Protestors again Standard Bank 'Ecoside'. Source: The Citizen - Photo: 2023

Protesters Occupy South African Bank for ‘Ecocide’

By Lisa Vives, Global Information Network

NEW YORK, 19 June 2023 (IDN) — Hundreds of climate activists occupied South Africa’s Standard Bank Group this week as it considers new investments into fossil fuels – also known as “dirty energy projects.”

“We want Standard Bank to stop putting their investment into fossil fuels and to invest in renewable energy for the mass population – where it’s needed,” said climate activist Malik Dasoo, whose civic organization Extinction Rebellion organized the protest.

According to the protestors, Standard Bank is engaged in “ecocide” – siding with fossil fuel developers for its own profit while ignoring the impacts on local African communities whose lands and natural resources were being despoiled in the process.

Standard Bank Group is the largest African bank by assets, operating in 20 African countries and 5 global financial centers. It was holding its annual general meeting at the bank’s headquarters in Johannesburg early Monday when the protesters occupied the building’s lobby for about 40 minutes before being forcibly removed by police.

Among those evicted from the bank’s headquarters was former Amnesty International secretary-general and currently human rights and climate activist, Kumi Naidoo.

“The climate change crisis is with us now,” he said. “Lives are being lost, but not those of the wealthiest, but those of the most vulnerable people who have contributed least to the tragedy of climate change.”

The action focused on two investments, either already made or under consideration by the bank, namely the development of a crude oil pipeline in East Africa stretching 900 miles from Uganda to Tanzania, known as EACOP, and the development of gas fields in northern Mozambique.

If given the go-ahead after human rights and environmental impact assessments, EACOP will be the world’s longest heated crude oil pipeline, but it will not service local energy demand as the oil it carries will be exported out of the continent, according to the Stop EACOP campaign.

In an interview with the Democracy Now news program, Naidoo commented: “Standard Bank, like many other banks around the world, now recognize that we are in a climate emergency, recognize that they must change, but their actions appear to be contradictory when it comes to an increase in fossil fuel investments.

“In particular, the East African Crude Oil Pipeline project will see about 100,000 Tanzanians and Ugandans displaced. We’ve already seen the signs of human rights violations. Of course, as always, they will promise that there’s going to be massive numbers of jobs. We know most of the jobs are transient. Most of the early jobs, in fact, at the higher-paid level will be people from outside of community.

“The bottom line, though, is that this East African Crude Oil Pipeline is a carbon bomb. The amount of carbon that this would put into the atmosphere will be catastrophic. That would be the equivalent of sort of 9 million cars, for example, on the road.

“In addition to that, Standard Bank is also supporting the Cabo Delgado gas projects in Mozambique. And here in South Africa, in KwaZulu-Natal, they have been supporting Tendele Coal, a project that has seen activists being killed and so on.

“What we are saying to Standard Bank and to other banks, you need to recognize that you are now legitimate targets of protests. We have to follow the money and shut the flow of capital at source. While this might have been aimed specifically at Standard Bank, it is also a call and an encouragement to activists all over the world: Let’s follow the money, and let’s shut the flow of capital to dirty energy and start redirecting it to clean energy.”

Responding to the protests, Standard Bank said it was a “potential lender” to the EACOP project, and like others was relying on “independent environmental and social” due diligence assessments.

Once completed, the bank said it will “make a decision”.

In a related development, the London-based Standard Chartered has announced that it will not finance the EACOP project. The decision, which follows mounting pressure from the StopEACOP campaign, is particularly significant as the bank had previously confirmed that it was undertaking due diligence on financing the $5 billion project.

In response to public pressure, the London-based bank has clarified to Bloomberg that it is not involved in the project’s financing. [IDN-InDepthNews]

Photo: Protestors again Standard Bank ‘Ecoside’. Source: The Citizen

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