REDZ Decision Making is Everybody's Business
14 August 2020 - The Department of Environment Fisheries and Forestry (DEFF) is attempting to push through and fast track processes around the proposed Renewable Energy Development Zones (REDZ) which includes gas pipeline corridors. The Public Notice was only advertised between 23rd and 31st July, shortening the available time for response by six to fourteen days for those who saw the advertised notices. The Public Notice was advertised in three provinces and only in English. However, the area of impact of the proposed REDZ and corridors extends into all nine provinces. In addition, the links on the adverts did not work, making the information inaccessible for those using popular search engines.
On 4 August 2020 groundWork in a letter to the DEFF Director General, Dr D Fischer, highlighted these and other concerns around the REDZ notification and requested an extension of the processes until all measures are taken for the national public participation required. Particularly under the State of Disaster where provision must be made for alternative and suitable forms of notification. DEFF intends to ‘streamline’ the environmental impact processes. This would enable authorization through shortening or exclusion of environmental assessment timeframes and administration, which may further exclude participation.
In DEFF Minister Barbara Creecy’s words: “the poor and working class should not be left behind in an energy transition process”. As public trustees of the environment, all roleplayers have a right to be notified and informed early in a proactive way regarding proposals that may affect their lives or livelihoods. According to Section (2)(4) (o) of the Environmental Management Act, 107 of 1998 (NEMA), the environment is held in public trust for the people, the beneficial use of environmental resources must serve the public interest and the environment must be protected as the people’s common heritage. This also means that all people must have the opportunity to develop the understanding, skills and capacity necessary for achieving equitable and effective participation. This includes vulnerable and disadvantaged persons. All potentially impacted roleplayers must obtain clear, accurate and understandable information about the environmental impacts of proposed activities or implications of decisions. Provision has to be made for roleplayers to voice their concerns, questions and suggestions. And to incorporate the needs, preferences and values into the proposed development while promoting transparency, accountability and fair administrative justice/action.
The attempt at lumping together the different energy types in one zoning exercise, that is, fossil fuels with renewables is contradictory as the different energy types come with different risks. And contradictory in achieving a goal of striving towards a low carbon economy as fast as possible. Another serious concern is investment in gas infrastructure that will leave South Africa with stranded assets in a few short years. The 2019 Carbon Tracker Report warns that major oil and gas companies risk losing $2.2trn on stranded assets by 2030. The oil and gas industry accounts for more than half of the global greenhouse gas emissions associated with energy consumption and is responsible for as much as 71% of global CO2 emissions, responsible for climate change impacts. According to recently appointed United Nations researchers for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) from the University of Cape Town, Dr Christopher Trisos and Professor Harald Winkler, there is an urgent need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and the need has never been greater. They also emphasise the urgent need to ensure actions to mitigate and adapt to climate change and prioritize social and environmental justice.
People’s struggles under the State of Disaster and lockdown restrictions must be recognised and development proposals postponed until all roleplayers may be included and given fair opportunity. Open democracy is for everyone and provides protection against maladministration and corruption. Government and industry should not be using any pandemic, crisis, State of Disaster or State of Emergency to fast track development while excluding and restricting people’s ability to participate. It is unlawful, unjust and unfair practice and is violating people’s right as public trustees to the environment and their role in maintaining a healthy and vibrant democracy.
For more information contact Avena Jacklin - firstname.lastname@example.org