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Yesterday, Ugandan climate justice activist, Patience Nabukalu, visited Chubb’s Manchester offices to hand over a letter on behalf of the people of Uganda and Tanzania. The letter asked Chubb to “insure their future” by publicly committing to not insuring the East Africa Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP).
When the construction of EACOP is finished, the 1,443 km-long pipeline will transport up to 216,000 barrels per day from Uganda to the port of Tanga in Tanzania from where tankers will distribute the oil to the rest of the world. The project has been described by environmental groups as a climate time bomb.
Oil was first discovered in Uganda in 2006. But without a pipeline extraction was not commercially viable. However, drilling at Kingfisher and Tilenga oil fields, operated the state-owned China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC) and french energy giant TotalEnergies, on the shores of Lake Albert has now started with full production planned for 2025.
Lake Albert, the second largest of Uganda’s Great Lakes, and Murchison Falls National Park (MFNP) represent one of the most biodiverse habitats in the world. Tilenga oil field is located within the boundary of MFPN which is home to 451 species of bird and 76 species of mammals including elephants, buffalo, lions and leopards, chimpanzee, the critically endangered Rothschild’s giraffe and the rare Patas monkeys.
According to the latest Notre Dame Global Adaptation Initiative Index report, Uganda is the 14th most vulnerable country in the world to climate change, and the 30th least prepared to combat its effects.
Speaking to Byline Times outside the Chub offices, Nabukalu said: “I came here to call upon Chubb insurance company to lead us into the future we want. And the only way to lead us into that future is by announcing publicly that it will not insure the East African Crude Oil Pipeline.”
Without insurance, large infrastructure developments like EACOP cannot go ahead. In her letter Nabukalu said that by refusing to insure fossil fuel projects Chubb, as the world’s largest publicly traded property and casualty insurance company, could make an ”enormous difference to tackling the three most urgent issues of our time: the climate emergency, biodiversity loss and racial injustice.”
Following the publication of the third Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report last year, the UN Secretary-General António Guterres commented that investing in new fossil fuels infrastructure “is moral and economic madness” and accused high-emitting Governments and corporations of not just turning a blind eye to climate change but adding fuel to the flames. “Such investments will soon be stranded assets — a blot on the landscape and a blight on investment portfolios.” he said.
Speaking on the subject at a recent rally in London last month, activist and TV presenter, Chris Packham, told Byline Times “I don’t want to invest in a company which is giving money to weapons, which is giving money to fossil fuels and the destruction of the environment.
“If you are an insurance company and you’re still making those investments, you will be found out and you will lose business. So now is the time to transition away from that and move into a fully sustainable but method of money management.”
The Stop EACOP website lists 22 high profile insurance companies, including Zurick, AXA, Allanz and the RSA Group, that have publicly stated they will not support the project.
Manchester based Stop EACOP Campaigner, Cordilla Newsome told Byline Times: “Many insurance companies across the world are taking an ethical stand now and are ruling out insuring dangerous new fossil fuel projects; it boosts their reputation and makes good business sense too. It would be wonderful if Chubb could join them”.
At the age of just 25, Patience Nabukalu is a seasoned climate change campaigner. She is an organizer for Friday’s for Future Uganda, founder of Stop Wetland Degradation and the Youth Empowerment Initiative Uganda and was a Most Affected People and Areas representative at COPs 26 and 27.
Nabukalu says she didn’t choose to be an activist but, just like many other activists, has experienced the devastating impacts of climate change first hand with recent floods in Uganda preventing local communities and members of family being able to work or attend school.
But her activism in Uganda, however, does not come without risk. Last year nine students were arrested and detained for several days for organising a protest against EACOP. More recently, in July of this year, a campaigner was arrested whilst delivering a petition to the Ugandan Parliament calling for EACOP to stopped.
But risk of arrest is unlikely to deter Nabukalu. She is convinced that direct action really works and cites banks like Deutsche Bank, Citi, JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo and Morgan Stanley confirming that they would not provide loans to finance the pipeline as evidence of the power of activism.
Her massage, she says, is not only targeted at Chubb, but at all insurance companies and banks that may be considering supporting fossil fuel projects around the world.
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“You are there to serve the people. You are there to save lives,” she insists. “Which type of lives are you serving right now, when continuing to finance destruction of people and devastating livelihoods.
“Let’s go renewable. Africa has a chance to be the lead in renewable energies because we have 12 hours of the sun. Let us invest in renewables. And give us a chance for a better future.”
Nabukalu is in the UK for ten days attending the Oily Money Out conference in London and meeting with other climate change activists throughout the UK.
Byline Times contacted Chubb for a comment but had received no reply at the time of publication.