Environmentalists reacted with outrage after the U.S. Export-Import Bank's board of directors on Thursday approved $5 billion in funding for a liquefied natural gas plant in Mozambique that could pump an estimated 5.2 million tons of planet-warming carbon dioxide into the atmosphere each year.
Doug Norlen, director of the economic policy program at Friends of the Earth, called EXIM's decision "irresponsible" and said it "proves the agency can't be trusted to manage billions of dollars in public funds."
"It makes one worry about Mozambique's future. Investment from the U.S. will only amplify all of the troubles and conflicts in Mozambique caused by this project and push them out of control."
—Daniel Ribeiro, Friends of the Earth Mozambique
"By approving $5 billion in fossil fuel financing, EXIM is accelerating the climate crisis while causing local environmental damage and propelling human rights violations in Mozambique," Norlen said in a statement. "Either EXIM financing for fossil fuels must be stopped or the agency should not be reauthorized by Congress."
Climate groups have repeatedly raised alarm over the bank's funding of fossil fuel projects and demanded fundamental reforms.
According to Reuters, the Mozambique natural gas plant is the agency's largest export deal in years.
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"The project would be the single biggest financing deal since EXIM's full lending powers were restored in May with the confirmation of three new board members," Reuters reported Thursday. "EXIM said the Mozambique [liquefied natural gas] project would begin to develop the Rovuma Basin, one of he world's most extensive untapped reserves of natural gas."
U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross applauded the project as a "win for American companies and workers" as well as "the people of Mozambique."
Daniel Ribeiro of Friends of the Earth Mozambique said the opposite is true, warning in a statement that—in addition to its significant climate impact—the project will "fuel the numerous local land conflicts, the human rights abuses, and infrastructure bottlenecks" in the African nation, which was devastated by two powerful cyclones earlier this year.
"If there is a project with serious alarm bells, it's this one," said Ribeiro. "This dirty project is located in a sensitive world biosphere, embroiled in an emerging extremist armed conflict. It is being pushed by a government that has recently faced one of the biggest corruption cases in Africa."
"It makes one worry about Mozambique's future," Ribeiro added. "Investment from the U.S. will only amplify all of the troubles and conflicts in Mozambique caused by this project and push them out of control."