Climate Change Green Paper 2010: public hearings

Water and Sanitation

03 March 2011
Chairperson: Mr J De Lange (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

Prof Lloyd of the Energy Institute of the Cape Peninsula University of Technology said that South Africa was wasting time and resources on climate change as the changes caused by the rise in temperature and carbon dioxide concentrations were insignificant. He recommended that SA needed to look at the pressing issues such as poverty, housing, and sanitation which had far more immediate impact. Members asked the Professor if other scientists shared his views. He replied that the findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change were exaggerated and that some scientists were not sure about the impact.

The UCT Energy Research Centre agreed with the Green Paper on a balance of adaptation and mitigation interventions, and advocated a stronger emphasis on a ‘just transition’ in relation to the energy-intensive sectors of the South African economy, whilst aligning with national and regional responsibilities. However, they had two concerns:
the lack of specific quantified targets for emissions reduction, both sectoral and sub-sectoral or any mechanism to identify such targets; and the lack of clarity on how the proposed policies and measures align with other national policy spheres. The Committee sought more guidance from the UCT Energy Research Centre on best practice, coordination mechanisms and databases for collection and storage of data. ERC emphasised the need for strong leadership as most people recognise there is a clear problem and yet no one acts.

The Committee was not impressed with the SALGA submission citing lack of integration of existing legislation mandating local government to have a plan of action on climate change matters.
The Committee remarked that SALGA needed to spell out its role in climate change. The Committee wanted to see more leadership from SALGA on the Green Paper in guiding the activities of municipalities.

The
South African Medical Association supported the Green Paper, saying it was aware that Climate Change had dire effects on population health as well as health systems and service. The fundamental concern for SAMA, as a medical association, was the various links between climate change and the burden of disease and shifts in burden of disease. SAMA invited government to involve the medical profession in whatever possible and practical measures aimed at reducing the burden of disease.

Meeting report

Energy Institute, Cape Peninsula University of Technology
Prof Phillip Lloyd
agreed that the temperature was changing and that the carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere had increased, but he took the opposite view to what was generally believed. He said the changes were insignificant and less likely to be disastrous. Diseases such as malaria would not impact as they were normally public health driven not temperature driven. There would be more storm damage, not because the storms were violent but because the value of structures had increased. He challenged the Government’s stand on Climate Change that it was a threat to sustainable development, saying that the country already faced problems such as poverty, housing, sanitation, pollution and their impact were immediate and significant. Further, there was no point in SA reducing emissions on its own. It should only do so when there was an effective and binding agreement. He suggested that Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) prepare cost mitigation scenarios to be placed before the COP17 meeting and not worry about carbon reduction until the world had agreed.

Discussion
The Chairperson asked
Prof Lloyd if he was what people referred to as a denialist.

Prof Lloyd replied that he denied being a denialist but was rather a skeptic.

The Chairperson asked if there was a scientific basis for SA “to do something” as SA should not mess up its negotiating position at the international negotiations.

Prof Lloyd replied that something had happened but it was moving very slowly and there should not be a panic as there was lots and lots of time. SA was not the 13th biggest carbon emitter but the 20th as DEA had their figures wrong.

Mr G Morgan (DA) asked about the opinion that the changes were insignificant and requested clarification on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) view that the change was already happening from past emissions and that such emissions were locked into the system. He also asked about relative sensitivity of some species to temperature.

Prof Lloyd replied that the world had experienced 100 years of global warming. There were trends that were not as severe to warrant rapid action.

Dr S Kalyan (DA) asked what effects would there be since the opinion was that malaria and tropical diseases would not be affected.

Prof Lloyed replied that if one read what the IPCC said, no one knew for sure what would happen.

The Chairperson asked why scientists, politicians and majority of people felt that situation was more dire? He asked the professor why his view was in the minority.

Prof Lloyd replied that the majority of scientists agreed with climate change but a very large number questioned the significance. IPCC was conservative in its warnings and the changes were not as dire as people made them out to be. He referred to the Al Gore documentary, An Inconvenient Truth, and the misappropriation of the decrease in polar bear population to Climate Change, saying the decrease was actually due to the US state of Oregon issuing hunting licences for them.

The Chairperson requested writings on the exaggeration of the IPCC facts to be forwarded to the Committee.

The Chairperson asked what the tipping point for SA would be and when should the country act.

Prof Lloyd indicated that he did not know. There was no tipping point.

Mr Morgan asked if what the professor was saying was for SA to throw away the Green Paper - as policy makers had to choose something. There was a tipping point. He asked the professor what if he was wrong.

Prof Lloyd replied that there was no point in SA trying to mitigate emissions on its own, as climate change was a global problem. What if he was wrong? Due to the way SA was moving, it was wasting time and money. He referred to the White Paper on Energy in 1998 where interventions were intended to help people cook better, but now, things had gotten worse, and the air in Gauteng was unbreathable. There were major problems facing the country that were far more demanding

UCT Energy Research Centre
Ms Anya Boyd and Ms Kim Coetzee delivered the submission. The ERC’s position focused on two areas:
the lack of specific quantified targets for emissions reduction, both sectoral and sub-sectoral or any mechanism to identify such targets;
the lack of clarity on how the proposed policies and measures align with other national policy spheres.
The ERC agreed with the Green Paper on a balance of adaptation and mitigation interventions, and would advocate a stronger emphasis on a ‘just transition’ in relation to the energy-intensive sectors of the South African economy, whilst aligning with national and regional responsibilities


Discussion
Mr Morgan asked for ERC’s further thought on the role of the National Planning Commission and why climate change would require coordination at that level.

The Chairperson added that the biggest problem was around coordination to ensure the process moved forward and to ensure stakeholders were moving together. He found it interesting though that no one ever mentioned Parliament and its role.

Dr Kalyan asked if it was safe to go the route of quantifying emission reductions. She also wanted to hear more details about the lack of reference to the informal economy.

The Chairperson remarked that it was pointless to try and do monitoring and evaluation if there was nothing to measure against. He spoke once again of the value of databases to collect and store information.

Ms Boyd replied that the ERC had energy and data collection systems which enabled it to monitor and evaluate actions. There was little data on the informal economy. Non-governmental organisations (NGOs) also needed to be involved as they were well connected to the communities.

Ms Coetzee said that they also wanted answers about the role of the National Planning Commission as she believed they should be coordinating the process.

The Chairperson said that the National Planning Commission structure had become a think tank of civil society.

Ms Coetzee said that there might be a benefit in having a climate change ministry as climate change was not seen by people as important at the moment. Everyone just assumed Parliament was there and would deal with it, hence it was not mentioned. One of the weaker parts of this process would be that “everyone says yes and yet no one acts”. Someone was needed to lead the process.

The Chairperson asked the ERC that when they came across best practice around the world, they must send this information to the Committee.

SALGA Submission
Councillor K. Raditsela of SALGA said that the municipal sphere of government, which was at the service delivery frontline, had a particularly important role to play in the development and implementation of climate change adaptation and mitigation plans. This included undertaking vulnerability and risk assessments in their specific area; actively promoting renewable energy and energy efficiency; integrating climate change across all service areas; and promoting climate change objectives through local structures.

Discussion
Mr Morgan said that after listening to the submission, he thought the Government needed to have goals listed in the Green Paper about well run towns and cities who had the ability to appropriate budget and to run adaptation and mitigation projects. He expressed surprise that the many pieces of legislation already passed that could help local government was not mentioned in the submission. These included the Integrated Coastal Management Act, the Waste Act, the Biodiversity Act which had excellent mandates for every municipality to have their own plans. He said that a lot of what should come out of local government’s response to climate change already existed. The submission did not touch on the issue of energy. There were significant ways whereby local government could participate in diversifying the energy base.

Clr Raditsela said that there was no clear vision in terms of policy, but local government was where the people were and SALGA was proposing that it was expecting Parliament to guide them.

Dr Khalyan asked what SALGA’s role would be. She had a problem with creating another portal for coordination. She asked about the practicality of the adaptation fund.

The Chairperson remarked that SALGA needed to spell out its role in climate change and how it would guide the Municipalities in areas such as acid mine drainage and radiation in water as these things were happening in municipalities. The issue of housing also and people building houses below the flood line needed to be solved by local government. The Committee wanted to see a stronger integration of municipalities into the White Paper. SALGA needed to guide the Committee.

Mr Morgan advised that the submission should have contained guidance on how municipalities would strengthen disaster management centres.

Clr Raditsela elaborated on the adaptation fund to help local government deal with lack of resources in implementing its work. The portal would be a means of coordination. It was not the best idea to create structures but rather to synergise and bring together all the organisations working in the field. Housing was an area the province would have to deal with.

The Chairperson interrupted, saying that it was local government who allocated land and that it should be firm on where people should build their houses.

Mr Mathebe spoke of some people who built houses in areas where acid water was running to. Environmental officials said that local government acted against the Environment Impact Assessment recommendations.

The Chairperson emphasised that it was local government’s responsibility to remove informal settlements from dangerous areas.

Clr Raditsela said the problem was, if people were removed, to where must they be taken?

The Chairperson thanked SALGA for their contribution.

SA Medical Association (SAMA) submission
Prof Edward Coetzee, SAMA President, said SAMA supported the government’s Green Paper. The Association was aware that Climate Change had dire effects on population health as well as health systems and service. The fundamental concern for SAMA, as a medical association, was the various links between climate change and the burden of disease and shifts in burden of disease. The South African Medical Association, as a member of the World Medical Association (WMA), was inviting government to involve the medical profession in whatever possible and practical measures aimed at reducing the burden of disease, using the broad categories of actions recommended by the WMA.

Discussion

The Chairperson welcomed pupils from a school in Khayelitsha who had come to observe.

Dr Kalyan asked what the professor thought of the submission in the morning which disputed malaria as a climate change related disease. She also asked why there was no article in the medical journals about climate change. She thought it was a good channel to advocate on climate change for clients to read whilst waiting in doctors’ waiting rooms.

Prof Coetzee replied it depended whether SA was hit by floods or by drought as to where there would be water, and if the temperature was right, there would be malaria. He said he would recommend having an article in the journal and something in the waiting rooms.

The Chairperson thanked Prof Coetzee and said that the proceedings were finished for the day.

The meeting was adjourned.






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