Activism or poverty conservation?

Elison Karuhanga

What you need to know:

  • It is important to recognise the significant benefits oil can provide for the region.     

This week, the Anti-Eacop slacktivists have not let up on their campaign against Uganda producing oil. They have started sending bulk emails to directors in banks, insurance companies, Western political leaders purportedly on behalf of “frontline communities”. These activists are not interested in the voice of the East Africans.

The Ugandan oil project has been a subject of controversy and heated debates. This is despite the fact that we have a low emitting, socially responsible and economically viable project. Critics of the project have been very liberal with the fact. They have made allegations about the project’s potential impact on the environment and local communities, as well as the risk of accidents or other unforeseen events. 

We need a more nuanced and balanced view of the project that can help us appreciate its benefits, as well as its potential risks.

Firstly, the project is subject to strict environmental and social impact assessments. These assessments are designed to ensure that any negative impacts are minimised and mitigated as much as possible. Eacop has taken measures to ensure that it does not harm any species on the International Union for Conservation of Nature red list (IUCN) and that it does not cause significant harm to biodiversity in the region. This is a testament to the project’s commitment to sustainability.

Furthermore, it is worth noting that world leaders have set a goal of achieving carbon neutrality by 2050. This means that the amount of greenhouse gases emitted into the atmosphere would be balanced by the amount removed or offset. The Ugandan oil project is a low carbon project.

To achieve this goal, the IEA aims to reduce net energy emissions by 39 percent between 2015 and 2030. TotalEnergies, like other oil companies, shall align its vision with this goal. We will still need oil for some time as we must produce energy in a way that does not place the planet in danger.  Uganda’s project is one of the lowest emitting projects in the world on account of interventions such as the banning of gas flaring, the solarisation of the pipeline, to mention a few. 

By 2050, TotalEnergies envisions that half of its energy production will come from renewable electricity, such as solar or wind power. This commitment is part of a broader industry trend towards decarbonisation, which is critical to addressing the challenge of climate change.

While working towards achieving carbon neutrality, it is equally if not more important that landowners along the pipeline route receive fair compensation for any land that is used for the pipeline. Eacop has already taken steps to ensure that affected individuals are compensated fairly and appropriately. In addition, the company has engaged with local communities to address any concerns that they may have about the project. This shows that the project is committed to being responsible and accountable.

Recognising that the Eacop project is not risk-free, it is essential to acknowledge the potential for accidents or unforeseen events, given that it is a complex infrastructure project. Nonetheless, it is important to note that the project’s risks have been thoroughly evaluated and minimised as much as possible. Furthermore, independent financial experts have assessed the project’s financial risks, and Eacop has taken measures to guarantee that it is a financially feasible and sustainable investment.

In conclusion, while it is understandable that concerns have been raised regarding the Eacop project, it is important to recognise the significant benefits it can provide for the region. By aligning its vision with the IEA’s goal of achieving carbon neutrality by 2050, TotalEnergies is committed to producing energy in a sustainable and responsible way, and Eacop has taken measures to minimise any negative impacts of the project.

It is important for the Ugandan and Tanzanian authorities to ensure that citizens are able to express their opinions freely without fear of retribution. As the project moves forward, there is no doubt that all stakeholders will continue to work together to ensure that the project is implemented responsibly and sustainably, benefiting both the local communities and the environment.

Elison Karuhanga is an advocate and partner at Kampala Associated Advocates 
[email protected]