Climate Change: Public Hearings Day 2

Water and Sanitation

17 November 2009
Chairperson: Ms E Thabethe (ANC), Ms M Sotyu (ANC), Mr N Ngcobo (ANC), Mr P Sizani (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Committee continued with the public hearings on climate change and sustainable development. Twenty presentations were given. The Chairperson noted that, given the mass of information, there would be a need to engage further on issues. The issues included concerns with carbon emissions, flooding, water scarcity, mental health, women’s and human rights, business and the economy, disease in food crops, legislation, to land use, political stance, and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, to be held in December 2009. The organisations were asked to confine their presentation to identifying the challenges in their work relating to legislation and accompanying work of Parliament.

The South Durban Community Environmental Alliance and the Green Network lobbied for legislation for early warning systems to detect pollution, and approaching storms, respectively. The Agricultural Business Chamber, South African Climate Action Network, Sustainable Energy Africa, South African Catholic Bishops Conference and 350.org, did not directly lobby for legislation, but drew attention to opportunities to make changes through legislation. Every one of the presentations encouraged education about climate change and protection of the environment, thus raising more awareness in their particular sector. All were agreed that climate change was effected through greenhouse gas emissions, and that these were at an unacceptably high level. The Applied Centre for Earth Systems Science (Access), emphasised the fact that climate change had to do with sensitivity to weather, while reduction of emissions had to do with environmental management. The South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) declared that South Africa, according to world rankings, was the 13th highest emitter of carbon dioxide. However, this was somewhat counter-balanced by the Chairperson saying that it was amongst the leading nations in the world in its commitment to reduce emissions. Whether implementation was effective seemed to raise a nuanced question mark from other presenters, who referred to the operations of Sasol.

Members noted that the people of South Africa possessed a huge amount of talent, ideas and goodwill, and that this should be acted upon in order to rally for intervention. Members also raised comments with regard to air quality, drinking water, building partnerships between Parliament and stakeholders, and representation at Copenhagen conference. South Africa would be stressing its stance and would also emphasise that the position that South Africa took could influence the rest of the continent.


Meeting report

Water Research Commission (WRC) submission
Mr Chris Moseki, Research Manager, WRC, noted that there was a relationship between water and climate. The research done so far had established that vulnerability was the degree to which a system coped with climate change, whilst adaptation was the ability to adjust or be resilient to impacts. He noted that greenhouse gases were emitted from the surface of the earth into the atmosphere, thus trapping heat. Mitigation would be achieved by a shift from burning fossil fuels to using climate friendly options to generate energy.

Some of the impacts of climate change were that it had effects on changes in rainfall, a rise in temperature and a rise in sea level. These impacts in turn could lead to extreme weather conditions such as droughts and floods, leading to overgrazing in the agricultural sector, and an increase in malaria in the health sector. His message was that WRC supported the adoption of a “legally binding” agreement on the reduction of emissions, an insistence on adaptation, and technology transfer and capacity building by developed nations to developing nations. On a national scale, government should be encouraged to maintain an enabling environment, to support environmentally friendly actions, and support adaptation action which would lead to policy.

EnAct International submission
Mr Cormac Cullinan, Principal, EnAct International said that Earth’s distance from the sun made for a unique planet supporting unique gases. Over time, humans had found ways to adapt to its conditions and environment, for example by mining for minerals and fossil fuel, thereby enabling the use of different sources of energy. Climate change became a symptom of such activity. He said that climate change was a government issue, and that a change in the law was needed, in order to change behaviour. He said that human rights meant nothing without the protection of the rights of the earth. Within government, he said many changes could be made for example what he called “institutional reform” in its procurement practices of buildings, goods and services, whilst environmentally friendly options (“green procurement”) could be exercised.

Sustainable Energy Africa (SEA) submission
Mr Sinethemba Ntantiso, representative for SEA, identified specific gaps on various issues that would need to be addressed to assist with issues of climate change. He said that more work needed to done in the production of renewable energy. Public transport was presently fragmented into the different tiers of government, which hindered effective investment and sustainable development of public transport. Energy efficiency was hampered by shortage of staff, even though national government lent support to municipalities through the Division of Revenue Act funding. He felt that national standards on solar water heating must be incorporated into the National Building Act. In regard to people and institutional capacity, there was an excellent policy but once again there was a shortage of staff to implement. Insofar as local government mandates and delivery of electricity  were concerned, there was a need to deal with energy issues systematically.

SEA had done work with major cities and towns. The few large cities in South Africa consumed half of the energy generated for the country. He said that local government needed to respond more appropriately to climate change, but that financial and service delivery constraints and human resources shortages put it in a weak position to deal with issues of climate change. However, it was noteworthy that some of these large cities, like Cape Town, Johannesburg and Nelson Mandela Bay, were paving the way forward by making initiatives with by-laws, wind farms, and solar water heating. SEA would participate in the exhibition at the United Nations Conference in Copenhagen in December 2009 (COP-15). He encouraged everyone who would be at the conference to view its work on climate mitigation and sustainable development.

The Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa (WESSA) submission
Mr Andy Gubb, Senior National Conservationist, WESSA, noted that South Africa was a country already suffering from numerous diverse problems, some of which were being exacerbated by climate change. He said that South Africa was a divided nation, consisting on the one hand of a poverty-stricken population, and on the other, a highly consumptive sector of people. Earth was experiencing a crisis and becoming incapable of sustaining itself. However, not all of South African society’s problems were caused by climate change. The notion of wealth was being allowed to take hold despite the negative effects of economic growth. Some impacts were unpredictable while other more predictable impacts could be regarded as “gaps”. This implied that attention must be given to these areas, especially by government and Parliament.

He noted that in future, as climate change manifested itself more prominently, the gaps identified would be in overgrazing, effluent, aquafers, job creation and economic growth, fisheries, mines, and the proliferation of golf estates. He said it was important to recognise the importance of biodiversity, and energy supply from multiple sources, instead of using coal-based energy. He said that South Africa should look internally for solutions to its problems, because often other countries’ solutions “did not fit”. Another clue to potential success in protecting the environment would be for government to listen to civil society. He was advocating for more efficient use of water, and the reduction of emissions, especially by “wealthy households” as well as mitigation.

Applied Centre for Earth Systems Science (Access) submission
Dr N Sweijd, representative for Access, a consortium of scientific institutions, appealed for support and promotion of Access, a government programme that was engaged in a study under the auspices of the Department of Science and Technology. He said one objective of Access was to provide an African perspective on climate change. Change was inevitable, evidenced by the current extended warm period, in contrast to the pre-industrial age. He pointed to the accumulation of wealth by developed nations. These were the same nations now emitting the most greenhouse gases. South Africa was sitting uncomfortably high on the list of nations emitting the most greenhouse gases. Accordingly, it had to bear some responsibility towards finding and implementing solutions, and additionally must find a way to use climate change to its advantage. Access aimed to increase problem solving skills by means of education, and to broaden its research in order to increase knowledge and understanding of earth systems science. This would greatly benefit society by assisting forecasting ability.

The Green Network (GN) submission
Ms Girlie Jili, representative for the Green Network, noted that this was established about 15 years ago, and was a community-based organisation from Pietermaritzburg. It was mainly concerned with presenting the problem of flooding in the area where the members of the Green Network lived. There had been 198 deaths and many more injuries from flooding in 1988. There was also extensive damage to homes.

The Network called for a coordinated government effort and increased funding to achieve sustainable livelihoods, a higher level of information about human rights, and education for the public on climate change. These floods were becoming a regular occurrence. Adaptation was being viewed as a possible solution. The delegation appealed for government and civil society to support and assist their cause. It furthermore advocated the use of an early warning system.

Mr Terry Bengis submission
Mr Terry Bengis said South Africa, a developing nation, was lagging behind other developing nations in reducing emissions, as evidenced from comparisons with Brazil, Indonesia and others. He said that Cop-15 would present an opportunity to address the goal setting for the reduction of emissions. He referred to Section 24 of the Constitution, and questioned whether it was being implemented properly. He said that there was too much dithering about transformation, race and the energy tariffs. Instead the real issues of climate change, affecting mainly the poor of the country, were being marginalised. He said pollution and carbon emissions continued unabated. There was too much reliance on government to lead the way. He cited the spokesperson from the petroleum industry who, upon being asked the reason for not producing environmentally friendly petrol, responded that the industry could not do so because the government had not provided the guidelines for it. He said that industry needed to see climate change as an opportunity to lead. Likewise, farmers must be encouraged to use less nitrogen, and more carbon friendly fertilisers. He recommended that the highly publicised National Planning Commission should become involved with climate change so that a new policy could be adopted to encourage greater use of wind and solar power, and other forms of renewable energy, and which would reduce pollution of rivers, air and land. He said it was time that government took Section 24 of the Constitution seriously.

South Durban Community Environmental Alliance (SDCEA) submission
Mr Desmond D’Sa and Mr Rishi Singh, spokespersons for SDCEA, spoke about the air quality and pollution which were the main concern for the SDCEA, with particular emphasis on big business trampling the rights of poor people. Mr D’Sa asked that Parliament assist in SDCEA’s proposal that fines and penalties be imposed on those factories in the area that were responsible for contributing to the climate crisis. Mr Singh said that the area called Clairwood was situated adjacent to the harbour, and with the harbour’s expansion came increased traffic of containers and trucks. There was also illegal occupation of land for the use of warehousing and panelbeating. He said there was no prosecution of these industries. All the increased activity made the already existing problems of pollution even worse. The heavy pollution carried health risks, causing some residents to move away. SDCEA called for regulation on the use of industrial chemicals, and warned against any further occupation of land in that area. It also called for the deployment of a system, possibly radar, to detect pollution.

The South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) submission
SAHRC was tasked with assessing and dealing with complaints. Climate change brought with it human rights issues and concerns that the Constitution was being violated by big business and parastatals, such as Eskom and Sasol. Section 24 of the Constitution referred to an environment that was not harmful to health and well-being, and for the protection of the environment.

Ms Yuri Ramkissoon, another representative of SAHRC, said that South Africa was the 13th highest emitter of carbon dioxide in the world. She said that while South Africa, as a developing nation was not compelled to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions, it was an energy-intensive nation. It relied heavily on industry for economic growth, despite its wealth of mineral resources and energy. The time had come for the development and implementation of a strategy to counter the effects of climate change. Some of the effects would be on women and children, on the natural environment, on agriculture and on poverty and would affect the millennium development goals (MDG).

Renewable Energy Centre (REC) submission
Mr Pierre-Louis Lemercier, representative for REC, asked that the Ministry share its report on greenhouse gas emissions. REC believed that government had a major problem in its failure to respond to climate change. There needed to be a definition of the goal for low carbon emission, and this goal needed to be ambitious enough to steer South Africa in the right direction. He said the failure to respond would lead to problems of food security and the well-being of the nation. He also said the government had failed its citizens as it faced looming electricity blackouts. He said it was the responsibility of government to inform its citizens about low carbon emissions and the impact on climate change. Without education there could be dramatic effects. He said the capture of carbon, and the development of bio-fuels was just a smokescreen to hide reluctance to deal with climate change.

He thanked the Committees for convening the public hearings, and felt that these were an important platform in which to raise the urgency to deal with the reduction of carbon emissions and to broaden the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) of the Kyoto Protocol.

Ekasi Development Projects (EDP) submission
Mr S Tshingilane, Chairperson, Ekasi Development Projects, noted that EDP was a youth- and community-based organisation doing upliftment programmes in Soweto. It believed that the world must act together to fight climate change. He highlighted the extreme discomfort suffered by people of certain sections of Soweto during flooding. He said the impacts of the weather on those affected included: food security and famine, water availability, poor drainage, and soil erosion. In regard to soil erosion, more trees must be planted. He noted that the Soweto Green Project had been successfully completed. Another of the projects involved the cleaning of two community parks, and a school garden.

He said that there was a raised awareness that science had discovered innovative ways of farming. EDP had also experienced many people moving to the townships from rural areas, thus resulting in reduced living space. The 2010 Soccer World Cup would not necessarily have a positive effect on these people, and he therefore recommended more involvement and funding from government in their programmes. He commented that government and the Committees played a vital role in gaining the understanding of people “on the ground”.

Deloitte submission
Mr Paul Devine, representative for Deloitte, said his company was offering its support to make it possible for South Africa to attract international investment. He said that by using the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) of the Kyoto Protocol a country could “earn carbon credits” by implementing projects that reduced carbon emissions. Besides this, there was also a voluntary means of registering projects of this kind. For this reason, Deloitte was firmly in favour of a regulatory framework for South Africa, which would enable it to register any such project which reduced carbon emissions. He said once this was in place, a significant portion of the US$105 billion traded in this year alone, would be available to South African business. This issue would be on the agenda at COP-15, and South Africa needed to be in a position to participate in this network on a global scale. However, the regulatory framework still had to be developed, and this was hampering the acquisition of carbon credits. He could foresee that countries in Europe for example, would be willing to invest in local projects with the funds they would generate. The regulatory framework would have to comply with a number of objectives. Besides this, there was work in progress on a “carbon tax” – a system whereby a tax incentives were offered for reduction and higher payments extracted for high emissions.

Agricultural Business Chamber (ABC) submission
Ms Annelize Crosby, representing both ABC and AgriSA, noted that the agricultural sector conceded that it was one of the contributors to the problems of emissions. However, the implementation of agricultural activity and use of agricultural land made it possible to provide a “sink” and be part of the solution as well. Whilst ABC acknowledged solutions offered internationally, there was a need for “local solutions” to supplement these. Farmers, she said, were already challenged to provide more and more food to the nation and now they had to cope with climate change as well. Agriculture’s response to climate change would need to be based on policies and strategies on both mitigation and adaptation. An incentive system had to be devised for adaptation measures in place. She said ABC was in support of the outcomes of COP-15. She said Parliament must be congratulated for initiating the public hearings.

AgriSA submission
Ms Crosby said that a changing rainfall pattern was not the only impact that climate change had on agriculture. Socio-economic impacts such as poverty, leading to food security issues, were also a concern. Agricultural productivity needed improvement and modernisation, to help it cope with the demand to provide food. This would enable it to adapt to the effects of climate change. She noted that currently agriculture was responsible for 14% of all emissions. In order to decrease the emission of greenhouse gases, attention must be given to conservation, the sustainable management of water, the sustainable management of manure, and the production of renewable energy. She said there was a need to reward farmers for their contribution to reduction through the carbon credit system. She called for greater investment in crop protection. She said there must be focused efforts on adaptation in order to respond to the climate change. AgriSA was also in favour of early warning systems.

Agricultural Research Council (ARC) submission
Dr Mohammed Jeenah, representative for ARC, noted that ARC directed itself to climate change as it affected the epidemiology of disease. He said all crops should be adapted to climate change, and must be used for both food and biofuel. A surveillance system needed to be developed for mitigation. It currently was researching systems to improve soil by adding bacteria to it.

South African Climate Change Network (SACAN) submission
Ms Dorah Lebelo, representative for SACAN, noted that women were particularly affected by climate change, and this was especially so for women stricken by poverty. This was due to gender inequality, resulting in a greater burden on women to cope with the effects of climate change. She said that attention needed to be given to the principle of fair burden sharing. With the degree of change in rainfall patterns, farming activity was dramatically affected for rural women, while in the informal settlements, such as those in the Cape Flats in Cape Town, frequent flooding was the main effect. However, despite these negative concerns, women were in a good position to develop strategies for adaptation. She said that, globally, emissions would peak by 2015, then fall thereafter. SACAN believed that binding, realistic targets must be set for reducing emissions. She called for, amongst other things, finance and the appropriate infrastructure to deal with climate change. Women should have a bigger say over shared resources, and should limit their unpaid time given to community projects. Access to land and natural resources must increase, and women must be assured of participation in developing the plans for millennium development goals.

350.org submission
Ms Samantha Bailey, representative for 350.org, said this organisation was fairly new, but large. It was an  international organisation, concerned with the specific goals for reduction of carbon emissions. The number 350 referred to the limit of the number of parts per million (ppm) of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Currently the ppm was much higher. The organisation enjoyed a worldwide support for this cause and said that South Africa had a huge stake in achieving this goal. A number of countries had added their names to the list that supported this goal, but South Africa was not on this list. Despite this, she said it had been encouraging to see that South Africa had enthusiastically participated in the worldwide day of activism to raise awareness of the goal, on 24 October this year.

South African Catholic Bishops Conference (SACBC) submission
The representative for SACBC made a case for much wider use of solar power, and its enforcement through legislation. It proposed that penalties for transgression could be enforced by means of taxation.

Federation for a Sustainable Environment (FSE) submission
Mr Koos Pretorius, representative for the FSE, noted the FSE’s concerns about the rising level of pollution in dams and rivers as a result of mining operations. The rivers originated on the escarpment. With mining operations, water tended to collect unnaturally in a pit. This put it at high risk for pollution. Pollution had already severely affected the Loskop Dam, whilst in the Middelburg Dam the sulphate level was a concern. His focus was on the cost of these impacts, saying that eventually the cost fell in the lap of the taxpayer. To achieve a solution, mitigation had to be commenced, and the estimated cost of mitigation would be R14 billion.

Mental Health and Poverty Project (MHAPP) submission
Ms Sarah Skeen, representative of the Mental Health and Poverty Project, explained that this project was located at the University of Cape Town. She presented the Committees with evidence of the link between mental well-being and climate change. Globally, extreme weather events such as the recent tsunamis and Hurricane Katrina had left people displaced, with accompanying anxiety. In terms of the link between climate change and poverty, she said that changing weather patterns could induce drought, and this in turn could lead to concerns over food security, and water supply. The cycle continued to impact on livelihoods, thus having the potential to affect mental well-being. Mental health issues needed to be considered for inclusion in disaster response plans. She said that very little research had been conducted in this arena, and the presentation today would help to start the debate on a national level. She said that mental health and well-being needed to be recognized as a factor of human development.

Discussion
Mr J Skosana (ANC) noted that the land reform issue must be representative of all South Africans. In this regard the most affected sector was people living in rural parts of South Africa. The focus of government in relation to the rural populace should be primarily on employment and education. He directed his comment to the Green Network and asked for clarity as to what the Green Network was trying to do about climate change. Mr Skosana asked about the objectives in relation to the Copenhagen Conference. He also asked for clarity on what was meant by the Green Network’s reference to “international legislation”.

Mr Kompela, Green Network, responded that the Network had a number of ongoing workshops to raise awareness, and worked closely with government, especially the Department of Human Settlements and the Department of Agriculture, as well as the University of Kwazulu-Natal. There was a healthy exchange of views and expertise. He said that a more sophisticated storm-water system and a radar system to detect storms were needed.

Mr L Greyling (ID) asked the South Durban Community Environmental Alliance (SDCEA), about the amount of air pollution registered in terms of the Air Quality Management Act, the fact that there was clear flouting of compliance regulations, and whether this had to do with enforcement or oversight in respect of legislation.  He wanted to know what linkages there were between air pollution and climate change. Secondly, he asked what concerns there were about the Transnet pipeline.

Mr D’Sa replied that his colleague would need time to make a presentation in order to respond to the question on the pipeline. The Chairperson indicated that all the allocated time had been used.

Mr Greyling asked Mr Terry Bengis to set out what South Africa’s stance would be at the Copenhagen Conference, on reducing emissions. He asked what expectations there were from government in this regard.

Mr Bengis replied that South Africa would be receiving the “Angry Mermaid Award”, explaining that a negative view was taken on the reduction of emissions.

Mr G Morgan (DA) asked SDCEA what prime interventions it would regard as most important, concerning the air quality management programme. He said that he understood that rigorous legislation was in place but that it was not fully enforced, and asked what view SDCEA had of this. Furthermore, he said that it was clear from its presentation that the business sector had a poor record, was currently clouding the issues, and that t legislation on climate change could be the main way to create change. He said that many South Africans showed vast talent, ideas and goodwill, but that this needed to be harnessed in order to act decisively. He asked SDCEA what support was envisaged from government, and from Parliament, in order to achieve this change.

Mr D’Sa, SDCEA, said that he would see the most important issues as being the quality of lives in the area, as climate change affected the use and availability of land. He said that a sector of poor people in the area had been disadvantaged by others who were in a better position. He agreed also that legislation was needed to implement early warning systems. In response to the comment about talent, ideas and goodwill, he said that the utilisation of local knowledge was crucial.

A member asked the SDCEA whether complaints about the quality of the water were as bad as depicted in the presentation.

Mr C Moseki, Water Research Commission, volunteered an answer about the water quality, saying that South Africa was amongst the few countries where it was possible to drink the tap water, and that reports as to poor quality, as portrayed by the media, were not true. He said there was a plan to assist local government with monitoring systems. A report had been produced by WRC and would be made available to the Committees.

A Member asked the SDCEA about the report on the improvement that this organisation had observed since making its previous presentation to Parliament. She requested the summary of that report.

A Member commented that the findings of the SDCEA could be used as lessons, and should be made available.

A Member commented that cooperative governance must be brought on board by enacting bylaws, which could enforce early warning systems with regard to flooding in the South Durban areas.

Dr N Sweijd, Access,  commented that there was a very distinct difference between environmental management and climate change. He quantified his statement by saying that climate change entailed sensitivity to weather, while environmental management was more complex but included the issues around a “legally binding” agreement on reduction of emissions, which was on the agenda for the Copenhagen Conference.

The Chairperson wondered whether Dr Sweijd viewed the House as being opposed to a “legally binding” agreement.

Dr Sweijd replied that he was wanting to stress the point that the reduction of emissions was about environmental management. Although this was related to, it was also separate from climate change.

The Chairperson requested that the presenters focus on the “blockages” in terms of legislation.

Mr Greyling added that there was a need to address ongoing challenges, and a need for Parliament to forge a partnership with the role-players here today. He asked Mr Bengis if he could bear with the present government in dealing with those issues raised, seen against the backdrop that Sasol had been the responsibility of the former government. He said that this joint committee had been set up to hear the views of the different role-players.

The Chairperson said that the platform given here was not so much to discuss the agenda at Copenhagen, but was rather meant to steer the way forward for climate change as it pertained to South Africa.

Mr Morgan said that he agreed with Mr Pretorius on the implications of coal mining. He asked whether this meant that coal mining would have to be curtailed to a significant degree, or even whether it had to cease.

The Chairperson said that the Secretariat would request the answer from Mr Pretorius in writing, because he had by this time left the House.

A Member asked the South African Climate Action Network (SACAN) whether he had heard correctly that “unilateral action” would be taken.

Ms Lebolo replied in the affirmative.

A Member asked whether the Agricultural Research Council (ARC) could clarify what was meant by “adaptation” and “new breeds” of bacteria.

ARC responded that viruses were spreading, mutating and becoming resistant, and this was the reason for encouraging the growing of different, more robust crops that could withstand disease.

Ms Thabethe asked REC what was meant by the statement that poverty had not been dealt with by the Minister of Energy. She asked which part of the protocol needed to be changed.

Mr Lemercier said he did not hold much hope that government would make changes, although the Copenhagen Conference presented an opportunity to improve and set goals to reduce greenhouse gas emission. He was concerned that big business was simply being allowed to continue emitting a high percentage of carbon.

The Chairperson differed with the views expressed by Mr Lemercier. South Africa was amongst the leading nations in its position on climate change. The Committee suggested that Mr Lemercier should take the time to read the full document. He emphasised that Parliament was not government, and that Parliament was not a spokesperson of government but was rather here to provide a platform to hear its citizens’ views.

A Member said Mr Pretorius had made a strong case for lowering expectations for the “legally binding” agreement at Copenhagen.

Mr Greyling said the agricultural sector was facing an immense challenge and possibly a severe crisis in the next 20 years.

Mr M Johnson (ANC) lamented the fact that there had been no presentation from the marine resources sector, because his concern centred on the seawater level and the migration of fish. None of the issues raised were new. The main question remained as to what was being done to move towards targets set. He urged all participants in the meeting to visit the government website to read its position, which it had already published as far back as 2004.

C-Chairperson Ms M Sotyu said that she would be at Copenhagen, and the position that South Africa had taken in May in Nairobi would be the position forwarded at Copenhagen. South Africa had to convince the conference that South Africa’s position would affect all of Africa.

The Chairperson said that in future there would be more meetings of this kind to enable the Committees to engage with the stakeholders, not only in Parliament but also in the Members’ constituencies. He said that the debate today had not been exhaustive and that some organisations and individuals would be invited to make presentations to Parliament again in the near future.

The meeting adjourned.



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