Plans by oil giants, ENI and Shell, to embark on large scale reforestation by planting some 8.1 million hectares of trees in Mozambique, South Africa, Ghana and Zimbabwe have been greeted with cynicism by a team of activists.
Recently, CEO Claudio Descalzi announced ENI’s objective “to achieve net zero emissions in our upstream business by 2030,” in the company’s strategy update on March 15, 2019.
Shell, on the other hand, launched in 2019 a plan to reduce its “net carbon footprint by 2%-3%”. The plan will include reforestation of forests, with the company offering carbon credits to its customers so that they may offset their emissions.
The team, made up of 109 groups, have described the new strategy by ENI and Shell as “compensation for climate change”, “a greenwashing gimmick” and “a dangerous tactic that could exacerbate the problems caused by fossil fuel exploitation”.
The two companies are alleged to be responsible for environmental disasters and crimes as a result of their fossil fuel activities in Nigeria and many other places across the globe.
In a statement made available to EnviroNews on Monday, May 13, 2019, the campaigners claim that the protection of critical natural ecosystems crucial and will help the planet to naturally absorb carbon emissions, provide livelihoods to local communities and warding off extreme weather events, but that strategies put forward by Shell and ENI “will do nothing to contribute to these aims”
Signed by Anabela Lemos, Bobby Peek, Farai Maguwu, Nnimmo Bassey, Anabela Lemos, Giulia Franchi, Karin Nansen and Freek Fallenberg, the statement further reads: “Solving the climate crisis requires deep, urgent and immediate emissions cuts, meaning that dirty and harmful energy must be stopped at source, and cannot simply be ‘compensated’ elsewhere in the world. Fossil fuels must be left in the ground, but instead, ENI and Shell do not even pretend to deal with this reality so far, investing billions in the quest to find further reserves.
“We write this statement as the impacts of Cyclone Idai are still being felt. The cyclone and related flooding in the last few weeks has devastated huge parts of Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi, claiming thousands of lives and affecting millions more. Those impacted are people who did not create the climate crisis, while ENI and Shell are among the perpetrators of the crisis. The people of the world, especially the poorest and most vulnerable who suffer the worst effects of climate change, cannot afford any further fossil fuel expansion.
“Truly addressing the climate crisis means achieving ‘zero emissions’ NOT ‘net zero’ emissions. A ‘net zero’ goal allows polluters such as ENI and Shell to keep polluting on the pretext that they may use artificial plantations to ‘suck’ carbon out of the air in other parts of the world. From a climate justice perspective, this strategy is completely flawed. There is no guarantee that tree plantations can secure carbon offsetting in the long term. Plantations do not and can never compensate for the destruction of the natural world: they reduce biodiversity, lead to exhausted soils and absorb only a fraction of the CO2 taken in by real forests.
“Furthermore, through this plan, ENI and Shell intend to introduce tree plantations to an area larger than the whole of Northern Italy, ENI’s homeland – or double the size of the Netherlands, from where Shell hails. This raises serious questions. Where on Earth will ENI plant these 8.1 million hectares of fake forests? Where is the land to do so, and whose land will they grab to do this planting? What would ENI say if the tables were turned, and Africans wanted all of Northern Italy to plant trees?
“There is no unused land available at this scale, which means millions more people will be affected, through the loss of their land, homes and forests. Areas teeming with biodiversity will become monoculture plantations. This will undoubtedly have calamitous impacts on the food sovereignty and rights of people across Africa.
“Neither ENI nor Shell have the right to impose such tree plantations on the lands of local communities and indigenous peoples. For generations, communities have taken care of their forests, often fighting off their own governments to retain ownership and control. Many communities are already resisting dirty energy, agro-commodities, infrastructure and large commercial projects that drive deforestation. The new spectre of corporate climate ‘compensation’ schemes headed by the dirtiest fossil fuel corporations is a ludicrous affront, and one which will be fought wherever it rears its head.
“Climate justice requires that ENI and Shell immediately cut their emissions at source. Since the industrial revolution, the fossil fuel industry has grown rich through the exploitation of people and nature, leading to large-scale and irreversible destruction of the atmosphere. As such, ENI and Shell owe a colossal climate debt to those bearing the brunt of the impacts of climate change. At the same time, deforestation poses a grievous risk to people and the planet. If we are to stand any chance of halting the inter-related crises of climate change and biodiversity loss, fossil fuels and deforestation must both come to an end.
“To stop causing the climate crisis, ENI and Shell must stop fossil fuels and harmful energy at source. No more land grabs in Africa or anywhere!”