ReCommon obtains access to information on projects guaranteed by SACE in the Russian Arctic

A few days ago, the Regional Administrative Court of Lazio issued a ruling, no.14773/2023, granting ReCommon’s appeal against SACE, thus obtaining access to the documents held by the public insurer on the environmental due diligence carried out for guarantees to fossil fuel projects in the Russian Arctic, to the Memorandum on Strategic Cooperation with the Russian company Novatek, signed in December 2018 in the presence of the then minister of Economic Development and Labour Luigi Di Maio and still in force, as well as to the record of meetings held between the parties since that date.

The ruling can be defined as historic, as it extends and clarifies both the concept of “environmental information” and the group of subjects entitled to access environmental information and to appeal against the public administration’s express or tacit denial of access. In fact, the College sanctioned that “environmental information” means not only data and documents placed in immediate correlation with the environment, but also any administrative activity that refers to it. An all-encompassing view therefore, such as to include any information that may have, directly or otherwise, an impact on the environment and on decision-making processes concerning its protection. Secondly, as already established in judgement 6272/2022 – which also concerned ReCommon and access to SACE’s environmental and social due diligence for Eni and Saipem’s projects in Mozambique, the Court reiterated that one does not necessarily have to be the holder of a legally protected situation connected to the document for which access is requested, the mere indication of the information requested being sufficient. This is a sign that ruling no.6272 is already becoming case law.

In November 2021, Intesa Sanpaolo and Cassa Cassa Depositi e Prestiti (CDP) provided a SACE-guaranteed loan of USD 560 million for the construction of Arctic LNG-2, a gas mega-project led by Novatek, located in one of the most at-risk areas of the Russian Arctic. In March 2022, following the invasion of Ukraine by the Russian Federation and the entry into force of sanctions launched by the European Union against the Kremlin, Intesa Sanpaolo and CDP froze the loan. According to what IlFattoQuotidiano reconstructed in April 2023, the Arctic LNG-2 loan seems to have been definitively put on hold, although officially still “suspended” and not completely cancelled. SACE, which was supposed to guarantee the financing, confirmed to the Italian newspaper that the loan guarantee is “still in place, but financing is suspended as a result of the sanctions”.

While the risks associated with oil&gasproduction are common to all latitudes, in the Arctic region they increase exponentially: extreme conditions only increase the possibility of spills and accidents, threatening already fragile ecosystems. Add to this the increasingly rapid thawing of permafrost and, on the marine side, that of methane deposits, which risk releasing huge quantities of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. It is also important to mention that oil&gas also represent the ATM of the Russian war effort in Ukraine.

«The time has come for SACE to clarify whether or not the relationship with Novatek and its fossil fuel projects in the Russian Arctic is closed for good», comments Simone Ogno of ReCommon. «SACE would also have the opportunity to distinguish itself and implement transparent procedures, allowing anyone to assess its environmental and social due diligence when approached by multinationals or private financial institutions for the issuance of a guarantee», the campaigner adds.

Between 2016 and 2022, SACE granted the remarkable figure of €15.1 billion in loan guarantees for oil and gas projects, ranking first among public lenders of fossil fuels in Europe and sixth globally. Added to this is the betrayal of the so-called “Glasgow Declaration”, which committed the Italian government and SACE to stop public financing of international fossil fuel projects by 31 December 2022.

«We do hope that this umpteenth ruling of the Administrative Court will show SACE a way out of fossil fuels, also favouring the implementation of the ruling with the disclosure of the documents requested by ReCommon», concludes Ogno.

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