Blue sky over a beach with palm trees, and fishing gear in the water

Fuelling war: Friends of the Earth Mozambique update us on the real cost of gas power

Ahead of our court case on 7 December challenging UK Export Finance’s decision to fund a mega gas project in Mozambique, we spoke to our friends at Justiça Ambiental (JA! or Friends of the Earth Mozambique) to understand the impact this project has already had on local communities – and what to expect if it goes ahead. Read the first-hand account by Anabela Lemos, the Director of JA!.
  Published:  01 Dec 2021    |      4 minute read

The $50 billion gas industry in Mozambique has created an irreversible mess before any gas has even been extracted. People have lost their livelihoods and homes, and the climate impact just from the construction phase, which has not yet been completed, has already been significant. It is crucial for the global public to know this, because corporations, pension funds, investors and even governments around the world (with taxpayers’ money), are financing these projects. 

The UK Export Finance agency (UKEF) alone has agreed to finance over $1 billion of Total’s $24 billion Mozambique Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) Project, one of three already in construction.  

Evicted and betrayed

Industry players are well aware of the issues the industry has created and will create in future: JA! and our partners and friends in the UK and around the world have told them several times, in letters, in parliament, at shareholder meetings and protests and now, in court. 

To make way for Total’s Afungi LNG Park, which will house the support facilities for the industry, the company has displaced thousands of people from fishing and farming communities around the site, to a relocation village far from their land, and 10km inland from the sea, leaving them without livelihoods. Since the relocation plots were so small, many people opted for inadequate compensation, following a consultation process that violated several Free, Prior and Informed Consent principles. JA! works closely with communities on the ground in the gas region, and have seen how the only jobs created for locals were menial, unskilled and temporary. Communities’ complaints to Total about irregular compensation payments were waved away.  

An empty relocation village with one tree and dust roads
Quitunda relocation village, 10km away from the sea and therefore unusable by many.

Sparking violence and death

Cabo Delgado, the site of Total’s project, is in the midst of a deadly conflict, and the gas industry has contributed to this violence. Fighting between the armies of Mozambique and Rwanda, insurgents and mercenaries has turned Cabo Delgado into a warzone. While the government and the industry insist that the cause of the violence is religious, the reality is much more complex. For years now, social tensions have grown as already-poor local communities see their province’s wealth being plundered by national, and international economic and political elites and extractive companies. All the while their complaints and basic human rights and needs are ignored and disregarded. This violence has made 800,000 people refugees, and thousands have been killed. Many of the people displaced by the industry have had to flee to other cities or nearby provinces, and do not know if they will ever be able to return to their homes. Journalists and activists have disappeared, some never to be seen again.  

After a deadly attack on Palma village in March, Total claimed ‘force majeure’, pausing its project indefinitely and pulling its staff out of the area. It has since not made any compensation payments to community members and has stated that it will not be fulfilling its payment obligations to contractors, including local businesses. 

Severe damage to global climate

The climate impact of the project will be extremely high and is totally misaligned with the Paris Agreement. The environmental impact assessment shows that just the construction phase of one LNG train (liquefaction facility) will increase the greenhouse gas emissions of Mozambique by up to 14%. There are plans to construct six. 

Huge area of cleared forest and grassland
The cleared area for Total’s Afungi LNG Park.

The country’s record gives little assurance that gas, or any fossil fuel for that matter, will bring any benefit to the people. Even though the country has been a fossil-fuel exporter for many years, still only about 30% of the population has electricity access, and it remains one of the poorest in the world. 95% of the gas will be exported to India, France, the UK, China and Indonesia among other countries.  

The Mozambique government have demonstrated before that they will not invest profits into the wealth of their country. Historically, they have provided tax relief to fossil fuel exporters and plan to do so again – costing Mozambicans around $5.3 billion. The Mozambique government cannot be relied upon to support the communities suffering at the hands of the fossil fuel industry.

What does JA! do to fight this?

JA! is one of the only organisations that works with and in communities who are affected by the gas industry. We are watchdogs – watching what Total and the gas industry is doing to local people, and working with these communities to fight the industry at the grassroots level. We support communities with making complaints, maintaining communication with the industry and educating them about their rights. 

Communities share crucial information with us, which we publicise in Mozambique and take to an international level with our close partners where people around the world can hear their voices - activists, the public, the media, the courts and those in power.  

What is the solution?

In March 2021, the UK government announced the end of overseas fossil fuel financing, but this came too late for the Mozambique LNG project, agreeing to funding in July 2020. Though it is heartening that during COP26, several countries involved in the Mozambique gas industry committed to end overseas fossil fuel financing after 2022, however, this doesn’t get them off the hook for the destruction they are already funding – they need to cancel their current financing agreements with Total and the gas industry, and with the Mozambique LNG project on hold, this is an ideal opportunity. But Total cannot just run away from what they have done. They need to make reparations for the mess they have already created.

Countries in the Global North need to pay their climate debt to Mozambique, cancel historical debts and provide sufficient climate financing for a move to alternative energy sources, renewable energy technology without intellectual property patents, and education on these technologies.

What can the UK people do to help?

You can support the court case, by sharing it on social media and following FoE England Wales and Northern Ireland on social media to keep up to date with any actions planned. You can follow JA!’s work at www.ja4change.org, on Twitter and on Facebook.

You can talk to your local MP's about where your, and their, tax money is going, and get them to raise the issue at a parliamentary and policy level. You can get the media interested. You can attend shareholder meetings and organise protest actions outside the offices of companies in the industry.  

You can continue to amplify our demands as we say: Fossil fuel companies must cancel their projects in Mozambique and leave for good, and the UK and all other financiers must cancel their financing of Mozambique gas immediately!

The UK must stop its colonial practices of taking Africa’s resources while leaving destruction, conflict and suffering in its wake. It must no longer take riches and power at the expense of the Mozambican people. We want community-based renewable energy for our people instead.

Add your name and tell the government to stop funding for Mozambique gas.

Add your name and tell the government to stop funding for Mozambique gas.

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