Mantashe’s Gas Argument, Some Fishy-Smelling Hot Air – The Green Connection & Coastal Communities

In the wake of his speech this week, the Green Connection voices its dissatisfaction with Minister Gwede Mantashe’s energy budget, which continues to place too much emphasis on oil and gas – neither of which are valid transition fuels that reduce the country’s carbon emissions. Not only does the use of gas threaten to derail South Africa’s efforts to meet its conditions of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, but it is also a major threat to the environment and wellbeing of citizens.

The Green Connection’s Community Outreach Coordinator Neville van Rooy says, “The International Energy Agency (IEA) recognises this hazard. Today, the IEA set out its net-zero emissions pathway. In addition, a month ago, the Green Connection also released a startling research report on the effects of methane gas (CH4) emissions on the environment. Methane is the second largest cause of global warming and according to our geologist, while it gets less attention than carbon dioxide (CO2), as a greenhouse gas (GHG), methane makes up the greatest portion of natural gas (also called fossil gas). Therefore, reducing methane emissions will be critical if we hope to avoid the worst effects of climate change.”

“So, the big question is, especially for South Africans living in our coastal communities and others who will be negatively affected, why is Minister Mantashe determined to go backwards into a fossil fuel past, rather than catapult us into a socially-inclusive renewable energy future? From our perspective, the Minister is ignoring lessons from the past and, therefore, holding the country back, sabotaging the futures of younger citizens who still have their whole lives ahead of them,” he adds.

He says that the 2019 Integrated Resource Plan (IRP2019) – South Africa’s energy roadmap – earmarks 13600MW of renewable energy, by 2027. Why is Minister Mantashe doing less renewables but determined to do 3000MW of gas, which will set us back from our climate goals? Not only should the Minister be compelled by evidence-based data, but he should also be motivated by common sense and the desire to do what is in the greater public interest. The Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE) should rather push for more renewables, in conjunction with research for renewables innovation and development, rather than in oil and gas.

“Our stance on this issue is clear. We do not want oil and we do not want gas. What we do want is for our government to wake up to the reality of the climate crisis and rather promote a clear path toward a net-zero future that is carbon free. We remain very concerned about our government – all the way up to President Ramaphosa – preaching commitment to climate change but who do the complete opposite. The oil and gas development rush around our coast is neither democratic nor inclusive. Those communities who will be affected are all but completely ignored. Their rights to be involved in the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) are totally violated. Do not even talk about the risks to their livelihoods nor the further trampling on their human rights.”

“What we find most frustrating, is this elderly Minister boasting about old school energy ‘prospects’, like gas discoveries, while ignoring calls from local communities for more sustainable solutions that not only protect their marine environment but also their livelihoods and their ability to put food on the table. We cannot keep going for dirty, polluting fossil fuels, while we face the intensifying climate crisis. The time has come for new solutions. New thinking.”

Natasha Jonas Power Town Informal Settlement Kleinbrak Mossel Bay says, “I want to address Minister Mantashe, who seems determined to pursue offshore drilling here in Mossel Bay, where fishing communities depend on a healthy, clean ocean. The situation on this part of the coast has already deteriorated dramatically because of MossGas’ operations. As a result, we fear how more oil and gas drilling will affect us – it has never been a benefit for us – and adding more drilling and more rigs, will only further disadvantage us.”

“What we do not understand why the Minister is so happy at the thought of ruining tens of thousands of fishers’ lives because what he is raving about will ultimately result in devastation for us. Already we have seen our marine environment change for the worse over the years. You cannot find all those different types of shells on the beach and there are now limited species of fish available. And more rigs will adversely affect our fish breeding grounds. What will happen when we have no more fish to catch? How will we put food on the table? For generations we have lived from the ocean, why does the Minister think that it is okay to ignore our rights?” adds Jonas.  

Environmental Justice Activist in the Karoo Warren Blaaw says, “While Minister Mantashe is celebrating the pockets of gas they have found here in the Karoo, I want to know is the community fully aware and well-informed about the negative impacts of this drilling? We especially want the Minister to know that the people in the central Karoo are clear on the matter. We do not want gas drilling, which will only harm our environment and threaten our already-at-risk water sources. What we want is a bigger investment in renewable energy. We do not want fracking. We want to keep our environment clean, so that our community and our animals can be healthy and live long, full lives. And, we also want to ensure that our kids and future descendants can also live here – in a clean place, that we will leave them.”

Has the Minister forgotten that we depend on our environment to live? We needclean air and clean water. Where is the evidence that our government is taking the just transition seriously? There will be no just transition if we keep choosing energy sources that destroy the very resources people depend on. Our oceans should be protected. There are lots of other technologies to invest in that will not doom future generations to the wasteland we are heading for if we continue with fossils. Why does government not invest in wave and ocean energy?” asks GC’s Strategic Lead Liziwe McDaid.


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