No time left: Sasol faces the heat for inadequate climate change commitments at its AGM
19 November 2021 - Environmental groups and shareholder activists once again joined Sasol’s AGM to challenge the fossil fuel giant for its lacklustre climate commitments and inadequate detail in its climate change strategy.
Civil society organisations and shareholder activists confronted Sasol during its 2021 Annual General Meeting (AGM), held on Friday, 19 November 2021, to challenge the company’s plans to continue using coal until 2050, its heavy reliance on gas as a “transition” replacement feedstock, and lack of adequate, detailed plans to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
Sasol remains one of the world’s worst GHG emitters
Sasol is South Africa’s second-highest emitter of GHGs, after Eskom. Its Synfuels plant in Secunda, Mpumalanga, is the largest single-source point of GHG emissions on the planet and its pollution is a serious threat to human health. Sasol is also among the 100 companies estimated to be responsible for 71% of global GHG emissions, and one of the 90 corporate entities responsible for two-thirds of global carbon emissions between 1850 and 2010.
Civil society demands clarity and action at the AGM
Today, communities affected by Sasol’s operations and shareholder activists asked the board to account for Sasol’s increasing emissions and ongoing pollution and demanded that it provide clarity on its plans to enable a meaningful assessment of its feasibility.
These civil society organisations highlighted the flaws in Sasol’s plans and asked shareholders not to endorse the company’s climate change ambition, strategy and actions as all signs point to Sasol’s continued use of fossil fuels to transition from coal, its intention to dramatically increase its use of fossil gas (with methane emissions 80 times more potent than carbon dioxide), and its lack of clear and time-bound commitments toward phasing out coal mining and coal use.
Fleetwood Grobler, Sasol’s CEO, was however at pains to point out that Sasol is “not simply going from one fossil fuel to another.” Despite this, beyond advocating for fossil gas as a ‘transition fuel’ and reiterating their target to reduce coal reliance by 25% by 2030, Mr Grobler was of the view that is too early to speculate whether Sasol’s transition plans could support concrete coal-phase out commitments beyond 2030 and by 2050.
The statements from the CEO and the Board made it clear that Sasol will incorporate fossil gas in the preferred form of LNG with various options in Mozambique, all while failing to address concerns that LNG projects in Cabo Delgado have led to mass displacement of thousands of people who have lost their lives, land and livelihoods.
Sasol’s current involvement in Mozambique has set the precedent for a fossil gas grab in South Africa. The first ten years of Sasol’s operations there show a marked increase in production that did not result in a significant increase in government revenues. Sasol also failed to address the risk that in a short-term period of 20 years, is 80 times more potent than carbon dioxide.
While ignoring social and environmental concerns related to fossil gas in Mozambique, Sasol’s commitment to fossil gas as a ‘transition fuel’ was not followed up with any clarity on what Sasol could realistically transition to in order to achieve its ‘fossil-free future’. Sasol’s post-2030 fossil fuel phase-out plans were reduced to mere speculation.
It is upon this speculation that Sasol’s shareholders voted in favour of the resolution to endorse Sasol’s plans. This overwhelming vote in favour of Sasol’s climate change climate resolution is a disappointing reflection of the failure of investors to interrogate or understand the significant gaps in Sasol's plans.
Shareholders endorsed Sasol’s climate plans despite the glaring absence of detail and adequate accountability mechanisms to demonstrate that it has a feasible, measurable plan to achieve its targets. None of these concerns was adequately addressed by answers given in the AGM, with board members instead regularly referring shareholders to their Climate Change Report. This was one of the documents analysed in detail, and found to lack numerous crucial details that would enable shareholders - and other stakeholders - to make an informed decision in relation to endorsing Sasol's ambitions.
Since Sasol’s presence in the Inhambane province of Mozambique, the electricity access to people in the Inhambane province has increased by a lesser percentage than the country as a whole. There is no benefit to the people, little improvement in infrastructure and people have been negatively impacted by water shortages, soil pollution and the nightmare of losing their lives, dignity and livelihoods to the nightmare of insurgency. Southern African Governments are left to pay the price of Sasol’s legacy in Mozambique.
For more information contact:
350.org: Alia Kajee (South African Campaign Manager) firstname.lastname@example.org, +27 71 968 3339
Centre for Environmental Rights: Leanne Govindsamy (Head: Corporate Accountability and Transparency), email@example.com, +27 76 715 8270
Justiça Ambiental (JA!): Daniel Ribeiro, Daniel.firstname.lastname@example.org, +258 86 620 5608
Just Share: Robyn Hugo (Director Climate Change Engagement), email@example.com, +27 82 389 4357
Greenpeace Africa: Nhlanhla Sibisi (Climate and Energy Campaigner), firstname.lastname@example.org, +27 82 614 2673
groundWork: Avena Jacklin (Climate & Energy Justice Senior Campaign Manager), email@example.com, +27 82 456 8886
South Durban Community Environmental Alliance: Cassandra Schnoor (Environmental Project Officer- Oil, Gas and Energy), firstname.lastname@example.org, +27 82 710 8320
Vaal Environmental Justice Alliance: Samson Mokoena, email@example.com, +27 84 291 8510