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CIVIL SOCIETY CALLS FOR PUBLIC HEARINGS ON KARPOWERSHIPS

On Tuesday 20 April, the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE) will brief Parliament’s Portfolio Committee for Minerals and Energy to evaluate its proposed bids on the Risk Mitigation Independent Power Producers (RMIPPP), specifically the choice of Karpowerships. The Green Connection has been very vocal, adding its voice to the public outcry, amid concerns about the choice of emergency power, which will see South Africa tied to fossil fuels for another 20 years. The DMRE has proposed Gas to Power Powership Projects at the Port of Ngqura Eastern Cape and in Saldanha Bay Western Cape and in Richards Bay

“What is most troubling about tomorrow’s proceedings is that the briefing will be held only with a DMRE. This means that interested and affected parties will not be allowed to make presentations that would demonstrate how these proposals threaten their livelihoods. The Green Connection is on record as being against government’s choice of Karpowerships, for many reasons, which includes negative implications on various aspects, ranging from the environment to socio-economic impact, to tax and local content exemptions,” says the Green Connection’s Strategic Lead Liz McDaid. “Furthermore, its application processes have not involved input by the people of South Africa, particularly disadvantaged communities who will be most affected in the event of an environmental disaster.”

The Green Connection – an environmental justice organisation that works with small-scale fishers and coastal communities around the country, to promote the protection of our oceans, especially from oil and gas drilling – along with its partners, have sent a letter to the Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee Minerals and Energy calling for public hearings on the matter.

Several other organisations and institutions have added echoed the Green Connections’ call:

Masifundise, an NGO that works to empower small-scale fishing communities, adds: “South Africa’s advancement of the blue economy, especially oil and gas, undermines climate justice, the just energy transition, as well as the livelihoods and rights of small-scale fishing communities who rely on the ocean and ocean resources for food and income. These communities have not been consulted in decision-making processes around projects that will impact on their electricity prices and ability to secure food and nutrition. Renewable energy is the way forward for people and the environment.”

350Africa.org’s South African Team Leader Glen Tyler-Davies says, “Fossil fuels are increasingly seen as stranded assets globally. Renewable energy allows us to bring power online quickly, affordably and without the damage to people and the environment inherent in projects like these powerships. There cannot be climate justice without our parliament hearing from people who will be impacted and affected by this decision.”

Avena Jacklin from groundWork says, “We cannot afford to lock in gas through skewed power procurement procedures for the next 20 years. It will increase our electricity tariffs and move us away from the Presidential commitment to a just transition and a low carbon economy. The solution is to move to renewable energy and storage as fast as possible which will ensure clean, affordable and accessible energy for all.”

According to the South Durban Community Environmental Alliance (SDCEA), “The idea of introducing Karpowerships to solve our electricity crisis is reckless and unethical. If Karpowership is a short term solution then why is it going to run for 20 years?, there is absolutely no transparency about this deal.The only solution for our electricity crisis is socially owned renewable energy through a Just Transition.”

Nicole Loser from the Centre for Environmental Rights (CER) says, “South Africa’s electricity plans must be aligned with the Constitution – decisions to lock SA into harmful and expensive fossil fuel electricity capacity, to the exclusion of clean alternatives, is not in the public interest or aligned with SA’s Constitution – primarily it prejudices the right to an environment not harmful to health and wellbeing and to have the environment protected for the benefit of present and future generations.”

Carmelita Mostert from the Saldanha fishing community says, “We want government and Parliament to come to our fishing communities around the country to explain to us what the plans are and how we could be affected. There is an urgent need for the recognition of our fishing communities and our customary rights because as it stands, it seems like we do not matter to government. We also urgently need transformation of the sector, to ensure that our livelihoods are also considered. We are waiting for you (government) to come to us.”

McDaid says that, along with its NGO and affected community partners, Parliament is requested to hold public hearings into government’s choice of Karpowerships and other non-renewable energy sources. “We do not believe that Parliament can be fully informed if it only receives a briefing from DMRE. The Portfolio Committee, as the people’s representatives, must hear from the people who will have to live with these floating kettles. We therefore call on the Committee to take into account the people’s views in their oversight role of holding the executive accountable.”

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