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On Saturday 18 June, Ukraine’s Dr Svitlana Romanko, Mozambique’s Rt Revd Manuel Ernesto and South Africa’s Revd Dr Rachel Mash spoke at our online Supporters’ Event, which was chaired by Operation Noah trustee Shilpita Mathews. Our theme was, Alternatives to Fossil Fuelled Violence: Listening to Our Global Neighbours.
In her keynote address, Dr Svitlana Romanko, a Ukrainian environmental lawyer who previously worked for the Laudato Si’ Movement and is now working for Stand with Ukraine, addressed how fossil fuels are funding conflict around the world, from the Russian invasion of Ukraine to conflict in Mozambique. In Ukraine, we have seen ‘human suffering on a staggering scale’, Svitlana said, adding that the war has also increased the price of food and energy around the world.
Svitlana said Russian fossil fuels are funding the war against Ukraine but she envisions an independent Ukraine with ‘independent energy systems that benefit all people’, adding, ‘I envision many other countries around the world being energy independent, safe and secure, providing a just transition from fossil fuels to clean and renewable energy that does not kill.’
‘I see Ukraine rebuilding by ending fossil fuel addiction…and to do this, we are putting pressure on governments and financial institutions to cut ties with fossil fuels. People around the world are joining the global movement to end and divest from fossil fuels, especially as they learn how dirty energy has enabled the war against my country and other devastating conflicts.’
Rt Revd Manuel Ernesto, Anglican Bishop of Nampula in Northern Mozambique, spoke after Svitlana.
In his address, Bishop Manuel encouraged fossil fuel investors to reflect on the ‘moral implications’ of their investments and ‘the impact they have on our people, here on the ground’. ‘What we are facing (in Mozambique) is not just a natural disaster, but it is man-made,’ he said. ‘Just this year, we had three cyclones…people are still looking for ways to rebuild their houses, and others are just living outdoors, displaced in the communities. The last cyclone was severe for vulnerable people: the winds lasted for almost a week.’
‘We also have the situation of conflict. That started right from the arrival of the (fossil fuel) companies in the region,’ Bishop Manuel said – companies that initially included Shell and several others, but which have since sold their developments to Total. ‘The conflict started…right at the gas prospection areas, started as local clashes between non-identified actors, but has escalated into open conflict and now…over 5,000 people are reported to be killed, and near 1 million people are displaced.’
Revd Dr Rachel Mash, environmental coordinator for the Anglican Church of Southern Africa, was the last to speak, addressing our Supporters’ Event via a pre-recorded talk.
Rachel said the ‘oil curse’ is real: promises of fossil-fuelled prosperity for African communities actually lead to impoverishment, ecological damage, civil war, displacement and human rights violations. ‘Oil companies promise vast profits and prosperity, but the reality is that they leave pollution and political upheaval,’ Rachel said.
However, Rachel said that there is huge potential for clean energy sources in Africa, including a $9.4 billion green hydrogen project in Namibia – ‘hydrogen that will be made purely from solar energy, creating jobs, creating hope, for Namibia’ – as well as Morocco’s Noor Solar Complex, which is the largest concentrated solar power project in the world.
‘Africa can transition to renewable energy,’ Rachel said. ‘It is ours to choose: will we continue investing in fossil fuel, that fuels violence, environmental degradation and climate change, or will we invest our pension schemes, our church money, our diocesan money, in renewables? Let us choose life.’