FOSSIL FUEL FUNDING
Kumi Naidoo forcibly removed from Standard Bank HQ after protest over crude oil pipeline project
Human rights activist Kumi Naidoo and Extinction Rebellion climate activist Malik Dasoo were forcibly removed from Standard Bank’s headquarters in Johannesburg on Monday after protesting against the bank’s potential involvement in the East Africa Crude Oil Pipeline project.
‘Let’s be very clear — the crisis of climate change is with us now, lives are being taken now. It’s just that the lives that are being lost are not the lives of the wealthiest, it’s the lives of the most vulnerable people who have contributed least to the tragedy of climate change,” said human rights and climate activist Kumi Naidoo.
He was standing outside Standard Bank’s headquarters in Rosebank, Johannesburg, on Monday, while the bank held its annual general meeting.
The handful of activists who managed to make it inside the building, and the more than 400 activists protesting outside from behind a balustrade, were calling for the bank to “redirect its funding towards renewable energy initiatives that prioritise low-income communities rather than catering solely to wealthy clients” and to divest from the East African Crude Oil Pipeline project (Eacop) and the Cabo Delgado gas project.
Climate activists Malik Dasoo and Kumi Naidoo forcibly removed from Standard Bank HQ after protesting for them to stop funding East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP) project outside the AGM pic.twitter.com/a66zlhdFWv
— Julia Evans (@Julia_J_Evans) June 12, 2023
The Eacop project plans to build a pipeline in 2025 spanning 1,400km across East Africa that will transport crude oil from Uganda to Tanzania.
Based on several human rights and environmental impact assessments, the project will be the world’s largest heated crude oil pipeline, but will not service local energy demand as the oil will be transported out of Africa, according to the #stopEACOP campaign.
“We want them [Standard Bank] to stop putting their investment into fossil fuels and to invest in renewable energy for the mass population — direct it where it’s needed,” said Malik Dasoo, the Extinction Rebellion climate activist who organised the protest.
According to shareholder activist organisation Just Share’s briefing on Standard Bank Group’s climate disclosures from 2022, Standard Bank’s exposure to coal mining, oil, gas and power generation from fossil fuels increased by 22% from 2021 to 2022, with total exposure at R119.4-billion, compared with R97.6-billion the previous year.
South Africa’s Just Energy Transition Investment Plan estimates that the private sector would need to contribute R475-billion toward wind and solar projects to meet the country’s entire energy demand.
“Standard Bank, just with their fossil fuel investment, can finance almost a quarter of that,” said Dasoo.
“And shareholders can put pressure on Standard Bank to do that, that’s the call to them as well.”
Read more on Daily Maverick: South African banks financed $8.4bn in African fossil fuel projects since 2016
Some 10 minutes after the activists began speaking, Dasoo and Naidoo were carried out of the building after a disagreement with security and media relations staff.
‘You own the bank’
Speaking to the climate activists gathered outside the building, many of whom came from townships and rural areas across Gauteng, Naidoo, a former Amnesty International secretary-general, said: “If you bank with any bank, whether you have R5 or R5-million, you own the bank — they don’t own you. You tell the bank what it should do. We are here today to say to the bankers that you are using the people’s money to make the rich people richer.”
Uhuru Mbele from Orange Farm told Daily Maverick that the people in attendance at the protest have real, first-hand experience of the impact of climate change.
“If you talk to them, you will hear that they know about climate, even if they can’t explain it with [academic] language. Gradually the people in the grassroots are starting to understand.”
Mbele, who grew up near coal-fired power plants said her mother has had asthma for three years and she has been diagnosed with a lung infection.
“What I like is that we have people from the grassroots level, kids from the middle class, university students — and we have one voice,” said Mbele.
She said she got upset when she heard some observers of the protest say that those protesting didn’t know about climate change and were just there for the free food and a ride into the city.
“You have missed the point. The poor are getting more and more empowered, that’s why you will see revolutions soon. Because when you empower the grassroots, that’s where you’re gonna see a revolution.”
This is not the first time climate activists have gathered outside Standard Bank’s HQ to protest against its role in the climate crisis. But this time, said Dasoo, they wanted to do something different by getting inside the building, and they had originally planned to speak at the AGM.
Read more in Daily Maverick: Standard Bank contradicts their net zero goals by investing in ‘brown’ energy
“I’ve been here so many times,” said Dasoo. “I don’t care about Standard Bank. I care about this kind of movement. My ultimate goal with this action was to make the case for civil disobedience.”
Impact assessments provided by the StopEACOP campaign indicated that more than 100,000 people across Uganda and Tanzania will lose the land they rely on for farming and livestock raising, and many will be forcibly removed from their homes. The pipeline will disturb nearly 2,000 square kilometres of protected wildlife habitats.
The Eacop project has $3.5-billion in investment and is in partnership with TotalEnergies, the China National Offshore Oil Corporation, the Uganda National Oil Company and Tanzania Petroleum Development Corporation.
Standard Bank’s response
Standard Bank’s spokesperson, Ross Lindstrom, told Daily Maverick that “potential lenders” to the Eacop project, including Standard Bank, “are relying on the services of an independent environmental and social consultant (IESC/LESC) to undertake their environmental and social (E&S) due diligence”.
Lindstrom said internal experts were currently reviewing the findings of the consultant’s E&S due diligence report.
“Once this internal review is complete, Standard Bank will provide their final assessment and make a decision within the project’s established timeframes,” Lindstrom said.
Standard Bank said its participation in the funding of the project “remains subject to its credit approval process which includes evaluating the findings of the E&S due diligence assessments and complying with the requirements of the Equator Principles”.
Furthermore, it is subject to a full assessment of the Eacop project sponsors’ climate change strategies and targets. Project finance deals undergo a thorough suite of due diligence assessments that inform the decision-making process. Such assessments cover various aspects, such as legal, technical, security, market, reserves, E&S and other relevant considerations and concerns.
Standard Bank said it is “committed to maximising opportunities for sustainable and inclusive growth across the continent, and managing the risks posed by climate change”. DM
To read all about Daily Maverick’s recent The Gathering: Earth Edition, click here.