These companies financing Total’s oil project in Africa

These companies financing Total’s oil project in Africa
These companies financing Total’s oil project in Africa

HASWelcomed as he exited the plane by a red carpet rolled out at the foot of the Pyrenees, Chinese President Xi Jinping visited France on May 6 and 7. Among the discussions on the program with Emmanuel Macron: the climate. However, barely a month earlier, the Chinese head of state wrote to his Ugandan counterpart, Yoweri Museveni, to express his support for the EACOP project, for “East African Crude Oil Pipeline Project”. East African crude oil), led by the French multinational TotalEnergies. EACOP is a titanic project to build the longest heated oil pipeline in the world: more than 1,400 kilometers across Uganda and Tanzania.

For TotalEnergies, China is a strategic territory for financing EACOP, which it has been struggling to complete since 2019. “There are so many European players who have withdrawn from financing the EACOP project that TotalEnergies is now turning to Chinese players and counting more and more on them”, explains Romane Audéoud, coordinator of the #StopEACOP campaign in London. In Europe, 28 banks and 29 French and European insurance companies announced their withdrawal from the project, partly in the face of the mobilization of the international StopEACOP coalition.

The French insurer Axa, the German Allianz and other big names less known in France, such as MunichRe or the Swiss insurer Zurich, have assured that they will not participate in the project. “This meets neither our climate ambition nor our ESG risk profile [critères environnementaux, sociaux et de gouvernance, ndlr] » wrote Allianz, in a press release published by StopEACOP.

type="image/webp"> type="image/jpeg"> type="image/webp"> type="image/jpeg"> type="image/webp">
>
>
>
>
>

Photo taken in Uganda.

“The impact on human rights is so enormous that it is very difficult to find arguments “for” this project”, defends Romane Audéoud. In addition to the consequences on biodiversity, tens of thousands of residents are being displaced for the project, journalistic investigations and reports from NGOs such as Friends of the Earth have revealed. Given the extent of the damage announced, EACOP “mobilizes everyone in the associations: it is the very example of what should no longer be done in the 21ste century “adds Romane Audéoud.

Legal proceedings, visits by Ugandan activists to European decision-makers, demonstrations aimed at employees and shareholders… The mobilizations have taken multiple forms in recent years. But not all companies are sensitive to it.

Schneider Electric in the sights of NGOs

“Schneider hypocrite, oil marathon”. This banner was displayed along the route of the last Paris marathon, which was held on April 7. A race to which the multinational Schneider Electric, listed on the CAC 40, has put its name since 2013. A great publicity stunt for this company which supplies circuit breakers, electrical panels or automated electrical infrastructures. Schneider Electric presents itself as a “impact business”which aims to reconcile “progress and sustainability for all”. In total contradiction with the company’s participation in EACOP, according to several company employees and environmental associations who are demanding its withdrawal from the controversial project.

Leafleting campaigns aimed at the company’s employees took place in Nantes (Loire-Atlantique) as well as in the Grenoble region (Isère), where some 4,000 to 5,000 employees are present. “We were trying to talk to employeessays Sophie Jallier, who is participating in the StopTotal campaign in Nantes. Most do not know that their company is participating in this project. »

“Management offered us an exchange, but it was in no way an exchange”, deplores Isabelle, an activist from Grenoble. Before adding that with the StopTotal campaign, “there is this desire to act on banks and insurance companies. But sometimes we have more difficulty with subcontractors…”

A mobilization also took place internally, with concerns expressed by several employees, some of whom were received by their managers. A document that we obtained, written by these employees and shared widely within the company, summarizes the meeting. Officials assured that participating “the EACOP project is not contradictory with being an impact company”we can read in particular there.

Employees oppose the project

When employees highlight a report from the International Energy Agency which calls for abandoning the opening of new oil fields, one of the executives responds that “the world always needs a little” and that Schneider’s role is to decarbonize the projects on which the company works.

Still according to the document, management ensures that participation in EACOP made it possible to strengthen the selection criteria for a project, based in particular on environmental and social requirements. The employees then asked whether the EACOP project, if it were proposed today, would have met these new criteria. “We asked the question twice, but we didn’t get a clear answer”write the employees in this summary.

In a written response to our questions, Schneider Electric specifies providing EACOP “electrical infrastructure, expertise and cutting-edge technologies to improve safety and reduce environmental risks and greenhouse gas emissions, while strengthening local industrial capacities and ensuring long-term sustainable operation in the benefit of local communities ». The company “is committed to responsible business practices and high environmental, social and human rights standards. »

type="image/webp"> type="image/jpeg"> type="image/webp"> type="image/jpeg"> type="image/webp">
>
>
>
>
>

©Friends of the Earth

These arguments seem to have had an impact on some of the multinational’s employees. “It’s a bit as if they were happy to reduce the energy consumption of installations without looking at what’s flowing inside…” reacts Arthur*, engineer, for whom there is a “hypocrisy” from the company. “There is a huge gap in corporate communication”very green, adds Baptiste*, also an engineer.

“Beyond participation in EACOP, which is a media project, Schneider is involved in a whole bunch of projects related to fossil fuels. There is no questioning”, Arthur worries. The two employees are considering leaving the company, or even the profession. “When I see what my work is for, I doubt I will ever find a job as an engineer in a virtuous industry”concludes Baptiste.

Other French companies involved

Apart from Schneider Electric, other French companies are benefiting, in the shadow of the giant TotalEnergies, from the EACOP project. This is the case of Bolloré Logistics, bought at the end of February by the CMA CGM group. The world’s third largest shipowner, CMA CGM is chaired by billionaire Rodolphe Saadé who invests in all directions, including in the media sector with the recent purchase of BFMTV and RMC.

Thanks to a contract signed in May 2022, one year before the start of the takeover procedure by CMA CGM, Bolloré Logistics has become one of EACOP’s main logistics suppliers. The contract provides “receiving, storing, handling and end-to-end transportation of hundreds of thousands of cubic meters of goods, including over 80,000 18 meter pipe fittings”says the company.

The French metallurgist Vallourec is also pleased with a delivery contract for 30,000 tonnes of material. The tubes supplied by Vallourec are to be used to drill 400 oil wells around Lake Albert, where the deposits were discovered. This drilling area is right in the middle of Murchison Falls National Park, home to rare animal and plant species, including several species of antelope. The project’s goal is to release 190,000 barrels per day. Oil then transported by the pipeline to the Indian Ocean, then exported internationally. Asked about its delivery schedule and its positioning regarding environmental and human rights issues, the Vallourec group did not respond to our questions.

Bond issues, a discreet way to finance Total

Once contracts with these suppliers have been secured, to hope to see progress on its EACOP project, TotalEnergies must seek resources in a key market: that of bonds, which are debt securities allowing a company to borrow on a financial market. This is a major issue for TotalEnergies: the bonds issued to the multinational represent 68% of its financing, since the Paris climate agreement entered into force in 2016.

“This is much more important than the 4% share of direct project financing. Bond financing supports TotalEnergies projects in a more discreet way: including the exploration of new potential deposits”, explains Antoine Bouhey, campaign manager on TotalEnergies financing to Reclaim Finance. The NGO has just signed, alongside around fifty others, open letters sent in mid-April to banks that have previously supported TotalEnergies in its bond issues.

In April, the multinational raised more than four billion dollars on this bond market. Among the banks that allowed these transactions, we find the French group BPCE/Natixis. “While many banks have withdrawn from direct financing of EACOP, no French bank has committed to no longer participating in these bond issues by multinationals developing new oil and gas projects”alerts Antoine Bouhey.

In previous years, BNP Paribas, Crédit Agricole and Société Générale had participated in these transactions for the benefit of TotalEnergies. There is no guarantee that in the next bond raising, which should take place in the coming months, these banks will not participate. “No French bank must no longer support TotalEnergiesinsists Antoine Bouhey. We need lasting commitments. »

A subsidiary of Crédit Agricole

In addition to these banks without whom the issuance of bonds would not be possible, NGOs also monitor the investors who buy these bonds and make profits from them. One of the main ones, regarding purchases of bonds from TotalEnergies, is the asset management company Amundi. Which is none other than a subsidiary of Crédit Agricole. The bank had, however, undertaken not to directly finance EACOP. “There is actually a group policy to change”reacts Antoine Bouhey.

By maintaining pressure on both upstream financiers and downstream suppliers, NGOs hope to block progress on the EACOP project. In the meantime, each success becomes an argument in similar struggles. “The fight for EACOP has already made it possible to subsequently obtain withdrawals from French banks on other projects such as Papua LNGa TotalEnergies gas project in Papua New Guinea, argues Romane Audéoud. By obtaining victories on oil, we can obtain victories on gas. This allows us to say to the actors involved: it is not enough to withdraw from a single project. It doesn’t make sense, if you don’t stop everyone else. »

Maïa Courtois and Martin Delacoux

*To preserve their anonymity, the first names of these interlocutors have been changed.

Front page photo: A Friends of the Earth action in 2022 in Paris/CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 Friends of the Earth via flickr.

-

-

PREV Algeria is preparing to become a major energy player
NEXT Elections 2024: the European far right will have won if…