Laudato Si’ movement wants East Africa oil pipeline stopped | earth beat

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NAIROBI, Kenya— The Laudato Si’ movement, the global community of Catholics tackling the current climate change crisis, urges the International Union for Conservation of Nature to help stop the implementation of a massive oil and gas project in Uganda and Tanzania.

According to the movement, the international union has refused to take a stand against the extraction of oil resources from Lake Albert in Uganda and the construction of the pipeline to transport the crude oil to Tanzania. The movement says the project, which involves the construction of more than 800 miles of pipeline, poses a serious threat to environmental conservation, biodiversity protection and climate change mitigation in East Africa.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature says the project will contribute to economic development.

In a February 8 letter to IUCN, Tomas Insua, executive director of the Laudato Si’ movement, accuses the union of taking action that goes beyond its words and of fearing confrontations with powerful corporations and government leaders, while by remaining silent when its members are intimidated and human rights violated. The Laudato Si’ movement also wrote to the union in September.

The movement wants the union to publicly declare its opposition to the project, which involves the Tilenga and Kingfisher oil fields in Uganda and the East African crude oil pipeline. He urged the union to engage Uganda and Tanzania to promote a biodiversity protection policy with an ad hoc working group to monitor the policies. He also wants the union to reject any partnership with a fossil fuel company.

In November, Bruno Oberle, director general of the IUCN, told the Catholic environmental group that the union was aware that ongoing developments in the region were a cause for conservation concern. He said the union was in talks with the Ugandan and Tanzanian governments.

“IUCN … recognizes that the impact is not only related to biodiversity and climate change, but also affects economic development,” Oberle said. “IUCN recognizes that extractive industries can make an important contribution to the global economy, making them an influential force in shaping how global conservation and development goals are achieved.”

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni calls the project important for the region.

“You hear for the next few years…people are going to invest $10 billion in this effort. That money is going to boost our economy,” he said.

Uganda discovered oil in 2006, but its extraction was delayed due to lack of infrastructure and a disagreement with oil companies over taxation. Disagreements were resolved in December, clearing the way for the project to start.

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