Turning the tide on fossil fuels

Janet Saunders from Central Edinburgh Quaker Meeting explains how she got involved with campaigning to stop the East Africa Crude Oil Pipeline through focusing on insurance companies.

As part of the campaign, Central Edinburgh Meeting House has a display in the window.

Climate disruption can be depressing. With The Guardian reporting on 'carbon bombs' – huge planned fossil fuel projects all over the world – my individual efforts felt like trying to bail out the Titanic with tea cups.

Into this gloom dropped news – via a regular Quaker email update – about the Insure our Future coalition. This seeks to pull the rug from under the carbon bombs by tackling insurance companies. This approach made complete sense to me.

Insuring the future

Insurance companies ran the numbers on climate change decades ago. They know that it will be immensely costly to them and the global campaign has already had some success. Many of the largest insurance companies working in the energy industry are already stepping away from the worst fossil fuel projects. This campaign really appealed to me.

I learned that Insure our Future is an international coalition of climate concerned groups. The idea is to focus on one project and one insurance company, building awareness by means of a staged campaign. Campaigners are supported by a detailed toolkit.

Our initiative targets a project called EACOP – the East African Crude Oil Pipeline – by engaging with Tokio Marine, a large global insurance company. EACOP is a massive and hugely destructive project and you can find out more at https://bit.ly/stopeacopscot.

Once I understood the principles, I approached my local meeting in Edinburgh for help.

They agreed that I could make a presentation to Friends to form a local team to join the campaign. And so, on 22 October 2023, StopEACOPScot was born.

Forming the group

We turned out to be a small but perfectly formed group. John and Kerstin Phillips from my Meeting provided powerful testimony. They had lived and worked in Uganda, the centre of the oil drilling, and were very aware of how beautiful the exploration site is. It sits within the Murchison Falls National Park, a haven for rare and endangered animals. The area is an earthquake zone and yet this project plans to mine near Lake Albert and pass by the huge Lake Victoria, endangering the water supply of millions of local people.

We were joined by two Friends from South Edinburgh Meeting, David and Carol, both passionate about this project. This group grew to include Carolyn Burch and Richard Raggett from Forres and Margery McKechnie from Glasgow Quaker climate cafe. Our campaign team was set.

After an initial in person meeting, we now meet on Zoom, thanks to Carolyn. We have a dedicated Google group to keep a record of all our correspondence and other materials, thanks to David.

We are exploring all channels available to us to share information about the campaign and have a striking poster in the window of the Quaker meeting house in central Edinburgh.

Building the campaign

We are following the guidelines in the toolkit, adopting a softly, softly approach to start with. John wrote a letter to the CEO of Tokio Marine at the end of January. If you follow this link https://bit.ly/tokio-letter you will find information about our letter. Read to the bottom of the page and if you would like to help, please sign up to support us. We are always seeking to engage with more Friends in the campaign.

Our campaign is continuing with emails and postcards to as many Tokio Marine staff as possible. We want to encourage some 'water cooler' conversations in this business, as we suspect their staff may not be aware of what their employer is doing. They recently celebrated Earth Day, but do they really care about the earth?

We were encouraged recently to hear that Tokio Marine has updated their environmental policy. While we have yet to receive any reply at all from our approaches, we suspect this is a response to the global campaign of which we are a part. Now we want to know that this policy means they will not support EACOP. Our campaign continues and all Friends are welcome to join.

Join the global campaign to discourage insurers from insuring this fossil fuel projects. Please email stopeacopscot@gmail.com if you would like to support the work of Stop EACOP Scot.