Climate Change Green Paper 2010: Public Hearings Day 1

Water and Sanitation

02 March 2011
Chairperson: Mr J De Lange (ANC)
Share this page:

Meeting Summary

The Committee commenced the public hearings on the Climate Change Green Paper 2010 (the Green Paper). Four entities presented their submissions.

Water Research Commission (WRC) warned of potential sea level rises that would result in saline intrusions into coastal aquifers, impacting on water quality, and flooding. It urged that the ecosystem approach principle be adopted, and a balance must be found between mitigation and adaptation. Every sector should have a strategy. Members would have liked to receive more suggestions, and asked if the WRC if it was creating a benchmark for various sectors, and considering efficiency of use. They also questioned the possibility of hydro-electric generation, particularly from the mines, and the costs of desalination, and the progress on mixing treated recycled water with fresh water, and water wastage resulting from leakage.

The South African Weather Service (SAWS) said that South Africa was already having problems coping with the current climate, and 90% of all disasters were weather related. It was important to strengthen disaster management systems. Since the atmosphere was the primary source of water in South Africa, South Africa was dependent on rain, so infrastructure and observation networks must be strengthened. Members asked about the capacity in SAWS, its loss of some upper-air sounding scientists, accessibility of information to pilots, and how SAWS was sourcing scarce skills. The early warning systems, and dissemination of information on lightning, were also questioned. The source of the 2025 projections, the feasibility of pulling together a database on climate change, and a possible representative “face” for the issues were also mentioned.

Commission on Gender Equality and its partners called for inclusion of gender and human science expertise in the planning team, and better State support for subsistence and small scale farming. It outlined recommendations for healthcare, nutrition, reproductive choice, transport and job creation, and proposed that a Climate Change Commission should be set up to oversee the implementation of policy. Members questioned the suggestion for one overarching structure, pointing out that this posed the danger of duplication of the work of other departments, whether one budget was being suggested, and asked for clarification of the references to jobs linked to gigawatt production, and the Resource and Policy Action Plans.

South African Council of Churches (SACC) regarded climate change as an issue of justice, and a moral and spiritual crisis. It did not believe that the reduction of targets was reasonable at two degrees, but should be 1.5 degrees. It believed that South Africa must promote renewable and sustainable energy, called for environmental impact assessments to be conducted by non-government experts, and for public participation in consultation. Members noted that some of the claims needed to be substantiated by research, asked whether the SACC agreed that polluters should pay, and possible alternatives for carbon trading.

Meeting report

Climate Change Green Paper 2010: Public hearings
Water Research Commission (WRC) submission

Mr Chris Moseki, Research Manager, Water Research Commission, presented the response of the Commission (WRC), noting that this was from a water perspective. The WRC warned that the potential sea level rise would result in saline intrusion of coastal aquifers, thus impacting on water quality, and flooding of low lying settlements which would hit the vulnerable poor the hardest. A request was made to consider the e
cosystem approach principle, which considered other human induced impacts, such as pollution, in decision making process. The WRC urged that there must be a balance between mitigation and adaptation. Each sector, including water, should have a strategy. Water quality and efficient water use should be crucial considerations. Ensuring compliance to regulations could save lives. Climate science skills would be necessary for good research

Mr G Morgan (DA) said it was apt to start off with a presentation on water as, in his opinion, it was the most important adaptation sector. WRC had made suggestions to policy makers and much of its work over recent years could feed quite easily into the discussion on climate change. However, he noted that WRC had not really given its opinion or any suggestions, but instead had given information.  Mr Morgan said that water efficiency was an issue that needed more attention, and asked WRC if it was looking at various economic sectors in South Africa, such as mining, transport, trade and industry, and energy in particular, in order to create a baseline or benchmark on what South Africa should regard as acceptable efficiency levels. Climate Change (CC) implied that South Africa would face problems in the future. He asked if WRC was looking at what amounted to efficiency in use, so that policy makers could look at factors such as pricing, in order to come up with a tool for compliance. Mr Moseki’s response suggested that WRC had not done anything comprehensive on water efficiency. However, the WRC was in a position to do so, since its research was informed and directed by public demand.

Mr J Skosana (ANC) asked about recycling of water and what the implications were for people and animals. He also asked about the impact of the water from acid mining drainage being used to generate electricity.

Mr Moseki replied that water had to first be treated to make sure it fitted the purpose of re-use. South Africa had great potential in using mines to generate electricity, and SASOL was considering this.
The Chairperson asked to what extent South Africa could use the sea, and how viable this might be in terms of both cost and technology required. It was possible to harness wave power and to look at desalination. He asked if there had been any research done into viability and cost, to ensure that any incentives were cost-effective.

Mr Moseki replied that desalination was expensive, but not as expensive as building a dam. Technology was improving with time, and cost would also improve. Desalination was already used a great deal in the Arab countries.

Dr S Huang (ANC) asked for clarification on each sector improving water usage.

Mr Moseki said that a response strategy to CC had been suggested for the different sectors, such as energy, water, environment and others. This looked at how each should respond to the research outcomes that were based on projections, and what would be likely to happen if projections were uncertain. He said that the strategy should address how each sector should address the problems resulting from extreme events to sustain water resources. This also covered what options each sector should be putting in place for mitigation.

Mr Morgan picked up on the comment made by WRC that desalination was cheaper than building a dam. He said that there was a host of ways to deliver water, and recycling and desalination were just two of them. He asked WRC if it was involved in looking at the comparative costs of these various ways of delivering water for specific goals. It would be useful for policy makers to be apprised of the costs, since they had to look actively at other alternatives. He also asked about recycled water, particularly the authorisation for mixing recycled water that had reached a certain standard, back into the water supply. He wanted to know how far this process had gone, as there were areas in South Africa already needing this service.

Mr Moseki replied that the Department of Water Affairs (DWA) had done a lot of work on the questions raised. Some of the other issues would require a written response from WRC. The DWA also had information on the progress of the authorisation of putting recycled water back into the mix.

The Chairperson asked if WRC had research or statistics on what percentage of water used was recycled. 

The WRC also referred this matter to the DWA but indicated that the percentage would change from year to year, as it was a moving target.

Ms H Ndude (COPE) asked if there was research done into water wastage from leakage, pointing out that she had seen water spewing from broken pipes for two days.

Mr Moseki replied that information on water leakages research was incorporated into the Department’s work. He added that he would furnish a written response to some of the questions.

SA Weather Service (SAWS) submission
Dr Deon Terblanche, Senior Manager: Research Department, South African Weather Service, highlighted two important issues for consideration in an uncertain climate. Firstly, South Africa must realise that it was having problems coping with the current climate. 90% of all disasters in South Africa were weather related, which provided a good indication of this. In light of such uncertainty, one of the best ways to adapt to the new climate would be to deal with the current variability that was seen in South Africa already. It would be important to strengthen the existing system in the country that fed the Disaster Management structure at all levels of government. South Africa needed a strong weather service.

Secondly, it was important to realise that the atmosphere was the primary source of water in South Africa, as there were no major rivers from other climatic zones. South Africa was dependent on rain to feed its catchments. This implied that infrastructure and observing networks needed to be strengthened to allow water authorities to do a good job.

Mr Morgan said that he hoped that SAWS could continue to operate as a public service, which would allow for some of its modeling services to be offered for free, in light of its ability to collect and have access to a lot of data. He was aware that there was pressure for the SAWS to commercialise and charge fees for its services. Mr Morgan was also concerned about the capacity in SAWS, noting that there were some cost-cutting exercises in the previous year which resulted in the number of upper-air sounding scientists being reduced. He wanted assurance whether SAWS could cope with the reduced capacity. He also asked about the accessibility of information for pilots, and whether this could be made available through other means, such as cellphones, rather than just the internet.

Mr Terblanche said that he personally made the cut backs on upper-air sounding scientists, because technology was improving and could perform many functions faster. Access for pilots to information was more general at the moment but there was work being done through legislative drafters to improve that, to allow access also through cell phones.

Dr S Kalyan (DA) asked if the skills needed were classed as scarce skills and, if so, what SAWS was doing about getting in such skills.

Professor Dube, Representative, SAWS, agreed that atmospheric science skills were scarce, but SAWS had a human resources (HR) programme looking at its skills strategy. SAWS had a working relationship with the University of Pretoria, the University of Fort Hare and the University of Zululand, funding students in atmospheric science. There were also programmes in air quality.

Mr Skosana asked if there was a way to warn people about floods and strong winds before they occurred, to give them enough time to evacuate.

Dr Kalyan asked about Point 11 on the submission, which addressed the need to improve early warning systems, and asked if such a system was functional, and what might be its deficits. She also asked if it was fair to compare South Africa to America, given its geographical make up.

Mr Terblanche clarified, in respect of the comparison, that the United States of America had combined issues of water and weather in one body. SAWS, DEA and DWA reported to one Minister, but not as one department. There may be some lessons to be considered there.

Ms Ndude said that SAWS had celebrated its centenary in the previous year, and this should imply that SAWS was far ahead in terms of the technology it used. She referred to deaths occurring as a result of lightning, saying that the Committee had engaged with SAWS on this in the previous year, and had made some suggestions to SAWS. She asked how far the process of raising awareness about lightning had gone, to reduce the risk of deaths being caused by lightning.

Professor Dube said that the early warning system had been upgraded in the past year, and dealt with most flood prone areas in South Africa. He added that SAWS could identify and warn people where lightning risk was at its highest. SAWS needed to raise more awareness about lightning risk, but there was a challenge with capacity as, even though SAWS was 101 years old, it had only 160 people working 24 hours a day across the country. SAWS was trying to partner up with other services such as SABC and other sectors of the government who could assist.

Dr Huang needed clarification on why there was so much emphasis on information for planes, as it was assumed this was standard and available. He also asked about fuel usage and cleaner fuel.

Mr Terblanche said that all commercial flights needed information but still there were flights that did not give enough consideration to the storm information issued by SAWS.

The Chairperson asked where the SAWS got its 2025 projections. He asked which institutions needed strengthening. He also asked about the feasibility of pulling together a database on CC. He said that the Green Paper needed to have a central database, kept by the Department of Environmental Affairs, where all information on weather patterns, water, flooding, and anything else related to CC could be stored. He was also worried about not having anyone to take leadership on the issues, and communicating information to the public. He understood that there was communication via individual departments, but he knew that the majority of people were not getting the information. The SAWS needed to consider having a “face” that represented all things weather related.

At this point, the Chairperson welcomed a visiting British MP.

Mr Terblanche explained that the new mandate was complex. Issues of CC needed to be dealt with at national level, as they were issues in the public interest, and information did need to be made available. He said that he would send on the reference to the 2025 information to the Chairperson. He noted that SAWS, DEA and DWA were institutions that all needed strengthening as water was the central issue. SAWS was also working with the WRC, establishing working groups on data exchange and research, and was identifying other cooperation opportunities. The visibility of the communicator of weather information was a good idea but again, capacity and resources had to be considered.  SAWS sat on the Risk and Vulnerability Atlas Committee. SAWS had been given the mandate to host Air Quality information system from the municipalities and private sector. There were already 42 stations set up and SAWS was moving ahead with next phase.

Commission on Gender Equality (CGE) submission
Yvette Abrahams, Commissioner, Commission on Gender Equality, indicated that she was making a joint presentation on behalf of the Commission on Gender Equality (CGE), the Gender and Energy Network South Africa, Gender Climate Change South Africa, and Women For Climate Justice. Their combined recommendations for the Green Paper included inclusion of gender and human science expertise in the planning team, and better State support for subsistence and small scale farming. In the area of healthcare, their recommendations included more emphasis on disease prevention and primary healthcare, since an increase in the disease burden increased the burden of care on women. Nutritional policies should address the issues of self-reliance and food security for subsistence and small scale farmers. Women should have freedom of reproductive choice. In the transport sector, the State needed to create a regulatory environment that was conducive to the production of organic biodiesel from indigenous plants, as part of its job creation programme, and must ensure that half of all land distributed, jobs created and companies set up benefited women. The CGE further proposed the creation of a Climate Change Commission, which should be a watchdog over the implementation of the policy, with similar powers and duties as the existing Chapter 9 institutions.

Dr Kalyan asked if Ms Abrahams had confidence in the Inter-Ministerial Committee on CC, given that water affairs and environmental affairs fell under one ministry. She asked how feasible and financially viable the suggestions would be, and whether there was not some danger that it might fragment the work of the Department of Environmental Affairs.

The Chairperson said that in looking mitigation and adaptation it was necessary to look at a range of issues, over water, transport, the environment and health, and he thought that putting these into one ministry could add to the problem. He pointed out that the Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP) had tried to do this over all structures, and it ran into problems when it began to duplicate what the departments were doing.

Mr Skosana asked the presenter to outline the recommendations on implementation of the structures she had mentioned.

Ms Abrahams replied that the submission was not proposing that work be taken away from the departments, but there should be a “Super Ministry”, to ensure compliance and coordination. In respect of the financial viability, she pointed out that KwaZulu Natal had spent R750 million on Disaster Relief in the previous year. The impact of disasters on agriculture in Limpopo amounted to R1 billion. She said that there was a need to “externalise” the costs. A CC Commission or Institute would need money and a budget to make it work. She recommended that the Super-Ministry should be established in the Office of the Presidency to deal with CC, and that local government should have CC officers to monitor if local government was acting properly on CC issues.

One of the visiting MPs asked if the Commissioner recommended a separate CC budget.

Dr Huang asked for clarification on the calculations of jobs per Gigawatt.

A member requested clarification on the reference to Integrated Resource Planning and the Revised Industrial Policy Action Plan (IPAP 2)

Ms Abrahams responded that calculations on what it would cost to produce a particular technology related to job creation, with a factor of 1 to 100, or 1 to 200. The CGE and its partners were calling for gender expertise, as there was a need to have people who knew something about gender. Consultation should be held before signing contracts, such as mining licenses and natural gas exploration. One entity needed to be responsible for this. If anyone wanted to raise concerns at the moment, that person would have to address all departments to try to hold them accountable.

She then elaborated on the calculations relating to job creation, saying that these were directly linked to the acquisition of nuclear plants, which were brought in from France, together with jobs. South Africa needed to create its own technology, which would create jobs. She said that there had not been meaningful consultation, as only two major organisations had a real say, while 180 others were not properly heard.

South African Council of Churches (SACC) submission
Rev Keith Vermeulen, Representative, South African Council of Churches (SACC) said that the Council (SACC) regarded Climate Change as an issue of justice, and a moral and spiritual crisis. SACC hoped that South Africa would deliver on its commitments, because the past sixteen years of protocols had allowed plenty of time to deal with issues and assess the actions that must be taken, in recognition of the impacts of CC, particularly on the poor and vulnerable. Furthermore, the SACC believed that the reduction of emission target was one that should apply to developed countries only, and this was an embarrassment. SACC agreed with the 110 countries who had called instead for a lower reduction of 1.5. South Africa needed to promote renewable energy or sustainable energy. The SACC pointed to a participatory exercise conducted at a recent mining indaba, saying that there was synergy between social justice, economic justice, cultural justice, and ecological justice. It called for Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs) to be conducted by experts independent of the government. Government was to be commended for defining CC. In considering the best intergovernmental body to deal with CC, perhaps a mix and combination should be used, as partnerships with civil society could emphasise the human dignity aspects. He also added that the churches could play a larger role in mitigating behavior and offering choices, according to what was considered to be the best for everyone.

A Member said that the Church was very dedicated to defending poor people, but commented that some of its claims around nuclear energy and sustainability had not been substantiated by research.

Dr Kalyan advised that South Africa should avoid looking at wealthy countries and what they were doing. She asked how, from SACC’s viewpoint the “polluter must pay” principle would be applied, since the Church believed that people should not be punished.

Rev Vermuelen noted that what the SACC believed in, and taught, was not necessarily what was legislated for. There were clear Constitutional guarantees and rights, and it was understood that penalties were to be paid by whoever abused them. It was important to hold the polluter accountable, and he agreed that those who break the law should be punished.  

The Chairperson asked Rev Vermeulen to suggest some possible alternatives for the options that SACC rejected, such as the carbon trading issue.

Mr Morgan asked that SACC should give its views on the Long-term Mitigating Scenarios (LTMS) for South Africa and the peak plateau decline scenario between 2025 and 2030. He was interested in hearing whether the SACC had questioned the science behind that, whether “business as usual” was a too ambitious or incorrect trajectory, or whether peak plateau demand could be sooner or further away. He also asked for reasons why the Council rejected carbon trading. .

Rev Vermeulen replied that he did not profess to have all the answers. Promoting education and awareness was important to sort out the understanding as to where South Africa was going. In the two areas of water and energy, the main emphasis should be on efficiency and saving, and not wasting the resources. The understanding at the SACC was that renewable energy was far cleaner, could source more jobs and created a healthier future, and that should be sufficient to persuade constituencies to adapt and use these resources.

He then expanded on some issues he had mentioned earlier. South Africa had taken the position that wealthier nations were funding COP17. It was a major problem, as the implementation of the Kyoto Protocol was sidelined and pushed to the end of 2012. This was a global issue and there was a need to look at the people who, over centuries, had caused this problem that now affected others. SACC was suggesting that South Africa could be the ethical global leader. All the church is asking for was a difference of half a degree.

He noted that the SACC opposed carbon trading, because it felt that this amounted to simply placing the problem in another area and accepting the financial trade of ecological damage created by wealthier nations. He suggested that South Africa should refuse to accept carbon trading, but that this should be offset with programmes that it chose, rather than continuing with “business as usual”. The SACC believed that carbon trading would not solve, but rather exacerbate the problem.

The Chairperson said that the whole reason behind debate was to air views, and that people taking part in the debate needed to look at all the issues.

The meeting was adjourned.


  • We don't have attendance info for this committee meeting

Download as PDF

You can download this page as a PDF using your browser's print functionality. Click on the "Print" button below and select the "PDF" option under destinations/printers.

See detailed instructions for your browser here.

Share this page: