White Paper on Climate Change: public hearings: SAFCEI, BUSA, Off the Ground, Fractual, and Agro-Organics

Water and Sanitation

15 November 2011
Chairperson: Mr J. De Lange (ANC)
Share this page:

Meeting Summary

The South African Faith Communities' Environmental Institute submitted that the consultative process was restricted to the elite well-resourced Non-Governmental Organisations and that it was not enough to promote food security but to ensure it. The Institute cautioned against the implied arrogance in the approach to natural systems. Maintaining the balance of nature was fundamental to human survival and all ecosystems should be regarded as conservation worthy. Micro-insurance placed the burden of paying for the impacts of disaster on to the poor victims. The Institute rejected the use of nuclear energy and cautioned against the use of bio-fuels.

The Premier's Office, Western Cape, said that the White Paper might be  too ambitious for the level of capacity that existed. Green house gas inventories had been undertaken at local and provincial levels. Flagship programmes needed clarity and needed to be scaled up.  Civil society needed to be partners in implementation. The Carbon tax could be passed on to the consumer and the funds collected from the tax could be ring-fenced for adaptation and mitigation programmes.

Business Unity South Africa supported the transition to the low carbon economy but it had to be asked how best could it be done without adverse impacts. The private sector needed to be part of the solution as it was part of the problem. The issue of conditionality in the White Paper needed to be reconsidered. The massive increase  in green house gases from 1997-2009 could be interpreted as the result of industrial growth, or as a result of better data collections. The voluntary nature of submitting important information for decision making was a problem. Business was already actively engaged in water conservation and demand management, renewable energy, energy efficiency and energy demand management, and waste management.  A rigorous methodology needed to be developed to redefine the emission reduction trajectory, allocate responsibility, and determine the risks, costs and opportunities of the transition. It was necessary to establish synergies between the carbon tax and carbon budget.

The Off The Ground Foundation noted significant improvements but submitted that the numerical values of the mitigation targets were not in line (at least in a large part) with either national or international research on what was required to avoid catastrophic climate change. South Africa needed to take on a constrained budget itself in line with the latest scientific wisdom. Parliament's incredibly short notice of only eight days was entirely inadequate. The Foundation's nine recommendations concluded with the plea that Parliament should not allow state funds (including those from the carbon tax) to be allocated to new nuclear power plants.

Fractual asserted that the position of mainstream science was now that a rise of 2 degrees Celsius was no longer appropriate and was actually quite dangerous.

 Agro-Organics sought to encourage the Government to pay attention to organic agriculture. What organc agriculture could contribute to alleviating climate change was viable but a paradigm change was needed. Roots fertilised the soil. The whole support system for organic agriculture needed to be changed. The Organic Agriculture Flagship Programme was about moving organic agriculture towards a system-driven agriculture. Organic practices globally had the potential to sequester more than 90% of the world's  emissions.

Members sought more information on the plans of provinces ,and found fault with Off the Ground for having an insufficient grasp of its subject. The Chairperson said that the White Paper was a framework and departments needed to be aware that there was no budget for it yet. Any clever industry would follow Government's lead. The Government's response would change accordingly, if scientific information about the estimated rise in average temperature changed.  He questioned Agro-Organics' allegation that the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries was not interested in organic agriculture. The Committee would engage on this and other matters.
 


Meeting report

South African Faith Communities' Environmental Institute Final Submission
Ms Liz McDaid, Energy and Climate Change Programme Coordinator, South African Faith Communities' Environmental Institute (SAFCEI), submitted that the consultative process was restricted to the elite Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) which were well-resourced. The Institute believed that it was not enough to promote food security but to ensure it. The Institute cautioned against the implied arrogance in the approach to natural systems. Maintaining the balance of nature was fundamental to human survival and all ecosystems should be regarded as conservation worthy.  It was also important to acknowledge that the rehabilitation of existing natural systems within urban areas was an important part of building resilience to climate change.  The Institute believed that the issue of micro-insurance was not supported as it placed the burden of paying for the impacts of disaster on to the victims of the disaster who were usually poor and could not afford it. The Institute supported the carbon budget approach but emphasized the need to support an equitable system of allocation. The Institute rejected the use of nuclear energy as a climate change mitigation strategy and cautioned against the use of bio-fuels. The Integrated Resource Plan, by its own admission, did not provide for sufficient energy efficiency. The government-defined reduction was not sufficiently detailed as it failed to define the baseline from which the reductions would start. (Please see attached document.)

Discussion
Mr J Skosana (ANC) asked the Institute to explain its involvement in conserving water.

Ms D Tsotetsi (ANC) remarked that climate was an energy and economic issue. The Mozambique issue was also relevant and concern should be raised.

Ms McDaid called on members to join the President at the Faith rally on 27 November which was a faith gathering to call on the international community to do the right thing and do the moral thing to set the tone for international negotiations.

In terms of water, there were eco-congregations which were local church communities becoming environmentally friendly. The White Paper talked to the water-for-growth strategy. It was possible to have growth despite drought as was the case with a West Coast farmer who had managed to increase the growth of its crops despite drought through rationing water and introducing efficient water use methods.

Provincial Government Western Cape Oral Submission
Ms Helen Davies, Director: Environmental Sustainability, Climate Change and Biodiversity, Department of Environmental Affairs and Planning, Provincial Government Western Cape, said that the White Paper might be too ambitious for the level of capacity that existed. Western Cape businesses were dominated by small and medium enterprises. The resource mobilization time was too long as it required immediate financing. In terms of mitigation, there was a call for joint working across all sectors.

Ms Davies pointed out that green house gas inventories had been undertaken at local and provincial levels. Flagship programmes needed clarity and needed to be scaled up. The question was raised if there might be funding if projects were in line with the flagship programmes.  Civil society needed to be partners in implementation. The Carbon tax could be passed on to the consumer and the funds collected from the tax could be ring-fenced for adaptation and mitigation programmes.

Discussion
The Chairperson remarked that he would have hoped that national Department would have consulted the provincial Department a bit more.

Mr G Morgan (DA) commented that the presentation raised many useful questions. He was not sure how far the White Paper itself would seek to provide the answers and he hoped that the national Department could get a copy of it as questions needed to be taken note of by implementers. There should be a checklist of these type of things and how they were responded to. Presentations should be passed on to the national department.

The Chairperson said that civil servants sometimes saw plans and asked for funding. The White Paper was a framework. Departments needed to realize that there was no budget for the White Paper yet.

Mr Skosana said that the provinces were the wings of the national Department and he had thought he would hear more on the awareness part of climate change and issues of Conference of the Parties (COP) 17 and how far the Province had gone on the matter as well as small farmers and small communities. He asked if there were  any plans as a Province.

Ms H Ndude (COPE) said that the document was well prepared. She observed that it was important that provinces were also taken on board. The targets on adaptation were not clear in the White Paper. It was necessary to highlight such in Committee reports to highlight the common things. It was important for the Department to share the provincial Department’s commitment on action for alleviating climate change in the Province.

The Chairperson asked Ms Davies to tell him what exchange there had been during the consultations.

Ms Davies said that the Province had been involved from the beginning. The Funding and capacity issue was a big one for the Province. A provincial summit had been held for 300 people and also some mini summits had been held with municipal workers. What emerged was that the Province understood it had to do the work, but it did not have the capacity. The South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) was coordinating the Adaptation Fund. 

In terms of awareness raising for COP17, the Province had held summits across the five districts and was also rolling out an awareness campaign where material would be disseminated. It also ran a media training workshop and was putting together a media booklet which gathered projects from across the Province which would be part of the expo at COP 17. She informed that meeting that she was the Director for Climate Change in the Province.

The Chairperson hoped that there would be others in similar posts as Ms Davies in other provinces. He advised that it was important that she became the eyes and ears of what was happening on the ground. He hoped that she would be the focus point in the Province. He mentioned the small rural farmer who had made a presentation the day before that the small farmers had no engagement with agriculture and environment. There was a need to get the departments to make sure they reached those people and the communities they served. He would ask the national Department to appoint someone as the champion of climate change.

Ms Davies explained that there were others in similar posts in other provinces but the problem was that they held other responsibilities apart from climate change. A working group had been set up in the Province for climate change which had representatives from other departments in order to address the cross cutting nature of the issue. Her office was getting together a database for climate change projects, and had also set targets aligned with national ones. The plan was to work with all departments. The climate change unit had just been set up and four people worked in it at the moment. They needed to look at where their support was needed in other departments. The idea  discussed with municipalities was that,  if they found funding, an expert would then roam to assist them. The Province was busy pulling together a database for national and international funding for climate change related projects.

In terms of mitigation, the Department was looking towards energy efficiency and wanted to achieve energy efficiency in its own buildings. It was looking to work with four municipalities to help them develop sustainable energy plans. In terms of renewable energy, the Greencape Initiative was  driving the renewable energy sector focusing on large scale wind farms, photovoltaic farms and looking at localised structures.

In terms of adaptation, the Province was looking at  sustainable farming practices. It had done sea level rise studies for two coastal areas, looking at the effects and what they meant in terms of approving developments. From there, adaptation plans would be drawn up. The municipalities would need support there.

The Chairperson said that he was glad Ms Davies had made her presentation as she had raised a lot of questions. The Committee would consider to what extent structural changes could be created in provincial and municipal structures to create obligations and possibilities particularly about champions. The Committee would have to look at local government.

Business Unity South Africa (BUSA)
Ms Lorraine Lotter, Member of the Energy Committee, Business South Africa (BUSA) presented her organisation's  response to the green paper. She was pleased to see that the Western Cape addressed the private sector. BUSA would sign an accord with Government the next day. BUSA supported the transition to the low carbon economy but it had to be asked how best could it be done without adverse impacts. The White Paper fundamentally changed the structure of the economy but the question was how to do it, in a way that negative potential impact was mitigated. There was a need to do thinking collaboratively and find out ways to work together to achieve what needed to be done. There was a challenge of coherence national level.

In terms of implementation, the private sector needed to be part of the solution as it was part of the problem. The Copenhagen Commitment was based on the collective outcome of a number of actions. She pointed out that the issue of conditionality in the White Paper needed to be reconsidered. From a collective business point of view it was important to look at supportive instruments from the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI). Competitive measures included addressing mitigation. It had to be asked what the key elements of transition would be. There was a need, for example, for an accurate and up to date national greenhouse gas industry inventory, an emissions reduction trajectory, knowledge of who needed to do what why and where  the responsibilities lay, and an understanding of risks, costs and opportunities. There should be market instruments. It was important to note the massive increase  in green house gases from 1997-2009. This could be interpreted as the result of industrial growth, or as a result of better data collections. There was a band of uncertainty on either side of the trajectory. The data for the trajectory was gathered through voluntary submissions but there was a problem with that very voluntary nature of submitting important information for decision making. In respect of flagship projects, business was already actively engaged in water conservation and demand management, renewable energy, energy efficiency and energy demand management, and waste management.  As to the way forward, a rigorous methodology needed to be developed to redefine the emission reduction trajectory, allocate responsibility, and determine the risks, costs and opportunities of the transition. It was necessary to establish synergies between the carbon tax and carbon budget. (Please see submission document.)

Discussion
Mr Morgan asked if BUSA had comments about the sequencing of the policy responses to climate change, and getting its order right. He also asked for BUSA’s opinion on the time frame and if it was not ambitious enough. Also, once a carbon budget was set for a sector, it had to be asked how it would be implemented in practice by the partners in the sector.

The Chairperson explained the White Paper trajectory and asked Ms Lotter what BUSA’s feeling was if the top end of the green line would be higher or lower.

Ms Lotter explained that the sequencing was important but the challenge was that not all the activities listed in the White Paper could be achieved in the time frame given if they were all put together in a table. There were also unintended consequences to consider. The carbon capture and storage were an examples of what would not be achieved in the next five years because SA did not have the technology. In the selection of priorities for mitigation action, it would be important to have an implementation plan and timeframes and it was important to identify where it was useful to work together. But an agreed methodology was needed and a benchmark of what would be possible – in other words to provide a benchmark of a target that needed to be reached and then set a longer term goal. SA might not meet the number projected for 2020, but to show progress would be a huge improvement.

The Chairperson said that as long as there was a move towards progress it was good as there was a need to project into the the future. He remarked that  any clever industry, once it saw where the Government was going, would go that way too.

Ms Lotter pointed out that one had seen Government moving towards selecting winning sectors and that it would not work; it was better to involve everyone. She said that the trajectory line was too low even from the perspective of the present.

The Chairperson thanked BUSA for presenting a balanced view and added that there would be a further chance for engagement in the New Year through more public hearings to hear how far implementations had gone.

Off The Ground Foundation Comments
Mr Nomalizo Xhoma, Coordinator, Off The Ground Foundation, an NGO based in Alexandra, Johannesburg, presented the Foundation's responses to the White Paper. The White Paper was much improved over the Green Paper of earlier in the year. Notably the exclusion of nuclear power from the document, the addition of numerical values for mitigation targets, a carbon budget approach, and a commitment to keep 'well below a maximum of 2 degrees Celsius above per-industrial levels'.

While these were significant improvements, the main areas for further improvement lay in these four areas. In particular the numerical values of the mitigation targets were not in line (at least in a large part) with either national or international research on what was required to avoid catastrophic climate change and to keep well below 2 degrees Celsius. In effect while giving a carbon budget for entities within the Republic the White Paper ignored the fact that South Africa as a whole needed to take on a constrained budget itself in line with the latest scientific wisdom.

Parliament's incredibly short notice of only eight days was entirely inadequate.

The Foundation's nine recommendations concluded with the plea that Parliament should not allow state funds (including those from the carbon tax) to be allocated to new nuclear power plants. (See document.)

The Chairperson asked him what he meant as it was not correct.

Mr Xhoma responded that he was not sure as he did not write the paper. He said that the public participation time was too short. He recommended that clear emissions target and carbon budgets should be set out, and that the peak needed to be in 2011.

The Chairperson interrupted him once again to ask if he knew what he was saying.

Mr Xhoma said that Parliament needed to abandon peak plateau and decline. It also needed to remove the  conditionality on international finance and commit to unconditional reduction. For carbon budgets it was important to put in place an enforcement strategy for non-compliance. Parliament should not allow electricity costs to be passed on to consumers. Adaptation and helping the poor should be covered. Carbon capture storage and carbon trading should not be endorsed. State funds should not  be allocated to nuclear plants.

The Chairperson pointed out that his input was very similar to NGOs which had presented before.

Mr D Mathebe (ANC) told Mr Xhoma that the things that he said that Parliament must do were impossible. He seemed to not understand what he was presenting as he could not answer the questions. He needed to debate the issues with those who had asked him to present.

Mr Skosana advised Mr Xhoma that he should check his information before coming to Parliament and that he should consult with someone to verify it as his document did not speak to what Parliament had done. 

Ms P Bhengu (ANC) asked Mr Xhoma what his organization did. 

Mr Xhoma thanked the Members for advice and said that Off The Ground was a Section 21 company working on environmental, human rights issues and social upliftment.

The Chairperson thanked Mr Xhoma and said that he appreciated his coming to represent the grassroots organisations. 

Fractual Oral submission
Dr Ian Perrin, from Fractual www.fractual.co.za, presented his response to the White Paper. It was wonderful to see such an open process and he hoped that his organisation could contribute. He was also from another environmental group and it probably got information from the same sources. He wanted to look at the science behind climate change and was very interested to hear the Chairperson speak about the process of science and the involvement of Government. But sadly, science had changed its mind. Mainstream science said that a rise of 2 degrees Celsius was no longer appropriate and was actually quite dangerous. He quoted James Hudson, a world-renowned climate scientist on scientific evidence to support his case.

Discussion
The Chairperson said that South Africa had committed itself to no more than 2 degrees Celsius increase in line with other countries in the Copenhagen Agreement. But there was also no doubt that, if scientific information changed, then Government’s response would also change accordingly.

Mr Morgan thanked Dr Perrin for a fascinating presentation and said that he was personally very well aware of the science of what SA should be aiming for. The figure of 1.5 degrees was becoming well known. It was interesting to know that the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) would revisit the position in 2015 from a negotiating point of view. SA was hamstrung by the entire process as many people were content with that level of increase. He asked Dr Perrins if he could talk specifically to what type of load and trajectory SA should take. SA had a contribution to make and was doing what was its fair share and what was conceivable as a country, bearing in mind that it made a 1% contribution to the emissions. He asked Dr Perrin how, in the light of scientific findings, how SA should respond. 

Dr Perrin saw that there was an interesting proposal from India's delegation suggesting each country should be removing CO2 from the atmosphere. There was a moral dilemma as the magnitude of the problem meant everyone had to cooperate. He was not sure that he could fully answer the questions, but he could begin to develop a question.

Mr Morgan asked Dr Perrin to speak about shale gas which was his other interest and what SA should be looking for. 

Dr Perrin said that the science was not solid on whether shale gas was much better than coal as a fuel for producing electricity. Two papers were presented by three professors at Cornell University. Even without assumptions, in terms of the emissions of methane during drilling and pipelining of gas through to the power station, there was still very little improvement achieved by replacing coal with shale gas. The process was leaky.

Agro-Organics Presentation
Mr Hans Klink, Marketing, Agro-Organics (Pty) Ltd, part of the South African Organic Sector Organisation (SAOSO) from the SA Organic Sector said that his organization was a member of the Organic Sector Strategy Implementation Committee which was trying to get organic agriculture going. Out of desperation there was a need to try and bring in a flagship programme from the climate change response side and maybe obtain the attention of the Government to organic agriculture. No one would say that organic agriculture was not important to the community, but what it could be doing against climate change was viable and, for that to be achieved, a paradigm change was needed. Roots fertilised the soil. The whole support system for organic agriculture needed to be changed. The Organic Agriculture Flagship Programme was about moving organic agriculture towards a system-driven agriculture. Organic practices globally had the potential to sequester over 40 Gigatonnes of Co2 which was more than 90% of the world's emissions. (See presentation document.)

Discussion
The Chairperson asked Mr Klink why he said that organic farms could absorb 90% of the worlds emissions and if he was suggesting that the whole world needed to change.

Mr Klink answered that if agriculture could change from salt fertilizer to microbe agriculture then root volume and life volume under the soil would increase and there would no need for tractors.

The Chairperson asked why the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) was allegedly not interested in organic agriculture.

Mr Klink responded that a study had been partially carried out three years previously and the Department had agreed to cooperate, but so far it had not happened. 

The Chairperson said that the Committee would engage with departments concerned and see what issues arose.

The Committee would meet again the following Wednesday to have a discussion about the findings on the White Paper so far and particularly to talk about the legislation.

The Chairperson thought that the White Paper process had been excellent. Whatever complaints about process should be looked at more circumspectly. He thanked everyone who participated in the process.

The meeting was adjourned.


Share this page: