and China National Offshore Oil Corporation (8%) share stock ownership of the EACOP project.
Under Ugandan law, the pipeline couldn’t be constructed without insurance, resulting in a contract with Marsh McLennan, despite 100+ Marsh McLennan employees writing a letter to management urging them not to broker insurance for this project as it will have “disastrous consequences” for the climate. Likewise, since pipeline construction began in July 2021, multiple human rights and environmental organisations from Uganda, Tanzania, and the USA have filed complaints with the US government against Marsh McLennan, and the #StopEACOP campaign has amassed over 1m supporters, including university students.
Today’s #StopEACOP protests in Paris, New York, Madrid, Tokyo, Kampala, and London come after student occupations shut down schools and universities across Europe last week. This included the University of Leeds, Exeter, and Falmouth. Under the banner ‘End Fossil: Occupy!’, the campaign said it was, “radicalising the youth climate movement in tactics and demands…reigniting the fire of the youth climate movement last seen in 2019.”
Speaking with university students involved with the #StopEACOP protest in London later today, Sacha Ruello-Jossic, UCL student and climate justice activist, said that this protest was “an act of global solidarity to take action” especially as “the financial actors taking the decision to support the pipeline are based here, and the people protesting peacefully against the EACOP in East Africa are silenced and repressed.”
She believes the EACOP project “violates human rights, with 100k people being displaced with no fair compensation,” and threatens local biodiversity since it is set to go through the Murchison Falls National Park.
“The project is so risky in terms of human rights, biodiversity, and climate, that TotalEnergies still has no insurance for the pipeline, and it has now announced that it hopes to secure funding by the end of 2023, rather than during Q1 this year,” Ruello-Jossic explained.
Emma de Saram, Exeter student and climate justice activist, agreed that "insurance companies need to say no to insuring the EACOP and the Rosebank oil field, or they risk being accomplices to increasingly destructive carbon emissions." Referring to the latest IPCC report, de Saram explained that "existing fossil fuel infrastructure already exceeds the emission thresholds that would allow us to limit warming to 1.5°C by 2050." Consequently, she believes that "new fossil fuel infrastructure will completely break this threshold, and insurance companies have a huge role to play in revoking their support of these destructive projects for profit."
Last year, Angela Sivilli, director of chief claims office & financial lines at Allianz, said that “younger generations will not allow companies to continue investing in fossil fuels and carbon-intensive activities and will seek to hold companies and directors to account for their actions related to climate change, including claims for greenwashing.” Several student protesters agreed that “It’s better for Marsh’s reputation, ability to recruit young people and long-term performance, to distance itself from fossil fuels.”
“Everyone sees through half promises and incoherent positions, so as long as the financial sector doesn’t act according to the objective reality of climate change, we’ll be here causing trouble.
“In the case of EACOP, everyone wants East Africa to develop, and to have their own voice in the way they wish to proceed. Unfortunately, TotalEnergies has a history of neglecting human rights, [and] research is clear about the long-term economic and institutional implications of relying on natural resource exports to develop,” they concluded.