WWF-SA reacts to National Development Plan



Posted on 16 November 2011
The Karoo region; an area of increasing interest for big energy companies
© Image: Treasure Karoo Action Group
WWF-SA has welcomed the National Planning Commission’s (NPC) release of the National Development Plan (NDP) on Friday. The report is “wide-ranging, talks frankly and puts forward common-sense comments on issues and suggestions on how to take us forward”, says Saliem Fakir, Head of WWF-SA’s Living Planet Unit.

WWF-SA would like to commend the chapter on low-carbon growth and development that gives an insightful overview of the strategic and tough choices South Africa has to make in the transition to a low-carbon future. The approach taken on the carbon budget is also aligned with South Africa’s National Climate Change Response Policy, which was endorsed by Cabinet last month.

“We fully support this,” says Fakir. “However, there should be wide and extensive consultation with all relevant stakeholders to implement a carbon budget appropriately so everybody understands the trade-offs.”

“The carbon budget idea is also implicit in the Integrated Resource Plan. What the NPC does, is to look at implications beyond the electricity sector and how much more government and the private sector can do to invest in reducing carbon emissions.”

“Our biggest concern relates more to the NDP position on fracking,” says Fakir. “WWF-SA believes the NPC should play the role of a mediator and facilitator around the issue instead of finding itself defending fracking.” The NPC said South Africa should allow exploratory drilling for gas while investigations into the effect on the environment continue.

“Currently the controversy around fracking led to the polarisation of views and constituencies and the NDP’s proposal to encourage exploration further inflames the debate on fracking,” explains Fakir. “It would have been better for the NPC to step back, take a neutral position and have facilitated a process for consensus building around a very controversial issue rather than come out in support of it.”

WWF-SA supports the precautionary principle when dealing with environmental risk and uncertainty, and believes the NPC is in the best position to promote this given certain environmental uncertainties surrounding shale gas exploration and extraction.

The debate around unconventional gas exploration in the Karoo has been raging the last few months following the applications by Shell and other companies to the Petroleum Agency of South Africa to explore some 90 000 km2 of the Karoo and the proposed fracking of 270-million-year-old geological formations five kilometres underground. The government is still to decide on whether to grant Shell a license.

While the South African government takes some time to establish its own view around the process, WWF maintains that given the best available evidence, fracking should be placed under a moratorium until we understand the broader implications better.  
The Karoo region; an area of increasing interest for big energy companies
© Image: Treasure Karoo Action Group Enlarge