National Climate Change Response Green Paper 2010: Department of Environmental Affairs briefing

Water and Sanitation

21 February 2011
Chairperson: Mr J. De Lange (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Department of Environmental Affairs indicated that there was very little doubt that climate change was a reality, illustrated by extreme weather patterns and data collected over a long period of time. South Africa, as a developing country, was particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change, due to its socio economic status. Sectors that would be affected included water, agriculture, forestry, biodiversity and health. It was not possible to apportion the blame for the greenhouse gas effect to any specific country, but South Africa had acknowledged that something needed to be done to reduce emissions. Currently, South Africa was responsible for about half of the emissions on the African continent. The cost of damage resulting from extreme weather conditions was estimated at R1 billion per year between 2000 and 2009.

The Department then gave the background to and outlined the content of the National Climate Change Response Green Paper, which was compiled in response
to South Africa’s commitments to the United Nations. There were three areas on which there was no consensus; the first relating to nuclear energy in the energy mix, given the strong anti-Nuclear lobby; the second to transparency in energy planning and the third to the price of carbon, as there was some resistance against having pollutants traded as commodities. The policy process had slowed down in anticipation of commitments being reached at Copenhagen, but when this was inconclusive, the Green Paper process continued to publication of that Paper in November 2010. The level of participation was excellent. The Department had correlated inputs from all sectors. It was necessary to set up mechanisms to monitor and measure performance. The water sector would require the most adaptation, particularly since water was also used in the energy sector. Disaster management needed to be strengthened. Marine biodiversity, town planning and waste management would need to be addressed. Behaviour change was also included. An intergovernmental committee was coordinating the process. The Department’s final presentation outlined the impact of climate change on various sectors, emphasizing water management and planning.

Members urged that there should be greater communication, as some of the issues isolated by the Department of Environmental Affairs could well be built into criteria by other departments. The possibilities of adaptation and mitigation were discussed. Members asked if blame could be ascribed to South Africa for the effects of climate change, whether neighbouring countries experienced similar rises in temperature, if sufficient planning was being done to protect future generations, and whether there was collaboration with other countries. Members pointed out that contestations were likely in respect of trans-boundary water resources. The Department was referred to the thinking that every Bill in future should integrate the environment and green economy. They expressed concern whether the Green Paper process involved sufficient consultation, asked if there was likely to be one overarching piece of Climate Change legislation, and urged that a unified, strong and secure database must be created for information storage, and it was necessary to ensure good management and coordination. Members noted that the Committee would also need to look at its own accountability and responsibilities and interaction with other Parliamentary committees.  Members said that although making a commitment to mitigation might reduce South Africa’s negotiating room, it was important to show commitment and to play a leading and proactive role. Members asked if the policy could be reviewed after COP17.

Meeting report

Chairperson’s opening remarks
The Chairperson announced that the Committee’s meeting time for March had been reduced due to the plenary sessions, and would need to sit three times a week until 18 March to hear submissions. Discussions after the public hearings would commence on 18 March. He reminded Members about the Conference on 1 and 2 March.

South Africa’s Second National Communication on Climate Change -  A Clear Case for Immediate Change: Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) briefing –  

Ms Lize McCourt, Chief Operations Officer, Department of Environmental Affairs, introduced her team from the Department to the Committee.

Mr Peter Lukey, Acting Deputy Director General, Department of Environmental Affairs, briefly outlined what had been circulated to the Committee. His presentation would focus on the key impacts of Climate Change (CC). He said that until about two years ago,
CC was seen just as global warming. This was basically caused by the burning of fossil fuel, which increased carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions in the atmosphere, and warmed it up. A “greenhouse effect” resulted from increased release of CO2, and this changed the climate system. The effects were of global significance, affecting everybody.

Mr Lukey noted that South Africa had widespread vulnerability to CC. The socio economic challenges increased this vulnerability, as a large part of the population already had low resilience, high poverty, a high disease burden, inadequate housing infrastructure and location. Much of South Africa had low and variable rainfall. Most water resources had already been allocated. Agriculture and fisheries, which were both important for food security, would be affected. Agricultural sub-sectors were sensitive to projected climate change, so winners and losers may emerge. Small scale and homestead dryland farmers were most vulnerable, while intensive irrigated agriculture would be better buffered, but still vulnerable to water resource constraints. Commercial forestry was also vulnerable to increased frequency of wildfires, and could have restrictions imposed on their water demand in South-western regions. Rangelands were vulnerable to bush encroachment, possibly related to enhanced growth by rising atmospheric CO2. Indigenous biodiversity was vulnerable in key biodiversity hotspots such as grasslands, fynbos and succulents in the Karoo. Alien invasive plant species would be likely to increase in importance because of greater spread and impact on water resources. Strong trends had been detected in the physical marine environment, including rising sea levels, the warming of the Agulhas current and parts of the Benguela, but projections of climate change impacts remained speculative. Health impacts would be exacerbated by disease burden complex. Some effects of climate change might already be occurring, such as extremes of drought, flood and temperature.  Cholera outbreaks had been associated with extreme weather events, especially in poor, high density settlements. Damage costs due to extreme weather-related events such as flooding, fire, storms and drought had conservatively been estimated at R1 billion per year between 2000 and 2009.

The Chairperson asked if there was a way that blame could be ascribed to South Africa for the effects of climate change.

Mr Lukey clarified that there was much discussion as to where blame lay, but the global system was too interrelated. A good example was the ozone hole, which resulted from activity in the North, but whose effects were seen in the South. The world, however, had acted to reduce the Chloro Fluoro Carbon (CFC) emissions that were causing the ozone hole, and it had started to recover. The movement of pollution was a connected system. South Africa had one of the best Atmospheric Agencies in the world, measuring levels of
CO2 but the reality was that climate change was about overall concentrations due to the emissions. South Africa had been a coal economy for many years, and it was necessary to ask what this country’s carbon debt would be and if South Africa had used up all its CO2 space.

The Chairperson asked if neighbouring countries had experienced temperature increases.

Mr Lukey explained that because these increases were uniform, all countries suffered the same consequences. There were concerns about climate refugees, since, in places like Zimbabwe, temperatures would increase. There were also chances that areas that previously had no malaria might now do so, thus increasing the disease burden.

Ms H Ndude (COPE) was extremely worried about the consequences of CC. She asked if sufficient planning was being done to protect future generations.

Mr P Mathebe (ANC) asked if there were collaborations with neighbouring countries to combat CC challenges, pointing out that South Africa was more industrialised than its neighbours.

Mr Lukey replied that collaboration was the basis of international negotiations and diplomacy. South Africa had acknowledged that something needed to be done to reduce emissions. It had also made a political commitment to mitigation and taking responsibility as a global citizen. South Africa’s neighbours knew about the country’s carbon profile as it was published on the UN website. South Africa was responsible for half of Africa’s total greenhouse gas emissions.

Dr Mpandeli Sylvester, Specialist Advisor on Climate Change Adaptation, Department of Environmental Affairs, said that since CC had no boundaries, South Africa was being forced to work with neighbouring countries. Collaboration across boundaries was needed to resolve the challenges.

Mr Mathebe asked if other countries could legally make claims against South Africa in view of its responsibility for half of the emissions on the African Continent.

The Chairperson explained that there was no international court to deal with such a matter, and it would be impossible to establish links as to the source of the emissions.

Dr Sylvester added that in addition, the neighbouring countries did not have infrastructure and thus relied heavily on South Africa. They also derived benefits from South Africa. For instance, Mozambique who relied on early warning signals from South Africa about flooding.

Mr L Greyling (ID) noted that the United States had been sued for damages from climate change, but he was unsure of the outcome.

Mr Morgan remarked that South Africa would be more likely to see contestations and legal challenges around such matters as transboundary water resources and allocations of water.

Ms McCourt informed the Committee that two processes were already taking place in spatial planning and the finalisation of the spatial vision for the country.

The Chairperson referred to the debate around the green economy, during a presentation on the New Growth Path by the Department of Economic Development (EDD). The environment was named as a separate component of the economy. However, he thought the economy should rather be a subsection of the environment. It should become standard thinking that every Bill drafted in future should integrate the environment and the green economy.

The National Climate Change Response Green Paper: Department of Environmental Affairs briefing
Mr Lukey said that the discussion after his previous presentation was a good precursor as to why a National Policy was needed. The current policy had been reduced down from 200 to 36 pages, and this had resulted in this document being a framework core policy, which would set out the overall responsibility on issues where policy solutions did not exist.

Mr Lukey outlined the history of the policy development. This had started from the National Climate Change Strategy, in 2004, and was compiled in response to South Africa’s commitments to the United Nations. The 2005 Climate Change Conference had combined policy and science, and the most important outcome was that the Government confirmed that CC was a major threat. This resulted in the Midrand Plan of Action, looking at long term mitigation scenarios and how to reduce carbon. In 2008, Cabinet gave directions on how to proceed. South Africa would continue to emit up to 2020, would reach a plateau in ten years and then reduce emissions. Cabinet had also decided that South Africa
needed to have a CC policy. This resulted in the March 2009 CC Summit, which was live-streamed across the world. The event was also the public launch of the policy process.

This conference identified three areas with no consensus. The first related to what constituted the South Africa energy mix. There was debate around nuclear energy, with a very strong anti-nuclear lobby group. It was clear that energy planning was not transparent. The third issue related to the price of carbon, and although there was agreement on putting a price on carbon, there was strong opposition to “monetizing” a pollutant and having it traded like a commodity.

The policy process slowed down, since there were high hopes that a global commitment would be reached at the Copenhagen Summit. That was not the case. In May 2010, a policy roundtable was held, and the Green Paper was published in November 2010. The level of participation had been excellent, as every province had a workshop, but this confirmed that people were not lobbying through these workshops. Although industry was well represented, it merely observed and used the new Economic Development and Labour Council (NEDLAC) as the channel for lobbying.

In 2008, the implementation plan was approved by Cabinet. Provincial workshops were completed and the formal comment process ended. The Department received over 400 individual submissions and ended with 76 pages of comments. All these would be taken on board in the process.

The Chairperson interjected that the process must be finalised, but that this should not be rushed. It was vital for people to acknowledge the process, which was as important as the substance.

Mr Lukey agreed with the Chairperson. The Department had to facilitate the policy, and to do this it needed to correlate inputs of varying quality and detail from all sector departments, and weld them into a clear and cohesive Government policy. The structure that he outlined to the Members was therefore important. The policy included sections giving an Introduction, on Mitigation, Adaptation, Principles, Strategies to get to the desired goal, Detail of the Policy, Roles and Responsibilities, Institutional Framework and Coordination, Inputs and Resource Mobilisation, Monitoring, Evaluation and Review.

Mr Lukey added that South Africa had one of the most complete datasets on temperatures and global concentration of CO2. South African scientists were also very influential and well respected in the field. The Department needed a way of monitoring and measuring how the country was doing. The key adaptation sector was water, as it would be the most limited resource.  Agriculture had massive potential. He noted that human health was one example of the effects of climate change, and would include the effect of heat waves and increasing malaria outbreaks. South African electricity was obtained from burning coal, and the fossil-based emissions had resulted in relatively cheap electricity, which meant that efficiency was never a prime requirement. This resulted in South Africa not being competitive about saving and optimising the use of energy. In South Africa, the most efficient form of transport was the taxi, mass transport was not successful, and cars were viewed as status symbols.

Mr Lukey added that another area covered Disaster Management. Part of the process towards Y2K was to build up the Disaster Management Centre. This was doing very well in terms of early warning systems. With regard to terrestrial biodiversity, South Africa was considered one of the top mega-diverse countries of the world and this would be one of its large growth sectors. Marine biodiversity had been under threat for many years, affecting the fishery stock and commercial fishery. Fish would be moving from one coast to the other, and this would have logistical impacts on livelihoods. The effect of CC on infrastructure would probably require the re-education of town planners. In the Waste Sector, 2% of the emissions were from the landfills. Methane from these landfills could be used to generate electricity.

Mr Mathebe was concerned that the process may not have involved enough consultation, because it only relied on utilising provincial and municipal structures to invite stakeholders. This could have marginalised the poor, who were vulnerable to the effects of CC. He asked if there was a mechanism to ensure the involvement of poor people. He also said that he had met a manager from the Department of Water Affairs (DWA) who said her unit had not been taken on board, as the DEA was running the process alone.

Mr Greyling asked what role of the Green Paper, once it became a White Paper, would play in international negotiations. He also asked what standing it would have to ensure that action would be taken by other departments.

Mr Morgan agreed with Mr Greyling. He also asked if there would be one overarching piece of climate legislation.

The Chairperson remarked that he was a strong believer in databases and the need for government to make decisions based on evidence. The majority of departments did not have systems and databases to store knowledge, and he therefore asked if there were plans to create a database to store all the information generated from this process.

The Chairperson agreed with Mr Mathebe that the Department must find ways to communicate information to the vast majority of people, perhaps through a roadshow, or using the Conference of Parties (COP 17) publicity as leverage to reach the public. He also urged the Department to consider appointing someone as “the face of the issue”, similar to the way that America had handled the New Orleans and 9/11 disasters. He also affirmed Mr Morgan’s earlier point that the Department needed to be a leader on climate change issues in the Country.

Dr S Huang (ANC) asked the Department about the practicalities of receiving comments up to 16 February, asking how many it had received so far.

The Chairperson clarified that there were two processes, one for the Department and one for the Committee. The latter had the deadline of 11 February.

Ms McCourt replied that the Department had sponsorship for the outreach projects. The Department also had communication and awareness campaigns around the Green Paper, and the plans were coming together. She added that work was also being done in other departments, and this was improving, with each department being responsible for the information from their sector. Although only the DEA was giving this presentation on the Green Paper, in fact the Department of Water Affairs had been the source on information for water-related matters and the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, for agriculture-related matters.

Mr Lukey added that the road show would present information put together by all the different departments. Behaviour change was an important part of CC, and that was also in the plan. He noted that the group resulting from the National Climate Change Conference of 2004 had become more of a reference group rather than an activist group, and this included an intergovernmental committee that was coordinating the process, who reported to an inter-Ministerial Committee. The problem was the level of detail involved. The biggest concern was accountability.

The Chairperson remarked that DEA was still responsible for the overall management and monitoring of the policy, even though other Departments were responsible for their respective areas

Mr Lukey said that the policy intended to build on existing legislation. For example, greenhouse pollutants would be made a priority in terms of the Air Quality Act, and polluters would be asked to submit reduction plans. Whether a separate CC piece of legislation would be produced was not yet known.

The Chairperson asked the Department to examine how other countries had legislated. Britain, for example, had protocols based on legislation.

Mr Lukey replied that the DEA, through the Intergovernmental Committee, had created a matrix of responsibility and all were accounted for. A mechanism was still needed to audit that each department was performing as required.

The Chairperson said that the real problems lay in the areas of management and coordination, and integration. In South Africa, much knowledge was not consigned to writing, and DEA must put systems in place to ensure proper recording, passing on and storage of information.

The Chairperson emphasised again the importance of Section 9 of the Green Paper, on Monitoring and Evaluation, urging that the DEA must focus on making this work.

Mr Morgan asked that the Committee place equal emphasis on systems, monitoring and responsibilities when reviewing the Green Paper in Parliament. The Committee also needed to begin the process of looking at how it, as a Parliamentary institution, would monitor CC implementation.

The Chairperson agreed, adding that this Committee must also work with other committees. Once the Green Paper was approved, this Committee would be at the forefront of coordination.

Mr Greyling added that the Committee needed to look at its accountability and responsibility, and should empower other committees to interrogate what their Departments were doing.

Mr Lukey elaborated on the three areas where he had stated that there was no consensus. It was stressed that nuclear formed part of South Africa’s energy mix, but this was opposed by a very strong anti-nuclear lobby group. Some of the issues had been debated some ten years ago, were then considered impossible to implement, but things had changed dramatically. There had been summits on the green economy. The energy planning aspects were also more transparent than in the past. With regard to the economic instrument on pricing of carbon, NEDLAC was dealing with carbon trading in South Africa. The two chief emitters were Eskom and Sasol, but trading between those two made no sense and therefore was not viable. Overall, there was positive involvement and action from other Departments, and National Treasury was also actively looking at carbon trading and had released a discussion document for debate.

Mr Lukey informed the Committee that a National database held the inventory of Greenhouse Gases (GHG). This was a web based system. Soon, every GHG producer would be required to report on its emissions, so this would be regulated.

The Chairperson stressed that the Department needed to go further in order to collect information from other departments relating to CC.

Mr Lukey spoke of plans to produce a South African Vulnerability Atlas, to enable municipalities and grassroots organisations to assess and plan to address their vulnerability. Some of the most advanced work done at the grassroots level on Climate Change was carried out by faith-based organisations, and the movement was gathering momentum from their philosophy.

Ms McCourt confirmed that there would be databases around the implementation of the Green Paper.

The Chairperson noted that the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development used data from the Departments of Health, Social Development, Police and the National Prosecuting Authority and the Courts. However, this was not yet correlated into one database. The DEA must gather information from all affected departments, and create one database to store all the information generated from the process.

Mr Lukey said that, as with any National policy, the Green Paper was used as leverage. Issues of accountability had been discussed at provincial workshops. It had been asked why it was necessary to address issues now, rather than waiting for the COP, and it was concluded that although South Africa would have to adapt and introduce mitigation strategies, it was not a good idea to wait for the COP outcomes. The formulation of this policy would be good leverage for South Africa as the host of COP17, and would demonstrate its integrity.

The Chairperson pointed out that the European Union Countries would come to the negotiations knowing that their countries had already committed, and hence knew they had no room for more negotiations. He would like to see South Africa showing equal commitment. On the one hand, it limited room for negotiation, but on the other allowed South Africa to lead and take the moral high ground. South Africa needed to play a leading and proactive role.

Mr Greyling asked how if South Africa could review the policy after COP 17.

Mr Lukey replied that the situation was very volatile. Once a good international mechanism was in place, there would be a need to have a process for review. There were uncertainties, but the policy gave an indication of what was needed to increase efficiency.

The Chairperson added that policies were binding documents but could be reviewed if overtaken by events.

Climate Change by Sector: Department of Environmental Affairs briefing
Mr Lukey outlined the impacts on various sectors affected by CC. In the water sector, the criticism was that this policy should not be used to reiterate what other departments were in any event bound to do. There was a need to highlight what must be done to accelerate implementation of legislation. This sector needed to look at storage. South Africa stored water in large open dams, which were vulnerable to evaporation, and therefore needed to look at pumping water back into the aquifers.

The Chairperson was worried that the White Paper might repeat what departments were saying. There was a need to identify areas that affected CC, and influence the decisions made in such areas. For example, the budget for infrastructure for DWA had doubled and that department was planning to build more dams. The information outlined by Mr Lukey could influence the decisions of DWA and persuade it that evaporation should be considered as one of the criteria for dam-planning. The departments must, in the Green and White Paper, identify the cross-cutting areas more clearly, and indicate where decisions had to be made.

Mr Greyling suggested that the plan needed to look at water management and water planning, especially by industry. He also asked the Department to look at water efficient technologies in the Green Paper.

Mr Morgan asked the Department to look at controversial areas such as reviewing the water price. This was one mechanism that the Department could use to force efficiency.

Mr Lukey replied that it was hard to defend inputs from other departments. He would give feedback. Water issues had attracted a lot of comments, because of the scarcity of water. He was surprised at comments from the DWA that it was not taken on board, as the DEA had been working well with DWA. Discussions and provincial workshops took place around the tariffs. A major concern related to putting a price on something that was a necessity for survival. Agriculture was a sector massively dependent on water. CC was not so much to do with the supply as with the demand, because of the tendency of humans to live beyond their means. The real and intensive aspects of water demand also revolved around energy. The Green Paper examined softer agricultural techniques, no-till techniques, early warning systems, rain and floods, droughts, and pest outbreaks.

The Chairperson asked Mr Lukey if DEA had asked the other departments to attend to mitigation and adaptation.

Mr Lukey answered that there was a strong push for reaching a balance between the two, and this was South Africa’s position in negotiations. Developed countries had enough resources to do adaptation, and could afford to fix matters that had gone wrong. On the other hand, the developing countries placed emphasis on mitigation in order to avoid huge costs of adaptation.

Mr Morgan asked where South Africa fell in terms of food production in the sub region, and its ability to produce food in five or ten years down the line. He also asked if some countries in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) who had higher rainfall would be able to provide food for those who suffered drought.

Mr Lukey indicated that food security had been under discussion. Biofuels was another issue that needed to be explored. Crop switching might occur, as some crops may in future grow in areas where they had not grown in the past. The freezing cycle of fruits was also under threat, as warming was affecting crops that needed a cold period, such as apples.
The m
eeting was adjourned.


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