Canon Dr Rachel Mash co-authored this powerful resolution, which this month is being put before the All Africa Conference of Churches and the Council of Anglican Provinces of Africa for endorsement. Rachel is the environmental coordinator for the Anglican Church of Southern Africa, and was recently awarded the Cross of St Augustine by the Archbishop of Canterbury for her environmental work across the Anglican Communion.
Africa, our home, is a continent of spectacular beauty and abundance. It still has remnants of its unique and priceless wildlife in areas of great variety, biodiversity, and wonder. The land has deep rooted cultural and traditional significance and 80% of the Continent’s people depend on small scale farmers for their food.
A new era of economic colonialism by fossil fuel companies is well underway. This is supported by self-serving governments. They are enticed by the promise of job creation and finance for ‘development’ while ignoring the harsh reality of the climate crisis, the ravages of which are being felt across the Continent. Biodiversity loss, exacerbated by catastrophic climate change will have dire consequences for all life on this planet and Africa will be severely affected.
Africa’s natural habitats are being destroyed at an alarming rate through the extraction of oil and gas, with many new projects in the pipeline. Known in Nigeria as the curse of “black gold”, fossil fuel extraction is polluting the water and the land. Oil companies are abusing the rights of indigenous and rural people and forcing them off their land. Oil and gas exploration and exploitation are leading to political destabilisation and increased violence.
The choices we make now will determine the future of Africa. We face species extinction, widespread disease, life-threatening temperature extremes, droughts, ecosystem collapse, and rising sea levels, floods, storms, and wildfires, unless there is transformational change by individuals, communities, businesses, institutions, and governments.
Africa is a continent richly blessed with sun and wind. Investment in renewable energy, now the cheapest form of energy worldwide, will create far more jobs and long-term savings. Renewable energy will be generated without the health-damaging pollutants of fossil fuels or global warming that will push the world past a catastrophic 1.5°C increase in temperature. The declining worldwide demand for fossil fuels will also leave Africa with a legacy of stranded assets.
Yet rather than halting fossil fuel extraction, many governments are actively encouraging exploration for oil and gas reserves by foreign companies. This, despite each country’s commitment to the Paris Agreement and their promise to formulate nationally determined contributions (NDC) of climate changing emissions.
Across the continent, foreign companies, supported by African governments, are putting profit before planet:
ReconAfrica, a Canadian oil and gas company, is drilling for oil and gas in the Kavango Basin in north-east Namibia. The company’s 25-year production licence covers over 34,000 square kilometres. Major oil extraction threatens scarce water supplies and is likely to cause widespread ecological destruction to the Okavango Delta, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It would also disrupt traditional livelihoods and displace indigenous communities.
The Virunga National Park in the DRC is a ‘protected’ UNESCO World Heritage Site. It has a wealth of biodiversity but is threatened with oil exploration. UNESCO has appealed to the DRC government to cancel all oil exploration permits and focus rather on longer term sustainable development opportunities.
The plan to build a heated pipeline that will carry crude oil from western Uganda through Tanzania to the Indian Ocean, the East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP), will damage fragile ecosystems and displace families from their land. The Ugandan and Tanzanian Governments, the French oil company Total, and the China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC) have partnered in this agreement.
Multiple foreign corporations (including Total) have invested in the offshore gas reserves of northern Mozambique. In spite of promises, the vast development has not benefitted local communities. People are losing their ancestral land and culture. Many young men have joined the Al-Shabab insurgency group making brutal attacks. Nearly 900,000 people have been internally displaced due to the violence. The Quirimbas National Park, a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, will also be exposed to the impacts of dredging, waste disposal and construction.
As people of faith, we believe we have been given responsibility to care for, protect and preserve Africa’s magnificent creation.
The Bishops of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa call for:
• The immediate cessation of fossil fuel exploration across Africa.
• The application of effective climate justice so that countries of Africa, disproportionately affected by climate change, may be enabled to leapfrog the polluting fossil fuel era into the clean renewable energy era.
• An end to bribery and corruption by foreigners and multi-national companies to secure contracts from political leaders, with disastrous consequences for local communities.
• A decisive and determined shift by governments to embrace a transition to a renewable energy future with its enormous job creation potential so that people and planet may breathe and thrive.
• The recognition of Ecocide as a crime in national and international law. Ecocide is causing irreparable damage and destruction to ecosystems and harming the health and wellbeing of species, including humans.