SOUTH AFRICA: Bishops Concerned About Exploration of Oil and Gas in Eastern Cape

By Paschal Norbert

PRETORIA, DECEMBER 15, 2021 (CISA) – “We are deeply disappointed that the government has decided to turn a blind eye on the environmental impact of oil exploration and extraction, especially the prospects of ocean pollution and the serious harm that seismic techniques used to explore for oil under the ocean floor would inflict on ocean ecosystems. (Pope Francis, Address to Fourth High Level Conference on “Our Ocean,” 27 September 2017),” said the Southern African Catholic Bishop’s Conference (SACBC) on December 14.

In a statement signed by Bishop Sithembele Sipuka, President of the SACBC, the Bishops are apprehensive “about the planned exploration of oil and gas reserves in the Eastern Cape off the coast between Morgan Bay and Port St Johns.”

The bishops also expressed their disappointment at the government for ignoring its responsibilities under the Paris Agreement that insists on keeping fossil fuels underground to protect the world from climate change.

“It is also of concern that the government has decided to continue with gas and oil exploration a month after attending the recently concluded COP26 summit, where it was repeatedly stated that the world needs to keep fossil fuels in the ground if we are to keep temperature rises within 1.5C – which scientists say is required to prevent a “climate catastrophe”,” the Bishops said.

“Time is running out on global and national efforts to phase out fossil fuels and prevent “climate catastrophe”. We, therefore, ask the government to review and stop all the projects that the government has in the pipeline for gas and oil exploration, including the current one in the Eastern Cape off the coast between Morgan Bay and Port St Johns,” they appealed.

The SACBC aware of the imminent threat of the climate crisis appealed to the government to revise the emission reduction targets that the cabinet announced in September 2021, “so that they are Paris Agreement compatible and have the capacity to open a greater window of opportunity for South Africa to mobilize climate finance.”