The Chief Director: Science and Technology for Economic Impact; Department of Science and Technology) briefed the Committee on the implementation of measures to deal with global climate change. A ten-year research plan was developed by the Department with the focus on the four knowledge areas of the understanding of the changing planet, reducing the human footprint, adapting the way we live and innovations for sustainability. Other key focus areas included interventions to support the implementation of the research results and the identification of areas for accelerated technological development and innovation.
The briefing included details of the entities represented on the Global Change Performance and Investment Council, i.e. the Applied Centre for Climate and Earth Systems Studies, the Global Change Monitoring Network, the Global Change, Society and Sustainability component, the Bureau on Global Change Science, the Risk and Vulnerability Atlas project and the Risk and Vulnerability Assessment Centres. The Department supported the development of ‘green industries’ in the environmental goods and services sector, the development of alternative sources of energy and initiatives concerning waste technologies, water resources, agricultural practices to enhance food security, environmental monitoring, urban environmental development and coastal protection and management.
The second part of the briefing dealt with the background, negotiation structure and current status of international climate change negotiations. The Chief Director explained the establishment of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the subsequent addition of the Kyoto Protocol to the UNFCCC treaty. The Convention merely required countries to reduce green-house gas emissions but the Kyoto Protocol imposed legally-binding measures. Not all countries (notably the
The Conference of Parties (COP) under the UNFCCC met on an annual basis. The briefing included the significant agreements reached at the meetings held in
Article 4.5 of the UNFCCC treaty required developed countries to support developing countries in the development of and implementation of climate change measures. Current institutional arrangements were considered insufficient to deliver immediate and urgent technological development, deployment, diffusion and transfer to developing countries. Diverse and complex negotiations were underway, with discussions taking place both within and outside the formal negotiation structures. There was intense lobbying by countries on mitigation measures and it was difficult to predict what would happen over the next few months.
Members asked questions about the development of alternative technologies, the involvement of municipalities in adopting new waste management programs, the effect of coal-fired stoves on climate change, the feasibility of desalination programs, the breeding programs to safeguard the gene pools of indigenous animals and plants, the development of sustainable urban areas, the effectiveness of technological transfer and the funding mechanisms, the concepts of ‘mitigation’, ‘adaptation’ and ‘shared and differentiated responsibilities’, the involvement of the USA in climate change negotiations, the mapping of underground water resources, the positions of developed and developing countries at the Copenhagen COP-15 conference and the participation of universities in research programs and the Earth Systems Masters program.
Briefing by Department of Science and Technology) on Global Change Grand Challenge
Mr Imraan Patel (Chief Director: Science and Technology for Economic Impact; Department of Science and Technology) presented an introduction to the Global Change Grand Challenge and the implementation of measures to deal with global climate change to the Committee (see attached document). Key focus areas included a ten-year research plan, interventions that supported the implementation of the research plan and the identification of areas for accelerated technological development and innovation.
The briefing included an overview of global climate change in general, the Department’s original ten-year vision and the four knowledge themes of the research plan, i.e. understanding a changing planet, reducing the human footprint, adapting the way we live and innovation for sustainability. Key performance indicators were transformation and the development of human capital, the development of a knowledge base and assets, making an impact on the economy and society and enhancing
An illustration of the entities represented on the Global Change Performance and Investment Council was included in the presentation. Details of the Applied Centre for Climate and Earth Systems Studies (ACCESS) and the Earth Systems Master Programme to be introduced in 2010 at South African universities were provided. The Global Change Monitoring Network was developing a long-term plan for space and earth observation and monitoring. Research programmes were being developed by the Global Change, Society and Sustainability component of the Council to support the long-term planning function of the Ministry of Planning. The Bureau on Global Change Science brought leading scientists together to assess research findings and aligned research conducted to support national policy. The Risk and Vulnerability Atlas project integrated information from a variety of sources to provide more usable information for planning and decision-making purposes. Risk and Vulnerability Assessment Centres were planned to be established at five rural universities over the next three to four years. The Centres would use the Atlas to provide information, support and assistance to municipalities.
The DST supported the development of ‘green industries’ in the environmental goods and services sector, the development of alternative sources of energy and initiatives concerning waste technologies, water resources, agricultural practices to enhance food security, environmental monitoring, urban environmental development and coastal protection and management.
Briefing by Department of Science and Technology on climate change negotiations
Mr Patel briefed the Committee on the background and negotiation structure of international climate change negotiations (see attached document).
The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC or “the Convention”) was established fifteen years ago to consider methods to reduce global warming and to cope with the effects thereof. Most countries (including
In an attempt to keep the United States of America (USA) in the negotiations, the 11th COP meeting held in
Both mitigation and adaptation issues were crucial for
The DST however felt that current institutional arrangements were insufficient to deliver immediate and urgent technological development, deployment, diffusion and transfer to developing countries. Details of the Executive Body on Technology, the Multilateral Climate Technology Fund and the Technology Action Plan were included in the presentation.
In conclusion, Mr Patel reported that current negotiations were extremely dynamic, with discussions taking place both within and outside the formal negotiation structures. There was intense lobbying by countries on mitigation measures and it was difficult to predict what would happen over the next few months.
The Chairperson thanked Mr Patel for the detailed briefing. He asked how long the DST had been involved in the international climate change negotiations.
Mr Patel replied that the Department had been involved for more than ten years.
Ms M Shinn (DA) said that
Ms M Dunjwa (ANC) referred to the four knowledge areas of the research plan. She said that the dumping of waste generated green-house gasses and she wanted to know how municipalities interacted with the DST in possible measures that can be taken to reduce the problem. She said that the air over
Mr L Mkhize (ANC) requested clarity on the focus on the development of sustainable urban areas. He asked if the policy would not encourage migration from the rural areas to urban areas and if more could be done to support Government policy to develop the rural areas of the country.
Ms S Kalyan (DA) had attended the
The Chairperson asked for further explanation of the concepts of mitigation and adaptation. He disagreed on the comment made by Mr Patel that there was a lack of involvement by the Obama administration on dealing with climate change. He pointed out that the Markey-Waxman Bill had been introduced to the US Senate and was currently under discussion. Senator Edward Markey was an advisor to President Obama. In a declaration to the G8 in March 2009, the
In response to Ms Kalyan’s questions, Mr Patel explained that the institutional arrangements referred to were in the international arena. The Executive Body on Technology and the two Technology Funds relied on contributions from countries for funding and had very weak structures. Activities were restricted to the issue of reports. He advised that the DST acknowledged the opportunities in the development of alternative green industries and efforts were being made to take advantage of the opportunities and to build up strength and capacity in these areas.
Replying to the question asked by Ms Dunjwa concerning waste management, Mr Patel explained that the DST’s mandate did not include the large-scale implementation of waste-management measures by municipalities. The Department assessed various techniques and alternatives and conducted demonstrations but the decision to implement rested with the municipalities. He cited the example of a project at a
Mr Patel said that the desalination of sea water was a well-developed technology but was very expensive in the short to medium term. The infrastructure required was high-tech and it took a long time to realize cost benefits. A less expensive short-term alternative was to recycle waste water and to reconsider the use of potable water, for example using waste water for cooling purposes in mines rather than potable water. He confirmed that the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry (DWAF) was considering desalination in addition to other water management alternatives. The problem with desalination was that the process had a high-energy requirement and the generation of energy was also a high-carbon emission activity.
Mr Patel said that the air pollution over
The Chairperson remarked that
Mr Patel replied that the issue was a matter of learning and the DWAF was considering desalination and developing resources. Desalination was however a long-term high-risk project. There were a number of options available for water management.
Mr Patel advised that work was being done in
Ms Dunjwa remarked that there were many natural springs in certain rural areas. She wanted to know if the technology existed to detect underground water resources, which would assist communities to access such water supplies.
Mr Patel replied that the United States Geological Society had developed the technology to detect the presence of underground water from outer space.
In response to an earlier question, Mr Patel said that the DST was involved in programs to keep the gene banks of certain indigenous breeds alive, e.g. the gene banks of Nguni cattle, African chickens, wheat and African cabbage. The entire wheat production in
In response to Mr Mkhize’s question on sustainable urban development, Mr Patel pointed out that urbanization was a general global trend. More than 50% of the world’s population now lived in urban areas and there were no signs of the trend being reversed. The DST acknowledged the reality of the migration from rural to urban areas and was looking at the design of sustainable, more energy and cost-efficient cities.
Mr Patel explained the difference between the concepts of mitigation and adaptation. Mitigation referred to the reduction of green-house gas and carbon dioxide emissions. Extensive research was being conducted in this regard, for example research into different construction methods used in the building of houses and the amount of GHG emitted by each different method. Countries calculated green-house gas emissions and the reduction of GHG emissions was a mitigating measure.
The Chairperson enquired why reference was made to GHG emissions prior to 1990.
Mr Patel explained that
With regard to the involvement of the
The Chairperson remarked that the Danish Prime Minister had recently highlighted the importance of support from the developed countries to the developing countries.
Mr Patel replied that many, complex negotiations were underway.
Mr Mac Makwarela (Deputy Director: Multilateral Cooperation; Department of Science and Technology) said that
Mr Patel explained what was meant by the concept of “shared and differentiated responsibilities”. He said that all countries were responsible for dealing with climate change but not all countries were equally responsible for creating the problem. Developed countries were required to bear a greater responsibility for climate change and make a greater effort for future mitigation measures. The concept was strongly supported by the developing countries.
Ms S Molao (COPE) asked which universities would be offering the Earth Systems Masters program.
Mr Patel replied that the program would be offered by universities with the necessary capacity and facilities. The program would be made available to the five rural universities as well.
Dr A Kaniki (Executive Director; National Research Foundation) said that discussions were held with the universities of
The Chairperson thanked Members and representatives from the Department and the Foundation for their participation. Parliament was interested in the issues concerning climate change and the DST’s strategy on climate change. Members were preparing for the
The meeting was adjourned.
- Department of Science & Technology briefing on the Global Change Grand Challenge & the Climate Change Negotiations [Part 1]
- Department of Science & Technology briefing on the Global Change Grand Challenge & the Climate Change Negotiations [Part 2]
- Global Change Grand Challenge & Department of Science and Technology view on climate change negotiation [Part 1]
- Global Change Grand Challenge & Department of Science and Technology view on climate change negotiation [Part 2]
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