Friends of the Earth are not Friends of Africa – AEC

Friends of the Earth are not Friends of Africa – AEC
/ Friends of the Earth
By Elena Kachkova in Johannesburg May 22, 2024

Members of Friends of the Earth continue to disrupt any meaningful progress towards making energy poverty history, according to the African Energy Chamber (AEC).

What: The African Energy Chamber condemned the latest attack on delegates during the second annual Invest in African Energy (IAE) forum in Paris.

Why: The protest in Paris was part of Friends of the Earth’s broader campaign against fossil fuel projects.

What next: The AEC says it stands committed to engaging with communities, investors and like-minded individuals who support Africa’s right to choose its energy sources

Environmental activist organisation Friends of the Earth is instrumental in deepening African energy poverty, the African Energy Chamber (AEC) said in a statement on May 16.

According to the AEC, members of the organisation continue to disrupt any meaningful progress towards making energy poverty history. The AEC condemned what it termed the latest direct attack on Africa’s development during the second annual Invest in African Energy (IAE) forum held in Paris on May 14-15.

The protest in Paris was part of Friends of the Earth’s broader campaign against fossil fuel projects, which they argue contribute to climate change and environmental degradation.

However, their actions have sparked debate about the balance between environmental protection and the need for energy development in regions like Africa.

Invest in Africa Energy 2024 forum

The IAE 2024 forum was organised by Energy Capital & Power, with official endorsement from the AEC, and attracted 750 African officials and global investors with the aim of increasing investment in African energy projects.

“The event served as a clarion call to accelerate sustainable energy in Africa, with discussions centred on financing African renewable energy projects, advancing clean gas projects and mapping a just energy transition in Africa,” the AEC said.

Friends of the Earth, and other environmental groups, are advocating for policy changes and actions that align with their stated mission to protect the natural world and promote sustainable solutions.

However, despite Europe and the United States rallying to end energy poverty in Africa, members of Friends of the Earth disrupted proceedings at the close of the two-day event, causing panic by deploying fake grenades and driving delegates and officials out of the venue.

“This blatant attack on the companies and authorities that are making great strides towards developing Africa is a blatant attack on the continent itself, and shows the biased and anti-African agenda of the organisation,” said the AEC statement.

Legal action history

This is not the first time that Friends of the Earth has taken direct action towards keeping Africa undeveloped and in the dark, the AEC said. The organisation has a history of direct action aimed at hindering Africa’s development of energy projects.

In Mozambique, Friends of the Earth has opposed the development of the country's natural gas projects, a clean and affordable energy resource. The group sued the UK government over its financial support for Mozambique liquefied natural gas (LNG) development, a 43mn tonnes per annum (mtpa) offshore project by France’s TotalEnergies.

It is worth noting, that since production began at the Eni-led Coral Sul Floating LNG (FLNG) project in 2022, Mozambique’s GDP grew by 6% in just one year, underscoring the impact of a single gas project, the AEC said. Fortunately for Mozambique, the UK Supreme Court rejected Friends of the Earth’s appeal against the UK government’s funding of the gas project.

According to the AEC, what it calls the organisation’s legal interference and obstruction doesn’t stop there. In South Africa, Friends of the Earth has opposed energy projects by multinational oil companies like Shell, exacerbating the country’s energy crisis.

Shell is exploring for oil and gas offshore South Africa in the Orange Basin where significant discoveries have been made in neighbouring Namibia.

“Organisations such as Friends of the Earth continue to disrupt this, instigating legal battles that stand to deepen the country’s energy crisis even further,” said the AEC. “Is eight to ten hours of load shedding [rolling power outages implemented daily by the national power utility Eskom] not enough for the organisation?”

The organisation’s disruptive actions also extend to Uganda, where they oppose the East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP), a project poised to transform Uganda and neighbouring Tanzania. In 2020, Friends of the Earth initiated a legal case against TotalEnergies to halt the development of the project, despite strong support from the involved countries.

These actions by Friends of the Earth illustrate a pattern of opposition that aims at impeding progress and economic growth across the continent, says the AEC.

Eliminating energy poverty

Nevertheless, the chamber remains undeterred about its vision of making energy poverty history for the African continent. Representing the voice of the African energy sector, the AEC says it stands committed to engaging with communities, investors and like-minded individuals who support Africa’s right to choose its energy sources.

“The AEC advocates for a pragmatic approach that embraces all forms of energy, including coal, natural gas, renewables and oil. We stress the importance of constructive engagement with all parties involved and oppose actions that hinder Africa’s energy progress,” NJ Ayuk, executive chairman of the AEC said in the statement.

“We believe that companies like TotalEnergies and Perenco, along with other international firms, are contributing positively by creating jobs and opportunities. Attacking or demonizing these companies, does not address the climate crisis,” he added.

Friends of the Earth’s website claims that the vision of the organisation is a “peaceful and sustainable world based on societies living in harmony with nature.” The irony here, according to the AEC, is that the organisation continuously shows aggressive acts towards people, companies and events advocating for equality, justice and progress.

“If the organisation has bothered to take part in the Paris event, listen to the discussions and witness the topics, they would realise that the very companies and projects they are attacking are the ones promoting a sustainable and clean energy future,” the AEC noted.

Friends of the Earth Africa, the organisation’s African-based group, has called on world governments to adopt their plan to achieve 100% renewable energy in Africa by 2050. Yet, the chamber pointed out, this group’s parent organisation attacked an energy event that sought to promote investments in African energy, including clean energy.

According to the AEC, Friends of the Earth has proven time and time again that they are not friends of Africa. “They would rather see the continent remain in the dark than developed through sustainable energy,” the chamber stated.

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