May 17, 2022
From Extinction Rebellion (UK)
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On Tuesday May 17 at around 8am, a coalition of groups including Extinction Rebellion Africa, Sustaining the Wild Coast, StopEACOP, Africans Rising, The Green Connection, Oceans Not Oil, Jubilee for Climate, 350.org and Greenpeace disrupted the Africa Energies Summit, a high-level conference attended by oil executives and African heads of state, who will also meet for “top-level networking”. [1]

Three people gained access to the conference suite in the 5-star May Fair Hotel in London that is hosting the Africa Energies Summit, billed as the “go to conference for Africa’s energy industry.” They hung banners saying ‘End Oil Colonialism’ and ‘Justice for Africa’ from the £351-a-night hotel’s porch and lobby, blocking the delegates’ entrances and disrupting proceedings with audio recordings of African activists’ protestations about new oil deals.

The conference is sponsored by oil giants such as Shell, Total, Perenco and Schlumberger, who have all published record profits for the last quarter while consumer fuel prices soar and the Prime Minister Boris Johnson warns the cost-of-living crisis will get worse. [2] [3]

Coming as Johnson repeats his rejection of a proposed windfall tax on oil companies, the coalition of groups call attention to oil companies’ expansion into the African continent. [4] The IPPC report released in March this year stated that the continued use of fossil fuels will mean that half the population of the continent of Africa could be displaced within the next eight years. [5]

Several of the protesters gained access to the conference room itself inside the 5-star May Fair Hotel, London. Others used loudspeakers to broadcast voice recordings of people from South Africa, Namibia, Nigeria, the DRC and Uganda explaining how oil projects are destroying rather than benefiting their communities.

Sunny Morgan, climate justice activist with XR South Africa, commented:Modern day oil colonialists apportioning up Africa into blocks for oil exploration and extraction are reminiscent of the Berlin Conference of 1885. Stop Fossil Fuel Colonialism.”

The British protesters are demanding an end to “oil colonialism” and that global north creditors cancel the debts of African governments, arguing that high national debt is driving them to develop resources which need to be left in the ground in order to meet the Paris climate goals, and preventing an African transition towards renewable energy. 

Africa has 39% of the world’s total renewable energy potential, by far the largest share of any continent, but combined with the Middle East recieves only 2% of annual renewable energy investment. [6]

Meanwhile, the protestors argue fossil fuel projects are causing harm to African communities, livelihoods and environments, as well as contributing to devastating climate impacts.

Cathy Allen from Extinction Rebellion Global Support, said:Africa has contributed just 2% to global emissions to date, while almost half the continent cannot access electricity. Yet the impacts of climate change throughout the continent are already brutal. How can we stand by and watch these money games in Mayfair? 

“What’s happening here is unregulated oil companies signing exploitative new oil deals with debt-burdened African nations which need to cope with not only the pollution of oil exploration in their country, but the global effects of oil exploration – the drought, floods, food insecurity, displacement and conflict. This is not a conference – it is a crime scene disguised as a party.”

In February, an explosion on an oil vessel in Nigeria killed seven of ten of the crew and more than 100 Nigerians were killed in a bunkering site in April. [7] [8]

Oil company and conference attendee Total Energies is developing the East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP), which will displace over 100,000 people across Uganda, deprive 14,000 households of land and risk 200km squared of protected wildlife habitats. [9]

Rob Callender of Jubilee for Climate, said: “Oil companies need to get out of Africa, as our partners on the continent have been saying. They are calling on rich nations like the UK to cancel the debt which are like a knee on the neck, forcing governments to extract anything and everything just to service obscene levels of unjust debt, leaving nothing for the kind of development that benefits the people. If the UK was serious about allowing Africa to develop, it would write off the debt, which it can and which would allow African states to invest in the continent’s huge renewable energy potential – a far more resilient energy source in most communities.” 

“The debt payments of 44 African countries was $75 billion in 2019 – far greater than the amount of public finance needed to tackle climate change. Rather than enforcing this colonial hangover, global north governments should be meeting their loss and damage commitments to this part of the world – the least responsible for climate change – an issue shamefully sidelined at the UK-hosted COP26.”

Over the next two days, delegates from African nations will meet oil company deal-makers in exclusive venues.

As UK consumers face average petrol and diesel prices that are 20p and 30p more expensive than their second highest peak, one of the protestors argued that “we’re reading about oil company profits every day and, next to those stories, you have inflation and more households falling into debt or using foodbanks. It’s happening here and it’s happening in Africa, where people are being forced out of their homes to make for new oil projects to pay rent in a city to someone they never met. Who is benefitting? This is pure greed and it’s hurting everyone and silence legitimizes it. We won’t be silent. ” [10]

Notes for editors:

[1] https://www.frontierenergy.network/events/africa-energies-summit-2022

[2] https://www.theguardian.com/business/2022/may/05/shell-profits-windfall-tax

[3] https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2022-04-08/boris-johnson-says-u-k-cost-of-living-crisis-will-get-worse

[4] http://www.theguardian.com/business/2022/may/03/boris-johnson-efforts-to-ease-cost-of-living-crisis-not-enough

[5] https://www.climate-refugees.org/spotlight/2022/3/3/ipcc-africa#:~:text=For%20context%20the%20entire%20population,record%20breaking%20droughts%20even%20today.

[6] http://priceofoil.org/content/uploads/2021/10/Skys-Limit-Africa-Report-2021.pdf

[7] https://news.mongabay.com/2022/02/latest-nigeria-oil-spill-highlights-wretched-state-of-the-industry/#:~:text=An%20oil%20production%20vessel%20exploded,the%20spill%20is%20still%20unknown.

[8] https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/apr/23/more-than-100-killed-at-nigerian-oil-refinery-blast

[9] http://priceofoil.org/content/uploads/2021/10/Skys-Limit-Africa-Report-2021.pdf

[10] http://www.rac.co.uk/drive/advice/fuel-watch/

ABOUT EXTINCTION REBELLION

Time has almost entirely run out to address the ecological crisis which is upon us, including the 6th mass species extinction, global pollution, and increasingly rapid climate change. If urgent and radical action isn’t taken, we’re heading towards 4˚C warming, and the societal collapse and mass loss of life that that implies. The younger generation, racially marginalised communities and the Global South are on the front-line. No-one will escape the devastating impacts.

Extinction Rebellion believes it is a citizen’s duty to rebel, using peaceful civil disobedience, when faced with criminal inactivity by their Government.

Extinction Rebellion’s key demands are:

  1. Government must tell the truth by declaring a climate and ecological emergency, working with other institutions to communicate the urgency for change.
  2. Government must act now to halt biodiversity loss and reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2025.
  3. Government must create and be led by the decisions of a Citizens’ Assembly on climate and ecological justice.

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Source: Extinctionrebellion.uk