17 October 2022
A new climate bomb in South Africa: BLOOM and The Green Connection oppose TotalEnergies’ harmful offshore oil & gas projects
17 October 2022
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 southern coast. TotalEnergies plans to invest around $3billion to launch operations in South Africa’s waters in areas of spectacular marine biodiversity and at the expense of wildlife and of small-scale fishers’ livelihoods.
Today, two Goldman Prize winners, Liziwe McDaid (The Green Connection – South Africa) and Claire Nouvian (BLOOM – France) come together to launch the #OceanTotalDestruction campaign and call on TotalEnergies to renounce to its harmful offshore oil & gas projects in South Africa and make a responsible announcement before COP27.
On 5 April 2022, the United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres stressed that “investing in new fossil fuels infrastructure is moral and economic madness”. As the climate breakdown and the mass extinction of animal species threaten humanity’s welfare, the Goldman Prize winners McDaid and Nouvian add that the TotalEnergies’ project in South Africa is a conceptual fraud that tries to portray a switch from coal to gas as a ‘green energy transition’. In July 2021, the International Energy Agency stressed that “beyond projects already committed as of 2021, there are no new oil and gas fields approved for development in our pathway”.
Liziwe McDaid, of The Green Connection said « exploitation of oil and gas in our oceans is incompatible with South Africa’s climate ambitions. Despite abundant solar and wind resources, our oceans are under threat from oil companies like Total, who seem hellbent on ignoring the climate crisis in their determination to extract their last fossil profits. In 2021, Total withdrew their exploration attempt. Why are they back? Given gas shortages in Europe, it seems that it can only be to add to their profits, but coastal fishing communities don’t benefit from oil profits and they bear the brunt of disasters like oil spills.»
After years of greenwashing and of creation of doubt to delay climate awareness and action, TotalEnergies has now moved on to a new phase of stubborn ignorance of such clear guidelines and IPCC recommendations. Claire Nouvian of BLOOM said « TotalEnergies has become the face of evil in the 21st Century. Its obsession for profit is putting humanity at risk. Such irresponsible corporations have to be stopped by citizens. We call on everyone around the globe to sign our petition against TotalEnergies’ destructive projects in South Africa. We need a maximum amount of citizen pressure before the upcoming 27th Climate COP in Egypt for Total to keep fossil fuels in the ground.”
The oil & gas French major is knowingly developing its exploitation project in an area of strong currents and spectacular biodiversity which serves as a “blue corridor” as well as feeding or nesting grounds for thousands of whales, seals, penguins, petrels, albatrosses, endangered leatherback turtles, and fish populations such as snoek (a member of the mackerel family) or yellowtail fish, which lie at the heart of the small-scale fishers’ economy.
Christian Adams, small-scale fisher on the west coast, whose family has been fishing for generations, said: “Fishers all along the coast of South Africa are standing up against these oil companies. Our livelihoods are at stake and we call on the French people to support us. The ocean is in our blood and we believe that oil and gas exploration is incompatible with sustainable fishing for the future”.
At a press conference held in Paris this morning, BLOOM, The Green Connection and South African small-scale fishers were supported by Members of the French National Assembly (François Ruffin) and of the European Parliament (Raphaël Glucksmann – S&D, and Karima Delli – the Greens) and by French activist Camille Etienne.
All called on TotalEnergies to leave South Africa’s waters.
List of speakers
- Claire Nouvian, Founder and Director General of BLOOM
- Liziwe McDaid, Strategic Lead of The Green Connection
- Neville van Rooy, Outreach Community Coordinator of The Green Connection
- Christian Adams, Small-Scale Fisher from Steenberg Cove
- Camille Etienne, Social justice & climate activist
- Raphaël Glucksmann, Member of the European Parliament, Socialists & Democrats group
- François Ruffin, Member of the French National Assembly
- Karima Delli, Member of the European Parliament, The Greens group
- Swann Bommier, Advocacy and Campaigns Officer, BLOOM
Presentation of the two NGOs
BLOOM is a non-profit organization founded in 2005 that works to preserve the marine environment and species from unnecessary destruction and to increase social benefits in the fishing sector. BLOOM wages awareness and advocacy campaigns in order to accelerate the adoption of concrete solutions for the ocean, humans and the climate. BLOOM carries out scientific research projects, independent studies and evaluations that highlight crucial and unaddressed issues such as the financing mechanisms of the fishing sector. BLOOM’s actions are meant for the general public as well as policy-makers and economic stakeholders.
The Green Connection is a NPC organisation established in 2000. It strives to have a voice in decision making processes related to social and environmental justice in Africa. The Green Connection believes that empowering people to participate in decision making about their environment is the only way that truly sustainable development can take place. The organisation is currently running an environmental and social justice campaign (Who Stole Our Ocean), which was launched in 2020, in a bid to protect our oceans for future generations, with a particular emphasis on opposing offshore oil and gas exploration.
Short bios from The Green Connection team, South Africa
- Liziwe McDaid – The Green Connection
Liziwe, together with Makoma Lekalakala from Earthlife Africa, won the 2018 International Goldman Prize for their part in taking on a nuclear deal that South Africa had signed with Russia, which would have cost South Africa R1 trillion, to court and winning. Liz has turned her attention the offshore oil and gas industry where secret deals seem to have been struck which have seen the oceans, a global commons, divided up into blocks and leased off without the people of South Africa having any say in the matter. Looking after the oceans is key to ensuring sustainable development for coastal communities who depend on the oceans for their livelihoods. Liz was also recognised for her ecojustice efforts, being the 2021 Eco-Warrior Gold Award recipient in South Africa.
- Christian Adams – Small-scale fisher from Steenberg`s Cove
Christian has been fishing since he was seven, coming from generations of people who have made a living off the sea. Christian who has been fishing professionally for 16 years was one of the applicants who was forced to go to court in 2022 to protect his livelihood against oil and gas industry which attempted to start their reconnaissance activities in the waters off the west coast.
- Neville van Rooy – The Green Connection
Neville works around the South African coast helping fishers’ communities to understand the threat of the oil and gas industry and providing support to empower them to take action against companies such as Total and its associated contractors. Fisher livelihoods provide food security for thousands of families around the coast of South Africa. Neville won the coveted ecowarrior gold award for his efforts in combatting offshore oil and gas.
To go further
Threats on marine ecosystems
South Africa’s waters are home to a rich biodiversity: African penguins, Cape fur seals, albatrosses, petrels, cormorants, Cape gannets, leatherback turtles, sharks, dolphins, whales. The network of South Africa’s Marine Protected Areas and Critical Biodiversity Areas reveals that these waters house a rich marine biodiversity both along the coast, as well as offshore, along the country’s canyons, seamounts and deeper edges of the continental shelf.
Since 2011, South Africa has witnessed ‘super-pods’ of up to 200 humpback whales feeding in south and west coast waters. This testifies to the critical nature of South African waters for marine biodiversity. Yet, oil & gas exploitation disturbs whales and their prey “through underwater noise pollution, construction of supporting infrastructure, oil leaks, associated shipping and the potential for large, catastrophic oil spills”.
Threats on small-scale fishers
Seismic surveys and oil & gas exploration, in deep waters or close to shore in areas which are subject to some of the world’s strongest ocean currents, represent a major threat to the small-scale fishers who rely on a healthy marine ecosystem to sustain their livelihoods. Small-scale fishers denounce a potential ocean grabbing that puts their livelihoods at risk.
A climate bomb in the making
In July 2021, the International Energy Agency published its Roadmap for the Global Energy Sector and stressed that “beyond projects already committed as of 2021, there are no new oil and gas fields approved for development in our pathway”. South Africa’s National Climate Change Response White paper, along with experts from the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD), similarly recommend a shift towards renewable energy where fossil fuels, including gas, are left aside.
NOTES AND REFERENCES
 In July 2022, TotalEnergies had already filed an environmental impact assessment application ahead of the drilling of up to five exploration wells on a virgin deep-water tract offshore South Africa, between Cape Town and Cape Agulhas. And, since March 2022, the company is involved in multiple seismic surveys off the West Coast.
 Humpback-, southern right-, sperm-, and blue whales.
 Seriola lalandi