Toute l'actu sur la protection de l'environnement

SOUTH AFRICA: Environmentalists keep up the pressure against TotalEnergies

Environmental activists and representatives of South African fishing communities are touring Europe. The mission is to alert leaders and the public to the environmental risks of TotalEnergies’ planned gas extraction projects in South Africa. The French oil company has applied for a production licence for two gas blocks off South Africa’s southern coast.

TotalEnergies has a new fossil fuel extraction project in South Africa. On 5 September 2022, the oil company applied for a licence to develop two gas blocks off the southern coast of South Africa. The investment could amount to $3 billion for reserves estimated at over one billion barrels.

The project is supported by the South African government, which sees it as an opportunity to diversify its national electricity mix based on coal. A fuel that is more polluting than oil and which is responsible for 80% of South Africa’s current electricity production. « Our transition will be sustainable if we access the oil and gas on our shores. No one complains when we import gas from Mozambique, but when we announce that Shell, for example, is operating, everyone jumps up and down, » says Gwede Mantashe, South Africa’s Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy.

Environmental risks

The South African government’s arguments in support of TotalEnergies’ gas project are not unanimous. Environmental activists and fishing communities see it as a threat to biodiversity and their livelihoods. The two gas blocks in question are located in Mossel Bay, in the south of the country, on the east coast. An area of high biodiversity that attracts whales and thousands of tourists every year.

« My family has been fishing for decades, and now the climate crisis is getting worse because of companies like Total or governments like South Africa’s, so my business may be coming to an end with my generation, » laments Christian Adams.

The South African artisanal fisherman has joined activists from the marine conservation group Bloom and the South African organisation Green Connection on a tour of Europe. The activists’ mission is to alert policymakers and the public to the environmental risks of TotalEnergies’ planned gas extraction projects in the Rainbow Nation. « Total is trying to get a production licence, which would mean wells and potentially leaks. Now, if we all stand up to it, we believe we can stop it, » hopes Liziwe McDaid, Green Connection’s strategic manager.

 TotalEnergies’ assurances

In a memo issued on 22 November 2022 in response to the accusations by Bloom and Green Connection, TotalEnergies promised to conduct an environmental and societal impact assessment (ESIA) of its fossil fuel extraction project in South Africa.

« In addition, I would like to stress that TotalEnergies EP South Africa has already voluntarily reduced the scope of the licence application by excluding the area currently classified by the South African authorities as a marine protected area, » said Patrick Pouyanné, Chairman and CEO of TotalEnergies.

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