Pre-Sona Comment: ”Stop Killing Our Oceans, Mr. President!” – Civil Society, Small-Scale Fishers

Environmental justice organisation the Green Connection says that not only will this year’s State of the Nation Address (SONA) be like no other since 1994, as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, but in the face of the intensifying climate crisis, it has to be. The organisation says that this SONA must seek to stop the ongoing pursuit of oil and gas projects and the killing of the ocean, and along with it, the livelihoods of the fishing communities living along the coast.

Green Connection’s Liziwe McDaid says, “Countries around the world are increasingly committing to being ‘carbon neutral’ and ‘net zero’. With this structural shift away from fossil fuels like methane gas, oil and coal, we would like to hear President Ramaphosa set the course for a much stronger commitment to direct South Africa’s climate action plan. We want a clear commitment toward achieving our carbon goals, according to the Paris Agreement. As the global energy space is changing, the President and Cabinet should affirm, in their policy decisions and through their actions that they will leave fossil fuels under the land and sea, and in the past, where they belong.”

The Green Connection and Masifundise hold a ‘funeral’ that is symbolic of the ongoing killing of our oceans and also the livelihoods of coastal communities, as a result of oil and gas drilling.

“As we wait to hear what priorities the president has set for the country at the SONA, we hope to see greater government support for renewable energy. International Energy Agency (IEA) indicated that methane emissions from the oil and gas sector were still at dangerously high levels, and since methane is estimated to be 84 more potent than carbon dioxide, over a 20-year period, we need government to also consider this. As with the post-CoVid economic recovery, the transition to a low-carbon future will come with its own challenges and risks, so it is important that we look at what we are doing now and how it will affect us in the future,” says McDaid.

She adds, “The government has the ability and means to demonstrate that, through renewable energy, we can stimulate local economic growth and decrease unemployment rates. We have an electricity plan. Now we need an updated energy plan which would include assessing whether we need additional oil and gas and where it should come from. But this policy should not be determined by vested interests. For this reason, an important commitment we want to hear from President Ramaphosa is a hard timeline for the updated Integrated Energy Plan (IEP). This IEP must be one that allows meaningful consultation by all who are interested and affected.”

Community Coordinator Neville van Rooy says he calls on President Ramaphosa to stop the killing of our oceans through oil and gas drilling

The Green Connection’s #WhoStoleOurOceans campaign is geared at empowering fishing communities to be more actively involved in the local and national decisions that affect them.  

Masifundise, an NGO that works to empower small-scale fishing communities, adds that small-scale fishers depend on the health of the oceans and marine resources for their livelihoods, but the SA state has been prioritising short-term gains on GDP through advancing ocean mining and oil and gas drilling, while sacrificing long-term livelihoods and food security for small-scale fishing communities and beyond.

The Green Connection’s Community Outreach Coordinator Neville van Rooy says, “Fossil fuel extractive activities are often touted as great development opportunities but in reality, very rarely reduce poverty. The resource curse – as it is known – has negative economic, social, political and environmental impacts and is the worst kind of game changer. If oil and gas exploration continue off the Southern African coast, we expect to see all of these negative impacts.”

The Green Connection and Masifundise hold a ‘funeral’ that is symbolic of the ongoing killing of our oceans and also the livelihoods of coastal communities, as a result of oil and gas drilling.

“Offshore oil and gas will also impact negatively on other economic sectors – including fishing, tourism and the property market. Jobs, food security and livelihoods along the SA coastline will also be affected. Experience tells us that local municipalities will be under greater strain, with worse outcomes for residents of towns along the coast, if there is a ‘boomtown’ phenomenon with new projects,” says van Rooy.

“We have the ability to mitigate the climate crisis, but projects like Operation Phakisa are not helping our cause, and must be revisited. The ongoing drive to drill-up the fossil fuels in our oceans must be halted. As the country focuses on recovering from the impacts of CoVid, there is an equal urgency to include real socio-economic solutions on the agenda, which also proactively address the climate crisis,” he concludes.

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