PETROCHEMICALS giant Sasol faces the wrath of environmental activist groups after shareholders endorsed the group’s climate change plans during its 2021 annual general meeting (AGM) on Friday, where communities and shareholder activists called on the board to account for the group’s continued pollution and increasing emissions.
Sasol is South Africa’s second-biggest greenhouse gas (GHG) emitter after Eskom, and plans to become a net zero emitter by 2050. In September, Sasol announced its GHG emissions would be reduced by 30 percent across its energy and chemical value chains in southern Africa by 2030. This is up from the previous 10 percent target.
The group, also in September, committed to using between 10 and 15 percent of its capital spending towards meeting the 30 percent GHG reduction target up to 2030.
However, the Centre for Environmental Rights (CER) on Friday voiced its disappointment after Sasol’s shareholders endorsed the company’s climate change plans, saying the overwhelming vote was a reflection of the failure of investors to interrogate or understand the significant gaps in the company’s plans.
The CER said the endorsement was despite adequate accountability mechanisms to demonstrate it has a feasible 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” said CER.
CER said 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 pointed to Sasol’s continued use of fossil fuels to transition from coal.
It said Sasol’s intention to dramatically increase its use of fossil gas, and its lack of clear and time-bound commitments toward phasing out coal mining and coal use, were questionable.
Sasol chief executive Fleetwood Grobler said the company was “not simply going from one fossil fuel to another”.
CER said despite this, beyond advocating for fossil gas as a “transition fuel” and reiterating their target to reduce coal reliance by 25 percent by 2030, 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.
CER pointed out that since Sasol’s presence in the Inhambane province of Mozambique, access to electricity by people in the region had increased by a lower percentage than in 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,” it said.
BUSINESS REPORT ONLINE