South African eco-justice activists joined the global movement Power Up for Climate Solutions to kick off a month (from 3 November to 9 December) of environmental and climate action in the lead up to COP28 outside Parliament on Friday.
The Green Connection, African Climate Alliance, Extinction Rebellion, 350.org, and Project 90 by 2030 joined others around the world in a united call for a peaceful, and equitable world powered by renewable, sustainable energy sources.
They say, “This year will be the 28th instalment of the Conference of the Parties – better known as COP28 – and yet, globally, governments appear to be no closer to making firm climate commitments that they intend to keep, nor do we see sufficient urgency in climate-conscious action.”
In a memorandum of demands handed over to Parliament, the eco-justice organisations say they are challenging the South African government’s position on carbon-emitting fossil fuels, like oil and gas, because they do not agree that these types of fuels are solutions to the country’s economic and energy crises. In addition to calling for an end to TotalEnergies’ fossil fuel aspirations in South Africa, the organisations also call on government decision-makers, specifically the ministers concerned with the environment and energy issues, Barbara Creecy and Gwede Mantashe to acknowledge the negative impact of fossil fuels on people, on nature and on the climate.
They say, “It is the actions of these two department heads that are stalling the meaningful change that is required to rollout the just transition to renewable energy. We therefore also call on President Cyril Ramaphosa to take our demands into account as we approach COP28 because what is the point of the Presidential Climate Change Commission (PCCC) if government departments seem to ignore the climate crisis when authorising fossil fuel projects and simply continue with ‘business as usual’?
The fact of the matter is, there should be no new investments in the fossil fuel industry, and we need an Environment Minister who takes seriously the responsibility of protecting the environment for all South Africans. This minister should, therefore, refuse to authorise new fossil fuel projects that inevitably threaten the environment and consequently risks people’s livelihoods, and which lead to catastrophic climate issues. And this minister should be particularly concerned with preserving our precious environment for the benefit of current and future generations.”
The environmental justice organisations say, “Fossil fuel exploitation will not empower the masses because it only benefits a few. This is why we call on our fellow citizens to recognize that just because this is how things have always been – with governments and elite corporations making decisions that mostly benefit a select few – does not mean that we should keep doing it. This short-sighted desire to accumulate wealth, no matter the environmental and human harm caused, is what led to the climate crisis in the first place.
Yet, while companies like TotalEnergies, Shell and BP are making record profits, they do not seem to shoulder their fair amount of responsibility toward climate change. This is why we are working to bring people together, to call on governments to stop promoting fossil fuels and to make these companies pay for the damage their industries have caused. These funds, which are ‘recovered’ from these polluters, should be used on initiatives that gets South Africa working toward the just energy future we deserve.”
The Green Connection’s Community Outreach Coordinator Neville van Rooy says, “This Power Up initiative is about escalating opposition to the fossil fuel companies and the governments that enable them. These companies appear to be driven by a colonial and neo-colonial agenda that puts profits before people, in the process, undermining indigenous people’s livelihoods and making them totally addicted and dependent on an extractive, capitalist system that perpetuates inequality.
This system is the main reason for this climate crisis. And this is why communities from around the country continue to voice their opposition against those fossil fuel companies that are being favoured in the name of so-called development. Companies like TotalEnergies must stop fossil fuel exploitation and the government must make them and other fossil fuel companies pay for the climate related damage their activities have caused.”
“As we try to navigate this escalating crisis that has become a reality, manifesting in the form of unprecedented floods, heatwaves and droughts, the need to make a just transition to renewable energy in South Africa and the continent, has never been more apparent. Science says the climate crisis is a result of burning fossil fuels.
This is why we oppose companies like TotalEnergies and Shell, and Karpowerships. It is clear that these fossil fuel exploration, production and end use activities will emit more greenhouse gases that will exacerbate the climate crisis. Furthermore, these activities could – when taking place in our oceans – harm marine ecosystems and, in turn, could affect the livelihoods of small-scale fishers in affected areas,” adds van Rooy.
Glen Tyler-Davies from 350Africa.org says, “The transition to renewable energy is happening. The biggest risk now is that it is increasingly a disorderly transition – a transition with no clear plan which preserves or worsens inequality in terms of energy access and who holds power over energy generation. This will ruin the chances of creating a more equitable energy system and society. Our leaders need to wake up and understand this. They need to provide and implement a plan for a just transition that provides power, both literal and figurative, to the people. We need to power up a clean, just and renewable energy future.”
According to African Climate Alliance and Project90By2030, “We need a future that is just and that does not come with more investment in and exploitation of oil and gas. Community owned, decentralised renewable energy is the now and future. It is more affordable, cleaner, and a more sustainable source of energy. Together we can inspire a just future.”
Extinction Rebellion Cape Town says, “As we face increasing catastrophic weather and climate disasters, the case for fossil fuels grows ever weaker. Fossil fuels have a track record of causing environmental damage, including the climate crisis, and can be life-destroying. Is TotalEnergies any different? The window of opportunity to transition away from fossil fuels and embrace renewable energy is closing. Renewables are safer, cleaner, cheaper and greener and, if rolled out fairly, can promote energy equality. This Friday at Global Power Up, we are putting pressure on the South African government to commit to a renewable grid and stop granting extraction opportunities to fossil fuel companies, before it’s too late.”
Please sign The Green Connection’s petition calling on government to stop offshore oil and gas, as part of its Who Stole Our Oceans campaign.