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Earthlife protest against French at GDF Suez, Johannesburg

Earthlife protest against French at GDF Suez, Johannesburg

Apr 27, 2015

Johannesburg, 29th of April, 2015 – Environmental justice organisation Earthlife Africa Johannesburg will picket for the third time in two weeks outside of the partly French government owned GDF Suez’s offices in Johannesburg tomorrow, 30 April 2015. Earthlife Africa Johannesburg, and it’s partner organisations, oppose the imminent 1200 MW Thabametsi coal-fired power station in the Waterberg region of Limpopo Province.

The picket will take place at the GDF Suez offices (located at 6-10 Woodlands Drive, Woodmead, Johannesburg) from 10:00 am to 12:00 pm on the 30th of April 2015. The picket will be followed by a larger demonstration on the 15th of May 2015, which will coincide with Earthlife Africa Johannesburg’s appeal of the power station.

Earthlife Africa Johannesburg will be delivering a letter to the French power company expressing their concern over the company’s choice to continue supporting coal in the developing world. Burning coal, the organisation argues, is a climate bomb; with direct impacts on the health of South African communities, workers and the environment. The letter is based on a version handed over to French President, François Hollande, on the 28th of April in Paris at the GDF Suez annual general meeting (AGM) by Environmental Organisation Friends of the Earth France.

In the letter, the organisation accused President Hollande of masquerading for global action against climate change while allowing French public companies to continue increasing their carbon intensive activities around the world.

In November 2014, at the Environmental Conference in Paris, Hollande stated that “public subventions to fossil fuels must be stopped”. Last February, in Manila, Hollande again called for concrete actions to fight climate change. Yet, France has not stopped supporting the development of coal-fired projects around the world. GDF is about to build a new coal-fired power plant in Leczna in Poland where it is estimated that

45,000 people dye every year because of coal-related disease. GDF will also build the Thabamesti coal-fired power station in South Africa, in a region already considered an air quality priority area. The GDF Vado Ligure power plant in Italy has recently been shut down by the Italian justice because of coal pollution related mortality.

Dominique Doyle, Energy Policy Officer at Earthlife Africa Johannesburg argues that: “This year France will be the host country to the 21st Conference of Parties of the United Nations on climate change. France and GDF Suez need to stop their fraudulent green washing and lead the way in the transition to cleaner energy”. Earthlife Africa’s Senior Programme Officer,Makoma Lekalakala, further remarks that: “GDF has the potential to be the global leader in sustainable energy, and South Africa is an ideal location to make real climate change mitigation commitments”.

So far, GDF Suez South Africa has not responded to the protests by Earthlife Africa Johannesburg, nor has it responded to any requests made on twitter. Neither can GDF Suez South Africa be reached by telephone.

In a surprising turn of events, GDF Suez CEO, Gérard Mestrallet, has even denied the Thabametsi power plant approval to concerned French citizens. Gérard Mestrallet has recently called himself a Climate CEO in an open letter to world governments calling for urgent climate action; a title which Earthlife Africa Johannesburg finds extremely ironic.

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