White Paper on Climate Change: public hearings

Water and Sanitation

01 November 2011
Chairperson: Mr J. De Lange (ANC
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Meeting Summary

Six entities appeared before the Committee to present their responses to the white paper. Issues raised included inserting rights of nature and of people to a healthy and clean environment into the Constitution, transformation in mindset and behaviour, and contending South Africa’s position as required by science with a lively discussion on the trajectory and the range the country had chosen to adopt.

The most contentious discussion of the day was around the presentation of the Commission for Gender Equality whose presentation was largely on process issues relating to lack of consultations with stakeholders and those relating to unequal power relations. The Committee felt that the policy paper had gone past issues of process as it had already become policy and it wanted to hear more about substantive issues pertaining to solutions to problems discussed relating to climate change.

The Commissioner for the Gender Equality maintained that the process issues she was presenting were substantive and maintained that such issues needed to be heard and addressed.

Meeting report

Futurenergys Presentation
Mr Thierry Revert, Director of Futurenergys, an eco-social enterprise, said that a new jurisprudence was needed for earth. There was a need to institutionalize such, as if there was no legal relationship linking human beings to earth, then there would be no accountability. He referred to the need to adopt the rights of nature, something that 55 countries had already met and agreed to, including South Africa, but the rights had not been implemented. He remarked that the South African constitution had been infringed. There was a need to reassess and evaluate existing economic models to include elements of sustainability. For example, the calculation of the gross domestic product (GDP) needed to include waste, water and commons. Futurenergys believed that adaptation needed to be prioritized as it had a leverage to move towards sustainability. Behavioral change and mindset transformation was very important. Emphasis needed to be put on local economic development which was not mentioned in the White Paper. The White Paper's view on agriculture in promoting climate smart agriculture was exclusive and encouraged marginalization as it took the perspective of the current industrial and commodity driven agri-business which was responsible for the current state. Futurenergys called for alignment with the Organic Production and Agroecology Practices (OPAP) which was the only land management practice that was100% carbon negative and sustainable. He urged parliamentarians that the Government needed to walk the talk and expressed his concerns about Members of Parliament (MPs) arriving at the COP17 meeting in big 4x4 vehicles which contributed to the emissions.

Mr G Morgan (DA) thanked Mr Revert for a fascinating presentation as he had learned a lot. He noticed that Mr Revert had a strong interest in the Clean Development Mechanism(CDM) and wanted to know his views on the risks.

Mr J Skosana (ANC) complimented Mr Revert on his wonderful presentation that brought in new things. He wanted to know about his proposal on the transport issue and how to align it with the climate change issues.

Mr S Huang (ANC) agreed with Mr Revert that MPs should not go to the meeting in their 4x4s but should ride their bicycles to the meeting to show their leadership as host country.

The Chairperson requested explanation on the miracles and secrets slide of his presentation.

Mr Revert replied that the CDM was created by the former Secretary General of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). It was meant for the local government and municipalities but was hijacked by big corporations. CDM was not meant to make money but to project engineering initiatives from point a to point b. Futurenergys was going to apply CDM in South Africa. He also referred to the importance of leadership and bringing in the youth in this area as it was important for young people who were mostly urban to reconnect to the earth. Climate Change was a deep issue which required very deep answers. Section 24 of the Constitution needed to be extended to integrate nature and indigenous people. Agroecology was a real proposal for a solution which looked at putting bees back into the land for example would increase yield, but the bees had been disappearing at a very fast rate and this was a major cause for concern. He said that the small farmer was mostly driven to produce food commercially and not for community. There was a flagship project for Government and he would keep the Committee informed of its progress.

In response to Mr Huang, Mr Revert said that if South Africa (SA) did not conduct the due diligence on technology then the power of marketing would always be stronger than the power of innovation. South Africa needed to be aware of technology being dumped on Africa.

Mr Revert said that an Australian scientist had conducted carbon experiments on dry and arid land through gradual introduction of carbon into the soil. It was found that carbon’s water retention properties increased the ability of the soil to retain water and prevent soil drying up. It stabilized the environment where life happened and therefore there would not be much need for pesticides.

The Chairperson indicated to Mr Revert that he found his input very interesting and hoped the Committee would continue a relationship with his initiatives as the paper was reviewed and improved..

Applied Centre for Climate and Earth Systems Science (ACCESS) Presentation.
Dr Neville Sweijd, ACCESS Operations Manager, introduced ACCESS as a programme of the Ministry of Science and Technology. He said that what remained for the science community to look at in terms of two major impacts were the atmosphere and the ocean systems and the real questions was how the scientific communities should talk about those issues. He pointed out that the climate had always changed. Science had become very politicized in terms of the interpretation and what it meant. Hence there was a real need to be careful about how the science was being translated. He emphasized the relationship between one variable and time and that one needed to be careful of attributing any change to any particular cause or driver. The message was not to blame climate change for a problem that was driven by environmental factors and by exploitation. ACCESS was a consortium many agencies and universities in South Africa which were trying to change the scale of earth systems science in Southern Africa. Research n the area had been fragmented and driven by the international agenda. The goal was to change that and focus on the people in bringing out African scientists and to develop an African perspective to the global system.

Mr Morgan said that he found the presentation hugely inspiring. In some of the initial discussions good science was identified as a prerequisite for the Paper. ACCESS was one of them. He would love to see the Committee building a relationship with the network going forward as legislators need to know some of the outcomes of the research and get scientific input other than from scientists from the departments. He also asked if there could be an annual event that will bring together stakeholders of ACCESS.

The Chairperson asked Mr Sweijd what its response was to the White Paper.

Mr Sweijd said that ACCESS supported the White Paper. Access was just a little office staffed by himself and another staff member. The research done was ongoing. ACCESS had a top down approach but it really wanted to organise the science in south Africa as there were huge disparities. Some institutions had world class scientists who were active in international panels and some institutions had members who did not have PhDs. ACCESS wanted to bring people together and capitalise on what SA had. For example, Southern Africa had one of the best and one of the most unique natural laboratories in the world and this presented unbelievable opportunities to do incredible science.

The Chairperson offered ACCESS the support of the committee and complimented ACCESS as one of the solutions South Africa had in managing cross cutting issues.

South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) Presentation
Dr Guy Midgley, Chief Director, SANBI, said he would just present some of the highlights mentioned in the detailed submission. SANBI welcomed the improved focus of the White Paper on the role of healthy natural ecosystems in resilience and adaptation to climate change. There needed to be a balance between adaptation and mitigation. The White Paper was a significant improvement on the green paper. SANBI was happy to hear the policy would be reviewed on an annual basis and would like to suggest better development of institutional oversight coordination and linkages. More attention was needed towards time frames and review cycles especially with regards to flexible responses in adaptation. More concrete assessments and planning outputs should be produced after review cycles. There was also a need for focus on implementation such as those of pilot projects in sectoral adaptation flagship projects. Additional flagship programmes should be drawn up for water, agriculture and food security and the involvement of community and indigenous knowledge should be included in decision making. There should also be increased focus on education, training and public awareness and more elaboration of payment for the ecosystem services concept.

Mr Morgan asked if there was a sense of what kind of funding would be needed for science as related to ecosystem and water services. His query was related to the fact that good science, relevant science and understanding where the gaps were in science were important to inform policy making and inform the sequencing in response to climate change.

The Chairperson told the Members that the Committee had gone on an oversight visit to iSimangaliso Wetland Park and it was fascinating to see a healthy natural eco system, how it changed and how it worked. Such was an example of the kind of things the policy would evolve towards. The document had become a policy already, but issues raised would not be lost.

Dr Midgley replied that Mr Morgan’s question was a challenging one. He informed the Committee of a pack of booklets he had received from his colleagues in Australia which had excellent but simple coverage of cross sectional issues relating to the climate change challenge. He added that there was science that was directly and indirectly useful, inspiring youngsters to go into science. It would be important to put money into that, to put the next generations into that direction. On natural ecosystems, it was important to get away from the doom and gloom message and focus on the opportunities.

Water Research Commission Presentation.
Mr Dhesigen Naidoo, Chief Executive Officer, Water Research Commission, said that South Africa should be getting into climate change using a high level of science and technology using its own knowledge resources. He expressed that some parts of the white paper were not implementable and he cited carbon budgets as an example as there was no technology for such a solution. In terms of South Africa’s water challenge, the impact of climate change on water quality was quite severe, destroying the sewerage system by causing runoff into the main system. He encouraged the use of regulatory mechanisms and support to drive water use efficiency and responsible behaviour. What WRC found unarguable in international literature was that drinkable water supplies were going to be less and less available to all. Action needed to be taken in the present in parallel to put in place contingency measures to deal with such an issue in the future. What WRC wanted to do for climate change was to use restoration and protection of wetlands to adapt to climate change. In going forward, WRC started to develop SA’s Climate Change Water Strategy and it was engaging with the Department of Water Affairs and several international partners including the International Water Association(IWA), World Water Council (WWC) and others on developing SA’s led post-COP 17 international partnership on water and climate change. WRC would be happy to have the Committee assist it going forward.

Ms D Tsotetsi (ANC) asked for elaboration on the carbon budget not being implementable.

Mr Naidoo replied that he had read an article in the Business Day where SASOL and ESKOM had alleged that there were aspects of the White Paper that were unimplementable. They had also indicated that the carbon budget solution did not appear in the green paper. Furthermore, SA had no technological capacity to implement it and also did not have the regulatory framework to carry it out.

The Chairperson indicated that the argument that it had not appeared in the green paper had no substance and that if anyone wanted to argue, they needed to bring some strong points and not just say that one thing did not appear from one document to another.

The Chairperson thanked Mr Naidoo and the WRC for their work and advised that the work on research be sped up as it was important to be driven scientific issues rather than issues of personal belief.

Commission for Gender Equality (CGE) Presentation
Dr Yvette Abrahams, Commissioner, Commission for Gender Equality indicated that the submission she was presenting was the third one to Parliament on the climate change issue. Even though CGE had a number of issues with the White Paper, the process was one of the most consultative so far in Parliament though she felt that it could go further as climate change was a very big and important issue. The first issue she touched upon was that also raised by other organizations that the time for commenting was too short.

The Chairperson interrupted Dr Abraham’s presentation to say that the issue of the shortness of time for consultation had already been dealt with the previous day and that the Committee acknowledged it as it had to make a compromise whether to ask for public comments before COP17 in the short amount of time or not and it chose the former He said that the document had become a policy and nothing could be done about it. What the process was doing was to give people a chance to say something before COP17 and secondly, this was the start of the process not the end. South Africa had made a policy already and it was important for all stakeholders to develop such a policy to make it a reality and in the process hopefully there might be some changes. He said that there would be further processes in the new year.

Dr Abrahams remarked that she would spare the Committee the constitutional and legal provisions regarding the statutory requirements for consultation. She elaborated that the issues relating to the the shortness of time she wanted to mention linked to a later part of her presentation as the submission normally came from women who often did not have resources to access the internet, buy airtime or buy the newspaper to be able to make their comments for the submission.

The Chairperson said that this was why he was saying that hopefully by next year, they will have more time to comment. He has said that he fully accepted the point about the shortness of time and acknowledged that it was easier for a smaller NGO to do a submission than a big structure like the CGE. The Committee totally accepted it and had no problem with what she was saying and that it would be best to leave the procedural issues as this was not the end of the road but part of the process.

Dr Abrahams thanked the Chairperson and indicated that CGE was happy to help the Committee with anything it needed in order to reach the broader community.

Dr Abrahams said that there was some uncertainty in its submission due to factors already explained. Added to the uncertainty was the nature of the decision making and how it worked, in relation the CGE engagement with the Department of Environmental Affairs as interesting things had happened between the time of the Green Paper and the White Paper.

The Chairperson interrupted Dr Abrahams again saying that she was wasting her time on presenting procedural issues. He explained that the decision making process was simple. The Constitution gave certain powers to certain entities such as Parliament and to the Executive. They made the decisions which included making consultations hence there should be no uncertainty about it.

Dr Abrahams asked how decisions should be made to see whose interests prevailed if businesses wanted one thing and women wanted another.

The Chairperson again said that she was really dealing with procedural issues that were not worth getting into.

CGE continued to request for a national climate change response act as there was uncertainty about how the climate change policy would be determined, implemented and monitored. The Executive should be given the appropriate direction to adopt a negotiating position. The Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) had expanded the range of emissions but none had the level required by science and it made absolutely no sense.

The Chairperson asked who said so if it was only the Commission who believed this.

Dr Abrahams said that the DEA had issued a technical paper two months back and had given four policy options.

The Chairperson asked the Commissioner why she was reworking the White Paper as it was already policy and there were documents that explained the carbon emissions trajectory adopted in the White Paper. He said to Dr Abrahams that she could read the paper later if she wanted to.

Dr Abrahams asked the Chairperson if he could please protect her from the Chair and that his interruptions should be deducted from the time of the presentation. This gave rise to laughter across the room.

The Chairperson was unrelenting, saying that she was truly wasting her time on procedural issues and that she only had seven minutes left. He asked her again who said that the position South Africa had taken was not in line with science.

Dr Abrahams explained that when the first draft of the White Paper was issued, an explanatory document was issued by the DEA which said that none of the four scenarios chosen spoke to what was required by science, and she did not understand why South Africa was adopting a policy that was not in line with science and that she stood by her point saying that it really did not make any sense.

Dr Abrahams continued that the structural inequalities and unequal relations of power did not seem to be addressed in the White Paper. Climate change extremes were making women less and less able to cope due to their productive and reproductive responsibilities and because they were more reliant on the sustainability of natural resources. A United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) presentation in the previous year showed that more women died and were disabled in natural disasters than men. Factors affecting such a notion included lack of means, lack of assets. Food sources were also becoming more unpredictable and scarce and it exposed women to lack of harvest which was their sole source of food and income. She indicated that should would skip the process issues.

The Chairperson commented that he did not think anyone disagreed with what she was saying, but he was interested to hear about the solutions on how one should deal with the problems being presented.

Dr Abrahams said that such issues would be dealt with in the conclusion.

Because the White Paper had not been open and going through an inclusive process it was practicing gender blindness and silencing of women and exacerbating inequalities. Water was also a gender issue already discussed in the last presentation. Land was also a gender issue as agriculture would be affected by extreme weather. When it came to unpaid care labour as seen in the HIV/AIDs crisis, the increase disease burden would fall on women as they were the ones who would supplement if the state failed. The White Paper did not adequately deal with biodiversity and it needed to say more about how it was going to preserve the living ecosystems and the multitude of interdependencies. The CGE was disappointed that the White Paper did not say anything about human settlements. One of the high carbon emitting problems was based on the urban system, growing food far away and having it transported back and forth. Based on the many Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP) houses being built, she asked if the country would not need a new vision on green settlement. Disaster risk management was a deeply gendered area with women bearing most of the impacts which included increase of displacement and lead to gender violence. There were also fragmented institutional arrangements and it raised concerns about systems design on how to monitor Government. The White Paper was creating a new layer of institution and it said nothing about why such a new layer should be working. CGE wanted to see implementation and accountability residing in the same place. It was not enough to just have a paper or an act, but the biggest need was to deliver. There was also an uncritical reliance on market mechanisms and no empirical study had been done on the existing carbon credit system to see if it reduced emissions as even though the Kyoto Protocol was there, the emissions had on the contrary gone up and not down. CGE requested that the Department include some gender specialists and human science experts from the soft sciences in the process in order for it to be inclusive and have a substantial outcome. People need to be included and be seen as assets and not liabilities. Processes could not be separated from outcomes as if they are not inclusive then outcome would not be substantive.

Mr Skosana said that the presentation had a lot of criticism on everything that Government had done. To say that the policy did not speak to science needed more clarity. Areas of inequality needed to be pointed out in relation to climate change. There was also need for clarity about the paper creating another level of structure because Government had created a lot of structure to ensure everyone had access.

Ms Tsotetsi said it was difficult, as a woman, to respond to the presentation. Government had shown in many ways that it was serious about the issue of climate change and all agreed that it was a global issue. There was need to take into account that the Government was not a standalone structure but a lot of people were resisting the changes that Government was coming with to have programmes to deal with the matter. The issues facing women were critical and some of things were beyond their control. Women needed to advocate strongly.

The Chairperson said that the issue of emission targets has been accepted and that was what the White Paper covered. A slide was put on the screen explaining the position in the White Paper. Point 4, unequal power relations, was a structural problem in society and steps had been taken to fix it even though it would take a long time. He asked Dr Abrahams about CGE’s possible proposals for solutions on how to engender climate change.

The Chairperson expressed his disappointment in the statement made by the Commissioner that there had been no proper consultations. He said that he could not believe that someone like the Commissioner would say such a thing because the White Paper had gone through a process of consultation that had never been done before in Parliament. It had been going since 2005 and has culminated in the green paper and for the first time, it was dealt with in public. He made a strong statement that he took great umbrage against the idea that there was not enough consultations as there had been a lot done and that he would not let such a statement stand uncontested. As for other issues, he told Dr Abrahams that there was a general reluctance to engage with her due to the exaggerated nature of the statements which diminished a lot of good stuff that was in the submission.

Dr Abrahams said that her understanding was that whatever was not cut today would be added to the future amount that needed to be cut. DEA projections only went to 2050. The Monetary Policy Act stated that legislation might not be passed that would incur expenditure for future generations. She said that if we did not know what we would be doing in 2070, how could a budget be put forward in 2012 that said, in 2020, we would be putting aside an amount of money that would be needed because we did not do what we should have done in 2012. She said that she would be happy to provide the written material to support her argument.

She continued her response on exclusion and inclusion issues saying that she did acknowledge in her presentation that CGE had been doing work commenting on policy papers for fifteen years and that the current White Paper was one of the most inclusive ones, and she did congratulate the Committee for that. She then added that due to the severity of the problem of climate change, the process was not far enough and she asked the Committee not to take it as a criticism, and that if it was up to her, she would award the Committee with a gold star. Her problem was, CGE had just completed a series of provincial workshops and the first response in all the workshops was, why CGE was only coming to the women then about climate change issues. She said that the composite report would be completed in two weeks time and she would be glad to share it with the Committee. Women were not aware there was a process. The legal definition of what constituted insufficient consultation was 2.5% of the stakeholders. She asked the Members if they were at peace with understanding where she was coming from and said they may not thank her for patting them on the back without explaining where the problems were coming from.

The Chairperson said that he had no problem about the Committee being criticized but if she came and appeared in front of his Committee and he was chairing and she started to exaggerate things, then he would definitely tackle her severely as he would not let her get away with it. He said that just as CGE was an independent body with certain integrity, the Committee also had certain integrity to uphold in representing the people. He asked Dr Abrahams not to insult the parliamentarians about being lax in the work they had to do; he just did not accept it. He was not suggesting she was making a fool of herself. But if she came and appeared in front of the Committee, she would be rigorously dealt with in terms of the content of the intellect of what she was saying. And if she did not like it, then so be it, but he would not sit with huge exaggerations and not challenge them because his job was not to account to the Commissioner or to anyone else, but to the South African public as a whole and as a member of Parliament.

The Chairperson continued that if the Committee went through a process like that that was so inclusive, all of those involved would not agree with all aspects as no one could ever agree with everything and no one had all the answers. The White Paper could never be perfect but when a process like the one the White Paper had undergone had been followed, to start suggesting that there had not been proper consultations because every single woman has not been consulted or at least ten percent of women had not been consulted was just a fallacious argument. The issue was, there might be problems with the consultation process, seeing that there were a lot of poor people in the country, and those poor people might never be part of the consultation processes or could very infrequently be part of consultations. Those were things that would have to be improved as democracy got better and as the resource bases got better but to suggest that there were no proper consultations and to make exaggerated statements on other aspects of it was not acceptable.

The Chairperson went to acknowledge that it was right to say that most of the Government policies were not engendered enough, and those were vitally important issues and he was asking the Commissioner again, to let the Committee know what it was that could be done about them and how to integrate gender issues into a policies like the White Paper.

Dr Abrahams apologized to the Committee for having said something that might insulted them. She clarified that her point about unequal relations of power was simply related to the adult literacy rate in the country which was twenty five percent and the worst affected group was the older women. She asked if it was possible to design a consultation process to address them taking into account the fact that they could not read or write which should not take away their rights to be consulted. She indicated to the Members that she was not at the meeting to tell them what to do, but she urged them to go out there and speak to the women who had voted for them. She continued that eighty five percent of people in the country did not have access to the internet and further asked if it was possible to design as the process proceeded towards legislation a consultation process to address such people who did not have access to computers. All she was trying to say was that climate change was too important for people to be left out. She spoke of an example of a woman in Limpopo whose entire year's harvest was lost to flooding, if it was not owed to such a woman to go and explain to her that her plight was due to climate change. She explained that she was merely doing her job to stand up for the women who did not have voices and hence with due respect, she had to bring the matter back to the processes.

The Chairperson was clearly agitated and asked again if Dr Abrahams had any other issues that were substantive and not process related.

Dr Abrahams replied with equal irritation that she was trying to explain that process issues were substantive.

The Chairperson asked again if there were any suggestions on how to engender climate change issues as part of the White Paper. He asked Dr Abrahams if there were other issues she wished to raise.

Dr Abrahams referred to issues of institutional arrangements and the policy team and asked the Chairperson if she might proceed.

The Chairperson with more irritation asked again if there were no suggestions under point four of her presentation. He had asked her twice already if there were any more substantive suggestions she wished to make under point four and if not then she just needed to say 'no' and then the meeting would move on.

Dr Abrahams said that she had already made her substantive suggestions.

Dr Abrahams continued with the issues of institutional arrangements and policy issues. The DEA was one of the most equal departments as to gender as well as disability. The Policy team that wrote the initial paper only included two women; one of them, a geologist, was head of department who subsequently resigned. At that time, they were asked to include gender expert; a shortcoming their submission had been trying to address but there was still no headway on such an issue. She said that she was just making comments and would not liked to be interpreted wrongly. CGE saw institutional arrangement as a weakness in the policy and had recommended a unified structure starting with the President’s Office with ultimate authority over all the relevant departments. She linked such an issue to the difficulty in accessing Government and monitoring and evaluating to make sure that the policy spoke to the twelve outcomes. The system as it was, was not going to work.

The Chairperson thanked the Commissioner for her presentation. He informed the meeting that a group had turned up to the meeting to present even though they were booked to appear before the Committee on 15 November. He clarified that he was going to allow the presentation to proceed but only under special circumstances.

Women Energy and Climate Change Forum(WECCF) Presentation
Ms Makoma Lekalala of WECCF thanked the Committee for the opportunity to present. The organisation had welcomed the White Paper and the coverage of issues of women as primary care givers and their need to be empowered through the organisation felt that it needed to be expanded on how such could be achieved. It also welcomed the effort on page 35 section 10.2.1 to allow people to present their views to Parliament. She suggested that the use of early warning systems needed to be explicit for them to be used on a wider scale. She also indicated that the White Paper did not have a balance of gender issues and that it needed to incorporate them.

Ms J Manganye (ANC) thanked the presenter for her input and indicated that the presenter had represented her when she spoke of rural women and the indigenous as she was in the deepest of rural areas. She said that it was important to hear such a presentation as no one should talk about rural women without their being present.

Mr Skosana commented that WECCF was a structure that could assist the Committee on issues about climate change and indigenous knowledge.

Ms Tsotsetsi asked the presenter to provide her contact details so that she could provide her with more information about early warning systems in her area.

Ms Lekalakala responded that there was a serious problem out there as presented by Dr Abrahams before her. There were structures but they were not being used by women to access information.

The Chairperson cautioned that South Africa was still a young democracy and if compared to the old ones, their channels were infused into the community and this was something Parliament needed to work on to bring the Parliament closer to the people.

Ms C Zikalala (IFP) approved of the group being in Parliament as she was happy to hear their issues coming from them, and that they were saying it themselves as most of the time; she was fighting the battle alone. The language being used was too academic and excluded most people. It was important to present the information in a very simple way.

Ms P Bhengu (ANC) supported what Ms Zikalala had said about providing information in a simple manner.

The Chairperson said that it was important to sit down and discuss participation and that needed to be looked at in depth as real participation democracy was based on reaching out to those at the bottom who needed knowledge to be simplified. This was an ongoing process.

He suggested that the Department put out an advertisement to let people know about the climate change train that was travelling through the country.

The meeting was adjourned.

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