Press Release: GDF Suez set to increase climate change in South Africa, Earthlife to Protest

Earthlife Africa Jhb

Johannesburg, 14th of April, 2015- Environmental justice organisation, Earthlife Africa Johannesburg, will be holding a series of pickets over the next two weeks outside of the French based company GDF Suez’s offices in Woodmead, Johannesburg. Earthlife Africa Johannesburg demands that the company, which is owned 35% by the French government, pulls out of coal in South Africa entirely and funds renewable energy instead.

Earthlife Africa Johannesburg’s pickets will be at GDF Suez offices (located at 6-10 Woodlands Drive, Woodmead, Johannesburg) from 10:00 am to 12:00 pm on the 16th, 28th and 30th of April 2015.

In France, GDF Suez generates 64% of its 10 GW installed capacity mostly from renewable sources: 40% from hydro and 12% from wind. But in the developing world; like in South Africa, Brazil and Chile; the company generates electricity from dirty, climate- change causing coal. In other words, it can produce clean energy but chooses to produce harmful energy from dirty coal in South Africa.

The Department of Environmental Affairs has recently approved GDF Suez and Exarro Resources Limited to build yet another coal-fired power station in the already devastatingly polluted Waterberg region. Earthlife Africa Johannesburg is ardently opposed to the Thabamesti power station, on the grounds that it will render South Africa’s climate change mitigation targets harder to achieve and make adapting to climate change even more challenging.

South Africa is already one of the worlds largest contributors to global climate change, having produced around 547Mt of CO2 equivalent (CO2) in 2010 (around 231.9 Mt is produced by the electricity sector alone). The South African government has recognised the need for climate action and has set 398Mt CO2 -eq per year as the target limit for CO2 by 2025. But, the Medupi and Kusile power stations will likely add a further 70Mt of CO2 -eq a year. The 1200MW Thabametsi power plant will produce between 9,7 and 19,4 Mt of CO2 per year. There simply isn’t any more room in South Africa’s carbon budget for any more coal fired power stations. More coal will make South Africa the laughing stock of the international negotiations, because it will show the world that South Africa cannot keep it’s promises.

Energy Policy Officer at Earthlife Africa Johannesburg, Dominique Doyle, insists that: “GDF Suez’s plan to turn profit out of carbon intensive coal in the South is proof that the French government does not view climate change as a global problem, and that is not committed to reducing global climate change vulnerability. If the Thabametsi power station is permitted, Southern Africa will be committed to increased food insecurity, water shortages and poverty”.

The Department of Environmental Affairs approved the Thabametsi power station shortly before the European Union made a significant pledge ahead of the 21st Conference of the Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention (UNFCCC). The conference will be held in Paris towards the end of 2015. The EU pledged to reduce its domestic greenhouse gas emissions by at least 40% by 2030 compared with 1990 levels. French Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development, Laurent Fabius, has heralded the EU’s commitment to climate change mitigation as, “an important factor in assessing the collective impact of the national targets in relation to the general aim of limiting global warming to 2ºC. It will also be very useful for appreciating the scale of the necessary adaptation to the impact of climate disruption, particularly in the most vulnerable countries”.

But as Senior Programme Officer, Makoma Lekalakala, at Earthlife Africa Johannesburg points out, “ The EU’s climate change targets will do little to limit global warming to 2ºC if the EU and France continue to support coal in other parts of the world. Continuing with coal will cause drastic warming of the earth and global human suffering”.

The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) have recently released a report entitled “OECD export finance: renewables dwarfed by fossil fuels”[1]. The report finds that OECD support for renewable generation represented only 28% of OECD support in power generation, compared with 61% for fossil fuel-fired power plants. On average, for every 1 dollar of OECD support for renewable power, 2.2 dollars are spent supporting fossil fuel-fired power plants.

The OECD supports as much coal -the most polluting fossil fuel- as it does on all renewable energy technologies combined: $14 billion versus $16.7 billion. The finding is astonishing given that coal-fired power stations will lock the world onto a carbon intensive path for decades to come. This graph shows how much France, in particular, invests in coal over renewables.

Ms. Lekalakala further points out that GDF Suez should focus its efforts on promoting renewable energy technology in South Africa in the attempt to foster sustainable and climate resilient development.

[1] World Wide Fund for Nature. 2015. OECD export finance : renewables dwarfed by fossil fuels. Found online at:

Earthlife Africa Johannesburg:

Dominique Doyle
Energy Policy Officer
Tel: +27 11 339 3662
Cell: +27 79 331 2028

Makoma Lekalakala
Senior Programme Manager
Tel: +27 11 339 3662
Cell: +27 82 682 9177

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