Tag Archives: climate change

Mphanda Nkuwa, the witch hunt and a government with no ears

After its ‘ghost’ phase between 2018 and 2021, when the Mphanda Nkuwa Hydroelectric Project Implementation Office (GMNK) had already been created but no one could find it (not even MIREME, the Ministry of Mineral Resources and Energy), over the past year GMNK has been effusively communicating several advances made on the project. Most of these news concerns new partners, potential investors, and calls for studies that are necessary for the different stages of the project. The Jornal Notícias on the 14th of September 2022, however, brought an unprecedented report on a topic that until then had been treated as taboo by our government: the opinion of local communities regarding the project.

Entitled ‘Communities say yes to Mphanda Nkuwa’, the article reports that the population of Chirodzi-Nsanangue, one of the villages that will be resettled to make way for the project, welcomes the construction of this dam. A great deal of information contained in this article, and in a similar television programme broadcasted by TVM (Mozambique’s public TV channel) on the 7th of the same month, raises some questions that deserve to be debated and problematized.

A doctor’s visit

The above-mentioned article and report were produced as a result of the first meeting of the GMNK (accompanied by its consultants) with the Chirodzi community since the revitalization of the project in 2018.

Coincidence or not, this GMNK visit to Chirodzi came just a few weeks after the launch of the study ‘Mphanda Nkuwa Dam: a climate change millstone around Mozambique’s neck’, which took place on 21 July; an event during which the GMNK Director was questioned by some community members as to why no meetings had been held with local communities since the project’s revitalization. On this same occasion community members also asked Director Carlos Yum about what benefits this project would bring to local communities, about maintaining their subsistence activities (fishing, livestock and agriculture) and about the land that would be made available for their resettlement. Some of the responses given by the GMNK Director were considered ‘disrespectful’ by the people who attended the event, as he stated that local populations should not only focus on individual benefits, but believe in the ‘macroeconomic’ benefits that the project will bring to the country. Most of the questions raised by the local communities were answered evasively, ambiguously or unclearly by the Director, missing an opportunity to finally clarify some of the issues that have been troubling these people.

This mention of the macroeconomic benefits of the project and the disregard for the concerns of local populations is in line with a concept that has been presented by several scholars and specialists, in which they call ‘sacrifice zones’ those regions that are buffeted by high environmental impacts and social problems due to the existence of polluting industries or other megaprojects, projects that are usually justified by an alleged ‘greater good’ that supposedly will benefit the country as a whole. Some sociologists have observed that the existence of sacrifice zones is made possible by a culture of vulnerability of the human and environmental rights of marginalized or disadvantaged populations, through which it is evident that some people have rights and privileges, and others suffer the impacts.

Returning to the meeting on the 7th, it is important to mention that it took place during Victory Day, a public holiday, and a day of celebration in the community, which in itself is quite unusual. JA! was present at the meeting that lasted no more than 15 minutes, and consisted of only one person speaking, the representative from GMNK. Of the various communities that will be affected by the project, only the community of Chirodzi-Nsanangue (main neighbourhood) was present, and other communities were not invited (nor their leaders), such as Bairros 1 to 6 of Chirodzi, Chococoma, and Luzinga, among others. No time was given for questions, comments or concerns that the community might have, nor were their concerns documented: no one had the right to speak apart from the GMNK. As we observed on the ground, and according to reports we received from various community members, this first GMNK visit to Chirodzi seemed to have only two purposes: to inform the community that the project is moving forward at full speed; and to produce reports to let the rest of the country know that the communities support the project.

The siege on civil society

Both the Notícias article and the TVM report, media outlets known for being aligned with our government’s interests and agenda, also stated that there are some NGOs that have been instrumentalizing communities so that they do not accept Mphanda Nkuwa’s dam project.

However, Justiça Ambiental has been working with communities in the region for 22 years, with regular visits and activities during the ‘dormant’ phases of the project, and we have never known or come across such organizations. It is really deplorable that some civil society organizations tend to treat local communities as if they were their property, speaking on their behalf and controlling their opinions, but we were not aware that this could be happening in Chirodzi.

However, this persecution of organizations that criticize so-called development projects is already well known. They are referred to as anti-patriotic, anti-development, or even terrorist organizations. Now, the government is preparing to tighten its grip on civil society even further, seeking to pass a highly controversial law that gives the government excessive powers, including to extinguish non-profit organizations for failing to report on their activities. It is easy to imagine what kind of organizations would be the first to suffer such reprisals.

The fact is that certain truths about these megaprojects – their impacts on the environment, the appalling conditions in which local communities are usually resettled, or how promises of employment never materialize – when said out loud do not please the government. What if people discover that the words spoken during community consultations only serve to convince them to accept the project? Worse, what if they decide to organize themselves so that the project progresses only according to their requirements, respecting their wishes, and ensuring that they truly benefit from it?

Communities accuse manipulation of information

Having been present in the region since 2000, and having cultivated a relationship of friendship and solidarity with these communities that was maintained even when the project seemed to have been shelved, JA! has received numerous requests for support, legal training and advice from people who fear the loss of their land with the arrival of the dam. JA!’s activities in this and other communities threatened or affected by megaprojects has been based on sharing information and exchanging experiences on the environmental and social impacts of this type of project, on empowerment and legal capacity building actions so that communities are able to defend their rights and negotiate the terms on which they agree (or not) to give up their land, and in activities that seek to raise the voice and raise awareness of the concerns of local communities through interviews, videos and articles.

When the Jornal Notícias of 14 of September reached Chirodzi and the surrounding area, it caused a lot of indignation within the community. The JA! team began to receive phone calls, SMS and videos from various community members expressing their displeasure with the information portrayed there, and accusing Notícias of manipulating the information, spreading lies and not having asked community members what they think of the project. Several families from two of the neighbourhoods’ threatened by the dam wrote petitions where they ask for some honest, independent and impartial media agency to go to Chirodzi and neighbouring communities in order to listen to the real opinions of the communities. This avalanche of outrage seems to confirm what JA! observed in the field: that there was no interest on the part of the GMNK to hear and make known the real opinion of the local communities regarding this project.

Rights, justice and paths to peace

We will not mention here the numerous risks and potential impacts that we have been pointing out over the last 22 years, and which have been neglected at all stages of the project. It’s not even up to JA! to clarify whether the community is for or against the project. It is up to us, as a civil society organization, to present our position, justify it and bring it up for debate in the public space, with the government, with the actors involved, with the local communities, pressing for responses and policies that deal with the problems we face as a society.

The question that arises at the moment is another: why does the government insist on not listening to the local communities which will be affected by the Mphanda Nkuwa project? Why does it insist on belittling their concerns, and masking them with a large media apparatus, to make it appear that the project is moving forward with local support? If local communities put their needs and demands forward for the advancement of the project, will these be respected and fulfilled? And if communities say they are opposed to the project as it stands, and claim their right to say no, will the government be willing to listen to them?

We believe that dialogue, and the broad participation of civil society in these types of issues, can help us start to embark on a development model that meets the needs and desires of the majority of the population, consequently reducing the social tensions and wars that we have in our country which are also caused by the exclusion of the majority of the population from decision-making processes.

The path we have been following, as a country, neither serves nor benefits the people. The attack on civil society organizations and any critical voice reflects our government’s lack of commitment to democracy and broad public participation. It is urgent that we chart new paths that lead us to peace and to a model of a country that we can be proud of – something radically different from what we are experiencing today.

*This article was originally published in Jornal Savana in Portuguese on 30th September, 2022

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Stop Gassing the Continent! – COMMUNIQUE OF OILWATCH AFRICA CONFERENCE 2022

Oilwatch Africa (OWA) held the 2022 Conference and Annual General Meeting at Accra, Ghana between 8th -12th August. The theme of the continental gathering was Stop Gassing the continent: Pipelines of Discontent. The Conference had presentations and representation from CSOs, activists, scholars, journalists, fisherfolks and Eco-defenders from fossil fuels-affected communities across the continent and provided another opportunity to deepen OWA’s mission as a network of peoples and organisations building solidarity to end expansion of oil and gas activities given its negative impacts on people and the environment in Africa.


Key observations made by delegates included:

  • That the current rush for Africa’s oil, gas and mineral resources amounts to a perpetuation of extractive modes of colonial exploitation, which condemned the continent to predatory slave trade, followed by the massive raping of agricultural and forest resources, before the current iteration with its focus on minerals and fossil fuels.
  • That the argument that Africa deserves to utilise its natural resources for energy sufficiency and development belies the fact that extraction of natural resources has historically been export-driven for the benefit of the consumption needs of the global north and scarcely targets the needs of the continent and the rhetoric by African leaders that fossil fuels could be utilised by the continent as a “less harmful” transition fuel is a delusion as gas contributes massively to climate change through its methane content.

  • That the continuous financing and development of massive pipeline projects such as the East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP) project, the West African Gas Pipeline Project WAGP, and the Trans-Saharan Gas Pipeline, among others constitute an aggression on the land rights of communities and portend massive livelihood disruptions, conflicts, human rights abuses, and environmental degradation across the continent.
  • That the current trend in which multinational oil and gas companies sell off their stakes in onshore oil and gas assets and move out of African countries or further offshore amounts to an abdication of responsibility for historical damage caused by their activities in these countries.
  • That the Paris Agreement and its 1.5 degrees Celsius target as driven by the so-called Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) is a huge betrayal for Africa as the continent warms at about 50% above the global average, meaning that going by the NDCs, Africa is condemned to literally burn at the best of scenarios.
  • That Africa is rich in renewable energies and given the growing competitiveness of clean energy technologies and has the potential to advance its energy transition along a zero-carbon pathway. For instance, Africa has the world’s highest solar potential but currently accounts for just one.
  • That industrialised countries have demonstrated insincerity by routinely spending close to $2 trillion annually on military hardware and warfare while foot-dragging on climate commitments, especially adaptation finance.
  • That emerging global and regional policy norms around a so-called blue economy revolution, constitute a massive threat to African coastal communities’ maritime and aquatic resources, and the continent’s environment, and will further incentivize illegal and overfishing in her waters.
  • That there has been a rise in the victimisation of Eco-defenders across the continent by oil companies and their state collaborators, and this repressive climate has been worsened in recent times by the proliferation of so-called oil and gas regulatory reforms (such as Nigeria’s Petroleum Industry Act 2021) that shrink civic space by constraining the voice and agency of extraction-affected communities in decision making related to their natural resources and environment.


Oilwatch Africa denounced efforts to lock Africa in the exploitative fossil fuels pathway to meet the energy needs of polluting nations and to feed the greed of the fossil fuels industry. To ensure a just transition and secure climate justice for our peoples, the conference made the following demands:

  1. There must be a halt to all new coal, oil, or gas exploration and extraction activities in Africa in line with the imperatives of the energy transition. We specifically demand the stoppage of oil exploration and expansion plans in the Virunga basin of the DRC, the Keta region of Ghana, the Okavango Delta of Botswana, the Orange River Basin in Namibia, and a halt on all plans for the West African Gas Pipeline Project, the Trans-Saharan Gas Pipeline Project, and the East African Crude Oil Pipeline Project, among others.
  2. That African governments must leverage the hosting of COP27 this year to demand far-reaching measures on climate adaptation and finance, including emissions cut at the source.
  3. African governments should demand from polluting industrialised countries an annual climate debt of $2 trillion being the amount they currently spend on military hardware and warfare annually. This will pay for loss and damage and serve as partial reparations for historical harms.
  4. That oil and gas multinationals currently planning to divest and escape responsibility for their historical damage to African communities (such as Shell and Exxon Mobil in Nigeria’s Niger Delta) should restore the environment and compensate communities for ecocide committed in their territories before their exit.
  5. African states must develop Africa-centred and just energy transition plans where such do not exist and where they do, to mainstream such plans into broader national development plans in ways that take cognizance of Africa’s huge renewable potential.
  6. African countries and the African Union must tread with caution to the so-called blue economy, and especially denounce unconditionally all attempts to normalise Deep Seabed Mining (DSM) within the continent.
  7. International Financial Institutions, including the African Development Bank and export credit agencies to cut all financing to fossil fuel projects in Africa
  8. African governments and international organisations to respect the right to life of human rights and Eco-defenders in the continent who are increasingly repressed.

Adopted on the 11th of August 2022, by Oilwatch Africa members and organisations from:

  1. Côte d’Ivoire
  2. Democratic Republic of Congo
  3. Ghana
  4. Kenya
  5. Mozambique
  6. Nigeria
  7. Senegal
  8. South Africa
  9. South Sudan
  10. Swaziland/Eswatini
  11. Tchad
  12. Togo
  13. Uganda

Organisations/Networks:

  1. FishNet Alliance
  2. Policy Alert
  3. We the People
  4. Peace Point Development Foundation
  5. Oilwatch Ghana
  6. Oil Change International
  7. Host Communities Network, Nigeria
  8. Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria
  9. Kebetkache Women Development Centre
  10. Foundation for Development in the Sahel (FDS)
  11. Health of Mother Earth Foundation
  12. Africa Institute for Energy Governance (AFIEGO)
  13. Jeunes Volontaires pour l’Environnement (JVE)
  14. Justiça Ambiental (JA)
  15. Ground Work
  16. Friends of Lake Turkana
  17. Femmes Solidaire (FESO)
  18. Centre for Research and Action on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CRADESC)
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Floods in Pakistan – yet another climate catastrophe devastating the global South

From June to September this year, unprecedented torrential rain in Pakistan caused flooding at an unimaginable scale, leaving a third of the country underwater, with United Nations (UN) secretary general, António Guterres, describing it as a “monsoon on steroids”.

Images and videos of entire multi-floor buildings collapsing, highways and bridges being washed away and people being drowned in what became urban waterfalls came out through screens and media outlets. But by this time, the floods, mainly in the regions of Sindh and Balochistan, had been enduring for weeks, hidden from the world. The silence of the mainstream media and international governments was deafening, and once the news finally made it beyond the wall of the media boundaries it was too late. Even then, it was hard to believe how such a catastrophe was happening, how people’s entire lives were being washed away, while the world merely watched, paying attention to other issues, in what seemed to be more important parts of the world, that were more pertinent to them.

The situation in Pakistan is heartbreaking – the UN says that nearly 650 000 women in affected areas are in desperate need of maternity services. Across the country, 1460 health centres have been fully or partially destroyed, and thousands are living in roadside tents without toilets.

The link between the climate crisis and the floods are clear – Pakistan’s Climate Minister Sherry Rehman pointed out to Agence France-Presse: “This is very far from a normal monsoon [season]—it is climate dystopia at our doorstep. We are at the moment at the ground zero of the frontline of extreme weather events, in an unrelenting cascade of heatwaves, forest fires, flash floods, multiple glacial lake outbursts, flood events, and now the monster monsoon of the decade is wreaking nonstop havoc throughout the country.” In Sindh province, the amount of rainfall was 4.5 times more than the average for the last 30 years.

What is even more infuriating, is that the country is not even marginally responsible for the climate crisis, yet it has been one of the worst affected, in a human-made disaster that is only one symptom of the climate emergency the world is facing, an emergency that has been created by, and benefited, wealthy states and companies in the global North, but has devastated mostly peoples of the global South. The country director of the International Rescue Committee, Shabnam Baloch has said “Despite producing less than 1% of the world’s carbon footprint, the country is suffering the consequences of the world’s inaction and stays in the top 10 countries facing the consequences.”

As long as governments and corporations continue to perpetuate the ugliest elements of the capitalist system, by allowing and encouraging fossil fuel extraction, it is very likely this will not be the last floods in Pakistan, just like Cyclones Idai and Kenneth will not be the last in Mozambique, or the recent floods will not be the last in Durban. But these culprits refuse to be held responsible, so we need to make sure they too are nearly deafened by the screeching siren they themselves have set off.

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Mphanda Nkuwa Dam: a climate change millstone around Mozambique’s neck*

by Rudo A. Sanyanga

Executive Summary

The Mphanda Nkuwa hydropower dam project, mooted more than two decades ago, has re-emerged as a solution for increasing power exports to South Africa to enable Mozambique to increase its capacity for earning foreign currency. The project is now being promoted at a cost of USD 4.5 billion comprising USD 2.4 billion for the dam and power plant, plus USD 2.1 billion for transmission lines. This essay discusses the merits of the Mphanda Nkuwa hydropower project and its socio-economic and development benefits in the face of climate change impacts, at a time when the world is facing energy challenges that require rethinking the most sustainable types and sources of energy for the future.

The Mphanda Nkuwa Dam would be the third largest dam to be constructed on the main stem of the Zambezi River and one of many other dams in the basin when the Zambezi tributaries are considered. Its location in the lower Zambezi River basin, in Mozambique, gives it unique features and makes it vulnerable and also crucial in determining the health of the downstream ecosystems. As currently designed, the hydropower plant has a 1500 MW generation capacity, with 60% (900 MW) of this capacity committed for export to South Africa and the balance of 600 MW (40%) reserved for domestic consumption in Mozambique. Currently, over 60% of Mozambicans, most of whom live in widely dispersed settlements in remote rural areas, do not have access to modern electricity and are out of reach of the existing national electricity grid. Far much more than 600MW would be required to enable Mozambique reach 50% access to electricity by 2030.

The project is planned for commissioning in 2030, with about 2 years of this needed for planning and design, while construction is expected to take 6 years. The touted benefits of Mphanda Nkuwa are doubtful in the face of climate change and the fact that the dam will be detrimental to downstream ecosystems, as well as human health and safety while leading to the loss of livelihoods for downstream communities. As is the case in most similar large infrastructure projects, the Mphanda Nkuwa dam and hydropower project is drawing favor from international financial institutions such as the Africa Development Bank who view it purely from a macro-economic viewpoint as an avenue for spurring economic growth in the country through increased foreign currency earnings. The proponents of the project, however, overlook the several risks that are associated with the project and, thus, do not discuss how these risks will be addressed.

Of major concern among the risks is the issue of climate change. Following some detailed analysis, the IPCC found that, out of the 11 main river basins in Africa, the Zambezi Basin is the most vulnerable to climate change impacts. The Zambezi basin is predicted to experience severe extreme weather events in the form of prolonged drought periods, and extreme flooding events in the future, the worst of all other basins on the continent. Furthermore, the Lower Zambezi is directly affected by developments upstream, with the negative impacts of upstream developments being compounded at Mphanda Nkuwa and downstream. In the past decade, Mozambique has been the worst climate change affected country among all the SADC countries with numerous extreme weather events of cyclones and flooding being experienced. The operations of the upstream dams at Kariba, Kafue and Cahora Bassa, with their large combined storage capacity, will be key to the performance of Mphanda Nkuwa.

Being located downstream of the large dams, the major risk for Mphanda Nkuwa will be during drought periods when the upstream dams may not release water as the upstream countries may prioritize their own needs. The high risk of droughts in the Zambezi basin, wrought by climate change, will have a direct negative impact on the financial and economic viability of the project, as the projected revenue generation and foreign currency earnings will be severely curtailed by prolonged droughts. The withholding of water in upstream dams during droughts will also endanger the ecological flows of the river below Mphanda Nkuwa, with further detrimental effects to prawn fishing in the delta region.

Similarly, in the event of large floods, upstream dams will release water downstream, thereby creating risks of dam failure at Mphanda Nkuwa as well as worsening human safety downstream in the Zambezi valley. The risks to dam safety as a result of flooding may necessitate more expensive design features and higher construction costs. The high risk of loss of human lives and threat to human livelihoods in Mozambique due to floods has been fully demonstrated by numerous catastrophic flood events in the lower Zambezi valley in the past two decades. It therefore follows that Mphanda Nkuwa is highly susceptible to climate change impacts with respect to both droughts and floods.

Mphanda Nkuwa hydropower is touted as clean energy. However, emerging studies worldwide are indicating that dams emit considerable amounts of methane, with methane as a more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. At a time when the world is facing huge global warming and climate change risks, the decision to proceed with Mphanda Nkuwa is unfortunate and flies in the face of conventional wisdom.

Mphanda Nkuwa is premised on power being sold to the Southern African countries, with South Africa’s power utility company Eskom being the principal customer for the electricity. It is important to note that over the past 15 years Eskom has been experiencing serious long-standing governance and structural challenges resulting in a chronic debt problem amounting to over ZAR 500 billion, which is equivalent to USD30 billion at the time of writing. Thus, the South African power utility is facing serious financial viability challenges which render it a risky customer on which to base a huge investment of USD 4.5 billion. As a result of its worsening financial position, Eskom has been progressively increasing domestic electricity tariffs in the past decade, with the result that some of its major customers, especially the wealthy ones, have been moving off the grid, thereby creating risks to its revenue collection and also worsening the power utility’s financial viability. Clearly, this issue is a red flag that the proponents of the Mphanda Nkuwa dam project need to seriously interrogate in their market analyses. The delicacy of the viability of Mphanda Nkuwa becomes even more stark when viewed against a background of the current power purchase agreement of Cahora Bassa power to South Africa, whose electricity pricing is highly unfavourable for Mozambique.

Other concerns regarding Mphanda Nkuwa include the claimed increase in energy access for Mozambicans. While on paper the claim is made that 40% of the Mphanda Nkuwa power will be availed to Mozambicans, in reality the impact on access to power for Mozambicans will be insignificant. The dispersed, extensive rural settlement pattern of most of the Mozambicans who currently do not enjoy access to clean energy, and the absence of an extensive grid network renders the claim that Mphanda Nkuwa will increase access to electricity a fallacy. Mozambique lacks an extensive transmission and distribution network and, even with the proposed transmission line, the majority in the rural areas will still remain unconnected to modern electricity. Grid electricity will not be enough to increase access and spur development in the country. At any rate, the cost of the electricity, without subsidy, is unlikely to be affordable for the majority of the citizens.

The Mphanda Nkuwa dam development pays very little attention to the basin ecosystem health and social wellbeing of downstream communities. The operations of the Mphanda Nkuwa dam will significantly alter the flow regime of the downstream area, creating daily fluctuations that will affect aquatic biota as well as the livelihoods of over 200.000 inhabitants who live in the delta and who, to a large extent, rely on the natural resources of the basin. The livelihoods of the communities that reside in the area that will be inundated should not be discounted. Based on what has already transpired and been experienced in other mega infrastructure projects in Tete province and across the country, these people will likely be subjected to forced displacement, curtailed livelihoods, inadequate compensation, State violence and repression and other human rights violations. The people in the basin will be the main losers from this development.

In conclusion, the investment is unlikely to significantly increase industrialization and spur economic growth in Mozambique. Very limited direct permanent employment can be expected to emanate from this hydropower development. No gains will be made in terms of climate change GHG emissions, and sadly more emissions will result from the hydropower dam. The revenue from the electricity sales may not cover the costs of production with potential of failure to service the debt for the dam. Several studies have been done for South Africa and Mozambique that demonstrate that clean energy can be harnessed through wind and solar to reach the widely dispersed rural population at a much faster pace, creating jobs and comparatively having fewer negative social and environment impacts. Against this backdrop, Mozambique has a huge potential to turn to renewable energies, and change its energy trajectory for energy development, distribution and generation. If implemented, the Mphanda Nkuwa will be a millstone around the neck of Mozambique for many generations to come.

*This study was launched in Maputo on July 21st 2022. To get a copy of the study please go to Justiça Ambiental’s office on Rua Willy Waddington, 102, Bairro da Coop, Maputo, or download it from this link: www.drive.google.com/drive/folders/1FXkv0z4PzdOT6yhueYhPqXVCo_9di4Qz

For more information: +258 84 3106010 / jamoz2010@gmail.com

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TOTAL’S 2021 15 BILLION EUROS PROFIT COMES AT THE EXPENSE OF THE PEOPLE OF THE GLOBAL SOUTH

This week, Total announced that in 2021 it made 15 billion Euros, the biggest profits any company has ever made in French history. They are unashamedly boasting about this money, money that will go to wealthy European shareholders, money that they have made at the expense of the climate and people and the environment in the global South.

Total is one of the biggest players in Mozambique’s gas industry, leading the Mozambique liquid Natural Gas (LNG) project and is constructing the onshore Afungi LNG Park, which houses the aerodrome, treatment plants, port, offices and other support facilities for all the projects. To make way for the 70 square kilometre park, the company displaced over 550 families, thousands of people, from surrounding communities.

Even though extraction hasn’t even happened yet, fishing communities who had been living mere metres from the ocean for generations were displaced to a ‘relocation village’ more than 10 km inland, with no way of getting to the sea. Farmers who had now lost their land, were given small, inadequate pieces of land far from the relocation houses they had been given.

Their ‘consultation’ process with these communities has been a joke. In meetings between communities and companies, community leaders – many of whom have developed financially beneficial relationships with the industry – are present, and people avoided speaking out for fear of losing their compensation, or of physical threats. This is exacerbated by communities’ lack of basic knowledge law, thereby unable to demand their rights.

JA! works closely with communities on the ground in the gas region, and have seen how the only jobs created for locals were menial, unskilled and temporary. Communities’ complaints to Total about irregular compensation payments were waved away. And now that Total’s project was paused in April 2021, they have stopped compensation payments completely.

The project will also have irreversible impacts on the climate and destroy coral reefs and endangered species of the UNESCO Biosphere, the Quirimbas Archipelago.

But Total’s crimes go beyond Mozambique, to many other Southern countries. One of their planned projects, the East Africa crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP) has been the subject of major campaigns by civil society and even a lawsuit in France by Friends of the Earth France. According to the StopEACOP Campaign:

“Stretching for nearly 1,445 kilometers, the East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP) would have disastrous consequences for local communities, for wildlife and for the entire planet – we have to stop it. The project threatens to displace thousands of families and farmers from their land. It poses significant risks to water resources and wetlands in both Uganda and Tanzania – including the Lake Victoria basin, which over 40 million people rely upon for drinking water and food production. The pipeline would rip through numerous sensitive biodiversity hotspots, and risk significantly degrading several nature reserves crucial to the preservation of threatened elephant, lion and chimpanzee species.”

To read more about EACOP see: https://www.stopeacop.net/

In Myanmar, Total was providing the oppressive military junta with the majority of its revenue, from its Yadana gas project. The military junta is known for ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya population, and mass human rights violations including rape, sexual abuse, torture and disappearances of protestors. Recently Total claimed it would stop its operations in Myanmar, but again, it will be getting away with the destruction it has left in is wake.

Total has also been active in the Taoudeni basin of Mali in the Sahel since 1998. Since 2013, over 3000 French troops have been in Mali, and 4 other Sahel countries, with France using the same rhetoric as they and Rwanda have done in Mozambique: to rid the area of ‘jihadists’.

In Yemen, the Balhaf LNG site of which Total owns 39% was exposed for housing the base for the Shabwani Elite, an UAE-backed tribal militia since 2016. Officially a counter-terrorism group, they have unofficially become known as a group created to protect fossil fuel interests. The site also has also been exposed to house UAE notorious ‘secret prisons’ holding Yemeni detainees.

For more see https://ja4change.org/2021/10/22/france-rwanda-and-total/

in the week of the announcement, many organisations from around the world held a social media storm, where tweeted about Total’s actions and ‘hijacked’ their twitter, facebook and linkedIn accounts.

It is inhumane that Total and its shareholders use their profits to have oysters and champagne in Paris’ restaurants, while this money comes by violating the rights of human beings, their bodies, the environment and the climate.

In Mozambique, Total must stop the gas exploitation entirely, but it cannot slink away from the mess it has already made. It must take responsibility and provide reparations for all the lives destroyed, all the lands grabbed, and the livelihoods lost.

Total must stop its destruction all over the global south, and the world, but that by itself does not erase years of abuse and dispossession overnight! Total and the fossil fuel industry gas industry must be held accountable for the impacts and human rights violations faced by affected communities and be obliged to fully compensate the communities and remediate the damage caused!

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It is a mistake to insist on extractive mega-projects”

Anabela Lemos says Mozambique should not move forward with gas projects

This interview was originally published in Jornal Savana in Portuguese on 10th December, 2021.

At the beginning of November, a great controversy erupted, mainly on social networks, as a result of statements made by Anabela Lemos, an environmental activist, who argued that Mozambique should not proceed with the natural gas exploration project. But what arguments support this position, at a time when most social sectors in Mozambique, including civil society, see gas as a great opportunity to develop the country and fight poverty?

In an interview conducted by Boaventura Monjane*, Anabela Lemos, founder of “Justiça Ambiental” and one of the loudest voices in the environmental movement, responds to the question, arguing that insisting on this type of extractivist mega-projects will always contribute to serious violations of human rights, will cause irreversible damage to the environment, and will deepen the climate crisis. She also claims that Mozambique’s position at COP26 was largely inadequate.

At the beginning of November, in an interview to a television channel, Anabela Lemos stated and defended that Mozambique should not proceed with the natural gas exploration project in Cabo Delgado. Her statements provoked several reactions, mainly on social media. Can you explain this position?

By choosing to explore natural gas, Mozambique is following the same path followed by other African countries such as Nigeria and Libya that have also tried to develop through the exploration of fossil fuels. In all the examples we have on the continent, these projects have led to an increase in corruption, conflict and militarisation, national debt, poverty and a general deterioration in the standard of living of local populations, without having generated sufficient benefits for the country. This is not a position of radical activists. Even the World Bank has acknowledged, in its Extractive Industry Report, that the oil and gas industries in developing countries have not only failed to improve the lives of the poorest people, but have made them even worse off.

Mozambique is one of the countries most affected by climate change, and is looking to boost one of the industries that contributes most to this crisis, in the midst of a global movement calling to end the exploitation of fossil fuels. This is a contradiction and therefore we have to fight for our right to say no to environmentally destructive and socially unjust projects.

What do you mean by the right to say no?

The fight for the right to say no aims to challenge the usual way in which mega-projects are allowed in our countries, where public consultations or negotiations are carried out in the final stages of the project only to agree on small details and compensations. The right to say no aims to bring about a drastic change in the way affected people and civil society are brought into these debates. If the option of saying no is on the table, it is an indication that the people have power, and this opens up space for creating real debates about the best paths for development for the country.

This right started being demanded in several popular struggles of communities directly affected by extractivist projects, whose negative impacts affect these communities. People lose their land, livelihoods, access to rivers and the sea, ability to support themselves and to survive. The environment is destroyed and the people who survive are harassed. When everything is exhausted, corporations leave, leaving a trail of destruction and a huge debt for the State and the people.

For us perhaps the greatest reference to the right to say no is an inspiring struggle of a community in South Africa, in the Eastern Cape province. The community association Amadiba Crisis Committee, together with a team of lawyers and a South African civil society organisation, took its Ministry of Mineral Resources to court. And they got the higher court to recognise that a titanium mining project in that region could not proceed without the consent of the local community.

Does JA! fight against any and all development projects? After all, didn’t the industrialised countries develop with these types of projects?

We say no to any project that we believe will bring more negative than positive impacts for the people and the environment. Unfortunately, we are part of a national and global context in which governments are captured by the interests of large transnational corporations, and therefore the projects that are coming to our country will invariably benefit local and global elites, as they are not intended to solve the needs of the people.

Regarding the argument that industrialised countries developed with these types of projects, this is a misconception. European countries, for example, controlled virtually every component of the global value chain. They got rich from patents, from research, from manufacturing the equipment, from exploring, processing, and transporting resources. They became rich because they controlled and owned all the significant companies and markets at that particular time. And they got rich mainly because they colonised and exploited countries in the Global South. No African country that is already exploiting its fossil resources has developed from the exploitation of these, as it controls absolutely nothing in the value chain or any other critical component of this industry. So, regarding the gas, we’re actually being exploited once again.

Regarding the climate crisis, there has been a lot of debate about the right of less developed countries, such as Mozambique, to exploit their fossil fuel reserves to boost their economic growth. Don’t you think that industrialised countries should have a greater responsibility to cut their greenhouse gas emissions, rather than countries that have contributed little to these emissions?

Certainly. That is why we speak of historical responsibility, because it was the countries of the North that created the climate crisis, and the countries of the South, such as Mozambique, are suffering the greatest impacts. This means that the past and present actions of industrialised countries are creating damage and losses as we saw with cyclones Idai and Kenneth, with direct and indirect economic losses projected at $3 billion.

As a country, we don’t have to lead the way in terms of climate action. But this does not mean that in Mozambique we should explore gas or any other fossil fuel, and contribute to global emissions. We can pretend we’re fighting for a right, but given the climate crisis and the other impacts I’ve already mentioned, we’re basically fighting for the right to jump into an abyss.

But we can be an example of a country that is looking to its future and the future of planet earth, by moving towards a more sustainable economic model, while demanding that the Global North drastically reduce its emissions and pay the South a climate debt. This financing will allow the country to develop and be able to provide clean, just and decentralised energy to the entire population.

In Mozambique, and in many other African countries, energy poverty still affects the majority of the population. Many families still depend on polluting energy sources that are very harmful to health, such as firewood and charcoal. How does JA! propose to resolve these issues in Mozambique?

In a country like ours, the priority is certainly to create a strategy of decentralisation and diversification of energy sources, analyse the country’s energy potential by different areas and geographies, and build a system based on justice and the right of everyone to have access to a safe, healthy and clean energy source. Part of these studies already exist, completed by JA! and other researchers, but they continue to be largely ignored.

In September 2021, Friends of the Earth Africa published a “Just Recovery Renewable Energy Plan for Africa” which shows that it is not only urgent but completely feasible to reduce emissions, transform our energy system and make a just transition in our continent.

The plan, based on the work of renowned academic Dr Sven Teske of the University of Sydney, outlines how the continent can dismantle existing dirty energy systems and achieve 100% renewable energy for all by 2050. This plan would require more than 300 gigawatts (GW) of new renewable energy by 2030, as agreed by the African Union, and over 2000 GW by 2050. The plan also highlights the potential to create 7 million new jobs in renewable energy on the African continent. It is not just a technical plan, but a vision of how renewable energy systems can serve people and protect biodiversity.

Don’t you think that a lot could be done if each of us, individually, had greater environmental awareness? I’m talking about reducing consumption levels, not throwing garbage on the floor, saving water – with these types of actions wouldn’t we be able to achieve major changes?

It is always good for individuals to practice sustainable habits and protect the environment. But individual actions, as important as they are, must somehow aim at more structural changes in society, because if they are not intended to bring about a general change in how we understand the system and what attitude we take, they have no real impact.

Furthermore, we need to recognize the ecological footprint (a method of calculating the pressure that the human population, and each of us in particular, exerts on natural resources and the planet) of the majority of the Mozambican population; with the exclusion of our own elites, it is absurdly small. The huge ecological impact of industries makes any action at the individual level completely meaningless. Mozal, for example, consumes more water and electricity than all domestic consumption in the city of Maputo. And it is a company that did not even pay dividends to the Mozambican State throughout 2019.

So the big problem here is that industrial consumption and the linear model of extraction (production – use – disposal) are not compatible with ecological balance. We need circular systems that are capable of reusing all the components produced, as raw material in other processes. Of course, reducing consumption levels, especially in rich countries and our domestic elites, is fundamental for this to be viable.

Looking at the impacts of extractivist mega-projects in Mozambique, many claim that their positive impacts are not felt due to high levels of corruption. How do you see this issue of corruption?

The debate about corruption in our country is on the rise and we all see the impacts of corruption on a daily basis. This scenario must be urgently reversed and we need to fight it at all levels. But we also need to recognise that corruption is intrinsically related to the economic viability of extractive projects. If it weren’t for corruption, they wouldn’t advance. Buying off some government officials to sponsor this type of investment project will always be cheaper than bearing all the real costs of fair compensation for land expropriation, decent wages, damage to health, restoration of the degraded environment, and the impacts of climate change, among others things.

By solving the problem of corruption, would it be possible for Mozambique to be able to exploit the gas in a way that would benefit the country and the majority of Mozambicans?

The problem of corruption will not be resolved within the current development model that we have in the country. But beyond that, there are economic trends around fossil fuels that are undeniable, for anyone seeking to examine. Coal is a declining resource, with several countries (including China) already with divestment strategies and phasing out coal projects. Fifteen years ago when we started betting everything on coal, the scenarios were absurdly optimistic. We believe that gas extraction will follow a very similar path to coal. According to calculations by the Global Energy Monitor, there are already close to $100 billion in gas investments at risk of becoming stranded assets. Coal had a slow transition to become an unproductive asset, but with gas this risk will be faster and more abrupt, because it is a less labour-intensive industry.

As if this were not enough, current gas exploration contracts provide enormous benefits to private companies during the first decades, and only later will the country gain from exploration. All of this should be worrying for Mozambique, as we have major infrastructure problems, socio-economic instability and conflicts that are causing delays, putting gas projects even more at risk of becoming unproductive assets and having a minimal contribution to the country’s economy. Other studies such as those carried out by CIP, which do not focus on the risk of unproductive assets, still project weak gas contributions to the country’s economy, due to tax exemptions, tax havens, low gas prices, high operating costs, among others. And this, of course, without even counting the costs of militarisation and security that will fall on the State.

At the national level, some see environmentalists or human rights defenders as having anti-development agendas or accuse them of being manipulated by outside interests. How do you, Anabela Lemos and JA! deal with these criticisms?

The reason for the attacks on JA! because of our views is because our views are very upsetting to the interests of the elites – both national and international. There is no interest in having in-depth debates on these issues because then we will arrive at the undeniable facts that these projects do not bring development. There is a lot of information available and studies to be done that confirm our positions.

We are always available to debate views and alternatives, but we don’t waste too much time on strategies that are based on hearsay and misinformation and are intended to avoid deeper discussions.

What do you think of proposals like the one tried in Ecuador, in which more than 300 million dollars were pledged to stop the exploration of 846 million barrels of oil beneath the Yasuní National Park, one of the richest areas of tropical forest in the world. Do you think this solution would be viable for Mozambique?

Yes. With this kind of funding, and access to patents and technology that are unfortunately mostly owned by the Global North, countries like Mozambique can focus on energy transition.

It is very clear that funding for this exists. Data from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) state that around $50 to $100 billion USD are lost each year due to tax evasion. Data from the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) show that $89 billion USD are lost in illicit financial flows. Data from the Tax Justice Network shows that $600 billion USD are lost every year due to tax fraud. Friends of the Earth International figures show that the wealth of the 53 richest people around the world could provide 100% renewable energy for Africa by 2030. We clearly know that this money exists, so we need to fight to demand the political will necessary to make the changes we need. This fund could also come from the payment of climate debts by industrialised countries.

The UN climate summit in Glasgow, UK, has just ended. World leaders have pledged to transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy by 2050. Do you find this goal realistic? What did you think of Mozambique’s position at that summit?

Mozambique’s position at COP26, given that we are one of the countries most vulnerable to climate change, was largely inadequate. We should have brought a discourse relaying respective demands around the right to life, the right to develop our country without exploring fossil fuels, and the right to the climate debt. COP26 is a suicide pact for Africa that African negotiator Lumumba Di-Aping warned us about at the 2009 COP. Twelve years have passed and African leaders want to set the continent on fire.

The 2050 goal is completely unrealistic. As we often say at JA!, these negotiations are debating how many people we agree to let die, how many forests we accept to destroy, how many islands will be submerged, so that fossil fuel companies and captured governments can continue to increase emissions and their profits.

Rich countries do not take responsibility for creating the climate crisis. They also fail to meet the financial commitments for countries in the Global South to embark on a just transition. Furthermore, we are shocked that they have reached an agreement on Article 6 of the Paris Agreement – carbon markets. This undermines emissions reduction targets because it allows polluters to continue to pollute, giving them an escape route. A study published by the “Glasgow Agreement” during COP26 demonstrated how there are at least 800 new fossil fuel projects under exploration. COP26 was nothing more than an insubstantial conversation to safeguard the interests of those who want to continue to pollute.

A photo of an activist holding a sign that said ‘Stop funding gas in Mozambique’ also raised a lot of controversy and debate on social media. It is known however that a group of activists in the UK have filed legal action to force the government to withdraw from Cabo Delgado gas. Is JA! involved in this campaign?

The British agency United Kingdom Export Finance (UKEF) has pledged more than $1 billion for gas projects in Mozambique. The gas industry in Mozambique has already had irreversible impacts even before any gas has been extracted. People have lost their homes and livelihoods, and the climate impact of the construction phase, which is not even complete, is already significant. It is essential that people know this, because corporations, pension funds, investors and even governments of various countries (with tax money) are financing these projects. This is unacceptable and a big risk for the Mozambican people. And that’s why we support Friends of the Earth groups in the UK, who are working in solidarity with us, and challenging their own government in court to stop funding Mozambique’s gas because of its negative impacts. We need an energy transition. Instead of gas, we want people-centred renewable energy.

This interview was originally published in Jornal Savana in Portuguese on 10th December, 2021.



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Challenging the UK government in court: Stop financing gas in Mozambique!

Friends of the Earth England, Wales and Northern Ireland (FoE EWNI) are challenging UK Export Finance’s (UKEF) decision to fund a mega gas project in Mozambique. They will be in court on 7-9 December. Below JA! explains the reasons for supporting this court case.

The $50 billion gas industry in Mozambique has created an irreversible mess before any gas has even been extracted. People have lost their livelihoods and homes, and the climate impact just from the construction phase, which has not yet been completed, has already been significant. It is crucial for the global public to know this, because corporations, pension funds, investors and even governments around the world (with taxpayers’ money), are financing these projects.

UKEF alone has agreed to finance over $1 billion of Total’s $24 billion Mozambique Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) Project, one of three already in construction.

Evicted and betrayed

Industry players are well aware of the issues the industry has created and will create in future: JA! and our partners and friends in the UK and around the world have told them several times, in letters, in parliament, at shareholder meetings and protests and now, in court.

To make way for Total’s Afungi LNG Park, which will house the support facilities for the industry, the company has displaced thousands of people from fishing and farming communities around the site, to a relocation village far from their land, and 10km inland from the sea, leaving them without livelihoods. Since the relocation plots were so small, many people opted for inadequate compensation, following a consultation process that violated several Free, Prior and Informed Consent principles. JA! works closely with communities on the ground in the gas region, and have seen how the only jobs created for locals were menial, unskilled and temporary. Communities’ complaints to Total about irregular compensation payments were waved away.

Sparking violence and death

Cabo Delgado, the site of Total’s project, is in the midst of a deadly conflict, and the gas industry has contributed to this violence. Fighting between the armies of Mozambique and Rwanda, insurgents and mercenaries has turned Cabo Delgado into a war zone. While the government and the industry insist that the cause of the violence is religious, the reality is much more complex. For years now, social tensions have grown as already-poor local communities see their province’s wealth being plundered by national, and international economic and political elites and extractive companies. All the while their complaints and basic human rights and needs are ignored and disregarded. This violence has made 800,000 people refugees, and thousands have been killed. Many of the people displaced by the industry have had to flee to other cities or nearby provinces, and do not know if they will ever be able to return to their homes. Journalists and activists have disappeared, some never to be seen again.

After a deadly attack on Palma village in March, Total claimed ‘force majeure’, pausing its project indefinitely and pulling its staff out of the area. It has since not made any compensation payments to community members and has stated that it will not be fulfilling its payment obligations to contractors, including local businesses.

Severe damage to global climate

The climate impact of the project will be extremely high and is totally misaligned with the Paris Agreement. The environmental impact assessment shows that just the construction phase of one LNG train (liquefaction facility) will increase the greenhouse gas emissions of Mozambique by up to 14%. There are plans to construct six.

The country’s record gives little assurance that gas, or any fossil fuel for that matter, will bring any benefit to the people. Even though the country has been a fossil-fuel exporter for many years, still only about 30% of the population has electricity access, and it remains one of the poorest in the world. 95% of the gas will be exported to India, France, the UK, China and Indonesia among other countries.

The Mozambique government have demonstrated before that they will not invest profits into the wealth of their country. Historically, they have provided tax relief to fossil fuel exporters and plan to do so again – costing Mozambicans around $5.3 billion. The Mozambique government cannot be relied upon to support the communities suffering at the hands of the fossil fuel industry.

What does JA! do to fight this?

JA! works closely with communities who are affected by the gas industry. We are watchdogs – watching what Total and the gas industry is doing to local people, and working with these communities to fight the industry at the grassroots level. We support communities with making complaints, maintaining communication with the industry and educating them about their rights.

We take these voices to an international level with our close partners where people around the world can hear – activists, the public, the media, the courts and those in power.  

What is the solution?

In March 2021, the UK government announced the end of overseas fossil fuel financing, but this came too late for the Mozambique LNG project, agreeing to funding in July 2020. Though it is heartening that during COP26, several countries involved in the Mozambique gas industry committed to end overseas fossil fuel financing after 2022, however, this doesn’t get them off the hook for the destruction they are already funding – they need to cancel their current financing agreements with Total and the gas industry, and with the Mozambique LNG project on hold, this is an ideal opportunity. But Total cannot just run away from what they have done. They need to make reparations for the mess they have already created.

Countries in the Global North need to pay their climate debt to Mozambique, cancel historical debts and provide sufficient climate financing for a move to alternative energy sources, renewable energy technology without intellectual property patents, and education on these technologies.

What can the UK people do to help?

You can support the court case, by sharing it on social media and following Fo

Friends of the Earth England, Wales and Northern Ireland (FoE EWNI) are challenging UK Export Finance’s (UKEF) decision to fund a mega gas project in Mozambique. They will be in court on 7-9 December. Below JA! explains the reasons for supporting this court case.

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Green from far, but far from green

“the hydropower certification scheme promoted by the Mphanda Nkuwa Office

In late October JA participated in a course on the new “Hydropower Sustainability Standards” (HSS), which reiterated the issues and concerns regarding certifications, guidelines, best industry practices and other non binding methods that try to address the devastating impacts of mega-dams. The benefit for the industry is that these methods are non-binding, optional and can be designed to fit the specific wants and interests of the sector. All this, while fashioning the illusion of being more “sustainable” or whatever new green-washing marketing terminology is fashionable.

The difficulties involved in attempting to regulate and improve any industry are understandable. If the standards, guidelines, and requirements are grounded in science, and honestly incorporate human and environmental needs and costs, it would pose an impossibly daunting task for corporations to even consider. If regulations were legally binding, it would impose a great risk on the corporation, knowing well they often fail to meet even the most basic standards. Groups involved in trying to improve industry standards, especially through certifications mechanisms, are left with the easy, inexpensive and inconsequential processes, that usually circumvent critical problems and impacts.

The HSS is a certification scheme that attempts to push hydropower projects to achieve the best industry standards. Herein lies the fundamental issue: In an industry where even the best industry standards can fall short of being sustainable, scientifically sound or just; achieving such goals is still something very far from adequately dealing with the real life impacts of dams. At the same time formulated goals grounded in science and true sustainability – measurably human and environmental – are continuously ignored by the hydropower industry. Despite these obvious obstacles at hand, at the very least with the HSS scheme there could be the possibility of moving the dial of hydropower projects in to a positive spectrum of the hydropower industry norms.

This article is not a comprehensive critique of the “Hydropower Sustainability Standards” (HSS) as that would result in a very long and technical document, and ultimately would only interest a very narrow audience. Instead it serves as generative feedback combining our experience with the HSS course and analyses of the information available on the HSS site, highlighting certain issues, trends and concerns with the certification, which is lacking in the current media coverage.

Transparency and access to information? Only when the client agrees.

Justiça Ambiental was invited to participate in this two-and-a-half day course, and several discussions around the Mphanda Nkuwa Dam project were included in the agenda. Given the lack of information on the latest iteration of the Mphanda Nkuwa Dam project, including lack of response to JA’s letters and emails since August this year, any information was welcomed.

While the HSS website lays out numerous claims of transparency, noticeably all project assessments required an annex where all documents used in the certification process are listed. In a country where accessing documents linked to mega development projects is a challenge, the hope was that increased access to information could be one of the positive outcomes of the scheme.

Unfortunately, the Mphanda Nkuwa Dam was not discussed nor any significant information about it was given, in neither of the first two days that we participated. Furthermore, all the documents supplied for assessments are listed, but not necessarily made available to the public. If the project proponent or government classifies any supplied document as restricted to the public, HSS respects that request and even makes claims of secure information management to instill confidence in their clients. At the end of the day, their clients are paying over $100.000 USD for the certification and so they must respect the client’s needs, and put their loyalty where the money is. There are certain documents that are required to be made publicly available for a project to achieve a pass in the “Communications and Consultation” section of the assessment, but the criteria is vague and seems to cover easily available documents that even a non-transparent country like Mozambique publicly releases anyway.

Other existing dams? Just ignore them.

During the introduction to the HSS it was positive to see the acknowledgment of the importance of the World Commission on Dams (WCD) report, but sad to realize how minimally the HSS meets some of the fundamental recommendations of the WCD. HSS certifications are structured around specific projects and have no real mechanism to deal with accumulated impacts, intersectionality and externalities. Rivers are highly interconnected systems with complex inter-linkages, requiring potential solutions to be centered around accumulated impacts, existing dams and the complex interactions of the numerous ecosystem functions, and more. The strength of the WCD was exactly the focus on this complexity, inter-connectivity and accumulated impacts. In this way, certification of dam projects is highly problematic when approached on a project to project basis; and so hard to align with WCD recommendations. To better understand just look at the WCD recommendations on “Comprehensive Options Assessments” and “Addressing Existing Dams” and then look at how HSS fails to deals with these issues.

To start, the HSS fails to prioritize needs assessments and starts the process much later than what is recommended by the WCD. Secondly, the fundamental issues raised by the WCD in “Addressing Existing Dams” such as optimizing benefits from many existing dams; addressing outstanding social issues and strengthening environmental mitigation and restoration measures are completely lacking in the HSS. This is especially concerning in relation to the Mphanda Nkuwa dam, as it has been designed to function based on the Cahora Bassa dams flow, which is a dam that doesn’t meet environmental and social flow requirements. If Cahora Bassa dam suddenly decided to meet these flow requirements, the Mphanda Nkuwa dam would have high economic risks.

Project is too bad too pass? Try again with flexible methods and VERY weak requirements.

Many of the these weaknesses of the HSS are due to the tailoring of certification schemes to fit the needs of specific projects. Not only does it have to be simple enough to be cost effective and quickly – time is money – but it is structured to the benefit of the project proponents’ scope of interest and control. So the project’s shortcomings can actually be used in deliberate and strategic ways.

Breaking down climate change assessment and how the HSS defines good and best practices: first off, it is vague and the differences between good and best industry practices are small and inadequately defined. Secondly it uses weak methods or doesn’t specify/limit the use of certain problematic methods and their deployment. Thirdly it sets low standards, limits, upper bounds, etc.

For example, when assessing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions related to a project, rather than assessing the emissions based on their impact on the carbon cycle from both up and downstream of the dam site, it utilizes geographically limiting parameters, resulting in a lower estimate than the total measurement of emissions caused by a dam project. The HSS capitulates further, setting the GHG emissions upper bound to 100 gCO 2 e/per kWh, which is an extremely high amount and easy for most projects to achieve and report. In its own documentation, the HSS notes that the industry average is between 24-28 gCO 2 e/per kWh. Even the International Energy Agency (IEA) recommends 50 gCO 2 e/per kWh limits and notable scientists and civil society groups have demanded further reduction. The HSS’s claim to good or best practices is deceitful.

Of further concern is the reality that HSS certification facilitates climate bonds financing; opening the door for offsetting, false solutions, carbon markets and delays in mitigating emission reductions, but that is a whole other (crucial) topic of debate.

Mphanda Nkuwa: always claiming to be what it’s not.

Not all performance requirements are as weak or easy to manipulate as the climate change mitigation and resilience requirements, but it is still common to find gaps, low standards, weak methods, vague terms and missed opportunities to set true best practices or follow scientific directives. When reflecting on using the HSS to assess the Mphanda Nkuwa Dam, these weaknesses become concerning. As with many dams, Mphanda Nkuwa Dam has complex interconnected impacts that could never be accurately assessed with the approach used by HSS, which expects a two to four person consulting team to somehow possess wide ranging expertise of an ecosystem that has been barely researched and so lacks foundational scientific data. Concerns around the Mphanda Nkuwa Dam’s impact on sediments, seismic risks, amongst other issues remain unanswered. For example, the HSS sediment analyses are vague and again highlight the project specific approach, focusing more on project specific erosion, sedimentation and water quality. The HSS does not seem to restrict known problematic methods, nor recommend scientifically sound basin level sediment modeling with sampling over time or seasons. As for the seismic risks, the situations has far graver implications.

When these more complex issues were raised to the facilitators, one reply was that we have to be careful of paralysis due to analysis. Someone else in the course mentioned the goals have to be approached in small enough steps so as to encourage the industry to try improve. If the HSS were just another set of tools that project proponents could use to assess their project it would not be a bad thing. The concern is in the name of the certification and what it claims “Certified Sustainable Hydropower”. It is a large and misleading claim precluding obvious inadequacies that lay dispute to any claim of sustainability. Too much effort is expended to satisfy and legitimate the dam sector, for example the basic certification requires that “Projects have undergone an independent assessment and have met the minimum requirements of the Standard, and have received a total advanced requirement score below 30%”. It is not very ambitious, to say the least. There is the silver and gold certification, the highest of which requires the project to “meet a minimum of 60%” on all 12 criteria.

Overall we strongly feel the HSS “Certified Sustainable Hydropower” is a self-fulfilling concoction by the dams sector for the dams sector. It has very good visuals, info graphics and strong worded claims that purport benefits to projects that achieve it’s certification. In addition, it provides entry for the dam sector players to enter carbon markets, which has far reaching and dubious implications.

Refined, objectively calibrated tools that focus on impact assessment, and developing solutions to fundamental issues related to dams development, and less on marketing unattainable promises. Many of these tool are cheaper and some are even free. For example Riverscope1 from TMP systems is a free geospatial tool, which used data from 281 dams to develop its methods and is very useful in identifying risks, alternatives and solutions for dam projects. It does not provide certification, claiming a project to be sustainable, but a functional tool for those legitimately focused on even development. Riverscope is not exhaustive in analyzing myriad issues and impacts resulting of dam development nor does it claim to be, yet still delves into more detailed analyses than the HSS. At the end of the day the biggest issue with the HSS is the claim of “Certified Sustainable Hydropower” – an ambitious claim that has not come even close to realization.

The Mphanda Nkuwa dam project continues to be how it has always been: wrapped in opacity and fraught with risks that have not been adequately analyzed nor discussed by the Mozambican society. But its next move will be to claim its “sustainable hydropower certification”.

1https://riverscope.org/

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France, Rwanda and Total:

a lethal threesome around Mozambique’s gas

For four years, the people of the province of Cabo Delgado, Mozambique, have been devastated by gas and violent conflict between insurgents, military and mercenaries. Eight hundred thousand people have become refugees from the violence, and thousands have lost their livelihoods and been displaced by the gas industry. To make things worse, they are now in the hands of the Rwandan army, which is notorious for horrific torture of Congolese and Rwandan alleged dissidents in military detention centres. And they have gone rogue.

According to Mozambican President Felipe Nyusi, the 1000-strong Rwandan army’s mandate since July has been to “restore peace and stability”.

But since the Rwandan state became involved, things have gone even further awry than they already were. Already, on 14 September, Rwandan businessman and chairman of the Rwandan Refugee Association in Mozambique, Révocat Karemangingo, who was exiled from Rwanda in 1994, was assassinated in Maputo.

Three months before, Rwandan journalist Ntamuhanga Cassien who had applied for asylum in Mozambique, was arrested by Mozambican police, and has not been seen since.

If experts and activists who have linked the murders to the Rwandan state are correct, even though the government has repeatedly denied it, this should not come as a surprise. The Rwandan government is known for killings of political opponents and journalists both inside and outside of the country, including South Africa and Kenya.

In July this year, Amnesty International and a consortium of journalists exposed that Rwanda was one of the countries using the Israeli surveillance company NSO Group’s Pegasus software. Since 2016, the Rwandan government has used the software to unlawfully surveil the phones of 3500 activists, politicians and journalists.

The Rwandan army itself has a terrible human rights record – in 2014 Human Rights Watch reported they had been fighting alongside the Rwanda- backed M23 rebels in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Over three days in 2016, M23 soldiers killed 62 people in anti-government protests.

Even though locals around Palma have highlighted the more professional conduct of Rwandan solders in comparison to the Mozambican soldiers, the Rwandan operation relies on local intelligence and information in order to be effective. But they are not doing the dirty work of actually acquiring this intelligence themselves. It has been the Mozambican soldiers that have carried out the interrogations, arrests and intimidations to obtain information. This has been one of the causes in the increase of disappearances, unlawful arrests and torture, sometimes targeting outspoken and critical civilians within the gas affected communities.

So if the Rwandan government doesn’t care about its own citizens and civilians in the DRC, why would it put its money and army on the line for foreign nationals? And who else has an interest in them being in Mozambique?

One of the factors that can’t be ignored is Rwanda’s dynamic relationship with France, and that French company Total is one of the leaders of Cabo Delgado’s $50 billion gas industry. Total owns 26% of the Mozambique Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) Project.

It is in the process of constructing the massive Afungi LNG Park, which will house the offices and support facilities for its project as well as ExxonMobil’s Rovuma LNG project and their contractors. The gas giants are building an industry that is pushing the debt-ridden country further into poverty and not benefiting the people. Until now, it has only brought destruction.

The French government has over $520 million invested in the Mozambique gas industry through a loan from the French export credit agency (BpiFrance) for the third project, Eni’s Coral South LNG. The four largest French banks, Crédit Agricole, Société Génerale, BNP Paribas and Natixis are also involved in the industry as financiers or financial advisors.

It is the construction of the Afungi Park that has forced thousands of local people out of their homes, and away from their farmland and fishing grounds creating an angry and further disenfranchised population.

And now that the insurgency has ruined Total’s plans, it has just closed shop and stopped compensation payments to communities. After a brutal attack on Palma town on 24 March, Total decided to claim ‘force majeure’ and pull its staff out of the area, pausing the project indefinitely and saying they would return only once the area was safe.

Even then it was clear that the military had Total’s best interests at heart, not the people’s. On the day of that attack, there were 800 soldiers defending the Afungi Park while civilians have said there were only a handful of soldiers protecting Palma village. Currently, Rwandan soldiers have been using the Afungi Park as their base.

It certainly won’t be the first time that French interests, politics and violent conflict have gone hand in hand with a Total project. Some examples that come to mind include Myanmar, where the military junta is known for ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya population, and mass human rights violations including rape, sexual abuse, torture and disappearances of protestors. Since the coup of February 2021, Total has been directing revenues from its Yadana gas project in Myanmar to the junta, its biggest source of income.

Total has also been active in the Taoudeni basin of Mali in the Sahel since 1998. Since 2013, over 3000 French troops have been in Mali, and 4 other Sahel countries, with France using the same rhetoric as they and Rwanda have done in Mozambique: to rid the area of ‘jihadists’.

In Yemen, the Balhaf LNG site of which Total owns 39% was exposed for housing the base for the Shabwani Elite, an UAE-backed tribal militia since 2016. Officially a counter-terrorism group, they have unofficially become known as a group created to protect fossil fuel interests. The site also has also been exposed to house UAE notorious ‘secret prisons’ holding Yemeni detainees.

So, Cabo Delgado, where the gas region sits nearly on the border between Mozambique and Tanzania, fits neatly in Total’s mixture of politics, gas and conflict.

So back to Rwanda – Out of all potential pawns, or proxies, for France, why pick them?

France has been embarrassed, but not enough for a full apology, about the exposure of the severity of its role in the Rwandan genocide, after a March 2021 report claimed France bears ‘overwhelming responsibilities’ for the horrors that killed over 800 000 people in the Tutsi minority. However, in 2005 complaints laid by human rights groups pushed French prosecutors to open an investigation into French soldiers’ actual complicity in the genocide, which seemed like it was going to be dropped in May this year. No former French soldiers have faced trial.

While Rwanda claims this military mission to Mozambique is self-funded, others say it is Mozambique footing the bill, and yet others, say that this might be one of France’s covert means of reparations, or an olive branch trying to fix bad Franco-Rwandan relations, by offering Rwanda a crucial job: protecting French gas assets. When asked by a journalist, the French Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, Jean-Yves Le Drian, neither confirmed nor denied whether it is financing the troops, although financing does not always come in the form of cash. It could be through aid or other means that are harder to track.

It’s part of a pattern of Rwanda becoming France’s new darling: in 2019, the Rwanda Development Board (RDB) signed a reported $11.6 million a year contract with French football club Paris St. Germain as its official tourism partner. ‘Visit Rwanda’ is boasted on the the back of the men’s training and pre-game warm up kits, in the club’s stadium and on the sleeves of the womens’ team kits, with the club having renewed its contract in 2019, also reported to be $11 million a year. A point to consider is that hospitality company Accor is paying PSG $58 million a year to be its official hotel partner.

There is the possibility that these teams are giving the RDB a friendly discount. What is more likely is that the sponsorships are being subsidized by a third party.

It is clear that there are a few parties getting something out of Rwandan troops being on the ground in the gas region – Total, Mozambique and Rwanda. But certainly the one gaining the most is France – its financial assets are being well protected on the ground and it is able to maintain the international ‘non-complicit’ image it wants to regarding the genocide while still nurturing a relationship with Rwanda. It would also be a way of having military protection of its assets while not being visible. This is definitely in their interests following France’s recognition of its disastrous mission in Mali by cutting the number of troops in June this year, and now, after the death of the 52nd French soldier in eight years, French President Emmanuel Macron has said they will have no more soldiers in the Sahel by the beginning of 2022. The deployment of Rwandan soldiers would mean they will have another army in public view and decrease the political risk of failed military interventions, especially ones linked to human rights violations.

But one group that is not benefiting, are the people of Mozambique, most of all – the communities of Cabo Delgado, who are pawns, dying and devastated so that local and international elites can save political face and defend their gas assets and bonuses by any means necessary.

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JA! at the AGMs, 2021

Our Say No to Gas! In Mozambique Campaign has many elements, but one of the crucial ones is confronting fossil fuel criminals involved in Mozambique’s gas industry, about the destruction, violence and devastation they have caused in Cabo Delgado province.

One way of challenging them and making demands for them to leave and stop their involvement in Mozambique gas, is attending Annual General Meetings (AGM) of several large international players in the Mozambique gas industry, which this year we did for the fourth year running. Attending these AGMs is a way to force the highest level decision-makers in these companies to hear our voices and the voices of the people whose lives they are devastating, to demand information and call them out on their crimes against the climate and peoples in a large public forum that includes their shareholders and employees. It is a way to prevent them from saying “we didn’t know” about the impacts – even though taking active measures to identify potential risks of human rights violations is part of their responsibilities. There is often media at the AGMs of the large companies, giving us another opportunity to bring to the international public the issue of Mozambique gas and the violence and destruction being perpetrated by those who profit from it tremendously.

With the Covid-19 pandemic still raging, most of the AGMs were held online.

The AGMs we attended were of Eni (Italy) which is co-leading the Coral Liquid Natural gas project with ExxonMobil; Total (France) which is leading the Mozambique LNG Project; Shell (Netherlands), who was previously involved; Standard Bank (South Africa), one of the major financiers; and HSBC (UK), another massive financier. While there are some questions specific to each company, many of them are standard. This is because, while Eni, Total and ExxonMobil may be the companies leading the actual gas extraction and responsible for constructing the offshore and onshore facilities, every player involved in the Mozambique gas industry is to some degree responsible for the negative human rights, climate, environmental and socio-economic violations and impacts it has created. Companies and governments involved often try to wriggle out of their responsibilities and accountability by claiming that they are not ‘directly’ responsible for the impacts. This is utter nonsense – without financiers, contractors or confirmed purchasers, the Mozambique gas industry would not exist.

We demand to know why they continue to invest or operate in Cabo Delgado considering the horrific violence and conflict that has been taking place for years between insurgents, the military and private security companies, in which thousands of civilians have been killed and over 800 000 people displaced. We want them to recognise that they have directly created suffering and deeper impoverishment for the communities affected by the project, who have lost their homes and livelihoods, and received no decent jobs; and we ask what is their plan to make reparations. We want them to provide transparent information, something lacking in an industry which is so opaque and secretive.

Eni insists they are ‘providing support to the basic needs of local populations’, even when we tell them that the only jobs Mozambicans have received have been menial and unskilled. They say that a mere 370 permanent jobs will be available in total over the life cycle of the Coral LNG project, although they don’t say if these will actually go to Mozambicans.

All companies refuse to see a link between the gas industry and the violence, with Eni even saying they see no risk whatsoever, and denying any human rights violation by the military, even though this had been exposed in mainstream media and international human rights organisations’ reports.

Total, which claimed force majeure in April 2021 due to the violence, putting the Mozambique LNG project on hold indefinitely, made the contradictory remark that the safety and well-being of communities was a priority, but at the same time, “our mission is to protect the interests of Total’s shareholders and our partners”. These are obviously mutually exclusive, as continuing with the project will only continue the violence and dispossession that communities are facing. While they insist that the Mozambique LNG project has not been “abandoned”, they put the responsibility of the impacts on communities solely on the Mozambican government.

Standard Bank also believes that their investments are not at risk because of the violence. Even as people in Cabo Delgado are being killed every week, they carry on with business as usual, as though the militarisation and its accompanying human rights violations creating refugees and forcing displacement, do not matter to them at all. Clearly, even though they use an undisclosed “consortium” of civil society organisations in Cabo Delgado to do “monitoring”, the lives of the rural affected peoples means nothing to them.

HSBC on the other hand, just refused to answer the questions, except to say they cannot talk about private clients and very few jobs will go to Mozambicans because of the project’s “advanced technical requirements”.

Company AGMs can be very frustrating events. Directors often dodge questions or answer them insufficiently on purpose, or just pretend they didn’t hear them at all. But this year, as with most, these experiences and actions are more than confronting fossil fuel companies and financiers, they also strengthen civil society’s collective struggle against fossil fuels and the impunity of transnational corporations.

We use these as opportunities to work with other regional and international organisations and movements who are fighting against the same company or projects for crimes they are committing in the different countries. As partners, we support each other in asking questions, gaining access, publicising on social media and holding protests, and use the opportunity to exchange with each other about the different ways we are campaigning against the same culprits. When we attend as a group, our presence is powerful. As a team, we have more numbers and confidence in our actions inside and outside AGMs, more access to media and more impact if we choose to cause any disruption. If these companies do not want to take the time to talk to us and our comrades, this is a way for us to force them to listen. The strongest outcome of attending AGMs is that we are saying clearly, with a collective voice ‘we are watching you and we are not going away’, while we demand that they leave and stop their profit-mongering activities that are killing peoples and the planet.

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