JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - South Africa’s Standard Bank has hired an independent environmental and social advisor to help assess its involvement in Total’s East African Crude Oil Pipeline that environmental groups have opposed, it said on Monday.
About 263 civil society organisations from around the world, have urged the chief executives of 25 banks not to participate in loans to fund the construction of the $3.5 billion East Africa Crude Oil Pipeline.
They have argued in an open letter that this pipeline would pose immense threats to local communities, water supplies, and biodiversity in Uganda, Tanzania, Democratic Republic of Congo and Kenya.
Standard Bank acknowledged receipt of the letter, saying it was following its own internal processes and had retained the services of an independent environmental and social advisor.
“As part of this process, the advisors will visit the project area and will issue a full environmental and social due diligence report, at which time Standard Bank Group will make a decision on the way forward,” it said in an emailed response.
Further to this, a preliminary findings report from the advisor was currently under review, the bank said, adding its new fossil fuels financing policy sets out stringent conditions for lending to fossil fuel projects.
“Among other conditions, project owners must commit to minimising or reducing greenhouse gas emissions,” it said.
French energy giant Total and its partner China National Offshore Oil Corporation plan to exploit oil reserves in Lake Albert in Uganda and construct a 1,443-km (896-mile) pipeline to neighbouring Tanzania for export.
Last month, Uganda said construction was expected to begin soon.
About two-thirds of the pipeline’s cost will be financed by debt, and a Ugandan unit of Standard Bank Group and Japan’s Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corp are jointly helping to raise the funding.
Reporting by Nqobile Dludla; Editing by Bernadette Baum
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