Climate Change White Paper: Department of Environment Affairs briefing

Water and Sanitation

17 October 2011
Chairperson: Mr J De Lange (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Department of Environmental Affairs delivered presentations on the White Paper on Climate Change, the Department’s carbon footprint and the showcase at the Conference of the Parties 17 meeting in Durban. It highlighted that South Africa led the way in some of the methodologies used such as the Long-Term Mitigation Scenarios process which was a proudly South African product being sold all over the world. The two specific objectives for the white paper were to manage the climate change impacts and emergency response. The objectives had changed little since the green paper. Equity was one of the guiding principles of the White Paper.  Also those who polluted must pay.  Even if it did not become a carbon  neutral economy tomorrow, the country would  still suffer the impacts from the global emissions. South Africa also had to take advantage of the unexploited resources such as solar energy. The Department had made a decision in 2008 to start an initiative to understand its carbon footprint on a day to day basis. The Conference of the Parties 17 summit EXPO was an opportunity to showcase the country. The exhibition was almost over-subscribed. The Department had received 255 requests so far for exhibition and side events. The exhibition space would showcase flagship Government projects.

Members expressed concerns about the institutional commitments that had not been reflected in the paper as well as the database requirements. Concerns were raised about the level of skill that would be needed such as the project management skills to help the country towards a low carbon economy. There were also concerns about the sequencing of the tasks that needed to be implemented. Education was also the key in ensuring behavioural change and helping the country make the transition to a low carbon economy. The Committee was very pleased with the Department for  the work it had done in the past four years on determining its carbon footprint. The Department was encouraged to perfect the process and spread it to other departments.

Meeting report

Department of Environmental Affairs National Climate Change Response Policy presentation
Mr Peter Lukey, Acting Deputy Director-General (DDG): Climate Change and Chief Director: Air Quality, Department of Environmental Affairs  (DEA), delivered a presentation on the developments that brought the green paper to the white paper since 2005. The process had in fact started as early as South Africa’s transition from democracy. The green paper and the policy finalization process was merely from November 2010 to October 2011 when the white paper was formally launched. The Department had received astonishing support from the Government and  the Portfolio Committee: this was much appreciated. There were definitely positive signs in maintaining momentum.

He highlighted the fact that South Africa had become leaders in some of the methodologies used such as the Long-Term Mitigation Scenarios (LTMS) process which was a proudly South African product being sold all over the world. LTMS was not there to inform policy but was the policy itself. It basically held that the South African Greenhouse Gas Emissions needed to peak, plateau and decline. South Africa (SA) also needed to look at the socio-economic transition and to redefine its competitive advantage through the economy in terms of creating jobs from the green economy. It was at the Climate Change summit in 2009 that the decision had been made to make the transition to the green economy. This meant that the country needed to look at putting a price on carbon but there were areas of divergence such as the energy mix and the transparency in energy planning and decision making in how to use economic instruments and how carbon would be priced. There was strong lobby for carbon tax. The Department had hosted a series of workshops in May 2010 after the Copenhagen meeting which eventually lead to drafting of the Green Paper and the subsequently the white paper. The final draft of the white paper was published in November 2010. Workshops had been held around the provinces to increase participation in the process but these had turned into awareness workshops. The Department had commissioned new research which went into the development of the green paper and it also engaged in a formal National Economic Development and Labour Council (NEDLAC) process and hosted bilateral meetings. The Portfolio Committee had a series of public hearings which resulted in about 4 000 issues being raised. As a result, the white paper had to be redrafted after that. A revision version was released in June and the paper was presented and launched by the Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs in the beginning of October 2011. The white paper would be formally published in the Government Gazette on Wednesday 19 October 2011.

The meeting was frequently interrupted as the technicians tried to connect via video link to Pretoria to the Minister. Their efforts were unfortunately unsuccessful.

The Chairperson thanked Mr Lukey for his presentation. He said that what was important as he gave the input was the reflection of the change from the green paper to the white paper.

Mr Lukey spoke about the key issues that emerged which were mostly about mitigation, which meant that if South Africa was serious about Climate Change it needed to know exactly what the mitigation issues would be and who should be doing what and when. Electricity had already carved out its budget. There was a need to clarify sector contributions. In the green paper there was a long list of mitigation actions, but they were mostly strong calls of poorly informed good intentions.

Among the key issues arising from public comments were improvement of thermal efficiency in low cost houses, through putting a ceiling in a low cost home, increased resilience to climate change and temperature changes. Another issue was accountability and who would hold actors accountable if they did not do what they were supposed to do.

The white paper dealt with issues by defining the baseline of efficacy of mitigation measures. The white paper defined where South Africa would go and where specific numbers were used. It identified past, and immediate flagship interventions and a number of high level interventions to happen immediately, then introduced the concept of climate resilience from the social, environmental and economic point of view. This was the basis of mitigation actions. Carbon budgets were introduced in lieu of integrated planning to avoid more plans. Mainstreaming would then happen. The green paper to white paper transition basically took the process from being vague to being focused.

Department of Environmental Affairs White Paper presentation
The white paper had been part of a six year ground breaking modeling and many other processes. The two specific objectives for the white paper were to manage the climate change impacts and emergency response. The objectives had changed little since the green paper. The white paper had a series of principles which guided it. Equity was one of them, in terms of treating the vulnerable people of South Africa fairly. There was also a precautionary principle. Also underlying it was the polluter pays principle. Those who polluted must pay. Another principle was informed participation, ensuring the active involvement of everyone. This would ensure that South Africans were properly informed. Climate Change response both had economic and ecological pillars it was really a sustainable development response and entailed things the nations should be doing anyway.

The overall strategy was needs driven and custom made based on South African needs. It was developmental allowing space for development using progressive and proactive response, as well as participatory and dynamic interventions. It was balanced and cost effective as it looked at ways to be cost effective. It was also integrative and aligned. The strategic priorities looked at risk reduction management, prioritizing adaptation reducing immediate risks and mitigating action, making a contribution to the economy and creating green jobs. Sectoral responses were also required, making sure sectors played their role. Electricity emissions were responsible for 40% of the emissions. Policy and regulatory alignment needed to happen to ensure integrated planning. Before investigating, there was a need to be sure of the science. There were also technology driven interventions as well as those to facilitate behavior change encouraged through Government interventions. The paper also looked at mobilizing resources in responding to Climate Change in terms of financial, educational, and technological aspects.

Mr G Morgan (DA) thanked the Department for including feedback from committee hearings. He asked about the mechanism for the white paper that would determine the order of the response. He could see the structure of the paper but he did not see the order. For the carbon tax for example to be in place, a whole lot of things needed to be in place.  He also asked the Department what its thoughts were on policy coherence to get departments buy in to act, report monitor and most importantly to start budgeting for Climate Change.

Mr Lukey observed that it had been said that the Department was trying to create a master sustainable development plan for South Africa. Few countries had been able to do that as the issues arising were very difficult. The issues the white paper dealt with were not necessarily climate change-related but related to job creation which were linked to the Presidential outcomes and to the performance agreements. The Department has pulled itself into that direction and has started to sequence its actions and building into that and it is so far working.

The Chairperson added that with outcome came two things; database and institutional arrangement that would monitor and hold departments accountable.  Without those two things, everything would fall flat.

Mr Lukey said that the Chairperson was right and that there was a need to report in a way that people could understand. He indicated that the Department was putting together a checklist of where responsibilities were as base of commitment. Policy coherence was not necessarily about climate change but about governance which was always a challenge. Where Government could work together as a team was to identify municipalities doing progressive work, and encourage them to keep going and improve. An example was the City of Cape Town and its vehicle emission policing. Staff were travelling around the country teaching other municipalities on how to do it. There was a need for good national leadership which was facilitative and not autocratic.

Ms S Kalyan (DA) asked about how the Department was going to deal with the budget implications. She cited the example of the malaria issue which involved the Departments of Health and Agriculture, Forestry  and Fisheries and how the budget could be considered between such departments. Also in terms of compliance, was there a protective mechanism or rules for compliance if departments  did not comply?

Ms D Tsotsetsi (ANC) pointed out that most of the time there were good statements but little on action due to non-compliance and, therefore, compliance was an issue the Department needed to take seriously and ensure enforcement.

Mr Lukey  said good planning in responding to climate change was the same as in any other as good planning was inherent in budgetary planning.  That is, the process had to go through normal budgetary processing. Departments were encouraged to put forward forward decent research and increase the science base as no one would give extra money for something not justified.

The policy was not just the Department’s but the Government's and it had been approved by cabinet.  Compliance was governed by rules applicable to all Government policies. The Department would need to try to flag an area not delivering and potentially holding up other aspects as well. If the Department had a proper monitoring system, then it would know exactly who was not doing their work.

The Chairperson said that one of the things the Committee emphasized strongly in the green paper hearings was that the green economy was not part of economy tucked away somewhere but that the economy was part of ecology and not the other way around.

Mr Lukey agreed by saying that the Climate Change element of policy referred to it being mainstreamed meaning that the adaptation priorities and budgets needed to be underpinned by the Government budget.

Mr P Mathebe (ANC) asked about the awareness campaign and what the role of local government would be as most municipalities did not have a budget for Climate Change as they had a greater role to play in making communities aware. How was the national Department going to assist them?

Mr Morgan asked about the monitoring side of emissions as the project was a massive undertaking of project management, and if the Department envisaged itself being the holder of the project management database. He pointed to the shortage of project managers in South Africa and asked  if the Department had considered that and the need for the project management skill itself.

Mr J Skosana (ANC) asked the Department how it would ensure the policy was implemented and facilitated at local level.

Mr Lukey responded to some of the questions raised by the Members indicating that no one had money for climate change as it had to be budgeted for and then to be prioritized. South Africa needed to scale up its actions and get local resources. There was international funding for projects on the ground. The policy made it clear that every sectoral plan must include public awareness. In terms of who would be the custodian, a real process needed to take place. There was also a need to audit data sources to find out where they were and how they were managed. In relation to project management the white paper said that climate change would produce challenges in terms of new skills needed. Project management was a skill required by South Africa as a nation anyway. The policy had an entire section on training as well. For example, the green economy would need to look at building new skills such as solar and wind energy production skills.  It literally meant that Sector Education and Training Authorities (SETAs) would have to be restructured.

In facilitating local implementation the monitoring reporting system would have to be sensitive to pick up which municipality was not doing its work. For example, the monitoring system would be able to pick up people who were living below the flood levels. The onus would be with municipalities themselves as well. The Department would have a system to track who was responding or not. The collection of data on greenhouse gases was in line with international obligations but such reporting was not very useful for a national way of reporting. Cities would have to start looking at their carbon footprint as well.

Mr Mathebe asked if there was not a provision to allow local government to impose fines on businesses which polluted.  Mr Lukey said there were instruments that existed already and also ones that the Department was considering. The legislation on air quality would look relating the level of pollution by an entity to a license fee. The Department had been looking at an atmospheric emission user charge based on the principle that if one used the atmosphere as a dumping ground for pollution then one had to pay and that would related to a service that local authority provided. Hence the charge would be to for the impact and the municipality would have to do the policing. The biggest emitters were no longer in cities but in small towns.

Department of Environmental Affairs White Paper presentation continued
Mr Lukey continued with the presentation on the mitigation measures of the white paper. The South African approach balanced the country’s contribution with its economic and social opportunity presented by a low carbon economy. Mitigation was the bottom line. Even if it did not become a carbon  neutral economy tomorrow, the country would  still suffer the impacts from the global emissions. South Africa also had to take advantage of the unexploited resources such as solar energy.

The carbon budget approach provided for flexibility and least cost mechanisms for companies in relevant sectors and or sub sectors and where appropriate translating carbon budgets into company level desired emission reduction outcomes. Job creation and other sustainable developmental benefits were themes that ran across the entire paper as it explored win-win situations.

The Chairperson asked if the country had gone far on its thinking on mitigation and not on adaptation.

Mr Lukey said that was the case and the reason was that the white paper worked on sectors.

Mr Lukey said that jobs could be lost. There were sectors in the economy that would not survive in the current form and would have to change. The policy said that society would change and that there would be a sectoral change in the industrial sector too. There was need to re-skill individuals and reabsorb the jobs that would be lost. There would be a need for behavioural change as consumers would need to change their habits. The next steps included the implementation of flagship programmes, identification and prioritising in short and medium term adaptation interventions. Monitoring and reporting, multi-stakeholder and climate financing would also be needed.

The Chairperson said that two things were left out  of the policy paper - establishing of the multi institutional working group,and the issue of translating the policy into a  piece of legislation.

Mr Morgan queried what the mechanisms were to measure the risks or on building in risk analysis to avoid a scenario where the right mechanism was put in at the wrong time or vice versa. Also was the Department considering doing a regulatory policy analysis in order to understand outcomes in the positive, negative, unintended, as a kind of framework to think through the policy consequences? That would be to ensure that to transform an economy, it would be important to make sure the transition pace would allow net job creation and not net job losses.

Ms H Ndude (COPE) said that the National Planning Commission (NPC) needed to be at the centre of the planning. On the flagship projects, civil society needed to be involved through politicians, church, labour, and non-profit organizations. There was a need for a South Africans as a nation to speak with one voice on issues of climate change. Education and awareness was the key.

Mr Lukey said that there were risks in the new approach in carbon budgeting. The regulating community would also have to do some benchmarking over the next two years.  The NPC was on a slow carbon development path. The Department had been actively engaging with it but its powers should not be over estimated as it was only an advisor. There had also been a debate on public safety which would involve reassessing maximum speed limits as emissions increased when 100km/hr was exceeded. No one had done calculations yet on how much carbon would be reduced when reducing speed limits. In response to a law relating to Climate Change and who would implement it, once policies had been done, there would be a need to review all of the acts.

The Chairperson said that the paper had not identified who was dealing with what. He also did not see anything on adaptation funds.

Mr Lukey replied that the paper did not have funds yet and how to access any funds including the international ones would need to be part of the paper.

The Chairperson remarked that for a developing country, the approach taken was revolutionary in terms of carbon budgets and the fact the business community would raise funds as well for the interventions. The Committee was encouraged by the direction of the white paper and he thought that South Africa was very brave to go there.

Department of  Environmental Affairs Carbon Footprint presentation
Ms Anna Mampye, Director: State of the Environment Unit, DEA, explained to the Members that the process for calculation of the carbon footprint for the Department was based on the reporting cycle of 2010/11 which ran from April to March. Every year, there was a carbon footprint cycle.

The Chairperson asked if the report had been tabled in Parliament and the Department replied that it had not.

Ms Lize McCourt, Chief Operating Officer, Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA),  explained that the report had not been made known beyond management. The report  presented in the meeting had finally reached a level that it could be shared with the public. 

Ms Mampye elaborated on the background of the project. The Department had made a decision in 2008 to start an initiative to understand its carbon footprint on a day to day basis. The first report came out in the year 2008/09. The Department had been trying to understand the methodology since. The second generation report had been released while the Department was still together with tourism and fisheries. When the departments were split up, then it was no longer possible to use the  first two as a baseline. The report being presented for 2010/11 would be used as a baseline for the Department to track whether it was improving in the carbon footprint. It was important to highlight that the Department had been looking towards the international accounting reporting standards and guidelines.

One of the processes used was internationally recognized and involved looking at emission factors. The Department identified activities it was involved in on a day to day basis to understand the amount of carbon emitted from such activities guided by principles such as relevance, completeness in accounting for and reporting on emission sources. The four main goals of the exercise was to improve understanding of emissions, continuously identify cost reduction options, serve as planning tool for the Department as it developed long term strategies for reduction of environmental impact and to improve accuracy.

Mr Morgan remarked that as parliamentarians MPs needed to be conscious about their own footprints He said that this was a very good initiative and it needed to be rolled out. Unless the Department knew what the baseline was, it was impossible to work out the nature of the footprint and what had to be done to mitigate it.

The Chairperson agreed with Mr Morgan and would love for Parliament to do what the Department had done and said it was another recommendation the Committee could make. Parliament within a year should create a carbon footprint report.

Mr Mathebe thanked the Department for its initiative. He was worried about the figures he was seeing in the report  that only 166 out of 935 staff attended information sessions. Ms Mampye said that it was difficult for the Department as the staff were travelling.

The Chairperson said that the obligations needed to be made part of the contracts.

The Chairperson said he was proud of the Department for doing the exercise and he hoped to see it perfected and emulated by other departments.

South Africa EXPO Presentation at the COP17 summit
Ms McCourt presented the Department's plans for representing South Africa at the Conference of the Parties (COP) 17 summit. She pointed out that there were formal negotiations which were open to accredited people only and the rest of the country fell outside of such and the Department needed to cater for them. The EXPO was an opportunity to showcase the country, businesses, Government response to climate change in mitigation and adaptation. In terms of approved United Nations Framework Convention of Climate Change (UNFCCC) side events, the Government of SA was only allowed three side events and they included; reporting, measuring verification, one of the best practices SA had. The second one would focus on adaptation looking at the climate ocean programme collaboration and funding for coastal community and ocean resources. The third event would be the cities programme, looking at policies they have adopted focusing on our major cities which would be co-hosted by the City Network and the South African Local Government Association (SALGA).

The exhibition was almost over-subscribed. The Department had received 255 requests so far for exhibition and side events. There was one big conference room. The exhibition space would showcase flagship Government projects such as the contribution to national climate change policy, localization of potential to develop a manufacturing space to create small and medium enterprises that could do the work, and job creation. There were ten flagship projects which would be showcased alongside the industry’s best practice.

The Chairperson thanked the Department for the wonderful work and suggested that the white paper could also be showcased.  He expressed pride in the work of the Department and encouraged it to continue with the work.

The meeting was adjourned.


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