Nationwide Picket: Activists Unite Against The Total Destruction Of The Ocean By Offshore Oil & Gas, Call For Acceleration Of Just Transition
Last week (7 December 2022), people – concerned citizens from Port Nolloth in Northern Cape to Saldanha and Cape Town to Knysna and Beaufort West in Western Cape, all the way to Gqeberha and Xolobeni Eastern Cape, Durban and Richards Bay in KZN and even inland in Johannesburg – came out to peacefully protest the Total Destruction of the ocean and to demand an end of the exploration and extraction of any new climate change-escalating fossil fuel projects. Demonstrators around the country are raising the alarm and creating widespread public awareness that the government and the oil and gas industry are not taking the climate crisis seriously, as efforts to further explore for and extract offshore oil and gas are ramped-up.
“The world is in a climate crisis, which means we should be making moves to (eventually, but steadily) cancel all fossil fuels, not discover more fossil fuel reserves and increase production – this contradicts the energy transition currently under way. We believe that all applications for new projects should be stopped and that companies like TotalEnergies should instead invest their huge profits to transition away from fossil fuels,” says The Green Connection’s Community Outreach Coordinator Neville van Rooy.
The picket forms part of civil society mobilising for a just energy transition and is The Green Connection’s collaboration with French NGO Bloom, which kicked-off in October 2022 is part of this mobilisation. The campaign OceanTotalDestruction calls out the French-based company, which continues to reap significant profits (up 131%) from offshore oil and gas exploration and production, at the expense of the climate and exposing healthy oceans and the dignity and livelihoods of those who depend on it at risk of a major oil spill.
“The climate crisis comes with a lot of uncertainty and, as a result, we must protect our precious natural resources from harm. The ocean not only helps us mitigate climate change but is also critical to food security for coastal communities, while sustaining the livelihoods of thousands of small-scale (subsistence) fishers. However, even though COP27 just ended a few of weeks ago, fossil fuel companies have already released a stream of oil and gas application documents for public comment (in South Africa), with TotalEnergies leading the charge,” says van Rooy.
He says that The Green Connection recently made no less than five (5) submissions on applications to either conduct offshore seismic surveys and/or for exploration and production activities, with TotalEnergies having an interest in most. Civil society is particularly concerned about the environmental authorisation applications by TotalEnergies SA to undertake exploration well drilling in the Deep Western Orange Basin License Block (off the West Coast of South Africa) and in License Block 5/6/7 (off the Southwestern Coast of South Africa), as well as an application for authorisation to undertake production drilling and related activities in License Block 11B/12B off Mossel Bay.
“With France supposedly being such a key player in global climate action efforts, it seems hypocritical that one of its largest companies are allowed to pursue extractive fossil fuel projects here in the Global South. But Total is not the only problem. We also have to contend with multiclient seismic survey companies like Searcher and TGS, as well as the contentious Karpowership gas -to- power projects planned for three South African ports. None of these are good for the climate or for the people,” says van Rooy.
The Green Connection’s Advocacy Officer Kholwani Simelane says, “We have to question, is there a link between South Africa not having an integrated energy plan (IEP) and the energy crises? Since energy is the lifeblood of the economy, impacting all sectors including individual livelihoods, integrated and inclusive energy planning is critical to ensure that current and future energy needs are met in the most environmentally sustainable, cost effective, efficient, and socially beneficial ways, while also taking climate change into account.”
“In the absence of a proper IEP, the Minister of Energy seems unwilling or unable to sustainably address the energy shifts demanded by climate change and load shedding , not to mention the deepening energy poverty in this country. In a letter to President Cyril Ramaphosa, The Green Connection highlighted that without an IEP as a roadmap to guide energy infrastructure investments and policy development, South Africa will take even longer to adapt to the climate reality we face, and it will make it that much harder to achieve a transition that is indeed just and equitable. Because, if done properly, the IEP would enable a sustainable, bottom-up way of looking at energy development,” adds Simelane.
In a memorandum, handed over to Total representative in Johannesburg, The Green Connection and other civil society groups – including Extinction Rebellion South Africa, Equal Education, V.E.J.A., FRACK FREE South Africa, Project90 By 2030, Bloom, Oceans Not Oil, 350Africa.org, Don’t Gas Africa, Care For Environment, Centre For Citizens Conserving Environment and Management, GREENLEAF Advocacy And Empowerment Centre – made four critical demands. They call on TotalEnergies to publicly announce that it will abandon all new hydrocarbon exploration and production projects being developed (and pursued) off the South African coast, and to divest the $3 billion to launch oil and gas operations in South Africa’s waters in areas of spectacular marine biodiversity, which could be at the expense of wildlife and especially the small-scale fishers’ livelihoods.
Couple this with the call to rapidly move away from fossil fuels and shift towards renewable energy and begin a process of financial compensation for the Loss and Damage sustained by South Africa’s communities affected by climate change, in partnership with South Africa’s Presidential Climate Commission.
Glen Tyler-Davies from 350africa.org says, “We are supporting The Green Connection’s protest action against Total because climate change requires urgent action. We need a just transition that moves away from the burning and exploration of new fossil fuels. The government needs to put its energy, money, time, and resources into funding a just transition to renewable energy, a just transition that includes communities”
Janet Solomon from The Oceans Not Oil Coalition says, “The Oceans Not Oil Coalition is signing because there are existential issues at play that cannot be easily undone. Total Energy’s footprint on South African oceans is enormous. We want Total energy and their higher greenhouse gas emissions and pollution intensive activities out of our seas”
Gabriel Klassen from Project 90by2030 says, “Is there really a need for continued fossil fuel exploration, with all the massive impacts it has on small-scale fishers and the environment? We need our government to recognise that climate change and its effects on the climate and people are real and that it’s time for us to invest in renewable energy alternatives, now.”
Government should be accountable to the people. That includes in its decisions about energy that impact our future health and wellbeing.
Comments from concerned and affected participants:
Fisherman from Port Nolloth Walter Steenkamp, “Oil and gas are bad for our people and oceans and have many negative effects on the livelihoods of fishers who depend on the ocean. We do not need oil and gas when there are other alternatives – Like wind, that will not harm the environment and people.”
Also from Port Nolloth, Jeff Van Neil says, “For the small-scale fisher who only knows the ocean as a source of their livelihood, oil and gas has a very negative impact. The government needs to really look into other alternatives and also consult the communities that would be most affected by oil and gas exploration.”
Solene Smith from Langebaan, “Karpowerships, Searcher, Total Energies, Shell and all those other oil and gas companies should leave South Africa alone. What will happen when there is a big oil spill or other negative impacts start affecting us?. Why not give us permits to fish, instead of giving permits to oil and gas companies to drill in our ocean?. We don’t need any of these Karpowerships and oil and gas near our oceans.”
Ntsindiso Nongcavu from Port St Johns, fisherman and small-scale fisher activist says, “I stand in solidarity with fishers from the Western Cape, Eastern Cape and KZN in opposing Karpowerships. We are entering into the festive season with heavy hearts because we depend on the ocean for our livelihoods and also to worship our ancestors, continuing with Karpowership will mean that our culture and way of life could be destroyed. We are dealing with a government that pays no mind to its people and prioritizes financial gain over people’s lives.”
Edwin Mumbere with Centre for Citizens Conserving Environment & Management (CECIC) says, “In this year’s second quarter Total energies profit margin was around $9.6 billion, which is enough to boost Africa’s clean energy potential. Africa is blessed with unique weather that provides favourable conditions for renewable energy. And not only are we calling out TotalEnergies for carrying on with these fossil fuel projects, but we are also urging financial institutions not to fuel the climate crisis by supporting these projects. Instead of banking on fossil fuels, focus should instead be on investing in renewable energy such as wind energy, solar among others for the sake of energy security, economic sustainability, the wellbeing of people of south Africa, and the protection of the environment.”
Support the movement and sign Ocean Total Destruction petition to stop TotalEnergies offshore oil and gas exploration.