The Committees, sitting jointly, held public hearings on the issue of climate change. Because of the broad, significant influence of climate change on virtually all sectors of government and civil society, there were submissions from Non government organizations, non-profit groups, business groups and environmental movements. There was clear concurrence from virtually every delegation that climate change was a serious threat, that there was a need for comprehensive economic and infrastructural adaptations in order to survive, and that the creation and distribution of energy was the cornerstone of the solution. A number of delegations raised serious problems that they had with Eskom, which centered on Eskom’s inability to meet energy demands, the proposed tariff increases for the following year, and the regressive energy strategies that they employed. Most presenters were adamant that not enough was being done to actively pursue alternative energy sources, including making incentives for companies and individuals to change. Eskom was in the process of financing a new power station, which would incur a heavy cost to National Treasury, and therefore to the taxpayers, in addition to the interest of the loan from the World Bank. Several delegations had concerns with this initiative, criticising it as short-sighted, costly to both civil society and the environment, and one that did not match the need for adaptation to a low-carbon, renewable energy reliance that was required. It was suggested that energy creation should have become decentralised, and that renewable energy technologies were to be incentivised.
In light of the international momentum towards climate change adaptation, presenters made mention of the Copenhagen Climate Council which was viewed as a crucial meeting for the outcome of the world's movement towards renewable energy and low emissions. The World Wildlife Fund expressed doubts as to the value of the
The Members of the Committees agreed with the presenters' call to act on the issue of climate change. They said that a plan to address the problem required the input of every department of the government, as well as civil society. It was suggested that a new Committee could be set up, solely to tackle the tremendous consequences of climate change. Members agreed that they had to look at energy production and Eskom very carefully. It was suggested that energy planning should perhaps be moved from Eskom to the Department of Energy, or some other overarching body to whom all others should report on energy matters. Long term adaptation planning had to consider national imperatives of job creation, and economic growth but should not necessarily depend on the outcome of the Copenhagen Council as
Climate Change: Public hearings
Southern African Faith Communities Environment Institute (the Institute) submission
Bishop Geoff Davies, Southern African Faith Communities Environment Institute (the group), thanked the Chairperson and the Members of the Committees for the opportunity to present to them. This group was launched in 2005 to promote the Earth Charter, as the principle of its decision-making. Climate change was a moral issue, and the group was worried that the Copenhagen Council meeting was being hijacked by those with economic interests. Caring for the environment was an initiative that was a part of all faiths, especially the Christian-Judeo faith. Justice and equity was fundamental to its basic principles. Money-based interests were killing the world. There was great inequity in the world, this led to conflict and injustice. Oil and coal was being fought over, while it was poisoning the world. The sun provided all the energy that the world needed. The world had copied the American, Western system of energy production. This created the majority of the problems that they faced regarding unemployment and inequality. The economy dominated all decision-making, but the Group believed that the health of the environment and people should have been a higher priority. The world was killing their natural environment, at the expense of their people and their future.
He suggested that there was a need to establish ecological and economic justice. Countries should have spent money from their defense contracts on solar power technology. If the global temperature increased by two degrees, there would be major crises. The Group called for global justice, saying that the rich northern hemisphere was more responsible for coal burning and that they owed recompense to the world, and especially Africa, for creating economic and ecological problems for the rest of the world.
There was a statement that
The Green Connection submission
Ms Liz McDaid, Representative for the Green Connection, thanked the Committees for involving a greater variety of bodies on a very important issue. The earth was a life support system for the human race, as the oxygen and water that humans required to survive depended on the ecological system.
World Wildlife Fund (WWF) South Africa submission
Ms Tasneem Essop, Representative for World Wildlife Fund (WWF), noted that countries all over the world were gearing up for the Copenhagen Climate Council. Climate change was a social, environmental and economic issue and time was running out to reverse the process. The rich nations were responsible for climate change. There was a clear and present danger that the
The second major problem with the Council was that United States of America (USA) had declared themselves not ready to commit to the meeting's objectives. Other nations were hiding behind the
The WWF was asking for a 40% reduction in emissions from the richer nations, and would have liked the global emissions to peak by 2017. The big nations had to deviate substantially from 'business as usual'. Developing countries were voluntarily contributing drastic emission reduction programs. They also needed an adaptation strategy and public finance that accelerated and incentivised mechanisms of energy conserving infrastructure and renewable energy production.
Commission on Gender Equality (CGE) submission
Ms Yvette Abrahams, Commissioner, CGE, said that it was within the Commission’s mandate to ensure that the rights of the people of
A big concern for the CGE was preventing unwanted pregnancies, which increased the population and therefore strained the rest of the economic and social systems. They had to control unwanted population growth by empowering women to control their reproductive function.
Earth-life Africa submission
Ms Lerato Margele Representative for Earth-life
Mama Earth Foundation submission
Ms Ruth Rubinowitz, Representative of Mama Earth, said that the delegation hoped to help contribute to a solution to the issue of climate change. People had to move past scepticism on the consequences of climate change, as it was real and it was caused by human actions. They needed a champion, or a high-profile role model to drive the strategies for climate change adaptation. Important players had to stop operating in silos, and there must be integration between all stakeholders, to communicate and share strategies to move forward. Emphasis had to be placed on the renewable, progressive energy conservation and production strategies, to create a sustainable and economically viable system for the future.
Hybrid systems, combing both kinds of energy, were an option of mitigation that could have been explored.
Free Life on Earth submission
Mr David Lipschitz, Representative of Free Life on Earth, said that its main objective was to raise environmental awareness, and to encourage people to begin to live harmoniously with the environment. The organisation was concerned about future energy provision. There were concerns about a lack of transparency and the sustainability of the energy strategies employed by the government. Leaders were unfortunately looking at quick fixes and the jobs that they were creating were not sustainable. Instead, they had to develop a strategy that provided permanent jobs in a sustainable, renewable energy system. They had to stop relying on coal and nuclear energy, and the myth that renewable energy was not feasible had to be revoked.
Eskom controlled the energy national grid and it was owned by the government. Free Life on Earth believed that there was a need for a separate entity to take over certain management functions that Eskom had. There was a need also to restructure the supply and creation of energy so that the consumers had a choice over the energy that they got. The government had to decentralise energy distribution and creation, and to facilitate the introduction of alternative energy sources.
Mr Coenraad Bezuidenhout, Representative of BUSA, said that it was crucial to achieve coherent interdepartmental strategies to move forward. There was common ground between business and civil society. There was a need to move to a more diverse energy mix. At the time, low energy commitments were voluntary for businesses. A reduction in energy intensity, and therefore in carbon emissions, needed to be incentivised, which required oversight from the Department of Trade and Industry (dti). The country had to put forth an independent power production programme, including reinstating power purchasing and finalising cost recovery mechanisms.
A number of companies were committed to positive outcomes from the Copenhagen Climate Council. They recognised the science behind the reversal path, and this meant that they had to incentivise and invest in low-emission technology, and implement already available mechanisms for energy conservation. They had to take a closer look at the food shortage problem; because it would become more of an issue as rainfall and water shortages became more prominent. The same enthusiasm for Climate Change adaptation would not be shared with certain departments, so it was crucial to get every arm of the government on board. The private sector was not an adversary in this regard. The private sector agreed that it wanted to aggressively pursue power generation and distribution alternatives to Eskom. If
The outcome of the Copenhagen Council was irrelevant, as
Nedbank Ltd submission
Mr Nelis Engelbrecht, a Nedbank representative, said that Nedbank was known as the 'green bank' because of its commitment to energy conservation and low-carbon emissions. It was the first bank in
The Chairperson said that the issue of climate change was clearly requiring a very holistic approach to reach solutions. Every Department had a stake in these matters so they had to involve themselves positively.
South African Insurance Association (SAIA) submission
Ms Vanessa Otto-Mets, Representative for SAIA, said that climate change represented a risk that was shared by everybody. There was a need for collaborative risk management. The role of insurance companies was as enablers of economic growth and as a safety net for catastrophic events. Industry growth was directly proportional to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth. All economically growing companies relied heavily on an insurance industry that was accessible, affordable, and equitable. Climate change was a shared and systemic risk that was increasing. Climate change contributed directly to risk assessments, and it affected where, when and how people could build. The insurance industry would be influenced very heavily by climate change. However, they did not have to view it as a crisis. Climate change was an investment opportunity, and the cost benefit of adaptation could be very positive. In order to achieve that, the insurance sector would have had to work together with the Government, private companies and civil society.
Environmental Monitoring Group (EMG) submission
Mr Stephen Law, Monitor for EMG, said that EMG hosted hearings with Oxfam to give ordinary people a chance to communicate with the organisations. They wanted to focus on urban water programmes, as they related to the climate change crisis. One of the immediate threats of climate change was water shortage. In certain communities EMG had employed empowering practices to give these communities some initiative. Leakages in pipes in poorer communities was a big problem that they tackled by getting community members involved with actively fixing their leaks.
Ms Tarryn Parreira, EMG representative, said that land would become dryer, water scarcity would be more prevalent, and urban demands would increase with population increases. The
Groundwork, Friends of the Earth,
Ms Siziwe Khanyile, Representative of Groundwork, Friends of the Earth South Africa said that the primary concern of this organisation was to challenge the trend of globalisation which contributed to the consequences of climate change. Climate change adaptation centered on energy.
The proposal of this organisation was for energy provision based on the rights of the people. Communities had to be empowered to have informed control over their own energy needs. Energy distribution had to become decentralised. The organisation wanted to end subsidies from international institutions like the World Bank, which encouraged the removal of fossil fuels from the ground. The Government had to protect the rights of ordinary people.
Women, Energy and Climate Change Forum submission
Ms Makoma Lekalakala, Representative of Women, Energy and Climate Change Forum, said that the Forum was communicating with poor people. It had serious problems with Eskom. People had unreliable electricity, which was becoming more and more expensive. The Government and Eskom wanted to make profits instead of look after the people. Climate change had to be taken seriously because it was a threat to everyone, especially the poor. Pollution was also a very big problem for the health of the community.
Youth in Agriculture Ambassadors submission
Ms Wendy Tsoketse, Representative for Youth in Agriculture, said that climate change was already impacting on the quality of the soil. This had financial consequences for the farmers and the communities that depended on their crops. Vegetables were harder to grow, they were often smaller in size and changed colour because of the pollution in the ground. Poor farmers were forced to sell their livestock at a loss because they were generally unhealthy and thin. The Youth in Agriculture group had come a long way from their community to get to Parliament to voice their concerns about what was happening to them. They felt that they were wasting their time and pleaded for something to be done about their situation, and for Parliament to help them.
The Chairperson said that everybody wanted to do something about these problems. The presenters should not think that they were wasting their time. All of the Members were holding these hearings because they were serious about wanting to help.
Sasolburg Air Monitoring Committee submission
Ms Lerato Maregele, Representative of Sasolburg Air Monitoring Committee, said that there were major health challenges as a result of the Sasolburg refinery. Patients suffering from respiratory diseases were not getting proper medical attention. Many members of the delegation were ill because of the pollution, and some were retrenched because of their illness. Provincial Government was not doing its job at all. Babies were born infected by the air pollution around Sasolburg. The Air Monitoring Committee felt that the only thing that they could do was to bring this issue to Parliament.
South African Bureau of Standards (SABS) submission
Ms Vanida Lennon, Representative for SABS said that it was a non-negotiable fact that the earth was warming and that this was due in some ways to human activities. SABS was looking for a clear climate change policy. The country needed a policy framework that moved towards sustainable energy usage. These standards needed to be mandatory. The country had to make the transition to a low-carbon output, and energy conservation and efficiency strategies had to meet international standards. All domestic efforts to cut costs and carbon emissions would only work if they were well coordinated. The government had to look at every type of renewable energy technology as an option.
The Chairperson said that climate change was an issue that required the attention of all the various departments of government.
Mr G Morgan (DA) thanked all the presenters for their insights. He noted that Bishop Davies did not speak for all faith groups, as there was a quite vociferous campaign by certain religious group who either outright denied that climate change was real, or said that the consequences were some kind of scam. He asked if the Bishop had engaged with other faith groups who had fundamentally different views. It was important to remove fallacious thinking from the public and get as many people involved as possible.
Bishop Davies said that his group was not able to communicate with these religious factions that denied or were sceptical of climate change. Although he had wanted to establish meetings with these groups, he had been unable to do so because these extremist groups were suspicious of the Bishop's group. The group remained committed to working with those faiths that were committed to change, but there was nothing that it could do about those who were not committing.
Mr P Chauke (ANC) asked how the policies of adaptation were going to affect people such as those in the
Ms McDaid said that the country had reached the situation where the Department of Water and Environmental Affairs had now legal power to influence mining in areas like
Mr L Greyling (ID) said he had gradually lowered his expectations of international conventions like the Copenhagen Climate Council. He asked what local Members of Parliament could do about these situations, and whether South African delegations to international forums could really make a difference. A long term, low carbon action plan needed to be put into place to break the deadlock in which countries, including
Ms Essop was worried that members were lowering their expectations.
Mr M Johnson (ANC) said that nothing was said about indigenous technology. There was not a need to rely on foreign technologies and strategies to solve the problem. There was a need to consider the limitations of rural communities, regarding the use of adaptation strategies and mechanisms.
Ms Abrahams said that there were no Government incentives for technologies that made use of bio gases, organic farming and similar issues. Indigenous technologies were crucial to moving forward, but they needed to be supported by the Government.
Ms McDaid agreed, and said that there were indigenous strategies that were proven to work. The indigenous people had a farming culture that was used to dealing with the dry conditions of
Ms S Kalyan (DA) said that certain African leaders and groups had a punitive view of compensation from the Western nations and this was not conducive to amiable relations with them.
Ms Essop agreed that some African countries did have a negative approach to compensation. Rich nations however, owed developing nations a debt, so that these nations could actually deal with climate change and adaptation. There should be compensation for what the poorer nations had to deal with. There were some nations, based on historical events, which bore more responsibility for climate change.
Ms Kalyan commented that the CGE's statistics regarding the number of unwanted pregnancies from domestic violence was too high. There were studies that showed that the majority of unwanted births were mostly a result of teenage pregnancies.
Ms Abrahams said that it was notoriously difficult to reach full accuracy on domestic violence statistics. The numbers themselves were not as important as the principles behind them. Part of the CGE's mandate was to ensure that people had the right to control their reproductive processes. The empowerment of women would help to curb the increasing rate of growth of the population. There was a need to look at climate change as an opportunity to create sustainable jobs and economic equity.
Mr P Smith (IFP) said that he was disappointed by the response of the government to climate change. The centre of the solution lay with energy management. There was a need to consider taking energy strategy management away from Eskom, and move it elsewhere. However, it was the 'elsewhere' that failed to spot the challenges in the first place. Climate change was a moral issue, but unfortunately national imperatives superseded the morality. There was a need to accept the real possibility that
Ms Essop said that there was much more that could be done on a domestic level. Parliamentarians had to use whatever networks they had to lobby for positive long-lasting change.
Ms McDaid said that there was a need to focus on a national adaptation strategy for long term implementation. There was no excuse for Eskom not to build solar power facilities. Solar power was cheaper in the long term and obviously more sustainable than coal power.
Bishop Davies said that there was also the need to debunk the myth that an energy system had to be based on non-renewable energy sources. Eskom was a government company, and it was important to manage its functioning properly, to make sure that it was taking the country’s energy management strategies in the right direction.
The Chairperson said that Parliament represented the people and their concerns and so Parliamentarians would pursue the best outcomes that they could in terms of the people’s welfare in the face of the climate change threat. Ordinary people needed to understand climate change properly, because it affected everybody.
An ANC Committee Member said that he was concerned with Eskom and all of its problems. Everyone had to look at what they could do about it in a constructive way. NGOs had to lobby Government and international forums to address the key issues. It seemed as though SABS and BUSA were not communicating properly. It was important for these two organisations to sit down and discuss their issues together because their work was very closely related.
A SABS representative said that SABS would look into establishing talks with BUSA. Their roles were related, and it was important that they had a coherent relationship.
Ms E Thabethe (ANC) discussed the presentation by EMG and BUSA. SABS was one of the entities of the government, who was expected to implement policy. SABS should have been at the meeting to tell the Committee how it was implementing their plans, but instead it was doing the opposite. She agreed about the concerns over Eskom. There was a need to look at the energy strategies.
Mr N Ngcobo (ANC) said that
The Chairperson said that the issue of pollution had been raised several times. He asked if there were regulations for pollution, and whether they were being followed. There were domestic industries who polluted the environment. If there were gaps in the law that was supposed to protect the people and the environment from pollution, then these must be identified and adjusted.
Dr Lotter said it was only possible to get so much done by businesses on a voluntary basis. The problem with setting mandatory requirements was that they had to be site specific. He noted that his organisation would reply to the rest of the Committee's questions and remarks in writing.
A member of National Union of Mineworkers,
An ANC member said that there was no clear certainty about the science of climate change across the board. Certain people doubted, or even outright denied, that climate change was happening, or that human beings had an influence on it. He asked what sort of response was appropriate for people like that.
The SABS representative said that the climate change sceptics just had to be proved wrong. The scientific evidence was too strong to be denied.
An ANC member said that she had gone into the Sasolburg area and invited the management of Sasol and community to a meeting to discuss what could be done for them. Parliament was fighting for the rights of the people, and through its actions and the processes of Parliament it should be able to make reductions in Sasol's emissions.
Mr Greyling (ID) told the delegations from Sasolburg that they had not wasted their time by coming to Parliament. The effects of climate change were not always plain to see. The poor were already suffering in the current system. They would have been at even greater risk during adaptation. It was time for a system of incentives to be established. A big part of moving forward was looking at how the country was going to move forward with Eskom. Looking at climate change as the new Gold Rush was a problematic, short sighted perspective.
The Chairperson said that the discussions were focusing too much on Eskom. It was necessary to make sure that people did not miss other concerns.
Ms Rabinowitz said that Eskom was at the centre of most of the problems. She suggested the need for a commission to investigate serious allegations that had been made against Eskom. The increase in the electricity tariff was not just a problem for ordinary people, but it also represented the overall problems with Eskom's transparency concerning its financial affairs.
Mr Smith said that the pollution situation was bad news for everyone. It was no longer possible to cope with the pollution caused by the burning of fossil fuels. It was clear that there must be a change in the system of energy creation. He commented on BUSA's statement that BUSA was not in favour of a legally binding commitment to carbon reductions, and asked what imperatives it was trying to protect by suggesting this.
Ms Sanyile agreed that there was a need to protect the poor, and said that if there was a political will, there was a way. Pollution was also a financial threat because it cost the Government about R4 billion per year to address all of the diseases that resulted.
Mr Morgan asked BUSA where it saw 'green' jobs coming from, and whether businesses had everything that they needed to create and sustain these jobs. He asked how it would be possible to set carbon emissions for trans-national corporations, especially if there were not any internationally binding policies that came out of
Mr Morgan said that the insurance sector was crucial to the future developments towards adaptation.
Mr Morgan noted that there were many frustrations with SABS, as Parliamentarians did not always feel that SABS was efficiently carrying out the mandate or responding to guidance from members or the public.
Ms Peterson said there was a possibility that the insurance sector may need to revisit the financial schemes for climate risks. There were insurance agents going to
An ANC member asked what the EMG meant by community based leak-fixing.
Mr Law said that EMG had developed programmes where people were taught how to fix leaks in pipes themselves, in order to conserve water, rather than sitting back and blaming the government for their problems. Leaks were very costly in the long term if they were not addressed.
Ms A Lovemore (DA) discussed the Nedbank presentation, particularly the note that “green” changes had been costly, and asked what incentives there were for individual businesses to change to low emissions.
Ms Peterson said that that the incentives for “green” changes were not yet given by the Government through tax rebates, but that the benefits came back through long term savings in energy costs. The
Mr Chauke said that there was a need for more public forums in different areas, because raising awareness was important for plans. Organisations and individuals were obviously doing their best to help ordinary people at a grassroots level. These hearings had made him realise how much of an issue climate change was. He said he personally would do what he could to help the situation.
An ANC member asked whether the Energy Act that was already available was not sufficient. Ms Rabinowitz was involved with the creation of the Act.
Ms Rabinowitz said that the problem with the Act was that it left many of the initiatives only with the Department of Energy. There were so many different issues with climate change that there was a need to have a transparent platform to achieve the initiatives. Government had some good strategies, but departments still operated in silos. They had to work cohesively together and employ organisations outside of Parliament. There was a need for an overarching champion, to whom all other organisations must answer.
The Chairperson said there was clearly a need to do an investigation into the laws around pollution. It was clearly a very serious issue, which was closely related to climate change.
The meeting was adjourned.
- Sustainable Energy Africa (SEA) Presentation
- Sustainable Energy Africa (SEA) Submission
- Southern African Faith Communities’ Environment Institute Presentation
- South African Bureau of Standards (SABS) submission
- Nedbank Ltd submission
- MamaEarth WADEThe Democracy Foundation
- INSTITUTE for ZERO WASTE in AFRICA Submission
- World Wildlife Fund (WWF) South Africa submission
- Free Life on Earth Presentation
- Energy Research Centre University of Cape Town Presentation
- EnAct International Governance for a sustainable future Submission
- Electricity Governance Initiative South Africa Submission
- Earthlife Africa Submission
- Commission for Gender Equality Presentation
- Chemical And Allied Industries’ Association Submission
- Business Unity South Africa Presentation
- Farmers’ solutions to climate change Submission
- Agriculture, Agribusiness and Climate Change Submission
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