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Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Campaigners urge TotalEnergies to pay for climate damage, stop greenwashing African sports

Following a year characterised by the highest temperatures recorded in history, TotalEnergies on Wednesday, February 7, 2024, announced what has been termed as “obscene profits”. The French oil and gas giant recorded a $23.2 billion profit in 2023, a staggering four percent increase from 2022. This is, effectively, the highest return in the firm’s history.

Opening ceremony of the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) 2023 in Ivory Coast. TotalEnergies has been accused of engaging in greenwashing by sponsoring the AFCON

In a reaction, climate activists insist that, instead of spending its billions to pay just compensation to victims of its destructive activities in Africa, clean up its mess and invest in clean and sustainable forms of energy, TotalEnergies has been engaging in greenwashing over the last month, by sponsoring the Africa Cup of Nations.

“Seizing football for its greenwashing campaign amounts to modern-day deception and an insult to Africans,” declared the campaigners.

The added: “The trail of destruction by the French multinational and other oil companies runs far and wide. It has been at the doorstep of even some of the key figures in this tournament, including Nigeria’s heroic goalkeeper Stanley Bobbi ‘Bobo’ Nwabali. Nwabali who happens to come from Egbema, Rivers State, which is a host community of TotalEnergies, recently had their community experience a gas pipeline fire. Total has however remained mute in the face of this issue.

“As the world teeters on the point of 1.5 degrees limit of global warming, Total and other oil majors continue to profit from the leading causes of climate change and, as a consequence, worsening what is already a global climate emergency. TotalEnergies continues to build new oil and gas projects in Africa, more than anywhere else in the world. It describes Africa as the ‘heart of its global strategy’.”

Africa is said to account for 30% of TotalEnergies’ investments and production, for which some are listed to include:

  • In Uganda and Tanzania, where TotalEnergies is building the world’s longest heated crude oil pipeline, the East Africa Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP), more than 100,000 people will be displaced to pave the way for the pipeline. The project has been defined by unjust and delayed compensation and cases of human rights abuses.
  • For EACOP, a $5 billion project, TotalEnergies only paid out $28.9 million to “Project Affected Persons” (PAP) in 2022.
  • Cumulatively, TotalEnergies has paid less than $50 million or less than 1 percent of the project’s cost in compensation to 13,168 people displaced by EACOP.
  • Among the displaced families, the majority of them poor farmers, are some who are either yet to find alternative land to eke out a livelihood or the compensation was too little to buy productive land.
  • EACOP will destroy key habitats, endanger wildlife and fuel climate change by generating 379 million tonnes of CO2e (MtCO2e) for the full value chain of emissions.
  • In Mozambique, TotalEnergies has been accused of stirring up conflict in the already volatile region of Cabo Delgado with its $20 billion gas development project.
  • More than 500 households were displaced from TotalEnergies’ Afungi project site, denying them access to fishing grounds and cutting them out of their livelihoods.
  • In South Africa, TotalEnergies has received the green light from the government for offshore drilling for oil and gas, despite valid concerns about the impact on marine life and the environment.

The activists say that, instead of heeding scientific calls to decarbonise, oil corporations “continue to gas Africa and use massive profits to buy a social licence to pollute dozens of communities.”

They added: “Ironically, this year’s tournament was a testament to the vagaries of the climate crisis for which TotalEnergies and other oil majors are most responsible – the 2023 AFCON had to be pushed to 2024 due to adverse weather effects.

“The winners of AFCON 2024 will pocket $6.34 million, a significant increase from the $5 million awarded in 2021. While this reward is handsome, it is a pittance compared to the damage wrought on the continent by climate change, which will undeniably continue to affect sports and athletics development.

“Yet TotalEnergies continues to disregard its bigger responsibility to Africa: to stop its oil and gas operations that destroy the lives and livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of poor people and, in effect, future sports stars.”

Mohamed Adow, Founder and Director of Power Shift Africa, said: “The sponsorship of the Africa Cup of Nations by TotalEnergies is a textbook case of taking away someone’s land and, in return, giving them food rations every harvest season. This is thuggery of the most abhorrent order and for CAF to take money from the French multinational is to validate thievery of the continent’s resources by Western companies. Wherever it has been on the continent, Total has left a horrid imprint of population displacements, human rights violations, and climate change.

“If anyone has ever needed a reminder of the damage to climate by the oil and gas industry, they need to look no further than Côte d’Ivoire and Nigeria, the AFCON finalists and poster child of climate change in Africa. To invite TotalEnergies to our football extravaganza is, therefore, to invite a stranger to our party to mock us.”

Landry Ninteretse, Regional Director, 350Africa.org, said: “TotalEnergies’ record-breaking profits from exploitative and polluting fossil fuel projects across Africa are further proof of its colonial and predatory plans that underscore its prioritisation of profit over people and the planet. Meanwhile, it has attempted to mask its environmental irresponsibility by sponsoring Africa’s biggest sporting event.

“As Africans, we must reject the exploitation of the continental resources by greedy corporations seeking to lock us further into fossil fuel reliance and demand accountability. The severity of the climate crisis calls for a halt of harmful and obsolete fossil fuel projects and an accelerated transition to safe alternatives. Corporations that neglect sustainability and accountability have no place in our continent.”

Loraine Chiponda, Africa Movement of Movements Building Space, said: “On Sunday, two teams will take to the pitch to represent their countries in the final of what is Africa’s most popular sports tournament. Those two countries – Nigeria and the Ivory Coast – are perfect examples of the harm oil and gas has done to Africa. In 2016, Total started to put up an LNG plant in the Ivorian region of Grand Lahou which now faces an imminent threat from rising waters and increased storms.

“We all know what fossil fuel extraction has done to the Niger Delta. Yet, TotalEnergies has no qualms in sponsoring a tournament meant to bring the African people together. We hope that when the final whistle blows on Sunday, it will mark the end of TotalEnergies’ greenwashing agenda in Africa, and a beginning of the company’s exit from the continent.”

Dean Bhekumuzi Bhebhe, Don’t Gas Africa Campaigns Lead, said: “TotalEnergies’ declaration of ‘obscene profits’ stands as a mockery to the very essence of justice and sustainability. With a record-breaking profit of $23.2 billion in 2023, amidst the climate calamity we’re enduring, their actions should be considered criminal. By masking its environmental depredations with superficial acts of goodwill, such as sponsoring the Africa Cup of Nations, TotalEnergies is not just diverting attention from its destructive activities but actively eroding the continent’s capacity for self-determined growth. TotalEnergies’ actions deepen inequalities, restrict access to essential resources, and perpetuate a cycle of dependency on external private interests.

“The corporation’s facade of corporate responsibility is a stark betrayal of the comprehensive development the African continent urgently needs, side-lining critical social safety nets in favour of profit. The time for action is now; the stakes are too high, and the cost of inaction is a price we refuse to pay. A future riddled with neo-colonialism, corporate capture and energy apartheid is not the future we deserve.”

Zaki Mamdoo, StopEACOP Campaign Coordinator, said: “TotalEnergies’ sponsorship of AFCON is nothing short of an attempt to scrub itself of the real impact it has on the continent and our communities. In the case of EACOP we have seen how their extractive projects are designed to rob Africa of its mineral wealth and service the energy needs of countries abroad. All the while lining the pockets of a national and multinational elite and leaving communities to shoulder the entirety of the environmental and social costs. We must move not just to kick Total out of AFCON, but to kick them out of the continent for good.”

Samm Farai Monro, Kick Polluters Out Co-Founder, said: “TotalEnergies is guilty of foul play. They like to portray a clean, green image of themselves with their sponsorship of AFCON. But the reality is very different. At a time when scientists are telling us to stop any new fossil fuels projects, TotalEnergies is developing more oil and gas resources in Africa than any other company.

“For example, their EACOP pipeline in East Africa will involve the release of global heating gases more than 25 times the current annual emissions of Uganda and Tanzania combined. How can TotalEnergies say they are aiming to be net zero when they are setting our continent on fire? It’s time to show TotalEnergies the red card. Because there can be no football on a dead continent.”

Nnimmo Bassey, Executive Director of Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF), said: “It is a shame that AFCON accepted sponsorship from TotalEnergies in total disregard of the horrors unleashed on Ugandan communities by EACOP and its related projects. The peoples’ patience has stretched into injury time, and it is time for the ultimate penalty: Kick out this dangerous polluter. TotalEnergies must not be allowed to play with the future of our peoples and the planet.”

Cynthia Moyo, Greenpeace Africa’s Climate and Energy Campaigner, said: “Fossil fuels – the lifeblood of climate-wrecking companies like TotalEnergies – are poisoning the lungs of African athletes and soccer fans. But Total continues to displace communities for new oil drilling and spew toxins before shipping massive profits back to Europe. And yet they have been allowed to be title sponsors of AFCON.

“This is unacceptable. TotalEnergies is turning AFCON from a celebration of African unity into a grotesque greenwashing stunt. It’s time to kick TotalEnergies out of our stadiums. Our passion for football runs deep, but so does our love for a clean, healthy Africa.”

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