Climate Change White Paper public hearings: Committee deliberations

Water and Sanitation

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

The Committee convened to conclude on the public hearings on the White Paper. The issue of insufficient consultations had been raised by several organisations. The Committee agreed that the next steps for the policy would be through the legislative process. Implementation of the White Paper and climate change matters were discussed. The Committee would be monitoring the implementation of the White Paper in the coming year. As it was the last meeting of the year, the Chairperson thanked all the Members for their participation and cooperation and for defending their positions intellectually and with integrity even though they were from different parties. The Committee was satisfied that it had worked as a team.

Meeting report

The Chairperson indicated that the Committee's report would be drafted based on the discussion of the day.

The Chairperson said that the public hearings went exceedingly well. Many people raised the issue of consultation which was not unique but it was important to note that some of the comments had some merit. Some of the others were far-fetched, such as those raised by the Commission on Gender Equality (CGE). The consultation process was not perfect in the sense that even when members of the community came to present, they usually came to make a presentation that a non-governmental organisation (NGO) had written.

To consult on an issue took two steps. Step one was to give people a chance to come and have their say in writing and in Parliament. If people did not understand the content then the engagement would not be  meaningful. To raise awareness usually took a lot of resources.

It came across that no one really disagreed with the White Paper. Even those who expressed their  disagreement had changed their responses once questioned. The Committee felt that the document was a very progressive framework especially for a country like South Africa. Consultations had a large impact on the White Paper which made it significantly different from the Green Paper.

The issue of targets around emissions was one of the most important in issues in the Green Paper and it had been dealt with in the White Paper by setting clear targets, which fell within commitments that Government had made which were in the form of the trajectory on emissions.

Issues not adequately addressed in the Paper needed to be highlighted. The Committee felt strongly that the policy framework needed to be translated into legislation. Sourcing of funds was also important as it was noted that the document did not deal with the kind of funds to deal with adaptation. The Committee wanted to suggest that a climate change budget be drafted, not a new budget but one that collated the relevant departments’ budgets.

In terms of implementation, the Committee would be strongly involved in monitoring and overseeing the implementation of the White Paper and it would therefore be necessary to meet twice or more a year to engage with all aspects in the implementation of the White Paper. It was noted that Parliament did have a steering committee which dealt with negotiations and the Conference of the Parties (COP) 17, but there was a need for a forum on climate change consisting of all the major committees of Parliament dealing with content. This structure would need to meet once or twice a year to investigate every single department to ensure implementation. The steering committee on climate change would also need a forum in Parliament to look at the content of policies of each department and to what extent the departments had implemented them. It did not, however, take away the responsibility of each portfolio committee.

Another issue to be looked at under implementation was sequences and structures to be set up to deal with climate change. One of the things that the Committee had proposed was that that the first oversight meeting on implementation of White Paper should take place around June 2012.

Lastly, the Chairperson expressed that the Committee expected a letter from the Director-General (DG) og Environmental Affairs and an apology as the Department (of Environmental Affairs) had not been attending the meetings as agreed in order to report on the proceedings.

Mr J Skosana(ANC) remarked that what had been said  added value to the work and Members of Parliament (MPs) needed to talk about climate change to their constituencies and educate the community to understand climate change.

The Chairperson added that under implementation, public awareness and education should be stepped up and expanded after COP17.

Mr G Morgan (DA) added that what had been said so far had been a good summary. He agreed with the idea of having a short punchy report. In terms of structures, Members of Parliament in the Committee did not really engage with the other committees. This worried him as it meant the Committee really did not have eyes and ears in Parliament. Also the Committee did not have all the necessary skills and it was important to engage Members from other committees who could add their skills.

He also took the point about coordinating the climate change budget. There had also been no clarity from the Executive as to which the coordinating body would be, but there was a need to highlight the issue to get results sooner than later. It was complex for the Committee to go to other departments, hence a structure was needed even it was interim. Also there was a need to highlight the fact base, that there was still some debate on what exactly was being put up in the atmosphere and this was the basis of every single intervention.

In terms of carbon budgets, there needed to be institutional arrangements around them as the White Paper was very general on the issue. It was important to work out whether, in fact, the setting of a carbon budget and a cap would be a power legislators wanted to give entirely to the Executive as it would have major consequences for the economy. Parliament needed to have a role in that.

The Chairperson raised the issue of the need to get others involved. In response to Mr Morgan, he expressed he was a bit hesitant to spell out the detail of it. If the Committee got it right, then a forum would be created; then when the legislation came the big part should be carbon pricing. He shared the sentiments but cautioned about being too specific.

Ms C Zikalala (IFP) supported the idea of involvement of other committees.  She was happy to report to this Committee that the multi-party women’s caucus had done a bit towards climate change through holding a workshop inviting women who knew about climate change. Women from Parliament were invited but somehow they thought that climate change was the baby only of the Committee and did not belong to them, though they tried to convince them otherwise. Her main point was for Members of Parliament to go out to their constituencies and to their communities to educate those people who were going to be deeply affected by climate change. She supported the idea from the Chairperson of a steering committee for climate change. Lastly, it was not good when the Committee was trying to do things and the Department was nowhere to be seen even if it was invited.

The Chairperson added that the Committee had never asked the DG and Deputy Director-General (DDG) to be present. They had only been requested to send people from the Department related to the topics presented. Education was the MPs' own and it had to keep growing. Engaging those in civil society who did not have the knowledge was important and more would need to be given though in the coming year. The Committee needed to know how to engage with the media. He recommended the Earth Scan series of atlases to the Committee as the books provided fascinating information.

Ms D Tsotetsi (ANC) suggested that municipalities needed to be involved in order to give life to the White Paper.  Something about climate change must be in their agenda. There must also be a relevant person to guide everyone. The main issue was compliance. Something needed to be done to make sure everyone complied with laws, bylaws etc. The chiefs and izinDuna also needed to be involved as they were the most affected and they also had great influences in their communities.

The Chairperson reminded the Committee about including having a person responsible for climate change in every province such as Ms Helen Davies, who was the Director: Climate Change, Western Cape Provincial Government. 

Mr P Mathebe (ANC) remarked that one of the aims of the hearings was to understand the gaps in existing legislation and Government policies and to identify short, medium and long term solutions. To do justice, it was important to include in the White Paper that local government structures take steps to adopt the most regionally relevant ways to engage communities on how to reduce green house emissions and to develop lower carbon economic opportunities.

Committee programme
The Chairperson informed the Members that he was busy putting together a programme for the new years. Two bills related to the South African Weather Service and the National Environmental Management Act (NEMA) were to be prioritised. There was also the issue of rhino poaching.

As it was the last meeting for the year, the Chairperson thanked everyone for his or her participation and contribution and for maintaining his or her intellectual and personal integrity in the exchanges and avoiding confrontational approaches between the parties.

The Committee Members also thanked each another and were satisfied that they had worked together as a team.

The meeting was adjourned.


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