Johannesburg, 2 February 2021 — In response to the lawsuit filed against her by environmental NGOs groundWork and the Vukani Environmental Justice Movement, Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries (DEFF) Minister Barbara Creecy released an affidavit which stated that she rejected pleas for leniency from executives of Eskom and Sasol and would not allow the power utility to operate its plants at current emission levels indefinitely.
In response, Greenpeace Africa Climate and Energy Campaigner Nhlanhla Sibisi has said:
“It is clear that the minister is engaging in misinformation. She is lying to the people of South Africa. In 2019, Sasol was granted its application to continue polluting our country, and DEFF did not communicate this decision to the public until fourteen months later in January 2021 .
“In Greenpeace Africa’s engagements with Sasol, they have made it clear that they will not comply with the already weakened minimum emission standards in any shape or form by 2030. It is apparent that Sasol will continue to apply for postponement in this regard and Minister Barbra Creecy will concede to their requests in the name of supposed sustainable development. We cannot continue to enable Sasol and Eskom to operate at the expense of South Africans’ lives. This continues to perpetuate South Africa’s history of inequality and racism.”
“The minister does not see us. She continues to dismiss the evidence presented by civil society on the health impacts and premature deaths caused by air pollution, and her denial does not change the fact that South Africans are dying because of decisions she has made. This is another example of how little value is placed on low-income, black lives.”
Greenpeace Africa stands with GroundWork and Vukani Environmental Justice Movement in Action in their efforts to hold the Minister of Environment accountable for enabling the gross violation of human rights in the Lowveld region. Minister Creecy’s priorities are clear: she continues to place development through extraction at the top of the list of priorities above the value of human life. She panders to greenwashing polluters and then attempts to justify treating human lives like lambs to the slaughter. She must put people before profits and bring Eskom and Sasol to book.
Greenpeace Africa demands Minister Creecy to
- Acknowledge the premature deaths and health impacts caused by Eskom and Sasol’s operations in the Lowveld region,
- Instruct that all facilities in air pollution hotspots be fitted with pollution abatement measures immediately or be decommissioned, and
- Fast track the just transition for decent employment and clean air in the Lowveld region.
 The Notification of Decision letters for Sasol’s Sasolburg and Secunda plants were sent out in January 2021. Sasolburg’s decision was signed by Dr Thuli Khumalo on 04 November 2019, and Secunda’s decision was signed on 20 November 2019.
 In a Greenpeace report released on 11 June 2019, Greenpeace expanded on and put forward a radical but practical option. The report “Eskom: A roadmap to powering the future” presented a roadmap with solid options for the country’s electricity supply industry crisis. The press release can be found here.
Key recommendations from the report include:
- The gradual phase-out of coal-fired power generation from Eskom to new generation companies (GenCos), which will operate the power plants for the remainder of their operating time on the basis of precisely defined conditions (e.g. a coal phase-out by 2040).
- The refinancing of Eskom through the decommissioning of coal-fired power stations older than 40 years, and the sale of all remaining coal-fired power plants; with very strict conditions in terms of their compliance with existing air quality and environmental regulations, and clear timelines for their closure. In principle, it must be considered whether private companies should also be invited to buy shares of the coal plants, or whether only public companies should have the right to participate in the auctions for the plants.
- The retention by Eskom of the important role of the transmission system operator (TSO) with the possibility of operating its own grid-supporting (non-coal) power plants.
- The opening of the IPP auctions for renewable energies to Eskom as well in order to make it a significant part of the utility’s business model.
- The possibility for Eskom to participate in the newly created six regional electricity distributors (REDs).
- The opportunity for Eskom to create new services for end-use customers on the basis of the digitalisation revolution that is evolving all over the world.
 Greenpeace Africa Sulphur Dioxide (SO2) Pollution Hotspots in South Africa: 2019-2020 report of November 2020 outlines the following recommendations for Emissions Reduction
- The South African Government to halt all investment in fossil fuels and shift to safer, more sustainable energy sources, such as wind and solar,
- Minister of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries, Barbara Creecy to strengthen SO2 emissions standards by reinstating South Africa’s 500 mg/Nm3 minimum emission standard and applying flue gas pollution control technology at power plants, smelters, and other industrial SO2 emitters,
- South Africa’s National Air Quality Officer, Dr Thuli Khumalo, to enforce existing minimum emission standards, South African Government and that coal-fired power stations or units that cannot comply with existing standards be decommissioned,
- The South African Government to implement an air pollution action plan for Mpumalanga, Johannesburg, Pretoria and all high priority areas that:
- aligns with the World Health Organisation (WHO) Air Quality Guidelines for ambient air,
- implements concrete measures and takes decisive action to improve the air quality in the regions and ensure compliance with South Africa’s Minimum emission standard within the next five years, and
- installs independent continuous emissions monitoring systems (CEMS) and receptor monitoring in the affected communities for different pollutants, making the data available to the public and informing decision making,
- Minister for Mineral Resources and Energy Gwede Mantashe to revise the commitments made in the Integrated Energy Plan and,
- abandon plans for installing new coal-fired power stations of 1500 MW capacity scheduled for 2023 and 2027, and
- increase uptake and implementation of renewable energy generation capacity through radical and deliberate policies and programmes
- the South African Government to ensure the development of a comprehensive and inclusive Just Transition programme that moves the country away from the use of fossil fuels to cleaner and sustainable energy.
 Greenpeace Africa has responded to Eskom’s application for postponement from compliance with Minimum Emissions Standards previously. The Press Release can be found here.
Chris Vlavianos, Greenpeace Africa Communications Officer, [email protected], +2779 883 7036