- As the world wakes up to news of the cancelation of the Keystone XL pipeline, leaders of the world’s largest economies are descending upon Carbis Bay in Cornwall, UK, for the latest G7 Summit with the theme, “Build Back Better”.
- Whilst the gathering’s priorities have been outlined as fair vaccine distribution for a united recovery, and ways to tackle the Climate Crisis, events in Namibia are evidence of a darker reality.
Following global protests in the build-up to the Summit, Friday’s for Future Windhoek (FFFW) and information hub Kavango Alive take a look at the African panorama and how it holds particular significance as decision-makers gather to define a “better” future for the planet. The Canadian pipeline cancelations, however, speaks to the power of political peer pressure. Can the G7 deliver?
As leaders gather for the 46th G7 Summit in Carbis Bay, Cornwall, hosted by the United Kingdom, the optimistic theme of “Build Back Better” for a world post-COVID-19 is a stark contrast to realities on the ground in Namibia. In the same year Britain is set to host COP26, one of the key priorities of this conference is climate change and preserving the planet’s biodiversity. And yet, upstream from one of the world’s last great oases, the Okavango Delta, a Canadian company is largely torpedoing the Summit’s aspiration of “moving to net zero and providing financial support for developing countries to do the same,” as it drills for new fossil fuels.
Meanwhile the world wakes to news of the Keystone XL pipeline project, another iconic climate flashpoint involving yet another Canadian company (TC Energy), as global eyes shift to G7 leaders. Political pressure, like that exerted by the United States’ Biden administration, toppled a ten year multibillion dollar project in just six months, offering a world choked by global heating a glimmer of hope, despite difficult truths: The overall emissions of developed countries far outweigh developing nations, where much of the planet’s natural resources and raw materials are sourced. Developing nations will not have the chance to follow the same fossil fuel based fast-track to development enjoyed by G7 members. Instead they are requested to follow greener sources of energy, pointing to the implementations of green regulations in western countries.
“Promises on climate regulations in the global North ring empty when all companies affected by them have to do is find a country somewhere needing a financial boost and with great exploitation potential. Nowhere is this more evident than in the Kavango, where under cover of COVID-19, oil and gas are rushing to cash-in on what they suspect is the last great fossil fuel find,” comments Friday For Future Windhoek’s coordinator, Ina-Maria Shikongo.
ReconAfrica’s plans in the Kavango Basin, spanning Namibia, Botswana and Angola, is the latest example of rich natural resources in African countries being exploited by multinationals for financial gain, undermining these nations’ control over their own resources. Holding up a mirror to this reality, on the site of ReconAfrica’s first test well, a Canadian flag flies above Namibia’s, squarely against the country’s Constitution. This recreation of “neo-colonial” power dynamics, whereby companies like ReconAfrica carve up African resources, can be said to be reminiscent of the European colonial powers’ Scramble for Africa and the Berlin Conference of 1885. If this year’s G7 Summit aims to truly support a more sustainable future, companies based in G7 countries, such as Canada, must be held to account, as a recent Dutch court stated in a landmark ruling. This is true for the governments of France, Germany, Japan, Italy, USA and UK, whose peer pressure would go a long way to encourage Canadian officials to do more to hold their own companies responsible and keep the #KavangoAlive. The cancelation of the controversial multibillon dollar Keystone Pipeline XL demonstartes it is possible.
“The G7 has a duty to halt the pursuit for profit in the Okavango Basin at the expense of the people and planet. Present climate reality demands the common sense action of keeping fossils in the ground. The G7 has a duty to recognize and pay the climate debt thereby supporting African nations to build a greener future devoid of avaricious plundering and trashing of our environment,” says Nnimmo Bassey, Director at Health of Mother Earth Foundation and named Environmental Hero by Time Magazine.
Currently, in Namibia, 90% of profits from oil exploration will go directly to ReconAfrica, meaning the country is unlikely to gain financially from this project whilst it sacrifices the wildlife and biodiversity of the Kavango region beyond its own borders. This unequal exchange is not unique; an IANR study on mining activities in Kenya, Angola, Zimbabwe and the Democratic Republic of the Congo reports, ‘many communities in mining areas… are left worse off as a result of mining operations, often conducted by multinational corporations’.
Evidence suggests ReconAfrica is not communicating with the over one million people who call the Kavango home, including the San nation and other Indigenous groups. Local communities in Namibia report they were not consulted within the Environmental Impact Assessment process initiated by ReconAfrica. Rural and indigenous communities are on the frontlines of the Climate and Ecological Emergency (CEE) and are the first victims of unpredictable weather, prolonged droughts, depleted water sources and chronic pollution.
Namibia holds a huge amount of potential to become a global leader for solar and wind farming. It is the driest sub-Saharan country, experiencing an average of 300 sunny days per year. In light of the development of solar projects, such as a partnership between Namibia, Botswana and the World Economic Forum to produce a five-gigawatt project over the next twenty years, ReconAfrica’s oil exploration in the Kavango flies in the face of supporting these nations to develop in a more sustainable way.
“Whether families in Namibia or Botswana get electrical lighting etc is not determined by whether this project is successful or not… the option of supplying them with life-enhancing power using solar and renewable resources is a much better (one) than this long shot of hydrocarbon development,” warned internationally acclaimed IPCC climate scientist Professor Bob Scholes in a final interview prior to passing on 28 April, 2021.
Global outrage about ReconAfrica’s oil exploration in the Kavango Region is gaining momentum, bolstered by the global action that took place on the eve of International Environment Day, June 5 . In South Africa, the United Kingdom, Germany, Namibia and elsewhere, hundreds united to #SavetheOkavango. The tide is turning on the oil and gas industry, and people are standing up to say “What happens in the Kavango, Won’t stay in the Kavango.”
As the final touches are being made to a conference room in Cornwall, the world expects G7 countries to take proactive steps to truly support countries like Namibia to innovate new, sustainable models of development. This is a critical moment in the preparation for the COP26 UN Climate Conference in November that will be held in Glasgow . Preventing ReconAfrica from continuing to drill one of the Earth’s last remaining pristine, delicate ecosystems, and putting a stop to what potentially represents one-sixth of the world’s remaining carbon budget, a veritable ‘carbon gigabomb’, seems like a good place to start.
Author: The Clima, on behalf of FFFW and Kavango Alive
About Kavango Alive
In the midst of a climate and ecological crisis, the need to elevate local and community voices to the global stage is now greater than ever as a Canadian oil company explores for fossil fuels mere kilometres away from one of the Earth’s last great oases, the Okavango Delta.
#KavangoAlive was created as an information hub to share news and information about events in real time. It offers varied perspectives from voices on the ground, in the region and around the world on developments relating to the Kavango Basin and current oil and gas exploration in southern Africa.