Workshop on Climate Change and COP 17 Conference: Worldwide Fund for Nature, Hon. Buyelwa Sonjica, and Department of Environmental Affairs

Water and Sanitation

12 September 2011
Chairperson: Mr M Johnson (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

Members were briefed by the World Wide Fund for Nature on African and South African perspectives on climate change. The current and projected challenges of marine and coastal, geophysical, freshwater and biodiversity impacts were outlined. The Committee heard that the true cost of inaction was being borne by millions of poor people in the poorest and most vulnerable countries. The effect on women of climate risks was outlined which included lower school enrolment, deaths and food insecurity. The South African carbon budget plan was to cut emissions by 34% in 2020, and 42% by 2025. It was emphasised that a strong statement had to be made because South Africa had lost valuable ground in the technological arena due to apartheid. The budget had to be refocused to prioritise matters that affected the poor and vulnerable. The available funders, the Clean Development Mechanism and the Adaptation Growth Fund were reported on. The South African National Biodiversity Institute had been appointed as the National Implementing Entity for the Adaptation Fund money recently.

Members asked if it was possible for scientists to investigate the reduction of carbon emissions from coal; if issues regard poor and vulnerable people were addressed; if there were processes in place to empower people; and how to ensure understanding was created about climate change. A Member told the meeting about the Champions of the Environment Foundation which was in the process of negotiations with the Department of Basic Education and some companies to start a national youth environment competition.

The former Minister of Minerals and Energy told Members that local government was involved. There needed to be more integration to derive the full benefits of all efforts. She outlined the structure of the negotiations and the key political and legal issues surrounding climate change and the reduction of emissions. South Africa already had legislation across sectors to assist with the reduction of emissions, and was doing much in the context of environmental management. It was important for South Africa to pursue a common position for the continent. Parliaments role hinged on contribution at the Conference of the Parties 17 and oversight beyond the Conference of the Parties 17 .

Members questioned the location of local government in the climate change scenario. They observed that local government had been on board with regard to climate change.

Members were briefed by the Department of Environmental Affairs on the negotiations and dynamics of the negotiations. Members heard that a very clear programme on the legacy of Conference of the Parties 17  existed which would help raise awareness. The disagreements and agreements with Bolivia were explained. There was definite agreement with Bolivia on the continuation of the Kyoto Protocol. The Department noted that the Department of Women, Youth, Children and People with Disabilities was also dealing with climate change.


Members asked what had been done to capacitate people in rural areas, and if the National House of Traditional Leaders and the Congress of Traditional Leaders of South Africa had been capacitated to help people in rural areas to understand climate change. Members asked what guarantees were in place to ensure that the Kyoto Protocol was going to be adhered to by developing countries. Members highlighted the weakness of the Department of Environmental Affairs in developing a climate change programme.


Meeting report

Introduction
There was an apology from the House Chairperson, the Hon. C Frolick (ANC) who was unable to attend this day's meeting and would only be able to attend the following day. Due to the competing programmes of committees, not all of them were able to attend.  

World Wide Fund for Nature. African and South African perspectives on climate change. Briefing
Ms Louise Naudé, National Climate Change Officer: World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) South Africa,  explained the causes of climate change and the greenhouse effect. The current and projected challenges to marine and coastal, geophysical, freshwater and biodiversity impacts were outlined. The true cost of inaction was being borne by millions of poor people in the poorest and most vulnerable countries.

The effects on women of climate risks were outlined and included the loss of  jobs, lower school enrolment, deaths, food insecurity and the reduction in crop and traditional medicine options. Ms Naudé said that the crisis called for a new economic paradigm with an opportunity for new social relations and not just new technologies, products or processes.

The South African carbon budget plan was to cut emissions by 34% in 2020, and 42% by 2025. The National Climate Change Response Policy White Paper would identify flagship projects to accelerate implementation. (See document.) 

Discussion
Mr B Holomisa (UDM; Portfolio Committee (PC) on Water and Environmental Affairs) said that there was a need to approach this issue carefully and without any pretences. A strong statement had to be put forward because this country was new in the arena of climate control, and had lost ground in the technology arena during the apartheid years. An introductory paper could help so that we were not seen to not toe the line and embarrass ourselves. South Africa was trying to catch up.  A lot of work had to be done. Before Conference of the Parties (COP) 17  a two day session could be targeted to bring everyone on board about the way forward. He expressed the hope that the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) would come to the meeting to brief it.

Mr S Sizani (ANC; Convenor of the Steering Committee on Climate Change; PC on Rural Development and Land Reform) said that the budget had to be refocused on matters that benefited the vulnerable and the poor.  He expressed agreement with Mr Holomisa that it was correct that our position in the world should be protected to avoid embarrassing ourselves.  However he added that it would be a bigger embarrassment if we neglected the people in South Africa in order to focus on an international public relations exercise.  These two issues were not mutually exclusive, but should focus on the citizens of South Africa. The most vulnerable were getting more vulnerable. Food security was not a future threat, it was a current threat. When we looked at the carbon budget, we should look at what could be done immediately to reduce damage on the ecosystem like the overcrowding in the former bantustans for example.  He added that the WWF had influence over other non-governmental organisations (NGOs), and could therefore form a partnership with Parliament to look at how to assist in defending vulnerable and poor people. This would assist in developing teamwork to prevent further damage.

Ms M Kotsi (COPE; PC on Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries) said that with regard to agricultural productivity shifts, land was not used effectively, so it would be useful to get assistance from organisations that got funding for such matters as climate change; to assist in areas like soil erosion.  She appealed to other parliamentarians to take seriously the issue of agreements, so that engagements at the tail end of processes could be avoided.  She said that South Africa could influence the situation. She asked how China contributed to carbon emissions.

Mr C Ntuli (ANC; PC on Economic Development) said that South Africa had many unemployed people and this could be addressed by doing small things now. He asked if it was not possible for scientists to investigate the reduction of carbon emissions from coal. 

Ms M Shinn (DA; PC on Science and Technology) asked if there were any discussions in place to introduce Global Change Charters to South African industry or the Government for when they actually signed deals for infrastructure development projects. She asked further if some sort of incentive could be in place with some conditions that needed to be worked into major Government contracts to induce it to  commit to various mitigating factors or emission preventative measures.

Ms M Dunjwa (ANC; PC Science and Technology) asked the following questions:  how the simplification of the COP 17 process could be ensured to create an understanding of climate change issues; If there was a process in place to empower people; and how could it be ensured that the process was not used to score political points to empower people, but to ensure that issues regarding the poor, vulnerable persons and women were addressed.

The Chairperson said that Parliament would be hosting a seminar for the public about climate change.

Ms Naudé said that Members had made good points and contributions to which she could not respond. She would rather give some points of information.

Ms Naudé said that there were many opportunities in international forums and negotiations to accept various kinds of funds. The Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) was one of the funders. There were some criticisms of the mechanisms used by the CDM. The WWF
s approach was that even though there might be weaknesses or problems, safeguards should be put in place to ensure that opportunities were used.  The challenge was how to access those kinds of funds for the poor and vulnerable. There was also the Adaptation Fund set up under the Kyoto Protocol, and COP 17 would be trying to advance this particular fund. The New Green Fund was also such a fund and the Hon. Trevor Manuel, Minister in the Presidency: National Planning Commission co-chaired this Committee.  She said that for a country to access those funds it had to have a National Implementing Entity, which showed how the funds should be received and how they should be disbursed in the country. The South African National Biodiversity Institute had been appointed as the National Implementing Entity for the Adaptation Fund money recently.

The challenges here were developmental challenges. Ms Naudé argued that Climate Change was also a land issue. The way commercial agriculture was conduct currently was not necessarily the best way to proceed.  There were practices called conservation agriculture, which allowed for a much needed deviation from the developmental path of the North, which had been so disastrous for the earth. So there was an alternative development path which could provide a better life for all.

With regard to the geopolitical issue raised by Ms Kotsi, the Department of International Relations and Cooperation would know best about those matters. She said that countries went to those meetings with their own agendas. One had to look at why the United States of America and China had their current positions and what their roles were in the world.

Ms Naudé said that this whole issue of climate change had been made into an arena for experts; however, it was really not a complex issue: any human being could understand it.

Ms Buyelwa Songica, the former Minister of Minerals and Energy, said that the signatories of the Kyoto protocol included 52 countries from Africa. The African Union (AU) took a resolution to support the Kyoto Protocol. This made us stronger as Africa. The CDM had regulations which were very onerous, and made it difficult to access funding. This should be raised as part of a resolution from Parliament, so that the CDM could be more accessible. As an effort by Africa, an African Policy Centre for Climate Change had been developed and some of these matters would be dealt with within that establishment.

Ms D Robinson (DA; PC Women, Youth, Children and People with Disabilities,) said that she agreed and disagreed that Parliament should take the lead. A programme should go out to national, provincial and local government, as this was related to constituencies, whose fingers reached out to communities, villages, and cities; so that this message was clearly communicated to all. People should be taught at an early age about what to do to avoid waste, for example.  The poor suffered most, but there was also the poverty of  knowledge and this was how education could assist.

Mr Holomisa said that he was a member of an organisation called the Champions of the Environment Foundation (CEF). The organisation was in the process of negotiations with the Department of Basic Education and some companies, to start a national youth environment competition.  This competition had an annual topic around which youth could compete and win bursaries for environmental studies.

The CEF was working with the private sector and state departments and had planted 34 000 indigenous trees guided by the carbon budget. Companies could then buy those trees and the money would go to communities. This was the kind of initiative needed in this country. 

A view on international responses to climate change: lessons from experience
Ms Sonjica said that she first wanted to pick up on the issue of local government. The Department of Environmental Affairs together with provincial and local government and the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs had both worked together to ensure that climate change disaster management was understood by local government. Hence local government was on board.  There needed to be more integration to have the total sum of all efforts embarked upon which would also give the total product of these efforts.

Ms Sonjica outlined the structure of the negotiations and the key political and legal issues surrounding climate change and the reduction of emissions. South Africa already had legislation across sectors meant to assist with the reduction of emissions, and was doing a lot in the context of environmental management. She said that it was important that South Africa played a significant role in the pursuit of the a common position for the continent. Parliament
s role hinged on participation on two significant levels: contribution at COP 17 and Implementation and oversight beyond COP 17. (See document.)

Department of Environmental Affairs. Preparations for COP 17

Mr M Kekana, Director: International Climate Change, Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA), provided an overview of the negotiations and dynamics in the negotiations. South Africa was committed to engaging in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). An important dynamic of the negotiations was that the United States had refused  to join the Kyoto Protocol unless China did so.

The Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) had hosted three Africa Group of Negotiators
meetings to chart the Africa Common Negotiating Position. Mr Kekana said that the DEA was conducting road shows in all provinces to raise awareness. It was in the process of organising an Expo for business, NGOs and Government to showcase climate change activities. (See document.)

Discussion
Nkosi M Mandela (ANC; PC  on Rural Development and Land Reform) asked for a briefing on what had been done for the National House of Traditional Leaders and the Congress of Traditional Leaders of South Africa (CONTRALESA) to capacitate people in rural areas. People in rural areas were really the feeling brunt of climate change.

Nkosi Mandela asked what was done to capacitate women in rural areas regarding COP 17.

Mr Kekana replied that the Department of Women, Youth, Children and People with Disabilities was also dealing with Climate Change. The Department had hosted several meetings on Gender and Climate Change, so this Department was now on board.

With regard to the global economic crisis and natural disasters, Mr Mandela asked what guarantees were in place that the Kyoto Protocol was going to be adhered to so as to gain participation from developed countries.

Mr Kekana replied that the issue around the United States and Japan was a difficult one especially with regard to taking the second commitment period.  Japan had stated that it would not go into the second commitment period. The US would also not go into the second commitment period. South Africa could not afford to lose the Kyoto Protocol.

Mr L Tsenoli (ANC; PC on Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs) emphasised the legacy of COP 17 and asked how much attention should be given so that the work we did in the country itself would produce positive results related to climate change. There should be a strategy around a legacy programme.

Mr Kekana replied that there was a very clear programme on the legacy of COP 17. COP 17 would help us to raise awareness. This could not limit us to the four months that were left, as we had started to look at how to take it forward.

Mr Tsenoli said that Bolivia was not interested in climate change and its position had been the subject of disagreement. He asked what the contentious issues were regarding Bolivia, and what South Africa
s position was on the issues raised by Bolivia.

Mr Kekana replied that South Africa agreed with Bolivia on many issues. There was disagreement with it on some issues like their call for the 1
° C temperature limit, its opposition to the carbon budget and a few conceptual differences.  There was definite agreement on the fundamental issue  of the continuation of the Kyoto Protocol. 

Mr Ntuli said that a green economic policy might assist South Africa to find its way with regard to climate change.

Mr Kekana relied that the Department had done a paper on the green economy. It was well received, but the portfolio was moved to the office of the Minister of Economic Development and now received much more attention and resources. A policy would soon emerge out of that.

Mr S Njikelana (ANC; Climate Change Steering Committee; PC on Energy; PC on Trade and Industry) said that the Department of Trade and Industry would always start with an awareness campaign and bring all stakeholders together to get a sense of the support that was forthcoming.

(Please see also Mr Njikelana's presentation document Leadership role of Parliament in Climate Change attached.)

Mr Sizani said that the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) was very weak in a developing climate change programme. This was an opportunity to introduce ordinary citizens to climate change. He asked why a South African campaign could not be launched for all citizens around climate change. South Africa was not structured in its approach. South Africans did not behave as if there were problems that could create disasters. It was the responsibility of the DEA to take care of the environment.  There were no laws that provided guidance with regard to the environment. It was the DEA
s responsibility to legislate.

Mr Kekana said it would help to have workshops on national climate change issues and international negotiations around climate change.  The Department was finalising the White Paper which addressed many of the issues raised. The Department did host workshops, especially when positions were being drafted.

Mr Tsenoli said that there was not a feeling that there was a solid campaign around climate change in the country. There were elements, but they were not systematic. There were things that we could do. We would like to see and hear about a campaign that would change the nature of the country by 2012.

The Chairperson said that the Nelson Mandela municipality had held workshops on the green economy and climate change.

Ms Sonjica reiterated that Climate Change was an aspect of a broader comprehensive environmental agenda for which the key principle was sustainable growth and development.  This originated from the conference in Rio de Janeiro which had originated from the Stockholm conference in 1972. There was the concern that originated at the Stockholm Conference about whether economic growth could be limited through natural resources. The pace at which China had moved had threatened the hegemony of the United States. Ms Sonjica said that there was a need to find a balance that would take something from all to allow benefit for all. This was about the national interest of countries. We should not give away everything at once. If there was anything that we shied away from, it was to debate the politics of Climate Change.  The United States was one of the biggest carbon emitters and was set on protecting its national interests.

The Chairperson said that said that the role of Parliament had to be located in the discourse on Climate Change.

The following questions were raised
Ms S Plaatjie (COPE; PC on Science and Technology) expressed concern about issues related to local government. She asked how to get information to local government as its planning was based on the lives of ordinary people. She asked further what role Parliament could play in assisting local government, so that it could plan for its own areas and speed up programmes before they reached local government level. 

Mr Holomisa said that unclean coal caused damage to a lot of areas especially in Soweto. South Africa exported coal to other countries, but those countries insisted on clean coal and this had forced local companies to export clean coal. It had to be asked whose responsibility it was to clean coal. Was it the responsibility of companies, or should the state take responsibility by providing state subsidies?

Mr Holomisa asked what role this country should play regarding climate change. He recommended a two pronged strategic approach: a need to continue to position the country around climate change; and that President Zuma should seek one-on-one meetings with President Barack Obama and President Hu Jintao of  of China. These meetings should emphasise the need for their countries to participate, and these  leaders should also be seen to be on board.

The meeting was adjourne

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