Copenhagen Accord: Progress Report by Department of Environmental Affairs

Water and Sanitation

31 August 2010
Chairperson: Mr J Skosana (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Department of Environmental Affairs briefed the Committee on the national policy for Climate Change in South Africa, and on what had been achieved at Copenhagen, what was expected at the Mexico meeting and the initiatives that would be needed in future. South Africa was playing a leading role in the Conference of Parties. A task team on climate change was being set up. The policy process had been launched with a Policy Discussion Document and Roundtable on Climate Policy held in May 2010. There had been consultation with stakeholder groupings, and the Intergovernmental Committee on Climate Change was formed to foster the exchange of information, consultation, agreement, assistance and support among the different spheres of government.  Input had been made, and a Green Paper had been drawn. This highlighted the need for adaptation in the water, health and agriculture sectors. Sound and sustainable development would be regarded as development that was also climate-friendly. Interventions focused on the poor, the vulnerable, and on women, and there would be a scaling-up of programmes that achieved poverty eradication, job creation and climate objectives. The information process was also vital. It was necessary to decide on the energy mix for the future, since South Africa was energy-intensive, and to harness the opportunities and challenges for low-carbon transitions. Climate policy and energy plans must be harmonized. It would also be necessary to find the financing and the means to mobilise both national and international finance to support expanded actions. Key policy processes were likely to be presented to Cabinet at the end of the year, after a consultation process.

South Africa had already associated itself with the Copenhagen Accord and had announced its intention to reduce emissions by 34% by 2020, and by 42% by 2025, conditional on a legally binding outcome in Mexico and provision of finance, technology and capacity building. 120 other countries had either associated themselves with the Accord or had listed action, some with conditions. The Department presented what would need to be done in 2020 and 2025. National Appropriate Mitigating Actions (NAMAs) for South Africa were outlined across a variety of sectors. The potential roles that government had in climate change work were outlined, and the Department urged Parliament to organise itself on these issues. Both the National Planning Commission and Monitoring and Evaluation Unit were involved.

The Department outlined what had happened in Copenhagen in 2009, and noted that it would be necessary to try to achieve an internationally binding regime that was ambitious, fair, inclusive and effective, based on equity and an understanding of principles with common aims, which would be achieved through differentiated responsibilities in line with different capabilities. The equity and balance of climate and development imperatives were still a major stumbling block. Currently, some countries were excluded from the Accord at Copenhagen, the Accord was only noted, not adopted, and there were still political challenges. There was a need to discuss whether the Kyoto Protocol would continue beyond 2012, and what could replace it. The lead up to Mexico had comprised a number of political and technical meetings, but there had been some loss of momentum and increasingly there was a trend to adopting non-multilateral agreements and approaches. The Department expressed doubts whether the Mexico discussions would achieve anything much further, and outlined what the difficulties were with America and China. The three possible outcomes were discussed.  South Africa was committed to an inclusive approach and supported political agreements in the Accord being used to unblock the multi-lateral process. By January 2011 the Department would have begun to work on content seriously.

Members asked about the cost of running household appliances on electricity, commented that it was difficult to convey information to constituents, and questioned what had happened at Copenhagen, the stance of Mexico, the sums made available for assistance with climate change and malaria, and the readiness of certain South African government departments to deal with the issues. Members also stressed that all parties should be speaking to each other, wondered if the African Union had a part to play, and questioned the role of traditional leaders and indigenous knowledge in climate change.


Meeting report

Copenhagen Accord and Climate Change: Progress report: Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) briefing
Ms Joanne Yawitch, Director-General, Department of Environmental Affairs, gave two separate presentations. The first outlined the national policy on climate change. The second detailed what had been decided in the Copenhagen Accord, and what the department’s response was, with specific reference to the preparations for the Mexico meeting.

Ms Yawitch outlined that a task team on climate change was being set up, which would consist of one or two members of the Portfolio Committees on both Water and Environmental Affairs. A letter of invitation to the Committee Chairperson would be sent, for Members to become task team members.  South Africa was playing a leading role in the Conference of Parties (COP), to deal with climate change expectations beyond Copenhagen.

The Chairperson interjected to say that she was not sure whether there was sufficient readiness for Mexico. Information gathering was required, and the Committee needed to hear what was happening at present. The structure and focus was on climate change. She pointed out that her home town of Bloemfontein was being affected by climate change.

Ms Yawitch outlined the policy process in South Africa, which was launched with a Policy Discussion Document and Roundtable on Climate Policy held in May 2010. There had been consultation with stakeholder groupings, such as the Climate Justice Network, Business Unity South Africa, Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU), South African Local Government Association (SALGA) and Sasol, on the basis of a Discussion Document. There was internal government consultation through the Intergovernmental Committee on Climate Change (IGCCC) to foster the exchange of information, consultation, agreement, assistance and support among the different spheres of government.  IGCCC and inputs were made by the sector departments into a draft Green Paper. These drew on inputs and information from the Second National Communication update on climate science.

Adaptation in water, health and agriculture were absolutely key to the issues. There was an approach that sound and sustainable development must be climate-friendly development. There was a strong emphasis on interventions that focused on the poor, vulnerable and women. There was also a need to scale up programmes that achieved both poverty eradication, job creation and climate objectives  - such as the “Work for Water”, “Working for Wetlands” and similar campaigns. It was necessary to ensure that information was put out, and that municipalities, provinces and civil society were empowered. There was also a focus on mitigation, discussing the Long-term Mitigating Scenarios (LTMS) peak, plateau and decline trajectory, and Copenhagen commitments, and how to take these forward. It was necessary to decide upon the country’s energy mix in the future, and the opportunities and challenges in a low carbon transition. It would be necessary to measure the impacts of measures taken by developed countries to mitigate their emissions, and the implications for South Africa, including trade, as some countries may insist on trading only with others who had similar initiatives. There was a need to align climate policy and energy plans. Finally, it was necessary to find both the financing and the means to mobilise both national and international finance to support expanded actions.

Ms Yawitch noted that some of the key policy focus areas would hopefully be presented to Cabinet in the following month, but there was a 90-day consultation process, so many were more likely to be presented only at the end of the year. She noted that meetings had been held in every province. Climate adaptation, water, health and agriculture were all key areas, and rainfall patterns were of importance to all these issues. The main themes revolved around information and empowering municipalities, provinces and civil society. She noted that at present, people tended to be disconnected from issues of climate change and there was a need for them to be empowered. South Africa was currently energy-intensive and the transition from traditional to green sources would be a challenge.

She noted that South Africa needed to deviate from a “business as usual” approach. South Africa had associated itself with the Copenhagen Accord. It had further announced its intention to reduce emissions by 34% by 2020, and by 42% by 2025, conditional on a legally binding outcome in Mexico and provision of finance, technology and capacity building. 120 other countries had either associated themselves with the Accord or had listed action, some with conditions. Its figures were based on Long Term Mitigation Scenarios (LTMS), the Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) for the Electricity Sector of December 2009 and activities in the Clean Technology Fund Investment Portfolio. There was also a need to align these processes with the Industrial Policy Action Plan and resource plans. There would be a focus on land use change, agricultural change, waste and recycling, Electricity supply and efficiency was to be upgraded and buildings would be made more efficient and environmentally friendly.

Ms Yawitch went through a business colour coded chart and what needed to be done in 2020 and 2025. The National Appropriate Mitigating Actions (NAMAs) for South Africa were outlined across a variety of sectors. Interventions included achieving improved efficiency in business, and producing public commercial efficient buildings (through retrofitting, CFL installations, and lights being switched off at night). There was a need to shift to a lower-carbon energy supply, which would involve the roll-out of renewables for energy mix and nuclear power. There was also a need for enhanced lower carbon supply through further degree of electrification, for sustainable transport and development, by a shift from private to public transport.  In this regard, she mentioned initiatives such as Gautrain, tolling on roads, taxing, and the move to send long haul goods by rail instead of road. Liquid fuel initiatives involved Sasol. The carbon capture and storage would involve a highly intensive industry. There was a need to reduce industrial process emissions, minimise waste, increase recycling, and focus on land use change, agricultural change, increasing efficiency and reducing emissions in the industrial processes, and changing the transport sector, and fuels.

Ms Yawitch tabled a slide on the Intergovernmental Committee on Climate Change (IGCCC), and noted that although the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), the Medical Research Council (MRC) and the Agricultural Council were not mentioned on the list, they had attended.

She then presented on the potential roles that government had in climate change work. She urged that Parliament should organise itself around climate change. The National Planning Commission (NPC) was involved with a long-term vision and strategy. The Monitoring and Evaluation Unit would monitor and evaluate the Ministers Delivery Agreement.

Ms Yawitch noted that climate impacts would undermine development in the world and in South Africa. Beyond 2012, it would be necessary to try to achieve an internationally binding regime that was ambitious, fair, inclusive and effective, based on equity and an understanding of principles with common aims, which would be achieved through differentiated responsibilities in line with different capabilities. It would be necessary to prioritise both mitigation of emissions and adaptation to impacts. There would be a need to balance climate and development imperatives, to ensure equitable sharing of the limited carbon remaining space and make provision for developed countries to reduce their emissions, while ensuring mitigatory actions for developing countries, whilst also allowing time for their development. Adaptation was necessary throughout and the necessary financial, technological and capacity building support would be required.

Ms Yawitch outlined the negotiations leading up to the Copenhagen meeting. There had been two ad hoc working groups, and there were negotiations ongoing from 2007. It became evident that it would be difficult to reach agreement in 2009, and the Danish COP President intervened. In the final days, thirty Heads of State had formulated a political agreement, the Copenhagen Accord. However, this was non-inclusive and in particular excluded the ALBA countries, which comprised some South American countries as well. The Accord was only noted, not adopted. There was an agreement that negotiations would continue until the Mexico meeting in 2010. The fundamental difficulties were economic competitiveness and challenge of achieving equity and differentiation.

Ms Yawitch summarized that there were political challenges. These included how to reflect commitments that quantified absolute targets for emissions reductions. Relative actions, support, and international verification of targets, actions and support were needed. The fairness or equity principles, in other words, how to prevent dangerous impact on vulnerable economies and livelihoods, and how to share the carbon space, quantifying the global goal and how equitably to share responsibilities between developed and developing countries, were still areas of discussion. There was some question whether the Kyoto Protocol would continue beyond 2012, and what would replace it, whether this should be a new Protocol, or whether an internationally binding system should be used.

Ms Yawitch described the lead up to Mexico. In the first months of 2010 there had been a number of political and technical meetings. However, there was a loss of momentum, and there was an emphasis on developed countries rather than a global agreement. There was increasingly a trend to adopting non-multilateral agreements and approaches. It was unlikely that Mexico would achieve much further. The United States of America (USA) had indicated that it was unable to legislate binding targets and obtain a negotiating mandate, which in turn prevented the European Union (EU) countries from seriously negotiating targets. Negotiations were presently focused on rebuilding confidence, in the hope that a multilateral outcome would be agreed upon either in Mexico, or later in South Africa.

She said there were three possible outcomes in Mexico. There could be an early agreement to negotiate legally binding instruments, but this would depend on the willingness of USA to pass domestic law, and of China to commit action in a treaty. Secondly, there could be acceptance that no global agreement would be reached, but that decisions would be adopted in a non-multilateral form. Thirdly, there could be deferring of a final agreement until later, with perhaps decisions to implement some early actions, but with the framework of the global agreement being transferred to discussions in South Africa at the next meeting. South Africa was committed to an inclusive approach and supported political agreements in the Accord being used to unblock the multi-lateral process. It was preparing for Mexico and further working on the mandate. A series of national meetings was planned for October 2010. Parliament would be consulted, as it was necessary to determine the position for South Africa. Logistics for future meetings were with the UN Secretariat, but it was envisaged that there would be a bid to hold the COP in a South African city. Whilst this would help to give a sense of ownership, and enhance consultations with NGOs and other stakeholders, there were some financial implications, and National Treasury had only limited allocations. By January 2011 the Department would have begun to work on content seriously. The current situation was difficult, and hopes for improvement were limited.

Discussion
Ms M Mabuza (ANC) said climate change terminology was difficult to understand, when it referred to issues such as “mitigation” and these concepts were also difficult to convey to the people of South Africa.

Ms H Ndude (COPE) said that Copenhagen was certainly an eye opener. She questioned which of the general household appliances was the most costly to run – saying that people would need to know whether lights, a stove, or a hot water geyser were the most expensive, and to get proper facts as to, for instance, the relative costs of letting a geyser run continuously, or turning it off and then having to let it heat up again fully.

Ms Yawitch said that the key policy focus areas were now emphasising the need for interventions that focused on the poor, vulnerable and women, and on giving information. She also noted that her department was focusing on the scaling up of programmes that would help to achieve poverty eradication, job creation and climate objectives, such as “Work for Water”.

Ms Yawitch requested that the Chairperson allow Mr de Groot, who was an observer from Sasol, to present some energy efficient measures.

Mr de Groot mentioned that it was possible to reduce expenditure on energy through some easy savings methods, including reducing the temperature of a geyser if the water was too hot to wash one’s hands, or using geyser blankets to help retain the heat.

Mr G Morgan (DA) mentioned that South Africa was widely lauded for its initiatives. South Africa had played a great role at Copenhagen. The G77 countries  had lost negotiating capital. He questioned why Mexico did not take part in the Accord.

Mr Morgan mentioned the sum of $100 billion that was allocated to assistance in matters of climate and malaria, and noted that loan capital was promised. However, he thought that the allocation based on parts per million was questionable.

Mr Morgan questioned the role of the Department in the Revised Industrial Policy Action Plans, and the cap on renewables.

Ms A Lovemore (DA) mentioned that 1 September was Arbour Day, and asked how far departments were with plans. She expressed her dismay that the Department of Co-operative Governance had no plans, why this Department was not involved, and what the implication of all the delays would be if one Minister had to speak first to another.

Ms H Ndude (COPE) mentioned the stages and how far South Africa was with COP16. She stressed that there was a need for all parties to talk to one another and to determine the implications and challenges arising from COP15. She enquired whether the African Union (AU) could play a role in negotiations.

Ms J Manganye (ANC) questioned the role of traditional leaders in climate change.

Ms Yawitch responded that there was a need to tackle indigenous knowledge, and to determine what did work and what did not. She cited that in some countries, people simply adapted to the conditions – such as getting used to the frequent flooding in Pakistan – but there was also a need to determine how it could be improved. There was a need for government and civil society to respect, understand and support traditional knowledge, and a need to strengthen work on the ground.

Ms Yawitch said that, in regard to issues around mitigation, burning fossil fuels, petrol and reducing carbon, Copenhagen was non-inclusive. She agreed that South Africa was good at processes and consultation. At Copenhagen, there were 28 to 30 countries who were mostly in agreement on the issues. She noted that the European Union was included but the ALBA countries were excluded. She noted that amongst the least developed countries, mention was made of Sweden, Lesotho, Gabon, Maldives, Papua New Guinea, and Ethiopia.

Ms Yawitch said that there was a need to fast-track the financing for Mexico. South Africa had some advantages as a G77 member. She noted that more work was ongoing at the moment, although the level of scale and impact was not entirely where it should be. South Africa did have an advantage as a G77 member.

Dr N Ngwadla, Advisor to the Minister of Environmental Affairs, gave a brief explanation to Members as to how global warming occurred. He also explained the technical aspects of parts per million and the reason for using a 2 degree Celsius increase in temperature. He also outlined some of the mitigating measures in place.

The meeting was adjourned.


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