This is the first statement of its kind issued by the African episcopate. The Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SCEAM) urges governments to take urgent and ambitious measures to protect biodiversity. In its statement of 21 June 2022, Sceam also denounces the East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP) project.
The Roman Catholic Church in Africa is taking a stand against the degradation of biodiversity. In a text dated 21 June 2022, the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SCEAM) urges African governments to take urgent and ambitious measures to protect biodiversity. According to SCEAM, « climate and biodiversity are two sides of the same coin and for this reason must be addressed together. Similarly, the ecological problem cannot be separated from its social aspect ».
In line with the encyclical Laudato si’ published in 2015 by Pope Francis, the bishops consider that respect for nature and the people who live in it go hand in hand. For this reason, the prelates have joined forces with environmental organisations that are calling for 50% of the earth to be protected by 2030.
The Eacop oil project
To justify the reason for their appeal, the bishops questioned the environmental impact of the East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP) project. This is the world’s longest heated pipeline project, which is expected to transport about 216,000 barrels of crude oil per day from Lake Albert (in western Uganda) to the port of Tanga in Tanzania for export to international markets.
The project is being challenged by the Civil Society Coalition on Oil and Gas (CSCO), a coalition of 61 civil society organisations working on oil and gas issues in Uganda. The coalition says that the construction of EACOP would cause serious environmental and social damage. The extraction of crude oil from Lake Albert could cripple fisheries activities. Furthermore, the risk of an oil spill in Lake Victoria would have disastrous consequences for millions of people (in about eight countries) who depend on the two lakes and their catchment areas for drinking water and agriculture.
The SCEAM declaration was made in Nairobi, Kenya, where 190 delegates from around the world met from 21 to 26 June 2022 to negotiate an agreement, long overdue since 2020, to protect nature undermined by human activities. A preparatory summit for the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (COP15), which will be held in Canada in December after two years of postponement.