Who Stole Our Oceans Campaign Story

The Who Stole Our Oceans campaign is an environmental and social justice campaign launched by The Green Connection in 2020, in a bid to protect our oceans for future generations, with a particular emphasis on opposing offshore oil and gas exploration, is currently underway.

We have a long history of working with fishing communities to help them recognize and fight for their rights, we have worked with partner organizations on various projects, Masifundise to ensure fisheries are ecologically sensitive in their activities, and WWF project for responsible fisheries.

Map showing Offshore Oil and Gas Exploration in South Africa (map stems from Petroleum Agency South Africa)

2020

We as The Green Connection, have been active over time in a number of ecojustice struggles. A crucial consideration in South Africa’s just energy transition must be to ascertain what benefits new renewable energy projects have to address the legacies of the injustice of the past. We have engaged with communities on the ground to see how they were experiencing the benefits of the Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement (REIPPP). Sadly, the story is not a happy one

We work with other NGOs – South Durban Community Environmental Alliance (SDCEA), groundWork, Centre of Environmental Rights (CER), Organization Undoing Tax Abuse (OUTA), Southern African Faith Communities’ Environment Institute (SAFCEI), Eastern Cape Environmental Network(ECEN) – to raise concerns and participate in various campaigns opposing fossil fuels. 

Together, our objective is for decision-makers to realise that oil and gas should not be an option for South Africa & to demand a just transition plan. Our studies reveal that the economics of oil and gas is not going to swing in South Africa’s favour, and that the methane emissions from twenty years or more of oil and gas exploration are not a climate-friendly solution.

Figure 1. Estimate of methane leakage rates in literature, with both bottom-up and top-down approaches. (from Scholes et al (2016).27)

Over the last two years, COVID-19 was not only a health impact for civil society, but it also curtailed and restricted our constitutional rights to participate in democracy. And in this way, the voices of reason against oil and gas exploration are not being heard. We are determined to make sure that those affected have a say in the future of the country. We believe that the government is not doing enough. The timeline of events has been provided from the submission of comments to the Department of Mineral Resource & Energy (DMRE) to halt offshore oil and gas drilling to formal complaints written about karpowerships in Saldanha made by The Green Connection.

Pushback on Flawed EIAs:

The EIA application sought authorisation to conduct an exploration drilling programme (up to six deepwater wells) in Block ER236, offshore of the East Coast of South Africa.

SDCEA with the support of the Green Connection has taken the government to court to challenge the appeal decision of Minister of Environment, Hon. Barbara Creecy, who ruled that the drilling could go ahead.  The appeal by civil society groups, against the initial approval, was rejected by the minister, giving the project the go-ahead. Further information on the appeal see could be found on the SDCEA website.

Block 11B/12B (south-west portion) that is offshore South of Mossel Bay and Knysna (Cape South Coast). The EIA was approved and the permission was given during or about October 2020. See for example Luiperd Gas Hopes Total 2020.The oil rig drilling platform ship, the Deepsea Stavanger, arrived off Mossel Bay and proceeded to drill a new exploration well in the Luiperd prospect (near the previous Brulpadda exploration well and the ocean floor. In 2019 this exploration resulted in the Brulpadda gas discovery (previous attempts to drill an exploration well had been abandoned). The Green Connection protested and voiced their opposition in Mossel Bay.

Block 11B/12B in 2020 TEPSA applied for environmental authorisation to undertake additional exploration activities in this Block, east of the previously approved to drill the area (where the Brulpadda and subsequently the Luidperd exploration wells were drilled). Authorisation was being sought to drill a further ten exploration wells.

2021

In the lead-up to Social Justice and Environmental Health Awareness Month (February 2021), the Green Connection kicked-off its #WhoStoleOurOceans campaign for 2021, with the NGO’s Community Outreach Coordinator Neville van Rooy hosting this year’s first community workshop in Port St John’s

1 February 2021, the Environmental Assessment Practitioners (EAP) responsible for the Scoping Report and Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) notified all interested and affected parties that they are withdrawing Assegai’s application for Environmental Authorisation (EA) for a proposed power project in Saldanha, on the West Coast. This comes as great news for local fishing communities, many of whom, according to the Green Connection’s Neville van Rooy were not even aware that the project was being proposed for their region.

#SONA2021 Following President Ramaphosa’s State of the Nation Address (SONA), environmental justice organisation the Green Connection says that, while there was no explicit talk of destructive extractive oil and gas industries to drive the blue economy, there was no acknowledgement of ocean protection, or sustaining the livelihoods of the many small-scale fishing communities living along the coast of South Africa.

South African fishing communities celebrated a big win after efforts by fishers in Saldanha on the West Coast, in recent months – who demanded to be recognised as participants in the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) process for a gas-to-power plant proposed for the area – rippled a positive outcome for fishers in the Eastern Cape.

“The SONA is supposed to be about the direction the country will take for the next year, and this should be for the benefit of all South Africans. So much irreversible damage has already been done to the country as a result of extractive activities and we fear that South Africa will reach a point of no return if government continues to ignore the science and the facts by insisting the country pursues even more destructive extractives, like oil and gas.”
Liz McDaid

On 7 April 2021, the Green Connection’s attorneys wrote to the EIA consultants pointing out that the time period for submitting an EIA report had expired, and that in terms of the EIA Regulations the competent authority will deem the application as having lapsed. On 15 April 2021 TEPSA issued a letter confirming that the EIA application had been postponed/withdrawn.

The Green Connection (April 2021) launched its research findings on the socio-economic impact of off-shore oil and gas activities on South Africa. According to the environmental justice organisation, the overall findings are that these activities are “unlikely to have positive benefits, either nationally or locally.”

In the wake of government’s indication that it intends to adopt gas as a transition fuel to get to renewable energy sources, the Green Connection has released a damning, and eye-opening research report on the effects of methane gas (CH4) emissions – the second largest cause of global warming – on the environment

The Green Connection and its partners – small-scale subsistence fishers from around the country – have welcomed TOTAL E & P South Africa B.V’s (TEPSA) announcement today (13 April 2021) that it will postpone their application for additional drilling and associated activities in Block 11B/12B off South Africa’s south coast.

Civil society recently celebrated a win when SLR Consulting, on behalf of Total E&P South Africa (TEPSA), granted respondents a 30-day extension to comment on the Draft Scoping Report for further oil exploration and drilling in Block 11B/12B, along the country’s South coast.

The Green Connection’s Liziwe McDaid welcomes two recent developments in the energy sector that are seen as a massive boost to pro-climate activists. Yesterday (26 May 2021), it was reported that a Dutch court had ordered Royal Dutch Shell to dramatically slash its CO2 emissions in a landmark climate ruling, which stipulates that the oil company must slash its emissions by 45% by 2030 from 2019 levels.

On 31 May 2021, the Green Connection lodged a formal complaint with the Department of Forestry and Fisheries and Environmental Affairs regarding the Environmental Assessment Practitioners’ (EAP) failure to comply with Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) regulations pertaining to the EIA for the Proposed Gas to Power Powership Project at the Port of Saldanha Bay.

Block 1 Off the West Coast of South Africa –TOSACO has applied for environmental authorisation to conduct exploration activities in Block 1. It seeks to reprocess existing seismic data and to conduct a new 3D seismic survey in a specific area of the Block. The application does not seek environmental authorisation to drill any exploration wells at this stage (in which case TOSACO says it will either conduct a new EIA or apply for an amendment of any authorisation granted). The Green Connection submitted comments on the Draft Scoping Report on 29 April 2021 and subsequently submitted comments on the draft EIA report on 4 October 2021. We have raised legal, procedural, and substantive issues relating to the EIA relating to (among other things) no acoustic modeling having been conducted for the proposed 3D seismic survey, information gaps and scientific uncertainty relating to the marine ecosystem and potential impacts of the 3D seismic survey on marine fauna, as well as climate change concerns relating to future potential future exploration drilling, production and use of any fossil fuels discovered.

On 4th of July 2022, the Green Connection submitted comments on TEEPSA block 5/6/7 on the West Coast of South Africa. In our comments, we highlighted the risks of investing in more fossil fuel projects instead of transitioning to renewable energy with intensifying climate change issues.

At the moment in South Africa, there is little demand for gas. It is therefore unclear, given the climate crisis, why companies would want to come here to invest in oil and gas. The Green Connection would rather South Africa attracts investment from companies that could support a sustainable future through socially-just renewable energy projects.

Hundreds of people from fishing communities near Langebaan and Saldanha on the Cape’s West Coast took to Friday Island Beach on World Oceans Day (8 June), to “Say No to Karpowerships”.

“President Cyril Ramaphosa’s announcement today (10 June 2021) that he is opening up the energy sector for more players to come in and start generating power, is very welcome,” says Green Connection’s Liziwe McDaid. “We are particularly pleased that the President is looking at embedded generations, which means more stored solar power on the grid. This should mean that electricity prices will become more affordable,” she says.

On 24 June 2021, the Green Connection – along with other environmental justice groups and the coastal communities, celebrate an unexpected victory. 

Environmental justice organisation, South Durban Community Environmental Alliance (SDCEA), supported by Natural Justice and Green Connection, and represented by Cullinan & Associates, filed a review application in the Pretoria High Court challenging the decision of the Minister of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment, Barbara Creecy, to authorise Eni South Africa and Sasol to explore for oil and gas in Block 236 off the Kwa-Zulu Natal coast. 

On 16 August 2021, the Green Connection submitted its response to the appeal – by Karpowership SA, and others – against the decision by the Department of Forestry, Fisheries, and the Environment (DFFE) to refuse environmental authorisations for the floating power plants (FPPs). 

(19 August 2021), The Green Connection and others make their oral presentations at the National Energy Regulator of South Africa’s (Nersa) public hearings regarding the Karpowership SA electricity generation application.

On 21 August 2021, the Green Connection submitted comments on the Draft Scoping Report, including its view that the public participation procedure was flawed. The comments also focussed on issues of concern relating to the planned oil spill modeling, the absence of an oil spill and blow-out contingency plan, climate change implications, and several key environmental and socio-economic aspects that had not been identified in the Draft Scoping Report.

Following the announcement (09 September 2021) that DNG Energy’s request – to postpone court hearings into allegations of corruption in the Karpowerships project, to 30 November 2021 – has been accepted, The Green Connection believes that the Risk Mitigation Independent Power Producers Procurement Programme (RMIPPPP) has failed in its objective to get power onto the grid.

The Green Connection finds it totally unacceptable that the National Energy Regulator of South Africa has approved electricity generation licences for the Karpowership project, which has been mired in controversy since it was touted as a so-called emergency solution, more than a year ago. Nersa made the announcement (21 September).

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. 

The Green Connection’s (GC) first ever Oceans Tribunal – which took place on 21-22 September 2021 – was marked by heart-wrenching stories and presentations from small-scale fishers and other communities whose livelihoods are being destroyed by extractive industries. Part of its ‘Who Stole Our Oceans’ campaign, the Tribunal – attended by more than 200 people – aims to highlight the daily struggles of those communities whose voices are ignored by government, big business, and the oil and gas industry.

The Green Connection’s Strategic Lead Liziwe McDaid says, “What the Oceans Tribunal revealed, in no uncertain terms, was that South Africa’s small-scale fishers are under serious threat, driven by national ‘development’ agendas and international corporations.”

30 September 2021 was supposed to be the commercial close – a date set by the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE) – for bidders in the Risk Mitigation Independent Power Producers Procurement Programme (RMI4P). However, it appears (according to www.bloomberg.com) that this has now been extended to January 2022, a move The Green Connection says it was cynically expecting, since it has become fairly evident that Karpowerships are nowhere near ready – with all the legal requirements in place – to reach financial closure.

The Green Connection submitted its comments critiquing several aspects of the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) process, particularly the lack of procedural fairness, as well as the conclusions reached – notwithstanding information gaps and scientific uncertainty – that should form part Tosaco Energy’s request to undertake various activities in Block 1, off the West Coast.

(10 November 2021), we joined other environmental defenders in Cape Town to peacefully demonstrate outside the African Energy Week #AEW2021 conference venue demanding an end to fossil fuels and the immediate pivot toward the just transition to a renewable energy future.

With a mock funeral procession in the V&A Waterfont, The Green Connection’s Nandipha Masango says, “We are mourning the death of our oceans, as fossil fools continue investing in polluting, expensive and unreliable energy sources. While they say they are taking climate action, at the same time they are also the ones who are pushing climate change-inducing projects. It is time that the Department of Mineral Resources and Environment (DMRE) listens to the people and start investing, more intentionally, in real and sustainable solutions, for a better future and environment.”

On Sunday morning, (21 November 2021), before the crack of dawn, nearly 200 concerned environmental defenders took to the Waterfront to get a glimpse of Shell’s seismic testing vessel, Amazon Warrior, as it made its way into Cape Town harbour. The vessel travelled down the West coast of Africa, on its way to the Wild Coast, to conduct seismic surveys for an estimated five (5) months. The Green Connection’s Strategic Lead Liziwe McDaid says, “We were expecting a small contingent of about fifteen (15) or so people to show up to protest against this ship, commissioned by Shell to conduct seismic testing off the Wild Coast, but these numbers, this early on a precious Sunday morning, demonstrates that people are adamant that they want change.”

As the groundswell of opposition against Shell’s upcoming 3D seismic survey off the Transkei builds, the Green Connection – an ecojustice NGO that supports small-scale fishers in advocating for their livelihoods – reacted with astonishment to a press statement issued by the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE) on 9 December 2021.

On 14 December 2021, in the run-up to the court hearings in the second interdict (heard on 17 December) brought against Shell to stop its planned seismic survey off the Wild Coast, communities responded in strength and unity to Minister Mantashe’s disparaging statements regarding the overwhelming public pushback. Green Connection Legacy graduate Ntsindiso Nongcavu from Port St John’s says, “We categorically reject Minister Mantashe’s attempt to divide the powerful opposition, which continues to build, against mining oil and gas in our oceans.”

A month after the successful court action that stopped Shell’s attempts at seismic surveys on the Wild Coast, in its search for oil and gas in South Africa’s oceans, small-scale fishers – with the support of The Green Connection – head back to court, this time to protect the West Coast.

Since late-November 2021, following the overwhelming public outcry against Shell’s planned seismic surveys on the precious Wild Coast – still an unrealised dream holiday destination on many a local’s bucket list – South Africans have awoken to the fact that government intends to search for and extract any remaining oil and gas reserves, which comes at the cost of the livelihoods of those who depend on the ocean, and the land. This week, the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE) hosts a series of public hearings in various provinces on the Gas Amendment Bill – which aims to “address loopholes, omissions and other challenges experienced in the process of implementing and enforcing the Act” – and small-scale fishers and farmers, around the country, have come out to voice their opposition.

2022

It has surfaced that Minister Gwede Mantashe held a meeting with traditional leaders on (3 February 2022). Representatives of coastal communities and supporting civil society organizations who were gathered in Durban, condemn this non-transparent action.

(7 February), small-scale fishers from the West Coast – joined by The Green Connection – head to the Western Cape High Court, in a bid to stop the seismic blasting which likely commenced in the region in January 2022, in search for oil and gas reserves. The third court action of its kind in less than two months, the latest urgent interdict was initiated by small-scale fisher communities from Saldanha, Langebaan, Lamberts Bay, Port Nolloth and St. Helena Bay on the West Coast.

Small-scale fishers from the West Coast and beyond breathed a sigh of relief when the Honourable Justice Thulare directed Searcher to discontinue any activities related to the seismic survey. 

The interim interdict ordered Searcher to “discontinue any activities intended to give effect to or related to the seismic survey of the west and south-west coast of South Africa,” until the interim interdict has been argued on 7 March.

“The area that Searcher wants to continue blasting is a particularly rich and productive ecosystem. This part of the ocean plays an integral role in sustaining the livelihoods of small-scale fishers like me, who live along this part of the coast. Snoek and hake are very popular with local consumers and represent the mainstay of the income of fishers. Expert reports state that the behaviour of the snoek may be disrupted due to the seismic blasting, and it may also affect their feeding grounds and reproduction behaviours, which may affect the future survival of the fish.” Adams is a member of the South African Small-Scale Fishers Collective (SASSFC) and Fishers United.”
Christian Adams

On 24 February, small-scale fishers from communities in the West Coast – joined by The Green Connection – were back in court, to finally put a stop to Searcher’s seismic blasting of the west and south-west coast of South Africa. The Western Cape High Court heard arguments to decide if the ban – which took effect on 7 February when the Honourable Justice Thulare directed Searcher to discontinue any activities related to the seismic survey – will remain in place. The Green Connection’s Strategic Lead Liziwe McDaid says, “It really is beautiful to see the law in action, as we did today. Our advocate argued our case strongly, showing that communities were not meaningfully consulted. It was argued by our advocate that the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act had not been followed – since it requires environmental authorisation – and Searcher seemed unable to counter that in argument. The precautionary principle was highlighted, which requires that a risk-averse approach be followed.”

Human Rights Month kicked off with a fresh new meaning for the small-scale fishing and indigenous communities on the West Coast, when the Western Cape High Court ruled that the ban against Searcher’s seismic blasting would remain because small-scale fishing communities on the West Coast – who would undoubtedly be affected – were not consulted. And since there are several unknowns, in terms of the potential for irreparable harm, the court opted for the ‘precautionary approach’ option and sent Searcher packing

On Thursday 19 May, the same day that the minister of Mineral Resources and Energy laid out the department’s uninspiring budget for 2022/23, the National Energy Regulator of South Africa (Nersa) notified The Green Connection that it will oppose the NGO’s court application to review and set aside the decision to grant three electricity generation licenses to Karpowership SA

Just months after two separate High Courts granted interim urgent interdicts against two different seismic surveys off the East and West Coasts – both predominantly as a result of insufficient consultation with affected communities – Tosaco Energy received authorisation from the Department of Mineral Resources and Environment (DMRE) to proceed with seismic blasting in Block 1 (from Alexander Bay to Hondeklipbaai, off the West Coast of South Africa), despite communities’ calls for improved public consultation.

On Freedom Day, small-scale fishing communities in the West Coast and in Gqeberha held pickets to demonstrate their dissatisfaction with developments in the Karpowership saga, while fishers from Port St. John’s Eastern Cape demonstrated their love for the ocean with a clean-up. Small-scale fishers in the West Coast say they are frustrated at seeing the powership vessel in Saldanha
harbour because according to them, proper processes had not been followed. Many are dissatisfied with the “half-baked consultations” which did not include specialist studies about the potential consequences of the underwater noise that will be generated by the ships and the subsequent impacts on the environment and marine resources of Saldanha Bay.

On Monday (25 April), the Green Connection launched an application in the Gauteng High Court in Pretoria seeking to review and set aside the National Energy Regulator of South Africa’s (Nersa) decision to grant three electricity generation licenses to the Karpowership SA companies to operate powerships in the ports of Saldanha, Ngqura (Coega) and Richards Bay.

On Thursday 19 May, the same day that the minister of Mineral Resources and Energy laid out the department’s uninspiring budget for 2022/23, the National Energy Regulator of South Africa (Nersa) notified The Green Connection that it will oppose the NGO’s court application to review and set aside the decision to grant three electricity generation licenses to Karpowership SA.

Today 25 May #AfricaDay2022 in Cape Town, The Green Connection launched its public awareness and information sharing campaign – which is part of a bigger initiative, called Who Stole Our Oceans – in a bid to stop further government investment in fossil fuels, particularly offshore oil, and gas. 

In the run-up to highly contentious court hearings to stop Shell’s seismic surveys and any further bids to explore the Wild Coast for offshore oil and gas, communities in the Eastern Cape are speaking out against traditional leaders who, at the end of April, following secret meetings with Minister Gwede Mantashe (in February 2022), agreed to support oil and gas developments. However, the communities, who are applicants in the case, were not consulted.

With legal action in progress against the National Energy Regulator of South Africa (Nersa), Karpowerships SA and the Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy, The Green Connection says it is happy that no Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs) with the companies were signed, today (02 June 2022).

It has been two years since The Green Connection, under its Who Stole Our Oceans campaign, started working with coastal communities whose livelihoods are being threatened by offshore oil and gas projects. The initiative is focused on protecting the oceans, particularly through opposing offshore oil and gas.

Following President Ramaphosa’s Youth Day speech last week – which mostly focused on the unprecedented high unemployment rate and lack of opportunities – young small-scale fishers, along the coast, say they are concerned that government does not recognise their value as South Africans who are self-employed and trying to create sustainable livelihoods for themselves and their communities, from the ocean. 

According to The Green Connection’s Community Outreach Coordinator Neville van Rooy, “On the one hand, the President says that young people need entrepreneurship and employment opportunities. 

“Coastal communities have been taking initiative for generations, but we do not get the support we need to develop our ideas. And now, with coastal communities facing an onslaught of offshore oil and gas exploration proposals, which threaten our small businesses, we hope President Ramaphosa will do more to protect our right to meaningful public participation processes.”
Natalie-Jane van Wyk

The Green Connection says that Minister Gwede Mantashe’s excuses and blame shifting about the terrible state of Eskom and the country’s failing energy systems are unacceptable.  29 June 2022,  unscheduled Cabinet Meeting in Parliament, the eco-justice organisation says that citizens are right to blame the government since it has been in control of the state utility and the country’s energy decisions for the past 28 years, and it is clearly failing in these responsibilities. The NGO adds that it is disturbing that in three decades, the government has failed to develop and implement a proper energy plan for the country, which would ensure affordable and widespread energy access, would come online much sooner, and help adapt to climate change.

On 4th of July 2022, the Green Connection submitted comments on TEEPSA block 5/6/7 on the West Coast of South Africa. In our comments, we highlighted the risks of investing in more fossil fuel projects instead of transitioning to renewable energy with intensifying climate change issues.

At the moment in South Africa, there is little demand for gas. It is therefore unclear, given the climate crisis, why companies would want to come here to invest in oil and gas. The Green Connection would rather South Africa attracts investment from companies that could support a sustainable future through socially-just renewable energy projects.

With little more than seven (7) years till 2030 – by which time the world should have dramatically curbed its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, as part of a global effort to keep global warming below 1.5°C – The Green Connection says that it will continue to oppose government’s worrying offshore oil and gas aspirations.

The Green Connection handed over the verdict statement – as deliberated by an esteemed jury, at its Oceans Tribunal in September 2021 – to the Presidential Climate Change Commission. In the spirit of Ubuntu, civil society (coastal communities especially) want to ensure that they have a say in the just transition to renewable energy, which should include meaningful public participation on any proposed offshore oil and gas developments that could affect them and their environment, or which could exacerbate climate change and harm the ocean.

The Green Connection says the Minister of Environmental Affairs Barbara Creecy made the right decision to decline Karpowerships’ appeal application against its failure to get environmental authorisations to operate in Saldanha BayCoega and Richards Bay. The eco-justice organisation says that at least, in the midst of another rather depressing Women’s Month, the fisherwomen – who were legitimately concerned about the negative impacts these ships would have on the ocean – have been vindicated in their fight to protect their livelihoods.

Civil society organisations, activists and fishers have vowed to continue their struggle to persuade the government to stop offshore oil and gas exploration projects on the coasts of South Africa. Today, on the 15th of August, civil society organizations together with fisher communities, held a protest outside the harbour at Paarden Eiland. 

The wait is finally over for the Wild Coast communities and civil society when, on 1 September 2022, the Makhanda High court ruled that the decision to grant the exploration right is set aside, as well as the decision to grant the renewal of this right. The decision to grant a further, second renewal, has also been set aside for Shell. And while coastal communities and small-scale fishers celebrated this huge milestone victory, despite the good news, they know that there is still more work and advocacy that must be done to ensure that our oceans are protected for future generations.

As the Azinam/Eco Atlantic oil rig – which left the North Sea on 12 August – makes its way to South Africa to begin its exploration drilling for oil and gas on the West Coast, The Green Connection raises the alarm that no project-specific oil spill contingency plan (OSCP), has been made available to interested and affected parties. 

26 September 2022, small-scale fishers held a picket demonstration at Pepper Bay Saldanha. The group of about 50 fishers and supporting eco-justice and community-based organisations are opposing the (imminent) arrival of the Azinam oil rig, which is set to start offshore oil and gas exploration activities in the next days. 

Following a meeting with Petroleum Agency SA (PASA) on Thursday 29 September 2022, The Green Connection says it anticipates that it will receive the project-specific oil spill contingency plan (OSCP) by Wednesday 5 October 2022. The eco-justice organisation says, “In our view, such a plan should be in the hands of all interested and affected persons, before the drilling starts.”

In South Africa, the French oil & gas major ‘TotalEnergies’ is about to start yet another destructive project despite specific climate experts’ recommendations to steer clear from new fossil fuel investments. On 5 September 2022, TotalEnergies applied for a production license to exploit two major gas fields, with up to one billion barrels of oil equivalent, off the South African’s southern coast.

In November, COP27 sees world leaders and other important decision-makers meet to discuss global efforts to address the climate crisis. Recent press reports have revealed that the country is the world’s 13th biggest source of climate-warming greenhouse gases and has pledged to reduce these emissions to net zero by 2050. Yet, the government continues to promote offshore oil and gas exploitation. This begs the question – is the government committed to addressing climate change, or committed to exploiting fossil fuels? It can’t be both, and it has become glaringly obvious that it is up to the people of South Africa to intervene to put a complete stop to any future seismic survey operations.

With just days away from COP27 – where world leaders, including from South Africa, will discuss proposed global climate action commitments – The Green Connection says that without an integrated energy plan (IEP) that marks a clear pathway for decarbonisation in the energy sector, the country’s climate commitments will be nothing more than hot air. 

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.

COP27, the international climate action negotiations, ran from 6-18 November 2022 and yet, in that time, fossil fuel companies have released a stream of oil and gas application documents for public comment

(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. 

In the midst of the 16 Days of Activism campaign, small-scale fisherwomen from around the country not only have to deal with the gender-based violence issues that plague the women in the country, but they also have to fight to protect their livelihoods from the onslaught of proposed oil and gas projects. For nearly 2 years now (since around March 2021), small-scale fishers and coastal communities – threatened by the negative impacts of Karpowerships and other offshore oil and gas projects – have been publicly vocal about their opposition to these vessels mooring in their bays. The pushback from communities is largely the result of flawed Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) processes, from a lack of meaningful consultation with those who would be most affected to downplaying (or ignoring) adverse impacts on the ocean, and climate change.

Despite highlighting – through public protests and submissions during the EIA process – the several issues with Karpowerships, which has been controversial from the start, the project still seems to enjoy significant political support.

2023

The Green Connection and the Southern African Faith Communities’ Environment Institute (SAFCEI) have initiated a legal challenge (January 2023) against President Cyril Ramaphosa to force him to bring Section 6 of the National Energy Act into operation, and for the Minister to develop an Integrated Energy Plan (IEP) in terms of that Section.

The Goldman Prize winners have written to 78 banks, investors and insurers to demand they commit to stop supporting, either directly or indirectly, TotalEnergies’ expansion strategy in Africa, where the French company is developing a number of projects, including the East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP) in Uganda and Tanzania and the planned exploitation of Luiperd and Brulppada, two major offshore gas fields in South Africa.

The Green Connection and Natural Justice (3 February) made its submission on the scoping process of the Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) for the proposed offshore Block 11B/12B production right and environmental authorisation project for TotalEnergies EP South Africa (TEEPSA), as part of the public participation process. The organisations say the assessment has several shortcomings, which will affect the interests of the local and indigenous peoples and communities.

Following a recent court application (brought in January 2023 ahead of the President’s SONA speech) by The Green Connection and the Southern African Faith Communities’ Environment Institute (SAFCEI) – to review the President’s failure or refusal to bring Section 6 of National Energy Act, 2008 (NEA) into operation – both President Cyril Ramaphosa and Minister Gwede Mantashe have confirmed that they will oppose the legal challenge. Section 6 of the Act requires the Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy to develop and publish the Integrated Energy plan (IEP), and review it on an annual basis. 

The recent regulation 13 complaint against environmental consultants Triplo4 – submitted by The Green Connection (on 6 March) to the Department of Forestry, Fisheries, and Environment (DFFE) – exposes a failure to ensure compliance with the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Regulations regarding the Proposed Gas to Power Powership Project at the Port of Saldanha Bay.

The Green Connection welcomes the decision by the Department of Fisheries, Forestry, and Environment (DFFE) to refuse the environmental authorisation was refused for the project in Coega Eastern Cape. This announcement, issued (10 March) by DFFE, comes after the welcome news last week from DFFE to suspend the application for environmental authorisation for Karpowerships in Saldanha Bay, pending an investigation into allegations of a failure to ensure compliance with the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Regulations.

NEXT STEPS…Following the court application (launched in January 2023) by The Green Connection and the Southern African Faith Communities’ Environment Institute (SAFCEI), they have continued to pursue the court case calling on President Cyril Ramaphosa to bring Section 6 of National Energy Act, 2008 (NEA) into operation.

“South Africa should only choose the development options that provide the most benefit and causes the least damage, in both the short- and long-term. It is very confusing that government still puts so much faith in the development potential of oil and gas, even with compelling evidence to the contrary and while knowing that its extraction and use will worsen the climate crises. Our government even seems to ignore the plea from its citizens who fear that small-scale fishing and ecotourism livelihoods, as well as their cultural practices, may be at risk. We believe that far more people are able to make a sustainable living from a healthy ocean than could ever be achieved from any drilling project.”
Neville Van Rooy

The Green Connection says it is disappointed that the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE) has decided to grant environmental authorisation to TEEPSA – to drill up to five exploration wells in Blocks 5/6/7 off the South-West coast of South Africa, including in riskier deep-water locations (at depths of up to 3.2 km). “It is always disappointing when government appears to choose profits over the needs of the people, while also ignoring government responsibility to address climate change (at the very least, not to do things that will make it worse). We also see it as irresponsible for the department to downplay the risks associated with a major oil spill, which we highlighted in our comments on the Draft Scoping Report as this could have devastating consequences for ocean and coastal ecosystems, coastal communities and the Cape,” says the eco-justice organisation. The Green Connection will study and likely appeal the decision.

On 28 April 2023, the President finally published, in the Government Gazette, his decision to bring Section 6 of the National Energy Act (NEA), into operation. A couple of days before that The Green Connection and the Southern African Faith Communities Environment Institute (SAFCEI) received correspondence from the State Attorney on behalf of the President and the Minister in the
Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE), that the President had decided to bring Section 6 into operation with effect from 1 April 2024.

While it is clear that South Africa is making little headway to resolve the electricity loadshedding crisis – which is where citizens want to see government putting its efforts and delivering results – there is, instead, a lot of movement on other energy projects, particularly for offshore oil and gas. 

South Africans are reaching their breaking point with loadshedding and suffering its increasingly devastating impacts, leaving many wondering why there is such strong opposition to Karpowerships, especially since it is being touted as the silver bullet the country needs to solve the crisis.

With so many unanswered questions and unfulfilled requirements, The Green Connection is satisfied that the Department of Forestry, Fisheries, and the Environment (DFFE) decision to refuse Karpowership SA’s request for condonation and extension with regard to its application for Environmental Authorisation for the project in Saldanha Bay.

As an eco-justice organisation that works with coastal communities to help them better protect the natural resources they depend on – as part of its Who Stole Our Oceans campaign – for The Green Connection and the small-scale fishers working with them, every day is Oceans Day. 

Karpowership SA’s controversial gas-to-power powership projects proposed for the ports of Saldanha and Ngqura suffered further setbacks recently. After being refused environmental authorisation in 2021, Karpowership appealed to environmental Minister Barbara Creecy. The Minister decided to remit the matters back to the Department of Forestry, Fisheries (DFFE) so that various gaps and defects could be addressed by Karpowership

In its comments (submitted 31 July) on the SA Renewable Energy Masterplan (SAREM), The Green Connection highlights concerns that the plan merely focuses on renewable electricity and associated storage but lacks a vision for the wider renewable energy sector. According to the eco-justice organisation, it is unclear how the SAREM fits within the energy road map, blaming the absence of an Integrated Energy Plan (IEP) as one of the reasons behind the limited consideration of South Africa’s long-term energy goals, particularly in terms of energy poverty and household-level energy security.

The Green Connection submitted a replying affidavit to KarpowershipSA companies and National Energy Regulator of South Africa (NERSA) opposing affidavits in The Green Connection’s application to compel the full record of decision. The case against NERSA to challenge its decision to grant three electricity generation licenses to the KarpowershipSA companies to operate powerships in the ports of Saldanha, Ngqura (Coega) and Richards Bay is still pending. This court case was initiated in April 2022.

The Green Connection and Natural Justice are challenging the decision of Minister of the Forestry, Fisheries and Environment (DFFE), Barbara Creecy, to allow Karpowership to submit a Generic Environmental Management Programme (GEMPr) for Saldanha Bay.

The news that Karpowership has cut off electricity supply to Freetown, the capital of Sierra Leone, seemingly due to unpaid bills, should be a warning to citizens of what could happen if South Africa resolved to go with Karpower to address the energy crisis. This is according to The Green Connection, one of the eco-justice organisations that has been opposing the Turkish-owned company’s bid to secure expensive 20-year contracts for its powerships, here in South Africa.

The Green Connection continues to voice its disappointment over the South African government’s ongoing support for Karpowerships, as well as its concerns over the environmental impact assessment (EIA) processes being undertaken. This comes as media reports that the Minister in the Department of Forestry, Fisheries, and Environment (DFFE) is “demanding” proof of expertise regarding Karpowerships’ gas explosion risk report in the Karpowership Coega (Ngqura) EIA appeal process.

Friday 3 November, outside Parliament, South African eco-justice activists join the global movement Power Up for Climate Solutions to kick off a month (from November 3 to December 9) of environmental and climate action in the lead up to COP28. 

(17 November 2023) The Green Connection and Natural Justice – with support from affected small-scale fishers – have been very busy making submissions to highlight, once again, all the reasons to reject two separate offshore oil and gas applications made by TotalEnergies.

In a letter to President Ramaphosa, the country’s five (5) Goldman Environmental Prize winners – Liziwe McDaid and Makoma Lekalakala (2018), Desmond D’Sa (2014), Jonathan Deal (2013), and Bobby Peek (1998) call on government to immediately withdraw the National Petroleum Company Bill, in addition to stopping all oil and gas exploration off South Africa’s coastline.

South Africa: On 9 December, people across the country united in local actions against oil and gas exploration and drilling off South Africa’s coastline. Multinational corporations – including Shell, QatarEnergy, Total Energies and contractors such as CGG and Searcher Seismic – are amongst the focal points of this latest public outrage.

Green Connection has submitted appeals on CGG Seismic Survey 2.0 and Karpowership Saldanha Bay in the hopes that Department of Forestry and Fisheries and Environmental Affairs Minister Creecy will stand up for the environment and the people who depend on the coasts for their livelihoods. 

2024

The Green Connection is appalled by the actions of government and PetroSA, following a recent media report that Equator Holdings has been appointed to fund and rebuild critical gas infrastructure.

(08 February) While it was good to hear President Ramaphosa acknowledge the “disastrous” impact of the many extreme weather events affecting the country in recent years and that he recognises that South Africa should be “positioning our economy for future growth in a world shaped by climate change and a revolution in green technologies,” The Green Connection says that these are empty, because government’s words do not match its actions. 

25 March 2024, In a joint effort with Natural Justice we launched a court challenge against Total Energies environmental authorisation for exploratory drilling in block 5/6/7 off the coast alongside Cape Town & Agulhas. As a result, we have received notification that the Minister and the Director-General of the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE) and the Minister of the Department of Forestry, Fisheries, and the Environment (DFFE), along with TotalEnergies EP South Africa (TEEPSA) will oppose the legal challenge

10 May 2024, The Green Connection and Natural Justice submitted comments, on the revised Environmental Impact Assessment report (EIA) concerning the offshore oil and gas Exploration Right (ER) for Block 3B/4B. The comments were supported by Masifundise Development Trust. Located off the West Coast, this project raises significant concerns regarding its potential risks and negative impacts to some of South Africa’s most precious marine ecosystems and the ripple-effect for coastal communities and their livelihoods. The eco-justice organisations also emphasize that this, and other such projects, are in direct contradiction with South Africa’s climate commitments, which should see a reduction in the reliance on carbon-emitting fossil fuels.

 JOURNEY TO OPPOSING OFFSHORE OIL AND GAS PROJECTS 

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