Climate Change White Paper: public hearings: WESSA, Ekasi, Youth & Climate Change Forum, SA Weather Service, RES Southern Africa

Water and Sanitation

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

The Committee heard the responses of five entities to the White Paper. They expressed concerns over watering down of public participation during the processes and urged the Government to keep such participation as an important part of the implementation. The pricing of carbon was a worry as big businesses could just as easily pass on the costs to the consumers and that was pretty much business as usual. The Government was urged to decouple economic growth from environmental impact and instead focus on growing the innovations and also increase attention paid to waste and how it could become a reusable resource. The Youth In Climate Change urged the Government to keep them involved in the process and to put more focus on their issues. The South African Weather Service informed the Committee of its important role in keeping 150 years' worth of data and of the role it could continue to play in the implementation stages of the White Paper. The Service also cautioned against attributing to climate change the causes of certain events as many other factors played a role. The Service maintained that the way for South Africa to increase its resilience to future extreme weather events was to learn to deal with the ones it was facing at the present time. RES Southern Africa presented a view from the business and investor side of renewable energy, particularly wind energy. It called on the Government to put in place an enabling environment for business in terms of the certainty based on the messages issued by the Government. It felt that the investors were losing confidence due to the messages from the Government.

Members agreed that climate change was an intergenerational issue and awareness was very important especially in understanding the basic science of it, noted that it was right to be radical it, said that Eskom and Sasol needed to involve youth and that waste management  projects were a starting point. The Chairperson said that there was a need for a disaster management system for poor and rural communities. He understood that South Africa was moving towards renewable energy. Industry needed to tell Government how it was going to create jobs then if would get the support that it was looking for.

Meeting report

The Chairperson welcomed especially Mr S Njikelana, Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Energy. 

Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa (WESSA). Presentation 
Mr Patrick Dowling, Head of Education, Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa (WESSA) Western Cape, said that one of its concerns was the very short comment period for the White Paper and that there was a certain amount of watering down in terms of public  participation.  Ordinary people needed to feel involved, informed, motivated and effective. The National Committee on Climate Change was a great idea and would benefit from having public participation. In terms of the economy, WESSA supported the carbon tax but the cost could be passed on to the consumer by the big businesses and there was a business as usual feel to it. The ethics of carbon capture and storage also needed to be unpacked. The emissions pricing system only partly covered externalities. The financials and the environmental costs were being experienced by society and the White Paper said that such would only be partially covered, hence some of the pollution would be pushed onto the ordinary person. WESSA recommended the amendment of the Consumer Protection Act as climate change would affect everybody. More Marine Protection Areas were needed in order to mitigate biodiversity and fisheries-related disasters. Development also needed to be avoided in high risk zones and protection should not be just left to the coastal defence systems.

The Chairperson asked how such could be done as the only way which he could envisage was for the Department of Environmental Affairs to set guidelines.

WESSA suggested that closing the gaps in legislation would also help. WESSA welcomed the ecosystem approach focusing on the  economy, people , environment  as such embraced all. The environmental impact assessment (EIA) needed less tick box processes. There was need to be careful about offset arguments. The ecosystem approach could also mitigate potential disasters. In the practical sense there was a need to  borrow from the lessons of permaculture. Such was the non-governmental organisation (NGO) territory ten years before but it was encouraging to see that the departments were also adopting such an approach. WESSA supported the role of integrated transport systems. WESSA felt, however, that  there should be incentives for emission reductions as in  London, where, if one drove a car powered by renewable energy, then one did not have to pay certain fees.

Waste was not covered. and there was a need to look at principles of zero waste and to have waste as indicator of unsustainable activity. Economic growth needed to be decoupled from environmental impact. Growth could not continue to be extraction-led. Waste needed to be a reusable resource to a much greater extent. As to the term 'limited public good', there was ambiguity on public good as it suggested that the  environment was an infinite resource. There was a need for an attitude of public responsibility centred on the question, ‘what can I give back?’ The time frames needed to be ambitious and deliberate. There was also too much focus on new development rather than addressing change for all sectors. The country needed to retrofit as well, including all spheres of Government.

Mr G Morgan (DA) asked if Mr Dowling could propose the amendments suggested for the Consumer Protection Act in relation to climate change.

The Chairperson showed WESSA the slide of trajectory that South Africa (SA) had chosen and asked Mr Dowling how he thought SA could move more quickly as the diagram showed that action should have been taken ten years before. He also asked how the Government should go about starting on the issues of coasts. There needed to be consensus on creating parameters through norms and standards.

Mr Dowling replied that the Consumer Protection Association (CPA) could, for example, compel the manufacturers to put the carbon footprint information for the products on their labels. Such might even look at more local economic activity. It was about giving consumers ability to participate rather than telling them to go out and plant trees and grow vegetables in a box. He said he would look at the Act  and send more suggestions.

The Chairperson asked if Mr Dowling could also look  at other countries and their legislations.

Mr Dowling continued that in helping the Government to do it faster, it was not about drawing graphs and saying what was feasible. It was also about demonstrations of willingness, how many Government buildings had solar panels and Light Emitting Diode (LED) light bulbs. It was about walking the talk.

The Chairperson asked how the parameters should be set as there were certain areas where such a framework did not exist,  because of the different spheres of Government with different powers and responsibilities. Concerted effort was needed  and he was asking civil society to look at those areas to make sure that what was done would be within those parameters.

Mr Dowling said that WESSA would support national direction given to local government but more teeth needed to be given to coastal committees and similar groups to hold the municipalities to account.

Youth and Climate Change Forum. Presentation
Ms Lerato Maragele, Youth and Climate Change Forum (YCCF, the Forum), thanked the Committee for the invitation to participate in the hearings. Like the other entities the Forum had an issue with the short time for the call for submissions as it felt that it was a diverse group and needed more time. The Youth for Climate Change Forum was made up of youth from Gauteng. It had made ten recommendations for consideration and details were given in its submission. These ranged from having more meaningful and inclusive engagement with the youth, bringing big players like Eskom and Sasol to account, and adding climate change to the curriculum, to having a special day of the year dedicated to the climate change issues.
The Chairperson was worried about the issue of waste and sanitation as it had something to do with the powers being removed from the Department of Water Affairs and given to the Department of Human Settlements which had no expertise to deal with it.

Mr J Skosana (ANC) asked what the youth was doing in terms of awareness as they also had to be accountable somewhere. He agreed with the issue of adding climate change issues to the curriculum.

M H Ndude (COPE) was very impressed by the presenter's awareness and understanding of environmental issues. She responded to comments on insufficient participation by saying that the young people were there at the meeting making a presentation to Parliament. The Committee had also asked the Department to make awareness issues a priority. She also suggested that the Forum went to Sasol and Eskom and asked them for funds.

The Chairperson reminded the Forum that it was not the end of the road in the engagement for the White Paper but only the beginning and that the Committee was closely monitoring the progress of  implementation. The idea of a day for climate change was a very good idea and he would encourage the Department to push this idea.

Mr Morgan also thought that a climate change day was a wonderful idea. He agreed with the issue that the  Forum had raised, that climate change was an intergenerational issue and awareness was very important, especially in understanding the basic science of it. He also said that it was right to be radical about the issue.
Ms C Zikalala (IFP) said that the Forum also needed to include the Government in what they did as they were the best people to spread the gospel of climate change to other young people. She also supported the idea of a climate change day.

Mr S Huang (ANC) congratulated the Forum on its participation and advised that it was important for it to have activity and not just talk. Eskom and SASOL needed to involve youth and that waste management was a good place to start.

Ms D Tsotetsi (ANC) fully agreed that the Forum could spread the gospel of climate change (CC). She also added to Mr Huang's advice that the Forum needed to campaign and use waste management projects to start.

Ms P Bhengu (ANC) asked if the YCCF had a working relationship with the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA).

Ms Maragele said that she was both happy and sad to hear the comments from the Members and she could hear the 'us' and 'them' in the discussion and she felt that the Members were shifting the responsibility to them as young people. She asked the Members if they knew how many people in Parliament understood the issues. Change also needed to come from older people. The Government had been discussing the issue since 2009 but the emissions were still increasing. She wondered if South Africa's plan was working.

The Chairperson thanked the group for its presentation and said that young people's advantage was that they could say whatever they wanted. He spoke about what Parliament was doing and that there was a committee at the highest level to ensure the greening of Parliament.

South African Weather Service (SAWS) Presentation.
Professor Lawrence Dube, Senior Manager: Climate Service, South African Weather Service (SAWS) congratulated the DEA for a well thought-out and balanced Paper reflecting South Africa’s situation.
The best way to deal with the future was to learn to deal with the current climate variability. Ninety percent of disasters were weather related and the climate variability events were increasing. He advocated public awareness as ignorance was one of the contributing factors to vulnerability to disasters.  SAWS felt that the White Paper was quiet on the role of agencies and their functions.

As far as water resources were concerned, according to current usage, SA would exceed the limits of economically viable land-based water resources by 2050. The limits could be exceeded by 2025 after other factors had been taken into account. Water scarcity was something to worry about. Situation would be replicated throughout the African continent. Section 5.2.5 should be expanded to include technology such as rainfall augmentation. In terms of financing national climate change SAWS had a role to play as a world renown institution for climate science. In terms of monitoring,  SAWS could play a role in overseeing observation data critical for gaging changes in the climate base.

Mr Njikelana asked what kind of disasters made up the balance of 10%, besides the 90% that were weather-related. He also commented that it was good to know that the country had quite a sizable amount of wind that would ensure the sourcing of wind energy, but asked SAWS to comment on solar energy. SAWS was also asked if it would be coordinating the climate role on its own.

Mr Skosana asked about the early warning systems in the rural areas and research on when disasters would be happening as most of them were happening in the rural areas.

The Chairperson maintained that SA was not going to respond to climate change properly until there was a proper database. He asked SAWS to explain what data was there if it was only weather-related.

Professor Dube replied that  there was a national climate database and SA had just celebrated 150 years of data collection. SAWS had a group of scientists to verify what had been given by the models. Observations from rainfall in the country were patchy. The temperature trend was an upward trend, but rainfall was patchy. The only coherent picture seen was in the area surrounding Lesotho. Models indicated that the eastern seaboard of KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) would be wetter, whilst the western side of the country would be drier. Data included temperature, rainfall, humidity, atmospheric pressure, wind, and lightning and were 150 years old, but rainfall was recent. SAWS had also started to collect and store air quality data  and greenhouse gas information for the greenhouse gas (GHG) inventories. There was also a  global atmosphere watch station (GAWS) in Cape Town, one of only 26 throughout the world. Such information was fed into the international data and SAWS could also access international data through GAW.

Mr Nico Kroese, Manager: Prediction Research, SAWS, said that lightning data were only collected since 2006 and it was too recent to make some meaningful conclusions, 11 years of data collection were needed but preferably 30 years. SAWS was in the process of installing a radar network. Solar radiation was important for the energy sector for the generation of solar energy. It was important to know the patterns of sunshine and whether it increased or decreased, as well as information about cloud cover.

Prof Dube said that it was very important to be aware that no one could link one event to climate change as other factors played a role. The population of South Africa in 1960, for example, was 16 million and this had increased to 50 million in the current time.  People for some reason chose to live along the flood plains and coastal cities were building below the water lines. This behaviour increased the vulnerability of people to extreme water events. Such factors needed to be taken into account. The World Meteorological Association was developing a methodology of indices to gauge climate changes. These included an index of tropical cyclone activities so as to be able to say with confidence if they were increasing or decreasing.

There was much misunderstanding about climate change. The way in which people would experience climate change would be in day-to-day weather events  and one would need to prepare to respond to weather events that might exceed current capacities to respond. 

In response to Mr Skosana, Mr Kroese, a disaster manager expert at SAWS, said that people in rural areas were basically very vulnerable to extreme weather events. If climate change changed the pattern, weather events were expected to increase. There would be more floods, intense floods and more intense droughts. What affected people in the rural areas was the fact that they were not well informed about specific weather events. SA had a higher death toll than the world average, due to lack of education about the incidents.

The Chairperson said that he accept that, but he did not think that the warning system was good enough as there was a need for a disaster management system to let poor and rural communities know about the disasters. People also needed to be capacitated to respond to such events but an early warning system needed to be there.

Prof Dube said that SAWS would have a partnership with Government departments and research institutes such as CSIR in managing climate change issues. Mr Kroese said that the climate change environment in SA was too small and that all stakeholders needed to work together, for example, projects in collaboration with the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and the South African National Energy Research Institute (SANERI). For example, there was an examination of areas of potential for wind generation in SA. Wind energy was more available along the coastal areas of the country and solar energy in the western part particularly over the Northern Cape.

Ms Zikalala  asked about a book on indigenous methods.

Prof Dube replied that it was published two years ago and that he would organize copies to be made available to the Members.

RES Southern Africa Presentation
Mr Duncan Ayling, Head of Development, RES Southern Africa, said the his company was one of the world’s leading renewable energy companies based in the United Kingdom (UK) with a base in Cape Town. His company welcomed the White Paper but the Paper needed to come with proposals for effective management and monitoring. RES Southern Africa agreed with Government policy to develop win-win strategic solutions and believed that renewable energy would be crucial. Some of the company's concerns included the excessively long time-line and it would suggest a quicker deadline of one year. The company wanted a definition of what constituted 'significantly emitting sector'. It believed that the assumption that climate was producing a net negative economic impact was unfounded as in the long term so-called environmental and economic benefits would take over and become positive. The economy and jobs could benefit through climate change policy.  The renewable energy programme could be enhanced by domestic manufacturing potential but would require incentives.

The Chairperson asked if the technology developed came from outside countries.

Mr Ayling replied that the turbines and components were imported from Germany, Denmark, and America. In relation to the domestic market, such as SA, strong and reliable policies were needed. If there was a large enough market the number of investors would grow.

The Chairperson asked why the Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) 2 did not do what RES Southern Africa had said.

Mr Ayling replied that The IRP2010 had been revised with one uncertainty that it did not know how much wind was wanted. Therefore, it was not known if it was enough to bring manufacturing to SA. The renewable energy wind procurement was only up to 2016 and it was not known what happened after that.

The Chairperson remarked that he was trying to understand what RES Southern Africa’s fears were.

Mr Ayling replied that it was really the fear of the unknown as renewable energy had been attracting investors into SA but the attraction had disappeared. The more certain a policy could be the more likely it would succeed. Some announcement needed to be made after the call for proposal for the procurement programme. He continued that 1 850 megawatts of wind to be procured in SA could be taken up by March 2012. Twenty percent of all electricity could come from wind, if it was allowed, and, if the cap was removed, then that could be increased.

Mr Ayling presented his company's request to the Government that the call for proposal of August 2011 could be followed by a second call for proposals and that there would be an increase in the megawatts allocation or removal of the cap with a time-line for the procurement. Announcing subsequent and additional requests for proposals (RFPs) was a way of showing the Government’s commitment to the IRP2010 and this was essential for a continuous build up of renewable energy initiatives.

Mr Morgan commented that manufacturing content in the New Growth Path and White Papers had to have market certainty so that investors could look at 20 year time horizons. He spoke of his recent trip to Germany, where he toured Bosch Solar Energy AG, Erfurt,  which produced 2 000 panels a day. Bosch was willing to set up a plant in SA provided there was a long term market. He had been following the refit issue.

Mr Njikelana said that RFP1 was in 2007 and that Government would learn from the current procurement on how to move forward. The Government was cautious as it was a greenfield project. He was aware that the UK government had retracted some projects, and that was what SA did not want to do but rather to move cautiously. Factoring in renewable energy was how the White Paper was attempting to ensure that SA moved towards cleaner energy and reduction of greenhouse gases. Given the shift from refit to rebid, there was still interest from investors as evident from a conference of 500 investors in September. Even the concerns around manufacturing working together with the private sector might overcome that. It did contribute to ensure that renewable energy would increase and ensure local manufacturing as well attracting sizable investors.

The Chairperson said that the biggest plus RES Southern Africa could consider was the graph in the White Paper with the trajectory SA had chosen. In 1997 when South Africa had the Long Term Mitigation Strategy (LTMS) SA had emitted 398 megatonnes. In  2010 the figure was 547 megatonnes which meant an increase of 149 over the 13 year period. The Government had now now committed itself to an increase of only 67 megatonnes in the next nine years. To do that, the country had to move form high carbon to low carbon and one of the ways to do it was renewable energy.

The Chairperson continued that the nation had decided to price carbon and the policies the country had adopted were all heading in one direction. He recommended that Eskom, for example, should not be talking about coal again but working towards becoming the biggest proponent of renewable energy as that was the way the policy was going. He was worried about what happened to all the developing countries as they never got the advantage of manufacturing things. He said that if he was in the energy sector he would give big contracts to people who would come and put factories in SA and that would be part of the condition. He said that there were many arguments on why they were not establishing factories in SA, but if Government could not force industry to make the right decision up front then it was futile, and the way to encourage industry was to give a bigger slice of the pie to a company which established a factory in the country.

The Chairperson said that the message he was giving was to look at the policies and where the country was going, which was towards renewable energy. Industry needed to tell Government how industry was going to create jobs then it would get the support that it was looking for. 

Mr Ayling explained refit vs rebid. Refit was where there was a guaranteed income for the electricity produced. To kick-start industry was risky step as it was doing what had never been done before and the actual costs were relatively unknown. The tariff would take away uncertainty. Rebid was the bidding process and was capped as well. The bidding process  would have to bid on the tariff for the electricity produced as a way to force down prices, which was good in a mature market. The programme proposed by the Department  of Energy had a  large emphasis of value-added tax (VAT). The bidding process was good. The SA market was a bit more risky as it was an immature market. A lot of interest was started by the feed-in tariff. Some companies were large and would be able to support themselves and could not withdraw as they would have to make it work. RES Southern Africa was a large company and believed in signals sent by Government. It believed that there would be ups and downs, but the resource was good and the demand was high in the country and in the region, and this was why the company was still interested and was still around.  The company supported local criteria and understood the need to bring benefits to the country, but was only a developer, operator and maintainer and not a manufacturer. SA was a credible market but if it  became too difficult to operate in SA, then it would take its investment elsewhere.

Ekasi Development Projects presentation
Mr Sidwell Tshingilane, Chairperson, Ekasi Development Projects, expressed concerns about the time-frame of the White Paper and suggested that it could be shortened from five to three years while the 20 years could be reduced to 10 years. Long term planning should be for 2030 instead of 2015. The organisation would also like a ministry of climate change to coordinate the implementation of the White Paper. It also proposed that  provinces and municipalities needed to be empowered as they lacked skills and awareness on the climate change issues.  On the renewable energy proposals there was a lack of support from the Government side in terms of renewable energy project and the organisation did not see anything emerging in terms of other options. There was also a need to focus on agriculture and commercial forestry as most of the households in Soweto did not  have vegetable gardens. The organisation was also disappointed about awareness of climate change as people still did not know much about it. The issue of urbanization was getting worse and the Paper needed more focus on pro poor adaptation.

The Chairperson observed that municipalities in the  Eastern Cape were encouraging vegetable gardening, but Gauteng was not.

Ms Zikalala said that Gauteng did not make available land to people to plant their own gardens and such gardens needed to be encouraged.

Mr P Mathebe (ANC) needed more information on the alleged lack of support to farmers from the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries as he knew of various assistance provided. He asked  what the organisation wanted exactly from the departments with which it tried to engage and what it was doing to encourage people to plant vegetable gardens. 

Ms Tsotetsi said that the organisation needed to visit schools and encourage them to establish vegetable gardens in their extensive grounds.

The Chairperson explained the position SA that had adopted in terms of the trajectory and the implications for the economy of acting in haste and how it could be destroyed. However, he heard what the entity had said.

Mr Tshingilane replied that if the Government was saying 15 years or 20 years then it might mean 30 years as implementation usually took very long. The organisation wanted to push the issue of social mobilisation in   its engagement with the Department of Energy and the Department of Water Affairs.

In Soweto there is no awareness about climate change and the organisation wanted to speed up the proposal.  Land was a challenging issue and a national one.

Mr Mathebe appealed to the young people to be patient and follow the right procedures and not want things  immediately.

The Chairperson also advised that it was important to have a paper trail of what had been requested in order to track what had been done. He encouraged the presenters to keep up the good work and not give up as there were always delays.

The meeting was adjourned.

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