Defining SA's Desired Greenhouse Gas Mitigation Outcomes – Research, concerns, proposals: Department briefing; Committee Report on Climate Change Green Paper

Water and Sanitation

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

The Department of Environmental Affairs briefed the Committee on the country’s desired greenhouse gas outcomes so they would be more informed when writing their Committee Report on their Climate Change Green Paper discussions

There was an overview of the emissions that South Africa emitted and which parts of the country’s industrials sectors were the biggest culprits. There was commentary about there being a blatant refusal to commit to any tangible number or target by countries when it came to cutting emissions and why this made it so problematic to make any progress. All commitments to cuts were vague or based on other conditions being fulfilled. The Long Term Mitigation Strategies (LTMS) developed by the Scenario Building Team were discussed. It presented tangible numbers and systems for mitigation. The LTMS also showed where South Africa was heading as well as were they should be heading and what science recommended they do. The verdict was damning as the South Africa had been following the worst case scenario route. Finally the outcomes of the 2009 Copenhagen Undertaking were presented and how they could work with the policy of the present to try and turn around the outcome.

Questions and comments included asking if international support had been factored in, common understanding internationally on climate change, what happened if nothing came out of the efforts, was there a will to implement any of this and what had been done to make Parliament green.

After this, time was spent going through the major issues that had come from the Green Paper discussions. These included mainstreaming environmental sustainability, including a chapter on greenhouse gas emissions, an environmental database, institutional arrangements, the Energy Mix, energy efficiency, scaling up the renewable energy production, a legal issues framework, local government implementing sustainability, re-educating town planners, freight policy, centralized disaster management, agriculture, mining licences and recommendations on what Parliament itself should be doing to become greener. These were all discussed and added to the report.

Meeting report

The Chairperson noted they would be working with Dr Scotney Watts giving directions on the issues they wanted to capture in the Committee Report on the Climate Change Green Paper. Mr Peter Lukey had been invited give some input on Carbon Emission targets and the Long Term Mitigation Scenarios (LTMS) to fill in any gaps. So they would hear the presentation first and then go through the issues of the Green Paper report. They also went through the future plans for the Committee as well as mentioning the issues that would be in focus for the next term, these included acid mine draining and water tariffs.

Presentation: Defining South Africa’s Desired Greenhouse Gas Mitigation Outcomes
Mr Peter Lukey, Acting Deputy Director-General: Climate Change, spoke about South Africa’s long term greenhouse gas mitigation plans. The presentation looked at the country’s emission numbers, the Long Term Mitigation Strategy (LTMS) that had been developed. It also had suggestions of what South Africa could do to change its current trend of business as usual to fulfil its international obligations:
● The mitigation challenge – the South African Greenhouse Gas (GHG) profile

● Concerns around the numbers. – it was regarded as sacrilege for a developing country to even talk about absolute mitigation numbers

● “South Africa committed at Copenhagen to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 34% by 2020 and 42% by 2025 below business as usual, on condition that it receives the necessary finance, technology and support from the international community that will allow it to achieve this”–Green Paper

● Scenario Building Team: brought together strategic thinkers from key sectors across government,
business and civil society. The LTMS process had four research teams with the best available scientific information: Energy Emissions (ERC modeling), Non-Energy Emissions (CSIR), Economy-wide research (UCT economics) and Climate Change Impacts (SANBI) Research teams

● Long-Term Mitigation Scenarios: looked at what made up small, medium and large mitigation wedges

● “Growth Without Constraints (GWC)” scenario unacceptable and the “Current Development Paths” would not significantly change the unacceptable. Therefore the “Required By Science (RBS)” scenario should be our ‘aspirational’ goal

● Cabinet’s July 2008 Climate Change Policy Directions, GHG mitigation interventions should be measured against the following “peak, plateau and decline” emission trajectory:
▪ Greenhouse gas emissions stop growing (start of plateau) in 2020-25; and
▪ Greenhouse gas emissions begin declining in absolute terms (end of plateau) in 2030-35

● The 2009 ‘Copenhagen Undertaking’ South Africa’s undertaking to ensure that –

▪ the country’s emissions deviate below the ‘business as usual’ baseline by around 34% by 2020 and
▪ by 42% by 2025.

● South Africa’s 6 December 2009 undertaking may be translated into an estimated South African GHG emission trajectory to 2025 as follows –

2020 – ~494 Mt CO2eq /annum;
2025 – ~506 Mt CO2eq /annum

● Current emission level of ~542 Mt CO2eq /annum, SA has already overshot the LTMS “Required by Science” 2020 and 2025 minimum values of ~460 and ~453 respectively and Copenhagen Undertaking values of ~494 and ~506 for 2020 and 2025 respectively. Actual and forecast emissions trajectory not promising in respect of meeting this number.

(See document for details, graphs and charts).

The discussion started already during the presentation itself as the Chairperson asked questions of the presenter, and allowed others to do so while he presented.

The Chairperson wanted to know if the emissions shown of the fourth slide were from the source of the polluter or from the user of the energy.

Mr Lukey said this was from the source of the polluter, where it was actually emitted into the atmosphere.

Mr L Greyling (ID) wanted clarification on the Solid Fuels figure on the fifth slide.

Mr Lukey said that when one did open crust mining, methane gas was released into the atmosphere, that was the Solid Fuels – Fugitive Emissions, when the coal was then burned in a power station more gas was released and it fell into the figure of Fuel Combustion – Energy Industries.

Mr Greyling wanted to know how they had acquired the numbers for the Enteric Fermentation figure in slide 16 LMTS mitigation wedges.

Mr Lukey answered that these figures were mostly based on technological changes, not behavioural modification.

Mr Greyling asked if other animals produced the gases that cattle did from enteric fermentation. 

Mr Lukey said that only grazers did as they broke down the cellulite in their multi-chambered stomachs producing the excessive methane gas.

Mr G Morgan (DA) wanted to know if the Cape buffalo used the same digestive process and if so what were they to do about them.

Mr Lukey said that the buffalo would also produce the gas through “cattle farts” and they couldn’t do anything about it.

The Chairperson asked if there had been any dispute on the overall figure or of the numbers that it was made up.

Mr Lukey said that there had been, until recently, disputes in how the overall figure was made up. One of the biggest disputes had been where one put SASOL in the figure, though that had now been sorted out. However, the Chamber of Mines were claiming that the figure was outright wrong and too high for the mineral industry. So it was important that they spoke to them as it could, if they were right, impact South Africa’s overall emissions and by that international ranking as a polluter. They had asked them to submit their findings and research, and if they were correct, it would be a good thing for South Africa as it actually reduced their emissions. But in this instance there was an uncertainty in the overall figure.

Mr Greyling said the presentation was very interesting. He wanted to know if international support had been factored into this, did they have any idea how much the international community would provide to lessen the costs if implementing a significant deviation from business as usual.

Mr Lukey answered that the Departments of Trade and Industry and Public Works had worked out how much South Africa could pay to implement these changes and how much they would need from international donors. The amount was not trivial, but it seemed to be affordable. They had also as a nation produced some elegant ways of how to absorb international donations; a functioning vehicle existed for that purpose. However, when this was put before international donors, he had never seen anyone start back-pedalling as fast as they did. So it was apparent that on the international level, the big channels of money were still very much at the negotiation stage. On the domestic stage, Treasury had had held a workshop on the carbon tax, where they also presented internally done modelling on the proposed carbon tax. One of their proposals had been to recycle the carbon tax into a reduction of the value added tax (VAT) so to mitigate the impact on the poor. They had discovered the blatantly obvious; that the heavy carbon emitting industries would take a hit from the tax, but there would be a whole lot of winners from it as well. However voluntary agreements around lifestyle changes would not work. Very, very seldom did anyone give up privilege. Unless there was legislation mechanisms driving this change. A national policy could not rely on international aid and external forces which they had no control over. 

Mr J Skosana (ANC) appreciated the clarity of the presentation. He asked if there was a common understanding internationally about the problems faced and if any solutions had been put forward.

Mr Lukey said that around the issue of international understanding on the issues of climate change, the work done by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was very good. Further, overall there was almost unilateral agreement worldwide on the science, with some small disagreements around outliers. There was also agreement on its causes and how to stop it. However, the researchers were not policymakers.
Their documents, ideas and research were often policy relevant but not policy prescriptive. But there was a massive consensus around the world when it came to the science of the issue. 
Mr Morgan asked what happened if nothing came out of Durban, Korea and all the international conventions, would they have to revise everything, all the numbers and goals two or three years down the line?

Mr Lukey answered that the sad truth was that they had to secure an international agreement because they could simply not do this alone. Even if South Africa eliminated its greenhouse gas emissions completely, becoming the carbon saints of the planet, and no one else did anything they would still suffer the complete impacts of climate change. The horrible truth was that they had to have an international agreement and everyone knew it. However the developing countries held onto a policy of waiting to mitigate until their economies had first been given the opportunity to develop sufficiently. They held a view that developed countries, who had prospered under fossil fuel usage, should bear the cost of developing a low carbon economy and then sell the technology to the developing world. Though this demand was just, it would probably also just serve to reinforce the divide between developed – developing nations further. So they were in a tough situation. Should they wait for an international agreement or should they engage on their own? As a responsible nation they needed to engage in the international arena as it was the only global solution that would help them. But in the meantime, shouldn’t they as a responsible nation be one of the first to move in that direction and to get some advantage out of being a first mover? Though there might be risks in being a first mover, there might be far more risks in hanging around until they were forced to follow. Also, the Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) was probably one of the most significant, real changes from business as usual that South Africa had ever seen. Seeing a plan that mapped out South Africa’s energy future as having 42% renewable energy in it, was quite remarkable. Of course it had to be implemented. It was still a significant move in the right direction and it set people thinking.

The Chairperson stated that as long as government accepted the scientific findings as genuine and accepted its outcomes, they should move towards making policy to address it. Plus he did not see anything wrong with making a society with cleaner air, better infrastructure, safer building and so on even if the outcomes of climate change proved less severe than was first thought.  

Ms H Ndude (COPE) asked if the will to implement any of this was there. She also questioned what had been done in Parliament itself to make it green as promised by the Chair of Chairs. She wanted to see Parliament push the executive in getting them to do what they had promised, as was its role. She knew it was very difficult, but she wanted to put it bluntly, that one of the things that made this institution suffer was that the ruling party was not able to deal enough with the executive. Parliament needed to look at itself, and push itself on the frontiers of climate change, to set an example.

The Chairperson mentioned an issue he had raised in a paper he sent to the members of the Committee. The issue had been on the consumption of Parliament and how they should be leading on climate change.

Mr P Mathebe (ANC) responded to what the Honourable Ndude said and stated that this Committee had always worked together as a team and had not looked at themselves in terms of their party affiliations. He believed the statement that they could not deal with the executive, was incorrect. He hoped the Committee would continue to look at itself as a unity, not divided along party-lines.  

Ms Ndude said that the honourable member misunderstood, she did not seek to divide them, she merely had stated that Parliament as an institution had a difficulty dealing with the executive.

Mr Skosana stated that the issues of climate change were a collective issue that had to be tackled together; there was no room for pointing fingers.

The Chairperson said that he did not want to make a political issue out of this. Everyone in the Committee even the ruling party had come together and done a document in order to address the lack of a green policy with Parliament itself. He had spoken at a workshop suggesting that all ten of the nation’s parliaments should become greener and lead by example.

Ms Ndude reiterated that she would like parliament to become a sustainable, green institution and lead the way, perhaps even by initiating the suggested green week from the 18 of April to the 28.

The Chairperson then announced that they would go through the broader strokes of the Green Paper and clarify or add things they wanted to see, or that was not emphasised enough in the previous paper. He would express his thoughts on what had come out of the hearings. Members would say what they thought about it and in the end they would have the chance to add any issues that had not been covered. He continued to tell Dr Scotney Watts that he did not want to draft a green paper, but a framework of their input and what had been done and were their suggestions came from and how the Green Paper should be improved. He wanted the issues that they would raise now to be in the middle.

The first point in the Green Paper, the Chair said, should be mainstreaming environmental sustainability. He wanted there to be set some parameters of what that meant. He felt that for South Africa that meant seeing the economy as part of the ecosystem, and if this happened then all laws and policies should have to be tested against environmental sustainability.

The Chairperson said there needed to be a chapter on greenhouse gas emissions in the Green Paper. He felt it was necessary that people saw from where they were getting their input and also how the government had dealt with setting emission reduction targets. They should make a strong endorsement for a chapter in the Green Paper on emission mitigation and setting targets. The Chairperson would like to see what Mr Lukey had presented to them here today as the core of the Green Paper. 

The Chairperson wanted the issue of the database mentioned. He would like to see government accept that all the information necessary to respond in an informed manner to the issues of climate change should be captured in a database. That meant creating, on a national level, a database with the software necessary to make all the databases that exist compatible with the national database. The database would determine what information one needed to collect and it would ensure the information was verifiable. He restated that it had to be software compatible; it was do-able though it was difficult. There also had to be analytical capacity. And a final difficult issue would be the physical location of the national database, should it be in the Presidency, the Department of Environmental Affairs or in a completely new agency.

The Chairperson said the next issue would be the Institutional Arrangements. This had to be innovative. The challenge would be to create a coordinated management effort and structure to inform Cabinet as to how one best implemented policy related to climate change issues. It became a monitoring and evaluation structure. One also had to ask the question if the existing mechanisms around climate change were good enough. Depending on what mechanism was chosen, should they not look at how to make that mechanism as structured, efficient and streamlined as possible? Another option would be to create a whole new climate change committee. Then should they consider creating a forum on a legislative level was a further question? Finally on the implementation level should they then consider creating a structure of officials, DGs, which have their tasks spelt out. They should be represented by relevant Departments, provinces, metros and one or two from South African Local Government Association (SALGA) on a DG level. The Sexual Offences Bill was a good example on how it could be done. There should probably also be some structure for government interaction with civil society to share knowledge, information and recommendations. There could even be a structure for where research could be done as to how to react to climate change on a national level.

The Chairperson said the next big point was the Energy Mix. He hoped that the next energy plan committed to by the government would be one that would strive to create a tipping-point away from coal. The balance had to be changed soon. Currently there were no tipping-point. It needed to be stated on a policy level very soon in the future.  

Mr Greyling also wanted to add some clarity on what would be considered an ambitious target for energy efficiency. This should be unpacked a little he felt.

The Chairperson then said it should be dealt with immediately by government. He would have liked to seen a name and shame system for government buildings to make sure at least the government was energy efficient. He lamented the poor and aggravating state of energy saving in Parliament at this date.

Mr Morgan said that government could through its procurement, change the nature of the market for energy efficient goods in South Africa. He would like to see from government a considerable and coordinated procurement effort to obtain energy efficiency.

The Chairperson suggested that one could create framework legislation were procurement must take place with sustainable, environmental concerns spelt out in that legislation. 

Mr Morgan continued that when it came to things such as appliances, he did not believe that the World Trade Organisation would allow them to ban any products on an energy efficiency basis. However the government could change the market by putting in standards and regulations for procurement within the government. It would send clear signals to the market what would be the long term intentions in South Africa. And, it would be less messy than any outright bans.

The Chairperson agreed that having a procurement framework on all levels of government could be a good idea. And on energy efficiency, it would basically be very easy tasks like switching off the lights. The end of the report should also contain a paragraph on which of the issues had highest priority for government. 

Mr Greyling said that he would like to have detail when reference was made to “scaling up renewable energy production”. What year were they setting as a deadline as there was mention of several different ones.

The Chairperson said that Mr Greyling had raised good points, but they should wait until they had the Integrated Resource Plan Two (IRP2) in front of them so they had specific numbers.

The Chairperson said they had to deal with the legal framework of were powers rested with environmental mitigation. Provincial governments felt left out of the loop in many of these issues such as dumping. There should perhaps be some powers that belonged on the provincial level that would allow local government to deal with issues of the environment. Environment was a provincial competence and it did allow them to pass legislation. They should perhaps do a legal framework review.

Mr Morgan wanted them to tease out what was the larger sweeps of the green paper when it came to climate change legislation. He also felt that the role of local government in implementing the legal changes had to come through far more in the institutional arrangements. He felt this was necessary especially after having seen local governments coming to their Committee and pointing out their lack of action on climate change when they clearly lacked so much themselves. He also wanted to add in the Green Paper that local government always had capacity problems and that was something they had to be consciously aware of as they went forward.

The Chairperson said that there should be a section on local government. It should mention what were the responsibilities of local government already, and there should be a review of their capacity to do these things. If they did not have the money for it, they should get it. If they plainly could not fulfil their responsibilities then they had to take them away from local government and put them somewhere else or capacitate them to do it. It should be spelt out what their roles were.

Mr Greyling said that there should also be a mention that many local governments derive revenue from energy distribution and that this could work against their efforts.

The Chairperson added that they should have some incentives in place for them to wish to engage in renewable energy.

Mr Mathebe agreed that there needed to be incentives to make use of waste and compost to create renewable energy and minerals.

The Chairperson said that these kinds of mitigations and incentives had to target all levels of society; it could not just be seen to be an action aimed at the poor.

Mr Lukey added that town planners should be re-educated. They should start looking at a new paradigm when they planned and built houses, towns and cities. This should even engage the educational sector and curricula to prepare for realities that come with climate change, such as flooding and rise in sea level. He suggested there could be a section or overview of the green house gas footprint of municipalities and metros. 

The Chairperson wanted a section on education, especially tertiary education and how they deal with introducing climate change issues across disciplines.

The Chairperson pointed out that it had been raised that they did not have a freight policy. He had been told that something like 80-90% of freight was on the road. He asked what the Green Paper said on transport.

Mr Lukey answered that very little was said about it. Even the Minister of Transport had criticised his own department for not think this properly through.

The Chairperson said that Dr Scotney Watts should put in a paragraph that the content on transport was very weak. There were serious lacks in looking at freight and public transport.

The Chairperson then asked how much South Africa had done about disaster monitoring and reaction, especially in municipalities. Did they have any way to deal with any disaster. Were there functioning emergency plans?

Mr Lukey said that in actual fact the centralized disaster management of South Africa was one of the best in the world. That had of course not meant that it was the same on the ground. But whenever they had been in a position to test this they had performed very well. However disaster management should feed back into other sections, such as infrastructure so that they for example didn’t keep on designing low bridges in flood areas. This would be were the previous mentioned database would come in. The disaster management centre was very proactive.

The Chairperson said that there should be a program that takes what seemed to be a very good centralized emergency programme and makes it clear how it filters down to local level. They should also suggest that government should be a much more visible presence in communicating during disaster times. These points should be strengthened in the white paper.

Mr Lukey also felt they should add something on the disaster response to situations in neighbouring countries and regions outside South Africa.

The Chairperson instructed Dr Scotney Watts to add Mr Lukey’s point.

The Chairperson said he was perplexed by all the conflicting inputs received from agriculture. Perhaps what they should say was that the agricultural point of view was very fragmented, there were all kinds of ideas and inputs put forward from their sector.

Mr Lukey said that the difficulty he was having was not unique. What seemed to be the case was that people would bring anything that they had a vague interest in to the climate change debate. And in agriculture this seemed especially to be the case, it was a reflection he believed about the general dissatisfaction of agriculture in general. Climate change became the platform to vent this dissatisfaction. This again had complicated their work quite a bit.

The Chairperson said they should put down that the agricultural concerns seemed very fragmented and petty, and that the debate was being used to raise all kinds of concerns. It seemed that they did not have anything specific here.

Mr Morgan said that there needed to be a greater sense in South Africa for where the optimal areas to grow certain crops were. Much in the same way they did atlases on the changing range of biodiversity, they needed atlases on the changing range of agriculture. He also wanted some mention of subsistence agriculture, its importance and vulnerability in South Africa and the problems these farmers might encounter due to climate change. This was important as a large portion of the people directly lived on what they consumed from the land. He also raised the aspect of securing regional food security if it became a point that they could not feed the South African population. This had to be seen in a sub regional aspect. He knew it sounded a little imperialistic but it was not meant that way, but there was a real possibility that the country would not be able to feed itself.

The Chairperson said that the country needed to have a discussion on where they would draw the line when it came to mining. What type of mining they would not want to see. Did they want large scale open mining over large areas that could not be rehabilitated. The government should discuss what type of mining they would discourage, and in what areas they would prohibit mining. It seemed at this time that there was no framework for how mining licences were handled in this regard. He wanted to see something like that in the green paper. There also needed to be some regulatory harmonization when it came to mining.

Mr Morgan said that some areas of South Africa should be off limits. There were some areas, from a climate change point of view, were they should keep the carbon trapped in its present state instead of disrupting it. Like peat lands, mangrove swamps and coastal forests. There should also be obvious things like mining companies not going into areas and competing for water that was used for consumption by locals. He asked what happened if they closed all their own coal fire plants but still kept mining coal for coal plants of India and China. He thought the question should be asked. If they were not going to power their own plants with coal in the future, were they going to power others, because they had at least 100 years of coal left? Finally much of their mining industries were under risk due to the fact that they were very energy intensive, especially because they were so deep. It required a lot of energy to get minerals  out of the earth. If ethical mining became a fact, meaning minerals would have to state the energy that had been used to bring them up, then the industry would have a problem. Unless they engaged in more clean energy usage, their minerals could end up being considered ‘dirty’ and alienate foreign customers.

Mr Mathebe said that the officials of the Department of Mineral Resources should not be allowed to take decisions on matters that relate to water or environmental affairs.

The Chairperson said that Dr Scotney Watts had to make two notes here, that laws that overlap in mining, water and environment should be much more conscious of sustainable issues. Secondly the regulatory framework needed to be harmonized and even the laws themselves had to be based on environmental sustainability. He also wanted a section in the document on the short term, medium term and long term issues that were in the green paper. They should also have a small paragraph on the demand side of water as well as energy. Finally they should find a minimum threshold for other sectors for their targets. If they came back and said that was not possible, the Chairperson would like to see a clause in the green paper were they gave themselves a timeframe to go back and engage every sector and then come back to Parliament with targets.  

The Chairperson suggested that they should have a separate paragraph towards the end where they put recommendations on what Parliament itself should be doing to become greener.

The Chairperson reminded the Committee that this was not the adoption but the guidelines for the green paper. They would have to take a look at the Green Paper and see if they missed anything, but he felt by adding the emissions chapter, they would have achieved a lot. He would not give them any target to finish the report, but he doubted they would be able to adopt it before 23 April. He thanked everyone for their work and efficiency and concluded the meeting.


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