National Climate Change Response Green Paper: briefing by Environmental Affairs; COP 17 Progress Report by Department of Energy


20 June 2011
Chairperson: Mr S Njikelana (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The presentation on the National Climate Change Response Green Paper by Department of Environmental Affairs included looking at the policy development process, the structure of the Green Paper, the challenges, its content and the emerging energy related issues. South Africa’s energy consumption was highly inefficient and there was need for implementing green policies to reduce the burden on the environment and prevent the country from exhausting its fossil fuels. However, there continued to be no financial would or support from the private sector to install renewable energy plants on mass scale. The Department concluded that investment in solar energy was in South Africa’s best interest because of its abundance. However, high costs and limited technology was preventing from adopting the solar model on a mass scale.  

Members were concerned with the lack of coherence in the Government’s energy policy and would wait to see the recommendations brought forth by the White Paper. They also wanted to know the nature of climate change and what were the signs that indicated the climate was indeed changing.

The presentation by the Department of Energy outlined the progress and logistics of the COP 17 where South Africa would hold a key role as the organiser/ host and the president of the conference. The Conference would potentially shape the global Climate Change initiative and South Africa’s work towards implementing a global policy.

During the discussion Members wanted to know what marketing strategies had been adopted to promote COP17 and what South Africa was doing to ensure the views and concerns of all African nations would be heard.

Meeting report

Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) briefing
Mr Peter Lukey (Acting Deputy Director General: Climate Change; DEA) outlined the progress plan, stating that the National Climate Change Response policy had a long history. The first kind of public mandate was provided at a conference in 2004 called the National Climate Change Strategy, and in 2005 a Climate Change Conference was held in Midrand which included four cabinet ministers. Here it was believed that because of the cost cutting measures, it was important to have a national policy on climate change. From the conference it had become clear that what was required was that there had to be some form of research work on what could potentially be done in response to climate change. This led to a process called long term mitigation scenarios. This was a scenario building process which was a multi-stake holder process involving various government departments, civil society, business society and research institutions.

From that process they came up with findings that suggested that South Africa could significantly reduce its carbon emissions. The Long Term Mitigation process also looked at technical interventions that were available to Government.

In 2008, Cabinet stated that the Government needed to start developing a national policy. It was believed that the green-house emissions in South Africa would peak by 2025, and then plateau for several years before beginning their decline, The March 2009 National Climate Change Policy Summit was the official launch of the policy development process. In May 2010, there was a Policy Development Round Table which was the final round of policy negotiations and in November 2010 the Green Paper was released.

He stated that throughout the policy development process, the Green Paper underwent provincial workshops, parliamentary public hearings and thematic workshops, and was scrutinised at the NEDLAC forum. The Draft White Paper was eventually circulated to the Intergovernmental Committee on Climate Change in June 2011 and the aim was for submission to Cabinet in July 2011.

The Green Paper Structure
Mr Lukey emphasised that climate change was a complex system that involved complex scientific principles that needed to be synthesised into simple language so that anyone could understand. He believed that the Green Paper had achieved the objective.

Section 1 outlined the reasons for South Africa’s involvement in tackling the climate change crisis. Climate change was a global process that affected all countries. The climate change threat could be linked to the nuclear threat in the 60s and 70s. South Africa was one of the few nations that had addressed that particular threat by giving up its nuclear ambitions. As such, South Africa was in a strategic position to once again be a leader in addressing the new global crisis.

Section 2 sketched the objectives of the Green Paper, that included the notion that South Africa would make significant efforts to reduce its green house emissions. South Africa, would adapt to the climate change crisis by building awareness and a better emergency response system.

Section 3 included the principles that guided the proposed responses to climate change. For example, if it was determined that certain actions taken would affect future generations, then the government would need to address the situation right away.

Section 4 outlined the various strategies the Department would use to meet the objectives.

Sections 5 included the policy approaches and actions; this also could be considered the “meat” of the policy.

Section 6 outlined the roles and responsibilities where there was a realisation that climate change did not change the work but only the environment that it was performed under. The Department of Energy would continue to plan the country’s energy policy, but it would incorporate Climate Change in its planning agenda.

Section 7 dealt with the Institutional Framework for Coordination wherein the Green Paper looked at existing structures rather that institute new ones. It looked at the Inter-ministerial Committee on climate change, Forum of South African Directors General (FOSAD) Clusters and Outcome Based Monitoring, Intergovernmental Committee on Climate Change among others.

Section 8 outlined the Inputs and Resource Mobilisation which included financial resources, human resources, technological resources and information. He argued that South Africa had seen its temperatures rise over the last decade. As such, the country needed to institute medium and long term modelling and down-scaled risk assessment in order to allow the various industries to adapt to the changes in the climate. For example, South Africa would have to enhance its weather and flood warning systems.

Section 9 outlined the Monitoring, Evaluation and Review wherein the Government would implant structures to monitor green house gas emissions and the progress that would be made in tackling the crisis.

The structure of the Green Paper was divided into various sectors, which would allow departments to intervene in a particular segment. The most important adaptation sectors were Water, Agriculture and Human Health. The universal health care system in South Africa could be considered to be of poor quality and the impacts of the climate change would exacerbate these issues.

Mr Lukey estimated that South Africa emitted 461 million tons of carbon dioxide. Of that total, the energy sector contributed 83%. The burning of fossil fuels for the purposes of producing energy and the operating of machines would continue to contribute large sums of green house gasses into the atmosphere. [See document for details on contribution of individual sectors to green house gases].

Content of Green Paper
Mr Lukey briefly outlined the actions that would need to be taken to ensure that South Africa reduced its green house gas emissions.

He emphasised that the Government would have to look and economic incentives to cut carbon emissions. Climate change was largely caused by the burning of fossil fuels. Until now only the market cost had been taken into consideration when burning fossil fuels. However, it was important to take into consideration the real costs, that included the cost of environmental degradation.

It was important to develop local renewable energy technology because purchasing it from other countries would be expensive and not contribute to the economy. Development of renewable energy would help the economy by generating employment while at the same time reduce the country’s carbon emissions. The government should also invest in research methods that would develop new and novel ideas to tackle climate change. Solar power was an important natural resource for South Africa and it would be important to harness solar power. South Africa had in the past been energy inefficient which needed to be changed.

One of the main areas that needed to be addressed was that renewable energy had been sold to the poor and not the rich. The reasons being the rich could afford electricity and there would be fewer incentives for them to convert to green technology. This ideology needed to be addressed.

The Chairperson applauded the detailed presentation, but asked the Department to provide detailed accounts of what took place at the provincial public hearings. Although members of the portfolio committee were invited to the hearing they were unable to attend as they had prior obligations.

Mr J Selau (ANC) wanted clarification as to what disasters could classified as being caused by climate change. He asked the Department to explain the impact on the climate caused by wild bush fires in the north of the country. Were the energy saving light bulbs indeed having an impact on the environment and, if so, why was there no legislation to promote the use of such bulbs? How was clean coal different from regular coal? Finally, he had hoped that the Department would propose some positions that would become the position of the country when it negotiated with other nations.

The Chairperson reiterated the previous comments and requested that the Department explain the nature of clean coal.

Mr S Radebe (ANC) asked what opportunities the renewable energy would be able to provide to rural communities. He also wanted clarification on the classifications of the weather storms and which were the ones that had been caused by climate change.

Mr S Motau (DA) asked how the mercury in florescent bulbs was being disposed. He wanted the department to comment on the notion that had been thrown around in meetings that the developed world had cause much of the global warming and now they want the developing world to clean it up.

Mr Lucas (IFP) commented that the street lights were often on during the day and asked if something could be done to ensure that the lamps would turn off at daybreak. He stated that the time to act was now and new technologies should be implemented right away. Manufacturing sectors should be producing electric cars. He also argued that nuclear could be considered a viable alternative for South Africa’s energy needs. Finally, educating the masses was the key and there should be a lot of emphasis given to education.

Mr L Greyling (ID) asked about the solar water heater programme. He wanted Parliament to take the leadership role in promoting green technology. He invited the department to work with the Committee to suggest ways Parliament could become more energy efficient.

Ms N Mathibela (ANC) asked if China’s accumulation of coal was a result of the clean coal technology and eventually when coal did run out, then the Chinese could profit from selling their reserves. She also asked whether the mining sector would be affected by climate change.

Mr K Moloto (ANC) shared the concerns of the other Members. However he felt that the issue of storage had to be tackled before solar energy could become viable. He asked the progress that had been made to ensure that the production processes of the mining industry were becoming more energy efficient. Were significant investments being made to curb emissions in the transport sector?

Mr Lukey replied that while there was no scientific proof that the hurricanes such as “Katrina” were cause by climate change, it could be concluded that storms were intensified and becoming more frequent as a result of climate change. The people in the rural areas were more acquainted with climate change as their lives were more intertwined with changes in climate, whether it was rainfall or droughts. Over decades, rainfall had declined with longer dry seasons which affected crop growth.

He commented that thus far the mercury aspect of florescent lights was trivial in comparison to global climate change. However, there were projects that had been implemented to extract the mercury and reuse it. National Treasury had implemented taxes on incandescent lights in order to make them more expensive so that people would buy the LED or flourescent.

With respect to ‘clean coal’ there was a misconception that it was a clean source of energy. In fact the proper terminology would be ‘cleaner coal’. The coal went through a washing process to remove much of the sulphur. This makes the coal burn cleaner but it could not be understood as clean. Another method could be to capture the carbon and store it underground and hope that it would stay there.

In terms of China storing coal, it had been concluded that coal would not become any cleaner and China was accumulating large quantities of coal for the use of energy production. However, China had also mobilised large resources to develop green technology and when the coal ran out in the future, China would be there with all their renewable technology and South Africa would be reduced to purchasing it from them.

The sun had been the largest source of energy however; it had been the limitations of human technology that had prevented them from harnessing the power.

Renewable energy could be placed anywhere, as such the rural sectors would be the most receptive to the particular energy. He stated that renewable energy had been “ghettoized” because the rich refused to adopt solar technology. That left the poor as the only ones who adopted it. This in the long term would prevent the development of better and stronger renewable technology.

Another challenge was that the rail system had not been developed and since it could be considered to be the most fuel efficient way of transport, more investment was needed in this particular sector.

While it had been true that the developed countries had contributed to green house gas emissions, South Africa was not innocent in the matter. Africa contributed only 2% of all the emissions, however of that percentage South Africa accounted for 50%.

The Department of Energy had a policy on nuclear energy and Mr Lukey abstained from commenting on the matter.

He added that the Green Paper had been criticized for providing many good ideas yet nothing in terms of concrete policy objectives. However, the White Paper would correct that problem and provide concrete measures.

The  South African Parliament could learn lessons from the German and some other European Parliaments on becoming more efficient and green.

He emphasised that South Africa should be a leader in Green Industry and not rely on the developed world for their technology.

Mr Mark Gordon (Specialist Advisor, DEA) stated that by 2030 42% of electricity should be generated through the use of renewable energy. The key challenges remained how this goal would be achieved. Financing had been a major road block and what would be the incentive to promote the development of such technology. The options for South Africa were either to stay with coal or invest in green renewable energy on a large scale or nuclear.

Ms Mokgadi Mathelgana (Chief Director: Clean Energy, DOE) stated that coal plants could not be shut down and converted to renewable energy overnight. There was a commitment to diversify energy production. There were many factors that would need to be considered. Financing and infrastructure development were two main road blocks.

The Chairperson stated that the Members would support inter-departmental workshops on the matter of renewable energy. He asked what Parliament had done to become Greener.

Mr Greyling stated that when it came to coal powered plants, the Government had found the money to build new plants. As such it was unacceptable for Government to state that there were not enough funds for renewable energy.

The Chairperson appreciated the comments and questions and invited the Department of Energy to deliver its presentation.

Department of Energy presentation
Ms Mokgadi Mathelgana (Chief Director: Clean Energy, DOE) provided an overview of the achievements of the Cancun agreements and where they stood with COP17 negotiations.
The Mexican Team (COP 16), United Nations Secretariat and the South African team led by Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabana, Minister of International Relations and COP 17 President and Minister Edna Molewa, Minister of Environment and Water Affairs and Leader of South African Negotiation delegation met in February and March 2011 to start the hand over process and map the way forward for COP 17 preparations. The main goal was to ensure that consultation, transparency and political issues were mapped out and considered from the beginning for the success of Conference of the Parties. The three teams would continue to engage on all aspects of COP until South Africa signed a hosting agreement which was anticipated in August 2011.

The negotiation process started in 3-8 April 2011 in Bangkok where they met to unpack the Cancun Agreement and agree on the Agenda for COP 17 which would form the basis of the negotiations process and the update to the SA position paper. 
Firstly, all countries consulted had prioritized the technical work and workshops associated with the main architectural elements and processes of the future climate change regime that were agreed in Cancun. Amongst others, these were: Adaptations, mitigation commitments under the Kyoto Protocol, and mitigation commitments and actions under the Convention.

Further consideration was given on issues not agreed to in Cancun. These included:
Intellectual Property Rights – Reaching agreement on how to facilitate technology transfer while protecting intellectual property rights in a manner that complies with other international agreements (such as the WTO).

Trade and Climate Change – Reaching multi-lateral agreement on rules for the issue of how to treat unilateral trade measures based on carbon emissions standards which is a priority for most developing countries, but particularly for emerging developing economies, including Argentina, Singapore, OPEC and BASIC countries. Many developed countries regard this as a WTO issue not to be elaborated under the climate change regime.

Finance – The design of the Green Climate Fund by the Transitional Committee Africa (i.e. short, medium and long term finance)

Based on emerging dynamics and expectations for Durban on Outreached Parties and IMC engagements it has been recommended that the strategy for the development of and engagement on the South African national substantive content positions should include the following elements:
– A programme of consultation with national stakeholders such as parliamentarians, local government, NGOs, business, labour and other groupings that have an interest in the process.
– The agenda for these consultations should include:
•Consideration of and input into the draft national substantive content positions, as well as the development of possible compromise solutions to issues which are experiencing difficulty in the international negotiation process.
•Encouraging national stakeholders to participate in any international stakeholder meetings and lobby for possible compromises with their international stakeholder counterparts.

–Mobilise national stakeholders to support, sponsor and participate in the programme to use the COP 17 opportunity to showcase both South Africa’s climate change efforts including marketing South Africa pavilion, parallel and side events.
–Encouraging national stakeholders to mobilize their international counterparts to actively participate in the COP17/CMP7 conference.
–IMC gave the mandate to the negotiators team led by both COP 17 President, Minister of DIRCO and Minister of DEA  to engage on the negotiations based on the preliminary UN agenda at the second session of the negotiation process in Bonn, Germany in June 2011.
–A draft position paper will be developed after the Bonn negotiations for tabling to Cabinet in August / September 2011

The presentation also outlined the following (see document):
- The South African COP17 negotiating position
- Proposed Implementation Plan for Development of National South African Climate Change Negotiating Position
-The COP17 Logistics
- DEA COP17 Logistics
- DEA COP 17 Preparations and Recommendations.

Mr Greyling stated that there had not been enough publicity surrounding COP17 and asked about the plans for increasing publicity.

Mr Radebe asked if local craftspeople and indigenous groups who would like to have their own stalls would be allowed to set up around the Conference. He asked if funding provided by the World Bank had come with any ties.

The Chairperson said the presentation was very helpful. How would South Africa host and negotiate at the COP17 at the same time? Also, how would all the other African nations receive their voice through South Africa?

Mr Lukey stated that the Conference would be attended by high-level dignitaries who had been invited and it was not open to public. As such, the marketing campaign would focus on raising awareness on climate change with the COP 17 in the backdrop. There would be short radio dramas that would be broadcast throughout July that would raise awareness.

There was a very limited area for the Conference and as such the public would not be invited. However, the South African delegation would set up a stall that all delegates would have to walk past. Here they would showcase South African culture and its approach to climate change. There would also be a commercial aspect involved where some cultural goods would be available for sale.  

Ms Mathelgana replied that there were no conditions attached to the World Bank funding. The money was there only to pay for the international delegates.

The Chairperson adjourned the meeting.


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