COP27 Briefing: Time To Face Facts, There’s No More Room For Offshore Oil And Gas
Much like the climate, frustration about the lack of tangible action from COP27 is heating up. In its
first “Lunchtime Briefing” (held on 9 November) to unpack its opposition of offshore oil and gas –
fossil fuels with carbon and methane emissions that contribute to global warming and climate change – The Green Connection and partners explained how oil and gas exploration also risks harm to marine species and functioning ecosystems, which in turn affects the wellbeing of coastal communities and small-scale fishers by putting their livelihoods and food security at risk. The Green Connection believes that pursuing these fossil fuels does little to address South Africa’s economic crisis, and much less, the energy crisis, and proposes an alternate ‘vision’ for the future of the country’s energy and economic landscape.
The Green Connection’s Strategic Lead Liziwe McDaid says, “The Green Connection is not only focused on ensuring lawful and procedurally fair decision making in oil and gas projects like Searcher, Azinam, Total, and Karpowerships. Our environmental justice organisation is also concerned with empowering those communities who are affected by these projects but who are feeling voiceless or who want the opportunity to understand what these projects might entail, so that they can raise their voices to give informed input. The way we stopped apartheid was from the ground up and this is also the way we will stop the “blue apartheid”. One of our organisation’s main goals is to help South Africans better understand the issues – in energy, climate, the environment, and socioeconomic justice – to encourage more civil society participation, which would hopefully result in better decisions, which have been made with the greater public interest in mind.”
According to McDaid, “What is difficult to reconcile, however, is that there is this urgent need for
decisive action to address the climate crisis – which means moving away from fossil fuels – while at
the same time, there are several offshore oil and gas projects underway, with more still being proposed. And when it comes to gas (especially), the emission of methane is 85 times more harmful than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas, over a 20-year period. Oil and gas should not be part of a just transition, alternatives are available, and we do not have to drill our oceans. We know that this is more about making money, rather than benefiting local communities.
She adds that since energy use and generation has such a significant impact on the climate, it only
makes sense to develop a proper integrated energy plan (IEP), which considers both mitigation and adaptation to the crisis. It is for this reason that The Green Connection has written to President Cyril Ramaphosa calling on him to bring section 6 of the National Energy Act (NEA) into operation, and is preparing to go to court should he fail to do so. Once brought into operation, s6 of NEA will require the Minister of Energy to develop an inclusive IEP with public consultation, and to review the plan annually. The organisation says that the link between the energy crisis and the country’s ongoing lack of an energy plan cannot be ignored. South Africa needs stable and affordable energy into the future and for that the country needs an IEP.
The Green Connection’s Advocacy Officer Kholwani Simelane says, “The IEP is a roadmap for South Africa’s future energy landscape. It should guide energy infrastructure investments and policy development, using consumption trends within different sectors of the economy – including agriculture, commerce, industry, residential and transport. Since energy is the lifeblood of the economy, which impacts on all sectors as well as individual livelihoods, integrated energy planning is necessary to ensure that current and future energy needs can be met in the most environmentally sustainable, cost effective, efficient, and socially beneficial ways. It should also take into climate change into account.”
Simelane says, “Not having a plan, results in haphazard energy decisions which can negatively affect the economy and further disadvantage communities. The IEP, if done properly, would enable a sustainable, bottom-up way of looking at energy development.”
McDaid also mentioned The Green Connection’s partnership with French NGO Bloom, which calls
out Total, as one of the companies that profit from offshore oil and gas exploration and production – COP27 revealed that oil companies’ profits are up 131%. Together the two eco-justice organisations are raising the moral perspective that companies, like the French-based Total, should actually use their profits for the just transition, instead of further drilling for oil and gas, which is only making climate change worse.
She says, “It cannot be right that oil companies are making billions of dollars in profits, despite the
cost to the climate crisis. The right thing for these companies to do would be to compensate countries like Pakistan, which suffered massive economic damage due to floods. South Africa is in a similar situation. The government will have to spend money – which could have been used on other necessary services for citizens – to address the flood and other damages that result from climate change.”
Energy expert Hilton Trollip spoke about the issues with Karpowerships’ proposed gas-to-power ships, sharing findings from his in-depth governance analysis. He says, “I did a deep technoeconomic analysis into Karpowerships, and every bit of that analysis shows that we would get incredibly bad value for money. We do not need this technology because, in essence, we would be paying a lot more for electricity that we could get cheaper, if generated in a different way. Karpowership has no rational role in South Africa’s energy transition, and if it succeeds, South Africa will add huge additional costs to the electricity consumer. There are also massive risks in gas prices increasing. If Karpowerships go ahead, in addition to the environmental and other damage it may cause, they will impose huge unnecessary financial costs and risks on the South African public, in addition to thoroughly undermining the transparent, democratic, and rational aspects of our governance system.”
Trollip says, “There are plenty other, much better technical alternatives available, specifically
renewable energy, that are better than Karpower. The energy used for Karpowerships is incredibly expensive, and the draft power purchase agreement has not been made public. There is concern that Eskom may be required to sign a contract that includes “take or pay” or similar provisions that will oblige it to pay for a fixed minimum amount of electricity over the 20-year contract price even if it is not needed. This is one of the biggest risks to this contract. We would like to see that power purchase agreement – would we get good value for money?”
According to The Green Connection’s Community Outreach Coordinator Neville van Rooy, “We
believe that it is unfair and unjust for oil and gas companies to come and interrupt our local economies. Communities are opposing the oil and gas industries when there are so many sustainable alternatives to development. The government appears to be in climate denial because they say they are serious about taking action to address climate change, while at the same time they are promoting and supporting more fossil fuel-intensive activities? These activities threaten the rights of small-scale fishers to food security and can undermine existing and future sustainable local economies. And since we see no visible steps toward exiting this destructive pathway littered with fossil fuels, this tells me that our government appears not serious about climate change.”
Small-scale fisher from Steenberg Cove Christian Adams says, “As small-scale fishers, we say to our
government, to Total and Shell, “Stop oil and gas exploration at the expense of our people.” We fear is that we will end up in the same situation as those small-scale fishers and coastal communities in Port Harcourt Nigeria, where the fishers are still feeling the effects from the gas pipelines.”
To round off the briefing, The Green Connection’s Economic Researcher Gillian Hamilton introduced the Koeksister Project – an experimental, alternative economic initiative that seeks to build resilience, especially at the local level.
She says, “This is the direction we should be taking with our economy. When it comes to the
supposed gains from oil and gas, we must recognise that the oil and gas industry, as well as government, are giving false hope and making false promises to the people of South Africa. From a climate change perspective, South Africa must dramatically cut its extremely high emissions. To achieve this, what government should be doing is looking at how we can meet the needs of all our people, while operating within the ecological boundaries of the planet. And we all must acknowledge and recognise that our future will probably be dramatically different from our current reality. This is why it is critical that we plan, rather than wait to be taken by surprise. Immediate and collective action is our only solution.”
Media Pack Shared In Briefing
Click the link below to sign The Green Connection’s petition to stop offshore oil and gas, as part of
its Who Stole Our Oceans campaign – https://www.change.org/p/imagine-a-world-with-oiled-upbeaches-without-living-ocean-are-we-running-out-of-time/