Italian Administrative Court requests CDP to make public documents on the controversial Mozambique LNG

Last week, the second section of the Administrative Court of Lazio – Rome filed ruling No.2642/2023, in which it upheld ReCommon’s appeal for the right to access the assessment of environmental, climate and social risks associated with the Mozambique LNG project carried out by Cassa Depositi e Prestiti (CDP) prior to the financing of the controversial transaction.

In 2019, CDP contributed hundreds of millions of euros, guaranteed by Italy’s export credit agency SACE, to the project finance in favour of Saipem’s contract, among the three construction companies of the Mozambique LNG project, with a total value of $23 billion, led by Total.

The project involves the exploitation of offshoredeposits and the construction of a liquefied natural gas export terminal in the province of Cabo Delgado, northern Mozambique, with an annual export capacity of 23 MTPA of gas. As a comparison, Italy consumes 47 MTPA in a year.

The execution of the project has contributed to fuelling the conflict between insurgent militias in the area and government forces, causing thousands of deaths and around one million refugees, to the point that in 2021 Total invoked force majeure to suspend operations. Currently, the project is still on hold.

CDP had refused to make public the preliminary assessment of the project’s climate impacts and other associated risks, and did not respond to ReCommon’s request for access to environmental information in October 2021. The Commission for Access to Administrative Documents of the Presidency of the Council of Ministers, to which ReCommon submitted an initial appeal, had declared the association’s request well-founded in February 2022, inviting CDP to reconsider the request for access. Four months later, CDP sent ReCommon only part of the documentation, which had already been made public, but did not hand over the internal assessment of the project – nor the opinion of the Joint Committee of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which is required for projects financed under the “development cooperation desk” system.

After urging CDP once again to hand over the expected documentation, ReCommon had no choice but to turn to the Lazio Regional Administrative Court – Rome to have its right of access recognised in court. Last December, the State bar defending CDP – which is more than 80 per cent controlled by the Ministry of Economy and Finance – produced a correction according to which the project had been financed not by the development cooperation desk – in synergy with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs – but as an ‘export bank’ operation, hence the alleged non-existence of the opinion of the Joint Committee of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on the financing.

The judgement of the Regional Administrative Court gave ReCommon a clear right, as it is clear that, regardless of the procedure followed, it is unthinkable that the Italian public investment bank – with an exposure of 450 billion euro and the management of around 300 billion euro collected through postal savings – should not have carried out any environmental and social due diligencefor such an important and risky operation outside Italy, as well as for a quite significant amount. Hence the order to deliver the required documentation within 30 days, immediately providing for the appointment of an ad acta commissionerin the event of CDP’s continued inertia.

«At a crucial time when Total and the government of Mozambique are considering restarting the project, heedless of the persistent serious human rights violations taking place in the region and the future climate and environmental impacts of the project, it is crucial that ReCommon, its Mozambican partners and Italian citizens are aware of what risk assessment CDP has carried out for this controversial project», comments ReCommon. «This is an important warning for CDP and all other public and private financial institutions, including SACE, Intesa Sanpaolo and UniCredit, which could consider financing a project that is equally controversial because of its impacts on the climate, the environment and the lives of people in the area and the whole Mozambique: Eni and Exxon’s Rovuma LNG», the association concludes.

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