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Earthlife Africa claims GDF Suez is investing in coal power projects while advocating the reduction of greenhouse gases

On Tuesday, Johannesburg-based environmental organisation Earthlife Africa held a second picket outside French energy company GDF Suez’s offices in a bid to persuade the advocate of South Africa’s renewable sector to cease its involvement in coal-fired base load power.

GDF Suez, which is 35% French state-owned, is urging governments across the globe to “set science-based global and national targets for the reduction of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and the development of alternative energy sources”, while continuing to build carbon intensive coal-fired power stations in the developing world, Earthlife claims.

Earthlife will be holding a third picket on April 30, 2015 at GDF Suez’s Johannesburg office to demonstrate its frustration with the energy company’s contradictions.

Global collaboration

Gérard Mestrallet, CEO of GDF Suez, has recently collaborated with 43 other global CEOs in signing an open letter encouraging world leaders to reach an ambitious climate change deal at COP 21, to be held in Paris at the end of 2015, Earthlife said in a statement.

The letter claims that the 43 companies will take voluntary action to reduce their own GHG emissions by reducing energy consumption and embracing technological innovations.

The companies said that: “Hastening the shift to a low-carbon economy in an economically sustainable manner will generate growth and jobs in both the developing and developed world.”

According to Earthlife, GDF Suez has endorsed this letter to world governments, as a so-called ‘climate CEO’ while partnering with South African-based coal and heavy minerals mining company Exarro Resources, to develop another coal-fired power station in the Waterberg region of South Africa.

“The South African Department of Environmental Affairs approved the Thabametsi power plant in February 2015 despite there being no more room in South Africa’s carbon budget for any more coal fired power stations,” Earthlife said.

Reducing Greenhouse Gas emissions

“South Africa has pledged internationally to reduce its GHG emissions from 42% below a business-as-usual trajectory by 2025. But the Thabametsi power station represents business as usual and will render South Africa’s international climate change mitigation targets a sham,” Earthlife explained in a statement.

Senior programme officer at Earthlife Africa Johannesburg, Makoma Lekalakala concluded: “In France, GDF Suez is the second largest utility and generates 64% of its electricity from renewable sources including hydro and wind.

“The company has the technological know-how and expertise to build renewable sources. But in South Africa, a country blessed with abundant resources for renewables, it chooses to back climate-change-causing coal.”

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Nicolette Pombo-van Zyl has been working in the African power, energy and water sectors since 2011, first with African Utility Week and now as the Editor of ESI Africa. She is also an Advisory Board member of the Global and African Power & Energy Elites publications. With her passion for sustainable business and placing African countries on the international stage, Nicolette takes a keen interest in current affairs and technology trends.