Sustainable Development; Department of Environmental Affairs Strategic Plan 2011: briefings

Water and Sanitation

11 April 2011
Chairperson: Mr J De Lange (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

Professor Mark Swilling, Programme Coordinator: Sustainable Development, School of Public Leadership, University of Stellenbosch, presented on how development in South Africa would not need to rely on primary resources and that, with innovative thinking, alternatives for a developmental green economy could be created. The question of how it was possible to move up the human development index without enlarging drastically the ecological footprint was posed. The challenge to Africa was that its main exports were primary resources. Thus future development was reliant on re-investment in resources. It was shown that growth development could be reinvented by resource and impact decoupling. In Africa a huge amount of resources were required to generate $1 000. Other countries were more efficient in converting a small amount of resources into capital. Water, soil and other primary resources were becoming a constraint in South Africa. The new economic growth path showed that agriculture was supposed to generate more jobs than any other sector; however this was dependent on soil, and if soil was degraded this would not be possible. Professor Swilling concluded that the green economy was a world-wide phenomenon, but the developmental green economy had a South African spin.

Members raised concerns regarding the commitments of institutions and Government, how the Committee could take the process forward, and how the transition between the old and new could be bridged without huge costs. Professor Swilling responded that the Development Bank of Southern Africa was an institution that was engaging with these issues, that there was poor economic integration of green issues in South Africa, and that a cost benefit analysis was not sufficient. His advice for the Committee was to propose the Integrated Resource Plan as a preliminary idea. He stressed the use of solar hot water heating as an energy solution in South Africa.

The Department of Environmental Affairs presented its strategic plan for 2011/6. This outlined the problems identified by the State of the Environment Report, progress on the Department’s goals and targets related to the Millennium Development Goals; and a brief outline of the budget allocation.

The Committee raised concerns as to whether the Department could address the integration of the Minerals and Petroleum Resources Development Act within the timeframe proposed; asked who was responsible for the provinces and local government; asked for a strategy for reporting on meeting the Millennium Development Goals targets; requested that standards for the impact of mining should be developed and presented in the strategic plan and that the National Environmental Management Act report be sent to the Committee.  

The Department presented on administration and support. The financial target was met with 99% expenditure. The projected expenditure estimates for the six programmes, the improved socio-economic benefits within the environmental sector, and the key performance indicators for the 2011/12 and 2015/16 targets regarding employment creation for future generations from a healthy environment were presented. The vacancy rate in November 2010 was reported at 23%. The financial expenditure target was met. The improved socio-economic benefits within the environmental sector were presented. The assessment of risks by the Auditor General would be presented at a later stage.  The Chairperson suggested a closed session on the proposed performance bonuses before they were decided upon and the Committee asked that more ambitious targets should be set.

The Department presented a detailed budget to the Committee. The Committee said that more money was needed for compliance; that the budget should be analysed again and more practically presented; that the money put into plastic bags needed to be readdressed; asked whether the budget for the polar vessel was carried on from the previous year; said that not enough funding was being put into South Africa National Parks; and asked for clarity on the personnel budget.

The Chairperson concluded by suggesting that each entity should be prepared to present its strategic plan and budget to the Committee, and that the budget needed to be presented in a more practical manner.

As there were large time constraints the presentation on climate change was significantly condensed to outline the goals and strategic objectives of addressing climate change.

The Committee raised questions on the timing of the White Paper; asked who would take over the new roles next year if the protocol was not secured; and asked about the country’s plan on carbon emissions. The Chairperson concluded that the Department had to move on all these issues.

Meeting report

Introduction
The Chairperson opened the meeting by introducing Professor Mark Swilling, Programme Coordinator: Sustainable Development, School of Public Leadership, University of Stellenbosch, who would address the Committee on the economics of the green paper. The Chairperson expressed his hope for a longer term relationship between the Committee and Professor Swilling.

Professor Mark Swilling Presentation: Beyond resource and energy intensive growth
Prof Swilling began by speaking of the optimism of South African growth. He showed a graph of clustered countries. The African countries were low on the ecological footprint. However the problem was that with human development, there was a larger ecological footprint. The question was how it was possible to move up the human development index without enlarging the ecological footprint.

A graph of the waves of innovations was presented. Major economic crises happened at every peak of these waves. The advantage of these peaks was access to cheap primary resources. The fundamental difference in this peak was that there was no access to cheap primary resources.

The challenge to Africa was that its main exports were primary resources. Thus future development was reliant on re-investment in resources.

It was shown that it was only recently that the main resources tapped were construction minerals, whereas there used to be a reliance on biomass. Therefore it was possible to depend on renewable resources.

It was shown that growth development could be reinvented by resource and impact decoupling. In Africa a huge amount of resources were required to generate $1 000. Other countries were more efficient in converting a small amount of resources into capital. The price of resources had started increasing in the last 10 years which might result in more efficient use of resources.

Water was a resource constraint in South Africa. Water needed to be used more efficiently to allow for growth in South Africa. He used an eco village outside Stellenbosch, which used 60% less water as a community, as an example of how water could be used more efficiently. Similarly coal and soil were resources that needed to be more efficiently used. The new economic growth path showed agriculture was supposed to generate more jobs than any other sector; however this was dependent on soil and if soil was degraded this would not be possible.

Already more technology and money was being invested in renewable energy. Campbell’s “Growing Gap” in oil production showed that the longer and wider the gap the higher the oil prices would reach.

Prof Swilling concluded his presentation with a quote by Gordon Brown that the 21st century would be a low-carbon economy. The Green Economy was a world-wide phenomenon, but the developmental green economy had a South African spin.

Discussion
The Chairperson thanked Prof Swilling.

Mr G Morgan (DA) asked what the institutional commitments were. The Government’s commitment to green spending such as energy efficiency had been shown at Group of 20 (G20) summits, but it seemed to go back to the same ways. So how could this Committee engage on institutional matters?

Mr L Greyling (ID) discussed how the transition between the old and new could be bridged without huge cost as it seemed that in changing there were some up-front immediate costs. He asked how South Africa could invest without taking money away from other sectors.

Mr J Skosana (ANC) thanked the Professor and asked for his opinion on how the country could approach renewable energy and how as a Committee Members could take the process forward.

Ms H Ndude (COPE) asked how the world leaders were blind to what was coming. Did they realise that it was too much for them to deal with or was it because the investment needed would pass on and go away? She asked where South Africa was as a nation in reviving going back to the basics like ploughing one’s own land as that was more sustainable.

The Chairperson stated that, with climate change, a leap of faith was needed to see the bigger picture and get people to change their daily ways, whereas the Professor’s presentation was more grounded. However, the Chairperson pointed to how the revolution of change was happening and asked how it could be speeded up to reach the tipping point where it would all shift for the better so that the picture would change more quickly. He also asked for analysis on the Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) 2 and if there were suggestions as to how the Committee should take things forward.

Prof Swilling responded that, regarding institutional arrangements, he had worked with a number of departments and with the Development Bank of Southern Africa (DBSA) which was committed to renewable energy and funding the winds farms and other projects. The emphasis was on the DBSA as although it was a governmental institution it was founded in the economic environment and was aware of the resource constraints. A concentrated power plant could be pushed to 60% efficiency.

Prof Swilling said how depressed he was about the economic literacy of South Africa, and said that a cost benefit analysis could be destructive as it did not take into account everything that it needed to. Similarly, an argument that did not include an economic standpoint of economic returns would also not work.

Regarding advice for the Committee, Prof Swilling did not advise a moral high ground. Prof Swilling’s advice was to present IRP as a preliminary idea, and to state how nuclear power generation might be difficult and damaging. Similarly sustainable economic development should be emphasised. He felt that solar hot water heating was the most patriotic pro-South African investment  one could make as it would save energy, create jobs and constituted sustainable development. IRP was just a starting point; it was not a bad idea but it was not ambitious enough.

The Chairperson thanked Prof Swilling and concluded the session.

Department of Environmental Affairs. Strategic plan 2011
Ms Nosipho Ngcaba, Director-General, Department of Environmental Affairs, said that the Department prepared for three important sessions per year: the strategic plan, the yearly report, and legislation. She asked the Committee to ask as many questions as possible so that Members were clear on every aspect of the plan. She hoped to cover the questions raised by the Committee in the last meeting.

Ms Ngcaba outlined the vision, mission and values of the Department and the legislative framework that guided it. The Department’s key strategic priorities were the protection, conservation and enhancement of environmental assets, natural and heritage resources, ensuring sustainable and healthy environment, contributing to sustainable economic growth, livelihoods, and social cohesion, providing leadership on climate change action, promoting skills development and employment creation through facilitating green and inclusive economic growth, and creating a better Africa and a better world by advancing national environmental interest through a global sustainable development agenda.

The main problems identified in the State of the Environment report of 2007 were presented as well as the critical sector outputs associated with these problems. South Africa’s continued reliance on fossil fuels was resulting in green house gas emissions. To address this problem the emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) were to be reduced and renewable energy was to be deployed. Exposure to unsafe ambient pollutants was identified as a problem and the continued roll out of the Cleaner Fires Campaign and the reduction of atmospheric pollutants were identified as outputs. Poor waste management was identified as a problem as well as the impact of mining activities. To address this, the sector was involved in the rehabilitation of land. South Africa’s environment was deteriorating and the problems identified by the Department in this regard were shown. Land degradation and soil erosion were a challenge. Exploitation of natural resources and wetlands, water quality, waste water pollution of the marine environment, exploitation of the ocean, coastal development, and stagnation in applied environmental research were also identified as problems.

The strategic objectives of Programme 1 (Administration and Support) were equitable and sound governance, improved access to information, adequately and appropriately skilled staff and a secure, harmonious and conducive work environment, together with an efficient information and technology service and effective legal support.

The strategic objectives of Programme 2 (Environment quality and Protection) were the improved compliance with environmental legislation, less waste that was better managed, the prevention or management of the potential negative impacts of all significant developments, and cleaner, healthier air.

The strategic objectives of Programme 3 (Oceans and Coasts) were the effective management of protection and conservation of the ocean utilising scientific evidence, and stakeholder recognition of the value of the ocean and coastal environment and their role in protection.

The strategic objectives of Programme 4 (Climate Change) included the enhanced adaptive capacity, resilience and reduced vulnerability to climate change impacts, the facilitation of a climate change mitigation programme, and the successful hosting of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), Conferences of the Parties (COP 17) and the Kyoto Protocol CMP7.

The strategic objectives of Programme 5 (Biodiversity and Conservation) included mitigating the threats to biodiversity and conserving it, ensuring the sustainable utilisation and regulation of biological resources, and improved compliance with environmental legislation. 

The strategic objective of Programme 6 (International Relations) was to enhance international governance, instruments and agreements supportive of South African environmental and sustainable development priorities.

How the goals of the Department related to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) was explained. With reference to Goal 7: Environmental Sustainability, the protection of species, designation of landfills, climate change and mitigation, and land protection was included in the strategic plan.

The allocation of the budget for each of the programmes was outlined but was dealt with in greater detail subsequently by Ms Ester Makau, Chief Financial Officer. 

Discussion
Mr Morgan said that he supported the integration of the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act (MPRDA) with the Department. But that the aim to address this by the end of the year would not be attainable and the Department should re-examine this.

Mr Skosana said that the plans were at a national level but asked who was responsible for the provinces and local government and who was monitoring that.

The Chairperson asked for more information regarding the environmental report. The Millennium Development Goals commitment was not reported on to the Government and the Committee would like a breakdown of the commitment to the MDG goals, what had been done and what was still outstanding regarding the MDGs, so that this could be reported on each year. He also felt that the Committee should be engaged in the country’s goals in reference to international policy. Regarding the norms and standards of the quality at which the land should be maintained, surely these quality standards should be developed and presented in the strategic plan? He suggested a debate should be started in Government outlining the standards for areas that should not be developed and mined. It was difficult to blame the mines when these standards were not set out by the Department. 

Mr Greyling said that the progress in meeting international conventions should also be presented by the Department.

Ms Ngcaba responded that Parliament should run the debate on mining rather than the Department. The National Environmental Management Act (NEMA) report was drafted once a year regarding progress; however this progress was not tabled in light of the MDGs. This report went to Cabinet but would now be sent to the Committee in the future as well. The State of the Environment Report was compiled every five years.

The Chairperson asked for the NEMA report from last year to be sent to the Committee.
Chief Operations Officer (COO) and CA branch: performance and priorities
Ms Lize McCourt, Chief Operations Officer presented on Administration and support. The Financial target was met with 99% expenditure.

The projected expenditure estimates for the 6 programmes were presented. For 2011/12 the estimate for Administration was R285 413 000; R353 881 000 for Environment and Quality protection; R238 796 000 for oceans and coastal management, R623 002 000 for Climate Change; R409 958 000 for Biodiversity and conservation and R906 486 000 for sector services.

100% of the presidential hotline queries were processed within three days. The Ministerial public awareness and participation events targets were exceeded.

The improved socio-economic benefits within the environmental sector were presented. Specifically in the waste water collection initiative, the aim might appear lacking in ambition; however it was a pilot that would allow local government to perform this function.

The key performance indicators with the 2011/12 and 2015/16 targets were presented regarding employment creation for generations from a healthy environment. (Page 6)

The Chairperson asked if the Committee could meet to understand how the State of the Environment Report was compiled.

The Chairperson asked that the assessment of risks by the Auditor-General be presented at a later stage.

The vacancy rate in November 2010 was reported at 23%.

The annual performance plans that outlined work to be outsourced had been identified. Knowledge transfer when work is outsourced has been set into place.

The process to decide on performance bonuses was presented. Payment progressions were given for people who had not exceeded expectations. Those who had exceeded expectations might receive a performance bonus; this was decided upon by an adjudication and monitoring process. 31% of staff got a lower order merit bonus, 12% a higher order merit bonus.

Discussion
The Chairperson suggested a closed session on the proposed bonuses before they were decided upon.

Mr Morgan stated that the expenditure should be aimed at 100%. The target to keep the media coverage at 55% should be more ambitious. He asked why the Geographic Information System (GIS) data base system would be so delayed in becoming effective.

Ms McCourt answered that the 100% would never be met due to vacancies in the Department and that in committing to 100% the Department would be committing to something it could not control. The media coverage of 55% could be increased but this would be very taxing on the staff. The GIS system was not being used optimally and the reason for it taking so long to get up and running was due to the multiple systems being integrated. All information would be available to the public through this system.

The Chairperson stressed that this timeline was too long and the goal of 2016 was unacceptable. Specifically, as the information technology (IT) data base was being bought, the tender process should include a shorter timeline.

Ms Ngcaba asked to present the GIS project plan to the Committee.

Mr Morgan stated that it was of critical importance that the Department ensure that this information was available as so many mining rights had been applied for and were under scrutiny. By 2016 it would be too late.

The Chairperson asked for the risk assessments to be presented.

Ms Mc Court stated that in the human resources there was concern about the availability of sufficiently skilled resources and that the management response to this would be the review of the vacant posts to align the posts with the available budget. There was concern as to the preparation of regular accurate reports. In response to this some of the notes had to be amended. Similarly a proper record keeping system needed to be put in place. An electronic document system was being established for this. The fixed asset register had been updated.

Presentation by the CFO
Ms Ester Makau, the Chief Financial Officer presented a more detailed budget to the Committee. (Please refer to the presentation document for more information.)

The Polar Vessel was one of the main budgetary priorities for oceans and coasts in 2011/12 and in Biodiversity and Conservation the increase in allocation of R10 million was to combat poaching and other violent environmental crimes. 

Discussion
The Chairperson raised that more money was needed for compliance. However he felt that the budget should be analysed again to see exactly how much money was being spent to protect the environment in a practical sense. He suggested a different approach to the budget layout where the Committee would be able to garner the budgetary allowance for protection, personal, and other matters, for the whole Department. He also asked that the document submitted in February to the Standing Committee on Finance be resubmitted to this Committee as Members could not remember receiving it.

Mr Morgan raised the matter of plastic bags and and asked the Department to tell the Committee more about the Polar Vessel project and whether this budget was carried on from the previous year. Also, Mr Morgan thought that SANparks was not putting enough funding into supporting the Kruger and Table Mountain National Parks, and that the budget for these parks was insufficient: the commercialisation of these parks needed to be investigated.

Mr Skosana asked for clarity on the personal budget.

The Chairperson also stated that he would like more clarity on how much of each budget allocation was for personnel.

Mr S Huang (ANC) stated that there were large discrepancies between the programmes in the number of staff and asked for clarity on this.

Ms Makau confirmed that the Polar Vessel was budgeted for in previous years and would be completed this year.

Ms Ngcaba responded that in terms of SANparks there was a 40 -60 % ratio. There is a 40% grant to 60% revenue ratio. The conservation work was under threat by further pressure on revenue increase. The SANparks budget had already been cut this financial year. She detailed the changes in the composition of plastic bags to make them recyclable.

On the personal budget Ms McCourt responded that the substantial variation in personnel to budget was due to the nature of the work. For instance, in regulation there was a large emphasis on personnel to do the work. Whereas in Oceans, for instance, there were huge expenses other than personnel .

Ms Ngcaba also responded that in each programme a separate total for personnel budget was presented.

The Chairperson suggested that each entity should be prepared to present its strategic plan and budget to the Committee, and that the budget needed to be presented in a more practical manner, such that it could be understood exactly how much was being spent on protection, etc, so that the Committee could really engage and understand the budget.

Programme 4: climate change
Mr Peter Lukey, Chief Director: Air Quality Management and Climate Change, presented an exceptionally condensed presentation on climate change due to the time constraints, highlighting the heading of each slide. (Please refer to the document for greater detail).

The goals presented were for environmental assets to be conserved, valued, sustainably used, protected and continually enhanced; and to enhance socio-economic benefits and employment creation for the present and future generations from a healthy environment.

The branch was composed of international climate change, climate change adaptation and climate change mitigation.
The first strategic objective was resilience and reduced vulnerability to climate change impacts.

The second strategic objective was mitigation.

The third objective was the Convention on Climate Change and COP 17.

Discussion
The Chairperson opened the discussion by commenting on how he understood that the objectives were loosely defined so as to allow for adaptation as things progressed.

Mr Morgan asked if the finalisation of the White Paper was a priority of the Department prior to COP 17

Mr Huang asked who would take over the new roles next year if the protocol was not secured.

Mr Skosana asked if there was a plan for the country on carbon emissions

The Chairperson concluded that the message to take home was that the Department had to move on all these issues.

Mr Lukey responded that the White Paper was to be ready immediately before COP 17.

The meeting was adjourned.



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