Environmental Affairs: Minister's Budget Speech
19 Apr 2011
Budget Vote speech for the Department of Environmental Affairs by the Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs, Minister Bee Molewa, in the National Assembly, Parliament
20 Apr 2011
Honourable Chairperson of this session;
Honourable Deputy Minister, Rejoice Mabudafhasi, MP;
Honourable Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee, Advocate
Johnny de Lange, MP;
Honourable Members of the Portfolio Committee;
Honourable Members of Parliament;
Distinguished Chairpersons and Chief Executives of Public Entities;
Ladies and gentlemen;
I stand before you almost a month before our country holds local government elections, where South Africans will elect local government representatives of their choice.
Honourable Members, the fact that our country will be holding these elections; our fourth since the dawn of freedom and democracy in 1994, points to the resilience of our democracy dispensation; that guarantees, among others, freedom, equality and dignity for all.
The forthcoming local government elections mark yet another step we are taking as a nation to consolidate and defend the gains of our democratic order. Of significance to us as the Department of Environmental Affairs with these elections, is that the local sphere of government is critical to the sustainable development and management of our environment and natural resources. This we say because the sustainable development and management of our environment and natural resources is a concurrent function shared among the national, provincial and local spheres of government.
We must therefore work together to build the capacity of all spheres of government, especially local government, to ensure improved management of our environment and natural resources.
Management of Biodiversity
Honourable Chairperson, we inhabit a country that is the envy of most people globally. Indeed, ours is a mega-diverse country of immense natural beauty that has an abundance of natural mineral, fossil, cultural and biological resources, matched only by its people – that signify a true Rainbow Nation.
This rich environmental heritage sustains many ecosystem services which are the very foundation of our South African livelihood and economy. Tragically, this rich natural treasure is being lost or threatened by unsustainable development practices. It is disturbing to note that; over 50% of our wetland ecosystems have been destroyed.
In addition, over 80 % of our river systems are threatened and we rank among the world’s top 20 greenhouse gas emitting countries. Alongside Nigeria we are the biggest gas emitters on the African continent.
Honourable Members, unless we change to a more sustainable development path, where we manage and protect these resources, we may not have anything left for current and future generations.
Part of what we must do in this regard is to instil in all our people the understanding that the need for development and caring for the environment are not mutually exclusive.
As part of ongoing efforts to strengthen the management of our biodiversity, we will this year publish a National Biodiversity Assessment report.
The report will give us an indication of the status of threatened ecosystems in the country inclusive of terrestrial, marine, estuarine and fresh water systems.
Further to that, the Southern Ocean provides for special oceanography and marine biodiversity. The scientific data that is collected from Antarctica and during voyages is critical to our understanding of among other things, the impacts of climate change and weather information associated with extreme events.
The department is progressing with the construction of the new vessel to replace the old SA Agulhas 1; I am therefore pleased to announce the name of this new state of the art vessel – the SA Agulhas II. The vessel will be dedicated to a South African hero/heroine whose name will be announced after engaging the family concerned.
Honourable Members, the speedy pace of development since 1994 is necessary but should not be to the detriment of our environment. As a country, we must strive to maintain a balance between development and environmental conservation.
Honourable Members, like many other countries of the world, the number one threat to our long term sustainable development, economic growth and quality of life are related to the impacts of climate change.
Climate change is already a reality! Its early impacts can be seen on declining agricultural production, higher food prices and food insecurity; which are most severely felt in developing countries like ours.
We note that the New Growth Path adopted by government offers the opportunity to build new green economic sectors, create decent jobs, grow our economy and develop international economic competitiveness.
Working together we must ensure that our response to climate change seizes the new growth opportunities presented by the global effort to address climate change.
Honourable Members, President Jacob Zuma announced prior to the Copenhagen United Nations Climate Change Conference in December 2009 that South Africa will implement nationally appropriate mitigation actions which will result in the reduction of our carbon emissions by 34 % by 2020 and by 42 % in 2025, dependant on availability of finance and technology.
As a department working together with the people of South Africa, we are ready to give practical meaning to this commitment. Consequently, our Climate Change Response Policy is nearing completion and we will present the Climate Change White Paper for Cabinet approval, later this year.
This evolving policy outlines our vision for an effective climate change response and our transition to a climate resilient and low-carbon economy and society. Honourable Members, from 28 November to 9 December this year, our country will host the United Nations Climate Change conferences in Durban.
At these conferences, the international and national response to climate change will become the focus of the attention by all participants. As South Africa, we will use our participation at these conferences to seek a globally acceptable agreement that supports sustainable development while at the same time addressing the challenge of climate change.
We are also in the process of putting together a Climate Expo that will provide a platform to showcase what is being done globally to address the challenge of climate change.
The Green economy
Honourable Members, last year we hosted a summit on the green Economy. The summit led to a better understanding and appreciation of the green economy concept within the South African context. Flowing from the summit, an implementation plan for the environment sector’s contribution to the green economy was developed.
This plan will be implemented through local and international partnerships, with green investments, supported by domestic funding from the National Treasury’s Green Fund, as well as international funding flowing through facilities such as the World Bank Clean Technology Fund and the newly established Green Climate Fund.
Honourable Members we wish to once more reaffirm that the environment sector is a major contributor to job creation and the fight against poverty. Over 10 000 people are employed in our National Parks as conservation officers and in the hospitality facilities.
Even more people are employed at the various Provincial Parks and the more than 2 000 in private game farms across the country.
As part of the Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP), we are implementing various Natural Resources Management and Social Responsibility Programmes.
These include programmes such as: Working for Water, Working on Fire, Working for Wetlands as well as Working for Coasts and People for Parks. In the 2011/12 financial year, through these programmes, we plan to provide almost 5 million person-days of employment – a substantial increase from the 3 million person-days achieved in the last financial year.
Our Working for Wetlands programme was able to rehabilitate 427 wetlands which created close to 10 000 short term work opportunities for people from vulnerable and marginalised communities.
As pivotal as the job creation abilities of these programmes is, it is important that we also emphasise that these programmes have many other positive social and economic benefits. I take this opportunity to salute the twenty Working on Fire fire-fighters present here today – the fit, disciplined and distinctively branded young women and men in the gallery.
I am also made aware that the Director General and her team are training to be part of our fire-fighting capacity. I wish them well in this challenging endeavour. Honourable Members, going forward we will integrate all “our working for” programmes.In terms of this new approach we will advertise nationally all the EPWP job opportunities as well as opportunities for cooperatives provided by these programmes.
We will also publicly announce the number of people we will take into the various programmes namely; “working for waste management and recycling”, “greening our parks”, “working for water” and “working for wetlands”. This approach will allow us to centrally coordinate these programmes, determine standards and norms for working conditions, payment levels as well as registration and support to those cooperatives that must develop into businesses entities.
Honourable Members we plan to introduce this new approach during this financial year. To this end we have already amalgamated all the various “working for” units and a business plan is being developed.
Honourable Members, we are saddened at the alarming rate at which our rhino population is being decimated, by bandits and poachers operating with military precision.
We are disturbed that since 1 April 2010 to date, a total 382 rhinos have been poached, of which 196 were poached in the Kruger National Park. Of these 65 were poached between January and March 2011 alone. To respond to this scourge, we have together with our stakeholders developed a holistic approach to confront the challenge of rhino poaching.
In particular, we have adopted an integrated approach that will mobilise resources from the various anti-crime units in the country. Our approach also includes working together with the defence force, the revenue services and the South African Police Services.
We have also established a Biodiversity Enforcement unit tasked with the coordination and monitoring of compliance with our biodiversity legislation and associated regulations, norms and standards.
Honourable Members, our partnerships with key security institutions and other relevant departments, especially with regard to priority crimes such as rhino poaching continue to yield results.
We have also engaged the Department of Justice on the question of fast tracking the prosecution of environmental crimes dedicating special times to these cases.
Environmental Impact Assessments (EIA)
Honourable Members, we are committed to a sustainable and responsible developmental approach which supports economic growth, combats poverty and creates jobs.
As part of this commitment, we have put in place a new and improved Environmental Impact Assessment and management regime. In addition, we are moving towards alternative approaches to environmental impact management.
These interventions take a more strategic view to development and dispel the myth that; Impact Assessment and Management tools are a barrier to development.
Honourable Members, there is a concerted effort by the department to move towards an integrated permitting system. The department is already fully integrating waste and EIA permitting processes and some provinces have also followed suit.
There are also plans to extend the one stop process approach to the Department of Water Affairs permitting processes and in time to other department’s as well.
Management of waste
Honourable Members, the Waste Act, will allow us to address some of the challenges we have been grappling with for decades.
This Act will ensure that we institute mechanisms for waste avoidance, minimisation, reuse, recycling, recovery, appropriate licensing, collection and storage requirements as well as environmentally sound treatment and disposal of problematic waste streams.
Honourable Members, as I conclude, our budget policy presentation sets very ambitious and achievable targets on climate change mitigation and adaptation; the unique opportunity to hosting a productive and successful COP17; our aggressive forward march to the Green Economy and Job Creation Outcomes and last but not least, we stand firm to intervene and bring to book those responsible of crimes against our environment.We have what it takes to achieve these goals and with your support we are guaranteed of success.
Honourable Members, I would like to thank the Deputy Minister, Ms Rejoice Mabudafhasi, the boards and staff of the public entities under the department, the Director General, Ms Nosipho Ngcaba and her team for the commitment they continue to show in the attainment of our strategic objectives. I would also like to thank the Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee, Advocate Johnny de Lange and the committee members for their support and robust engagements.
Cell: 083 490 2871
Issued by: Department of Environmental Affairs
20 Apr 2011
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