Inside the campaign to stop the largest gas projects in Africa

Inside the campaign to stop the largest gas projects in Africa

Mozambican communities and their allies are fighting to stop the multinational gas giants and financiers behind LNG projects that will cost $50 billion.

In Mozambique’s northernmost province of Cabo Delgado, multinational giants TotalEnergies, ExxonMobil, Eni and others are developing three liquid natural gas, or LNG, projects. They will cost $50 billion, making them the largest LNG projects in Africa. Only one of these projects has started gas extraction, and already the industry has brought devastating consequences for communities, the land and climate — and has pushed the poor country further into debt.

However, the industry has a thorn in its side: the international Say No to Gas! campaign, which won’t let it get away with its actions without a fight.

The campaign is led by Friends of the Earth Mozambique, known locally as Justiça Ambiental, or JA!. For six years, until last July, I worked for JA! coordinating the international work of the campaign. My ultimate role was to make sure that the experiences of people on the ground reached an international level and platform.

As JA! Director Anabela Lemos recently explained, “The communities we work with have been suffering at the hands of TotalEnergies and companies that have taken everything from them, but they have remained resilient. Journalists and activists we know have disappeared, fishing and farming communities have lost everything. The industry is not bringing any of the ‘development’ they promised, but just pushing already poor people further into poverty.”

JA! works directly with community members in the gas region who are putting their lives on the line. At the same time, it is up to the international partners, who lobby against industry players in the countries where they are based, to amplify the voices of those people suffering on the international stage.

These are voices of people who have been displaced by TotalEnergies to build their Afungi LNG Park that will hold support facilities for offshore gas extraction. At least 550 fishing and farming families were displaced to a village many miles from the sea. They have lost their farmland, and hence their entire livelihoods, and are now living off erratic aid.

The industry has been fueling a war that has been raging for six years, and has already displaced over one million people. This war between insurgents, private security and the militaries of Mozambique, Rwanda and other countries only began when the gas companies became present in the area.

Media and civil society are oppressed in the country, and many who speak out face legal repercussions or worse. One activist that JA! worked with disappeared after raising their voice at a community meeting, and several journalists have been missing for years. This makes resistance inside the country very difficult, and just speaking truth to power or writing an article raising problems with the gas industry is a revolutionary act.

People have lived in fear of both insurgents and the military, who have often extorted families for their compensation money. Many women in communities have faced or been threatened with sexual assault.

At an environmental level, the industry will irreversibly destroy the Quirimbas Archipelago, a UNESCO Biosphere, home to many endangered species of animals and plants. And the carbon emissions for just the construction of one LNG train in the park will increase the greenhouse gas emissions of Mozambique by up to 14 percent.

International pressure builds despite challenges

There are several ways in which international partners amplify the voices of these Mozambican communities.

One approach is through what the campaign calls “industry confrontation.”

Partners from Europe and the U.S. — and where possible, JA! members — attend shareholder meetings to disrupt them, hold actions and publicly ask difficult questions.

In 2021, Friends of the Earth France helped to shut down the TotalEnergies shareholder meeting in Paris by blocking the entrance and forcing the company to move the meeting online. Meanwhile, at COP26, activists disrupted an Eni event by standing up and playing a voice recording of a Mozambican activist.

The campaign has also worked with other campaigns like Shell Must Fall!, Don’t Gas Africa and Collapse Total, which also fight the East Africa Crude Oil Pipeline, and the Fair Finance Southern Africa Coalition.

Partners in different countries use different strategies depending on the specific involvement of that country, each adding a different element to the campaign.

For example, in the U.S., where government agencies like the U.S. ExportImport Bank are also funding Mozambique LNG, with $4.7 billion in public funds, Friends of the Earth U.S. has been filing complaints with the bank’s accountability mechanism. Other international funders like the U.S. Development Finance Corporation, African Development Bank and Japanese government financiers have also been targets of complaints.

“The U.S. is an international leader whether we like it or not,” said Kate de Angelis from Friends of the Earth U.S. “So if we are able to convince the U.S. to stop overseas finance for fossil fuels, it makes it much more likely that Japan and other countries will follow.”

Friends of the Earth England, Wales and Northern Ireland took the U.K. government to court in 2020 for a judicial review of its financing of the Mozambique LNG project with $1.15 billion.

Even though the Supreme Court rejected the legal challenge, “the case has been highly significant,” said Rachel Kennerley from Friends of the Earth England, Wales and Northern Ireland. “It posed critical questions for the government over its responsibility to now act in accordance with the Paris Agreement and increased the legal risk around projects like Mozambique LNG.”

Knowledge creation is another important part of the campaign.

Previously, JA! and its partners created a report about funding for Mozambique gas from Export Credit Agencies, which are government agencies that use public money to finance projects abroad. And this month saw the release of a Solutions for our Climate report about Korea’s role in Mozambique LNG, along with a Columbia University report commissioned by JA! and a number of campaign partners on Investor State Dispute Settlements. JA! also published a joint report with the Fair Finance Coalition about South African government financing of Mozambique gas.

In the near future, JA! will be releasing a report with novel research on the complicity of consulting firms in the devastation caused by Mozambique gas.

The campaign has also undertaken creative methods of resistance. In 2020, in collaboration with climate activists from around the world, they did a series of “adhacks” in Portugal, France and the Netherlands, where they pasted fake advertisements for Shell and Portuguese fossil fuel company Galp, on bus stops around the cities. Similarly, in London during the same year, the campaign collaborated with Platform London to paste images on billboards against HSBC, one of the biggest financiers of Mozambique gas.

In 2021, during COP26, activists projected messages on the outside of the SEC building in Glasgow where the meeting was being held. The next year, at a Shell annual general meeting in the Hague, activists placed a wrecking ball outside of the building; and in Denmark, protesters blocked Total petrol stations for several days. The campaign has also produced comic books, short films and music videos.

But with a campaign fighting a major industry, challenges will naturally arise.

“The difficulty is that we are not just fighting fossil fuel companies, we are fighting an entire global system where wealthy capitalists, mostly from the Global North, exploit the poor for fossil fuels which are destroying the climate,” Lemos said.

De Angelis says that there are challenges specific to different governments. In the U.S. for example, “The impacts on local communities and local environment are often very quick to be dismissed or completely ignored no matter what the evidence,” she said. “Japan has also been a major hindrance as it has a very conservative government that has refused to stop supporting fossil fuels and is openly hostile to impacted communities.”

Another challenge is the danger and difficulty of field work for JA!. 

The war has meant that for most of the last five years the gas region has been closed to non-residents, journalists and most NGOs unless they received government permission and were chaperoned by the military.

JA! has an employee based in a community in this region, who works directly with people who live there. But they have been terrified to speak out about their suffering, for fear of reprisal from the government or the military.

‘A lot has changed’

But the campaign has seen the impact of its work along the way. In one community in Cabo Delgado, when women’s presence was required for legitimacy of the industry’s so-called consultation meetings, women refused to attend. In the Netherlands, the Ministry of Finance held an independent evaluation of the government’s financing agreement with the Mozambique LNG project of $800 million, following the campaign’s lobbying. This brought major public and parliamentary attention to the usage of public funds for a destructive project.

Affected community members, while devastated, have felt supported by the campaign. “For us, since JA! started working here in Palma, a lot has changed,” Arabe Nchamo said. “We complained to the white people about not having transport to the beach, and after JA! talked to them, we have transport, tricycles and bicycles. We are grateful. We complained about the new farmland being far away, and JA! worked hard until we managed to get the company to give us transport from the farms to the houses.”

Lemos says that the campaign’s plans now are to continue its work as a watchdog in the gas region, monitoring and publicizing human rights and environmental violations and amplifying voices of affected communities at international platforms. This is done, for example, through meetings with the European Union, United Nations officials, shareholder meetings, in-person meetings with financiers and relevant states, and continuing in-depth research. It will also emphasize the fact that these fossil fuel companies’ actions in Mozambique show how blatantly they are moving away from any chance of a just transition to renewable energy.

TotalEnergies’ Mozambique LNG Project has been on pause since 2021, after a major insurgent attack in the region. But the construction of its park may restart very soon. This has created a window of opportunity for financiers to reassess their funding of the project. And the campaign is putting serious pressure on these players, reminding them that were they to finance this destructive project, they would be complicit in its impacts.

“The Mozambique LNG project is a good example of the colonial nature of a lot of fossil fuel investments,” Kennerley said. “Stopping Mozambique LNG and the gas industry across the country is extremely important because Mozambique is already on the front line of the climate crisis. Its people are already vulnerable to extreme weather and aren’t being served by the current energy system, which has not delivered energy access.”

First published by –

For more details reach Anabela Lemos / JA!

WERWONA celebrates one-year robust advocacy; vows to enhance women’s rights in western Liberia and beyond

WERWONA celebrates one-year robust advocacy; vows to enhance women’s rights in western Liberia and beyond

Members of the Western Region Women Network Association (WERWONA) Tuesday, December 5, 2023, celebrated one year of robust advocacy since their establishment by the Sustainable Development Institute (SDI) under the Green Livelihoods Alliance (GLA 2.0) Forest for a just future program.

Established formally a year ago, WERWONA is a conglomeration of over sixty women organizations from Gbarpolu, Bomi, and Grand Cape Mount counties with the overall objective of ensuring women, young girls, and children in the region’s rights are respected and issues affecting them are resolved more holistically.

The celebration was done by organizing a two-day regional annual learning and experience sharing events with women groups engaged in land and human rights advocacy in Tubmanburg, Bomi County from December 4-5, 2023 under the theme: increasing women’s voices through information sharing.

Since its establishment, the organization has prided itself on several achievements over its one year. Noticeable of its achievements are: formal recognition of the organization by the national government, local county officials, and international partners; strong social cohesion and strengthened relationships within member organizations within WERWONA; legalization of the organization through the completion of its articles of incorporation, business registration, and bank account respectively.

Despite these achievements, WERWONA believes there is a huge gap regarding women and young girls’ participation in decision-making on land and other natural resources issues in the region. 

The annual meeting was attended by local county authorities, and women from the various counties in the region, among others.

Speaking at the gathering, Madam Mary G. Varney, Rural Women President of Bomi County said “Let’s put our feet on the ground and know that it’s time for us to work. If you have not been working, it’s time for us to work. SDI, we say thank you for encouraging our women to come and take part in this activity.” 

Daniel H. Wilson, a Social Worker at the Ministry of Gender, Children, and Social Protection based in Bomi County said “When it comes to gender, there is a huge equality gap and this session is very important. The issue of women’s rights is not one person’s business. There is a need for women to rise up and be bold. Our offices will remain open to support this women’s organization.” 

Also speaking, the District Commissioner of Senjeh District, Madam Maima Free-Freeman said “We have come to say thank you to our powerful women.  We need unity among women if we must hold together. We need to put aside petty jealousy. Furthermore, we need to change our attitude and speeches so we can make big things to happen. We need to stand for a cause and achieve big things as women in the western region.” 

The Bomi County Coordinator of WERWONA, Madam Jereline Mambu said “Thank you for positively impacting our lives and this will go a long way in making our organization and the region powerful.”

Madam Lydia Ballah, Regional Coordinator of WERWONA recounted that “It was not easy from the very beginning, but it was worthy. But we say many thanks to the SDI for reaching us this far. We want to go national and international, elevating our activities as WERWONA. We pray that other women will join, and we will stand together as women.”

Read more here

SDI engages mining communities in western Liberia on just energy transition

SDI engages mining communities in western Liberia on just energy transition

To document mining concessions about the protection of the environment and the rights of local communities in western Liberia, the Sustainable Development Institute (SDI) in late 2023 engaged mining communities in Grand Cape Mount and Bomi Counties on the Just Energy Transition (JET) project. 

The JET is a thematic program within the Green Livelihoods Alliance (GLA 2.0) Forest for a Just Future. It connects local communities to global levels for struggles to address climate change by supporting a Just Energy Transition. It aims at addressing issues and approaches that are responsible for human rights violations, pollution, climate change, and deforestation in the current fossil energy framework, as well as prevent as many as possible similar injustices from being repeated within the Renewable Energy (RE) transition framework.

In Liberia, the SDI is promoting climate justice by collaborating with partners and allies to ensure an inclusive, Just Energy Transition in the country.  The JET project is implemented in six of Liberia’s 15 counties. They include: Bomi, Gbarpolu, Grand Cape Mount, Grand Kru, Sinoe, and Maryland Counties respectively. As part of the implementation, the SDI from December 1-4, 2023 carried on a community engagement in Kinjor. In this gold mining community, Bea Mountain Mining Corporation (BMMC) operates in Grand Cape Mount County and Zelekai, a community in Bomi County where Western Clusters Liberia Limited is extracting iron ore.

Madam Angie Y. Fissibue, Lead Facilitator of the JET Project at the Sustainable Development Institute, said the overall goal of the engagements in the two counties was for women, youths, and other community members to understand the JET clearly. It was also intended to know the total number of large-scale mining concessions in the two counties and the types of minerals being manned by these concessions companies. Madam Fissibue further said the mapping was to document environmental, social, and economic impacts that are associated with the operations of these concessions and how these companies are working with the host communities in mitigating these issues.

Stakeholders considered during the engagement meetings included local leaders, women, youth leaders, and workers’ unions, among other citizens. They include Town, Clan, paramount chiefs, women and youth leaders, and commissioners, respectively. 

Speaking to a cross-section of citizens during a town hall meeting, they lamented that despite the presence of these companies in their communities, they have yet to benefit from them amid environmental and other social harms associated with the operations of the companies.

“The school is not to standard and the women have to send their children to Monrovia for schooling.  We want these companies to start providing livelihood activities for us, especially the youth and women. The operation of Bea Mountain Mining Corporation is affecting our communities and our resources are extracted daily from our land/forest,” the citizens said.

Kinjor and Larjor were combined during the relocation and now have an estimated population of over 17,000 due to the mining operations of BMMC. But the aggrieved citizens said “Yes, even the illicit mining we used to do, we’re not doing it again, no farming, hunting, and other activities. We’re suffering.”

Read more here


ERA/FoEN urges FG to hold Shell accountable for environmental crimes before divesting

ERA/FoEN urges FG to hold Shell accountable for environmental crimes before divesting

The Environmental Rights Action/ Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) has called on the Nigerian government to put the brakes on Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) divestment plans and ensure it pays for its environmental crimes in the Niger Delta.

This demand was informed by SPDC’s plans to sell its onshore facilities to a conglomerate of five domestic oil companies.

Shell was the pioneer of Nigeria’s oil and gas exploration since the 1930s, with hundreds of oil spills traced to its operations in host communities that continue to suffer the consequences of pollution to their environment, health, and livelihood.

Executive Director of ERA/FoEN, Barr. Chima Williams faulted Shell for trying to run away from its crimes even with the uproar that has greeted its divestment plans in affected communities and among civil society organizations.

“As an organization that has tracked the activities of multinational oil companies for decades, we insist that the decision of Shell to sell off its onshore facilities to domestic companies and to remain in Nigeria to conduct its business offshore is a deliberate attempt to evade the liabilities the company has incurred over time. “

He also pointed out that Shell should not be allowed to abandon its onshore facilities to domestic companies without cleaning up the damage they have caused to the environment, and the cost to locals who have been impoverished by their business activities.

“These communities who have played host to Shell for decades have been left in abject poverty, with several degrees of damages to their health and environment, while Shell explores their resources to enrich foreign coffers. Shell should not be allowed to sell off its facilities and abandon the liabilities they owe these communities.”

Williams said it would be shameful that the Nigerian government would value its quest for revenue, over the lives and livelihoods of the common people who have suffered from the decades-long environmental pollution caused by Shell.

He called on President Bola Tinubu-led administration to ensure that Shell’s divestment plans are accompanied by full remediation plans in their various communities of operations and full payments of loss and damages to host communities.

He also called for a close evaluation and monitoring of Shell’s offshore operations to checkmate the scope of their activities in order to avert any impending damages to the environment.

COP28 outcome undermined by dangerous distractions and lack of finance

COP28 outcome undermined by dangerous distractions and lack of finance

Wednesday 13 December 2023, Dubai (United Arab Emirates)

The COP28 outcome fails key tests on the fast, fair, funded and full phase-out of fossil fuels that the world needs now to avert climate catastrophe. As delegates applaud the “UAE Consensus” struck at the 28th UN climate summit, Friends of the Earth Africa and International is dismayed at the enormous loopholes which only serve to prolong the fossil fuel era.

“The COP28 deal has fallen short of delivering meaningful commitments on fossil fuel phaseout and urgently needed climate finance. The deal opens the door to dangerous distractions that will prevent a just and equitable energy transition– carbon capture utilisation and storage, hydrogen, nuclear, carbon removal technologies like geoengineering and schemes that commodify nature. And, there is nothing that would stop hundreds of millions of tonnes of offsets being considered as ‘abatement’,” explained Sara Shaw, FoEI.

The outcome is weak on equity as it does not properly differentiate between developed and developing countries’ role in the transition away from fossil fuels – despite their differing historical responsibility for emissions. It has a global renewable energy target, but no money to make it happen.

“The energy transition cannot be just, equitable, or fair if it isn’t funded. Developed countries who are responsible for historical emissions must not only take the lead in emission reductions but also provide the adequate climate finance that is needed in developing countries. The so-called just transition put on the table here won’t deliver the long-term transformation that is needed in my country Nigeria and across Africa” says Ubrei Joe Maimoni , CJE coordinator for Friends of the Earth Africa.

Sara Shaw deepening the discussion went on to say Developed countries may blame larger developing countries (such as India, China and the COP28 host) for the weakening of the fossil fuel text, but rich countries like the US, UK and EU are the biggest historical polluters, all with huge fossil fuel expansion plans. They have failed to provide adequate climate finance needed for emissions reductions, adaptation, and loss and damage in developing countries – at this summit, and for decades before. They must not posture as climate champions.

The Loss and Damage fund was made operational at the start of COP28, but huge questions remain about its accessibility, given it will be hosted by the World Bank. Pledges made in Dubai fall far below what is needed – just $700 million when, for example, the devastating 2022 Pakistan floods were estimated to have caused $30-40 billion damage.(1)

“As expected, we’ve seen the wealthiest countries shirking their dues at this COP. Without money and means of implementation, the places worst hit by climate change are left with only empty pockets and empty promises. We need trillions of dollars, we’ve been given peanuts, and even more debt to boot,” warned Bareesh Chowdhury, Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers’ Association (FoE Bangladesh).

Over 2400 fossil fuel lobbyists were present at the summit (2), which was characterised by a strong crackdown on peoples’ voices, both inside the UNFCCC and in the national context.(3)

“While COP28 rolled out the red carpet for polluters, activists faced censorship of our calls for just outcomes for people. Climate justice is impossible without respect of human rights, and we will not be silenced, for as long as bombs rain on Gaza and Palestine remains occupied, as long as corporations raze indigenous lands and those in power deem the people on the frontlines of the climate crisis as disposable,” stated Lise Masson, FoEI.
– ends –

We are still waiting for an outcome on Article 6 of the Paris Agreement, on carbon markets, and may make further comment.

(1) Figures from the Pakistan Climate Change Council. See article: Flood Losses Now Estimated at $40 Billion: Pakistan Officials 40-billion-pakistan-officals-say
(2) Figures from the Kick Big Polluters Out (KBPO) coalition. See press release: Record number of fossil fuel lobbyists at COP28 nd-cop28
(3) While all eyes were on COP28, the host country cracked down on dissidents. See article: UAE holds mass trial as it steps up crackdown on dissent during COP28