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61 CSOs want Ramsar Wetlands affected by EACOP and Tilenga projects in Uganda and Tanzania to be listed in the Montreux Record.

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By Witness Radio team

As the Africa Climate Summit kicks off in Nairobi-Kenya today, at least 61 African Civil Society organizations (CSOs) have petitioned the Secretary-General of the Ramsar Wetlands Secretariat of International Importance demanding that the Ramsar Wetlands, which have experienced adverse impacts due to the East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP) and Tilenga projects in Uganda and Tanzania, be included in the Montreux Record.

EACOP is a project implemented by TotalEnergies and China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC). TotalEnergies is also the operator of the Tilenga project, with Uganda National Oil Company (UNOC) and China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC) as the partners.

The Ramsar Convention on Wetlands defines the Montreux Record as a register of wetland sites on the list of Wetlands of International Importance where changes in ecological character have occurred, are occurring, or are likely to occur as a result of technological developments, pollution, or other human interference.

The petition call for the Ramsar secretariat intervention comes at a time when Kenya and the African Union are organizing a three-day (4th to 6th September) Africa climate summit themed Driving Green Growth & Climate Finance Solutions for Africa and the World

The Africa Climate Summit is aimed at addressing the increasing exposure to climate change and its associated costs, both globally and particularly in Africa. The Summit is a platform to inform, frame, and influence commitments, pledges, and outcomes, ultimately leading to the development of the Nairobi Declaration.

The CSOs are urging the Ramsar Secretariat should intervene and safeguard the Ramsar wetlands that have been affected, or could be affected, by oil activities in Uganda, Tanzania, and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

CSOs’ action comes at a time when TotalEnergies, CNOOC, and the Ugandan government are developing the Tilenga and East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP) projects. The Tanzanian government is a co-developer of the EACOP alongside TotalEnergies, CNOOC, and the Ugandan government.

It’s evident that part of the Tilenga upstream project in Uganda lies within the boundaries of the Murchison Falls-Albert Delta Ramsar wetland, situated within the Murchison Falls National Park (MFNP).

Furthermore, the EACOP, a planned 1,443-kilometer pipe line is running from the Tilenga and Kingfisher oil fields in Uganda to the port of Tanga in Tanzania, poised to impact more than 158 wetland sections in Uganda.

According to the petition, several wetlands connected to Ramsar-designated sites in Uganda encompass: Kibale/Bukoora, Kisoma, Kasemugiri, Jemakunya and Katonga. The Ramsar sites that connect to the aforesaid wetlands include the Sango Bay-Musambwa Island-Kagera (SAMUKA) Ramsar Wetland System, which has an economic value of USD 117 million per year (Sango Bay only) and Nabajjuzi Ramsar Wetland.

In the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the Congolese government launched an oil exploration licensing round for 27 oil and three (3) gas blocks in July 2022. Some blocks cover Virunga National Park, which contains a Ramsar site. The CSOs call for the Ramsar Secretariat to add Virunga National Park.

Dickens Kamugisha, a Director at the Africa Institute for Energy Governance (AFIEGO) in Uganda says, “We are worried about the high pollution risk that the Tilenga and EACOP projects pose to Ramsar wetlands in Uganda, Tanzania, and the DRC. The Victoria Nile Crossing is within the boundaries of the Murchison Falls-Albert Delta Ramsar site.”

He expressed his concerns about the substantial pollution risk presented by the Tilenga and EACOP projects to the Ramsar wetlands in Uganda, Tanzania, and the DRC. He emphasized that the Victoria Nile Crossing, situated within the confines of the Murchison Falls-Albert Delta Ramsar site, is particularly worrying.

Mr. Kamugisha further emphasized that while TotalEnergies has made promises regarding biodiversity conservation during its oil exploitation activities within Ramsar wetlands and other biodiverse regions, it is challenging to trust these assurances. He cited instances in Uganda and Tanzania where they struggled to manage the impacts arising from compulsory land acquisition processes for the Tilenga and EACOP projects, along with difficulties related to flooding, as well as dust, noise, and light pollution caused by the Tilenga project in Buliisa district, Uganda.

Bantu Lukambo, representing, the Innovation pour le Développement et la Protection de l’Environnement (IDPE) in the DRC, says Virunga National Park, which doubles as a Ramsar site and a UNESCO World Heritage Site is at a risk because the DRC government has been emboldened by Uganda’s example. Because the world looks on as oil exploitation goes on in MFNP, Lukambo adds, the Congolese government also developed the courage to put oil blocks covering Virunga up for exploration licensing in July 2022. Moreover, the construction of the EACOP will make oil exploitation in the DRC Albertine Graben more viable.”

Mr. Lukambo called upon international bodies, such as the Ramsar Secretariat, to act and engage with the Ugandan, Tanzanian, and Congolese governments to halt any oil exploitation plans that could affect Ramsar sites.

Ms. Patience Katusiime from the Environment Governance Institute in Uganda reveals that the mapping analysis shows that TotalEnergies is already constructing seven of the ten well pads that are to be located within MFNP and two of the pads are too close to the Murchison Falls-Albert Delta Ramsar site.

“This is disheartening to see. The large swathes of the park have been pockmarked by oil exploration wells, roads, and other infrastructure. TotalEnergies often says that they are using a small part of the park but these new satellite images show that a combination of oil roads, bridges, oil feeder pipelines, and well pads could destroy the park.” Ms. Katusiime says.

She adds, “No well-meaning institution, including the Ugandan government, Ramsar Secretariat, financial institutions, export credit agencies, and others should support TotalEnergies in its oil exploitation misadventures in our national park. The above institutions should call on TotalEnergies to invest in renewable energy instead of oil projects.”

Mr. Richard Sekondo of the Organisation for Community Engagement (OCE) in Tanzania says, “Along the Tanzanian shore, two important Ecologically or Biologically Significant Marine Areas (EBSAs) – the Pemba-Shimoni-Kisite site and the Tanga Coelacanth site – are at high risk from oil leaving the port at Tanga. These EBSAs host several Marine Protected Areas, as well as Mangrove Forest Reserves. The Pemba-Shimoni-Kisite site is known for its coral reefs, as well as the endemic coconut crab (Birgus latro), the largest land-living arthropod. These need to be protected.”

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MEDIA FOR CHANGE NETWORK

The Appellate East African Court of Justice sets timelines for hearing an appeal against the construction of the EACOP.

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By Witness Radio team.

The Appellate Division of the East African Court of Justice (EACJ) has instructed the four East African civil society organizations (CSOs), which lodged an appeal challenging the construction of the East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP) project, to submit their written arguments by March 22, 2024. The appeal follows the dismissal of their case in 2023.

The appeal was heard by the following judges: Justice Nestor Kayobera, the President of the EACJ; Justice Anita Mugeni, the Vice President of the EACJ; Justice Kathurina M’Inoti; Justice Cheborion Barishaki; and Justice Omar Othman Makungu.

The organizations were represented by Counsels Justin Semuyaba, David Kabanda, John Baptist Okurut, and Veronica Nakityo, while the respondents were represented by Counsels Hangi M. Chang’a, Mark Mulwambo, and Stanley Kalokole from the Tanzanian team, as well as Counsels George Kalemera, Charity Nabasa, and Mark Muwonge from the Ugandan team. The EAC Secretary General was represented by Dr. Anthony Kafumbe, Counsel for the EAC.

The organizations, which include the Africa Institute for Energy Governance (AFIEGO)-Uganda, Center for Food and Adequate Living Rights (CEFROHT)-Uganda, Natural Justice (NJ)-Kenya, and Centre for Strategic Litigation (CSL)-Tanzania, filed a court case against the EACOP at the EACJ in November 2020.
In November 2020, the East African organizations asked the EACJ to issue temporary and permanent injunctions stopping the development of the EACOP.

The organizations argued that the EACOP violates key East African and international treaties and laws including the East African Community (EAC) Treaty, Protocol for Sustainable Development of the Lake Victoria basin, Convention on Biological Diversity, and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Others include the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights as well as the African Convention on Conservation of Natural Resources among others.

However, on 29th of November, 2023, the EACJ dismissed the case relying on the preliminary objection raised by the Tanzanian and Ugandan governments regarding the timeframe within which the petition was filed at the EACJ. The EACJ ruled that the applicants filed the petition out of time, thus saying that the petitioners should have filed the petition as early as 2017 instead of 2020. The same court further said it did not have jurisdiction to hear the case.

The aforementioned organizations appealed against the Court ruling, and subsequently, it was heard on Tuesday, February 20, 2024, by the appellate division of the EACJ. The petitioners were directed to submit their written submissions by March 22, 2024.

The court also asked the governments of Uganda and Tanzania as well as the Secretary General of the EAC, (respondents) to file their counterarguments by April 22, 2024.

Further, the court ordered the appellants to file rejoinders to the counterarguments from Uganda and Tanzania and the EAC Secretary General by May 6, 2024.

Mr. Dickens Kamugisha, representing some of the appellant organizations, expressed satisfaction with steps taken by the Court. He emphasized the reliance of communities and East Africans on their natural and other resources for livelihoods, stressing the need to challenge projects like the EACOP that pose threats to these resources.

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MEDIA FOR CHANGE NETWORK

Appellate Division of the East African Court of Justice (EACJ) to hear an Appeal filed by CSOs which seeks to reinstate a petition against the construction of the EACOP project tomorrow.

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By Witness Radio team.

In a stirring development for environmental and human rights advocacy in East Africa, the Appellate Division of the East African Court of Justice (EACJ) is set to hear an appeal that four East African civil society organizations (CSOs) filed to re-instate the petition challenging the construction of East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP) project.

The organizations spearheading this appeal include the Africa Institute for Energy Governance (AFIEGO) from Uganda, the Center for Food and Adequate Living Rights (CEFROHT) also from Uganda, Natural Justice (NJ) based in Kenya, and the Centre for Strategic Litigation (CSL) from Tanzania.

This appeal comes in response to a ruling handed down in November 2023 by the Court of First Instance at the EACJ, which dismissed the case on ground that it was filed out of time.

The pipeline, spanning 1443 kilometers from Uganda to Tanzania, has been met with fierce opposition from many groups and environmental activists all over the world, who argue that it violates key East African and international treaties, as well as laws safeguarding human rights, environmental conservation, biodiversity, and the protection of Lake Victoria.

According to activists, the EACOP project is traversing through sensitive ecosystems, including protected areas and internationally significant wetlands, posing threats to biodiversity and ecosystems that local communities depend on for their sustenance posing grave environmental risks.

Furthermore, the project also termed as a curse by the majority of the would-be beneficiaries due to displacement of thousands of individuals from their ancestral lands, and human rights violations/abuses.

Despite the setback of the initial dismissal, the four organizations pressed forward their pursuit of justice.

In their appeal, groups contend that the Court of First Instance erred in its ruling, and want the Appellate Division to reinstate their case.

Mr. Dickens Kamugisha, the CEO of AFIEGO, expressed that they remain resolute in their pursuit of justice through the East African Court of Justice and other courts.

He further mentions that millions of East Africans have high hopes in the regional court to protect their socio-economic and environmental rights and help them continue advancing their aspirations for climate change mitigation and clean energy.

Mr. Kamugisha added that they maintained hope that the court would prioritize the rights of East Africans over the profit-seeking endeavors of large corporations, even if it came at the expense of people.

According to the Executive Director of Natural Justice, Ms. Farida Aliwa, the EACOP and related projects have already led to serious human rights abuses, including evictions, assaults and environmental destruction

“In the interests of justice, we believe that this case needs to be heard at the East African Court of Justice, as a positive outcome will be good for the East African people and planet. The Court has the power to affirm that the governments, investors, and companies violate both national and international laws and that the EACOP project must be stopped. We trust that the East African Court of Justice will see this, and decide to hear the merits of this case.” She revealed.

The case will be heard tomorrow 9:00 East Africa Standard Time at the Court of Appeal of the East African Court of Justice.

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PFZW scraps funding from Total and others for failure to transition into a cleaner energy mix.

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By Witness Radio team.

In a significant move towards aligning its investments with environmental goals, Pensioenfonds Zorg en Welzijn (PFZW) has announced its decision to disinvest from fossil fuel giants such as Shell and Total.

This decision comes after two years of intensive engagement with fossil fuel companies, during which PFZW sought to encourage the development of climate transition plans in line with the Paris Climate Agreement.

PFZW is the pension fund for the care and welfare sector based in the Netherlands. PFZW invests the contributions paid by employers and employees to achieve a high, stable, and responsible return over the long term at an acceptable level of risk. The fund invests globally in the investment categories of variable-yield securities and fixed-income securities. The pension fund had a total of € 217 billion of assets under management at the end of 2022.

According to PFZW, 310 oil and gas companies failed to demonstrate a clear transition to a cleaner energy mix.

Some of the big oil and gas companies that PFZW parted ways with are Total, Shell, and BP among others. These major corporations have frequently faced criticism for investing in fossil fuel projects.

For example, Total, among other projects putting the World climate at risk, is advocating for the construction of the East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP) and Tilenga projects in western Uganda. Despite, environmental experts warning of potential environmental damage, Total has persisted in heavily funding these projects.

PFZW’s disinvestment strategy is part of its broader commitment to sustainability and responsible investing. The PFZW fund has sold its stakes in 310 oil and gas companies, totaling 2.8 billion euros, for failure to demonstrate a clear transition to cleaner energy sources.

During this period, dialogue with oil and gas companies was significantly intensified to encourage them to produce verifiable transition plans that support the goal of the Paris Climate Agreement.

Joanne Kellermann, chair of the board of PFZW said that “the intensive shareholder dialogue over the past two years with the oil and gas sector on climate has made it clear to us that most fossil fuel companies are not prepared to adapt their business models to ‘Paris’. While the largest companies in this sector do invest in sustainable forms of energy, the switch from fossil to low carbon is not nearly fast enough. Incidentally, this reflects the slow pace we see globally in the transition to renewable energy.”

According to PFZW, seven listed oil and gas companies with a compelling climate transition strategy will remain part of the portfolio. This contributes to the goal of investing more in companies that play a positive role in the global energy transition.

Despite parting ways with numerous fossil fuel companies, PFZW will continue to invest in seven oil and gas companies that have demonstrated a commitment to transitioning towards renewable energy sources. These companies, including Cosan S.A., Galp Energia, and Neste Oyj, are regarded as frontrunners in the energy sector due to their efforts to reduce carbon emissions and invest in low-carbon technologies.

“The seven companies we will continue to invest in are the only ones that show a switch is possible. At the same time, it is disappointing that there are only seven. We encourage the biggest players in the oil and gas sector to also accelerate the switch to a cleaner energy mix.” She revealed.

Furthermore, to significantly increase its investments in companies focused on improving the climate and energy transition, allocating two billion euros over the next two years to companies with measurable impacts on climate and the energy transition reflecting PFZW’s dedication to achieving a climate-neutral investment portfolio by 2050, with interim goals such as a 50% absolute carbon reduction by 2030 for equities, liquid credit, and real estate.

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