Low Carbon Economy Strategy by National Planning Commission

Committee: Water and Sanitation

Chairperson: Adv J de Lange (ANC)

Date of Meeting: 29 Feb 2012

Summary

The National Planning Commission appeared before the Committee to present the part of the National Development Plan dealing with a low carbon economy. The Commissioner said that a detailed plan was still needed for the low carbon economy. The NPC sided with Treasury about carbon pricing and therefore supported carbon budgeting. The NPC had noted all public comments and would integrate these into the Plan.

Members observed that water, a crucial issue to the country, was not reflected in the Plan and advised for its inclusion. The NPC said it would consider making water a driver of change. Some members said that before using indicators such as number of students matriculating, problems in education needed to be fixed to avoid the high level of school dropouts. They also raised concern about rural development and where it was heading and whether all resources and planning would be geared for urban areas. The NPC assured the Committee that rural development was part of the plan.

The Department expressed concerns about adaption areas where environmental management and degradation was attributed to climate change when it was the other way around. Secondly, there was an absence of an integrative link to the strategy for sustainable development. The framework of the sustainable development strategy should be the thread forming the document. There was also not enough acknowledgement of eco-based biodiversity and natural resource, in terms of the economy and the link to tourism. In talking about natural resources, there were areas where SA was rich in these but they were not utilised such as solar energy


Minutes

National Planning Commission: Presentation. diagnostic report
Ms Tasneem Essop, National Planning Commissioner, said that the presentation would deal with the background of the National Development Plan and its relations to low carbon infrastructure. She reminded the Committee that the Commission only played an advisory role. The diagnostic report was released in 2011 and the Commission had engaged with citizens across the country in order to get participation in identifying the problems. A draft vision statement had been released on 11.11.11, a vision which chose to entrench the values of the Constitution, namely social solidarity and pro-poor policies, non racialism, non sexism, and the need to redress the ills of the past. Writers were engaged to capture the vision in a poetic way. The Plan identified a number of critical drivers of change which include west to east tilt, interconnectivity, globalization, climate change, technology, resurgence of Africa. Such would affect planning for SA and would form what the NPC would need to take into account in planning for the future. Climate change had been identified as a driver of change that would need research, technology and innovation.  

Demographics was an area that needed to be integrated into the Plan itself. SA’s population was largely young. The Commission was looking at developing a long term plan and vision for SA and looking at what would lead SA through transformation. The NPC believed in an active citizenry. Overall, there had been a massive demobilisation of civil society. Strong leadership was needed across the board and the effect of government, as the centrepiece of transition towards change, was very important. There was a need to create the condition for that change and a need to build capabilities of the state and citizens and communities, to look at the outcomes SA wanted to achieve in terms of solving employment, growth, poverty reduction, rising living standards.

Mr De Lange commented that a large part of the population were poor and struggled to survive every day, and the last thing they would want to think about would be the future. He asked if the NPC had come up with any new ideas on dealing with that issue and putting in place innovative measures for the poor and for the struggling to participate. He said that in the past when calls for comments were issued, the only people who came forward were the NGOs and the middle class, but the majority was cut out. The majority who were affected were just not reached. He requested the Commission put the participation of poor people and their needs high on the agenda and they would need to find new ways to “go to the people”.

Ms Essop replied that the real question was to understand what it meant to build capabilities and the need to define what ‘capabilities’ were and to define empowered citizenship. She asked the Committees to contribute to the discussion of what these capabilities might be. Building social cohesion was the glue that held SA together. The Plan utilized the story of Thandi, a fictitious eighteen year old female who in the current conditions in SA gave her a 4% chance of getting a pass to enter university as an African female, a 13% chance of getting a job in the first year after matric, and 25% chance of getting a job five years after matric and her chances of earning above the median income of R4000 per month was 2%. Thandi’s story personalised the macro challenges faced by the country and the Plan aimed to improve the lives of people like Thandi.

Mr De Lange said that matric results were not the real issue as two thirds of children dropped out of school and one needed to focus on that and resolve it before kids got to matric or before they got the chance to be in the matriculant year.

Ms Essop reminded Members that the diagnostic elements of the reports dealt with those issues. The report had identified and diagnosed poverty and inequality as the main problem related to nine major problems of poor education, high disease burden, poor public service, corruption, divided communities, too few jobs, crumbling infrastructure, resource intensive economy and spatial divides. The Plan looked at how to address the challenges, to create jobs, expand infrastructure, use resources sustainably, transform spaces, provide quality health care, fight corruption, build a capable state, unite the nation and the end result would be prosperity and equity.

In dealing with unemployment, the NPC would focus on growing the economy and making it labour absorbing and look at how to exploit mineral endowments to pay for the capabilities, and promote manufacturing in areas of competitive advantage, improve the function of the labour market, and make it possible for skilled immigrants to work in SA.

In terms of the transition to a low carbon economy, the NPC was not ready to develop a detailed plan to deal with this issue as it was complicated. She also warned that the chapter on this had a lot of contradictions that needed to be ironed out. The chapter focused on high level proposals and how to take them forward. The key to achieving the vision was to adapt and mitigate, though the chapter did not really focus on adaption but rather on mitigation measures. Ms Essop said the reason was due to adaptation measures being dealt with in other chapters. The section of the Plan dealing with low carbon economy aligned with the White Paper which meant it adopted a carbon budget approach. The NPC supported Treasury in introducing carbon pricing where rebates for poor consumers would not be affected.

Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) input
Ms Lize McCourt, DEA Chief Operations Officer, said that the Department had already had a detailed workshop with the NPC to give input from the Department on the Plan.

The Department had expressed concern about adaption areas where environmental management and degradation was attributed to climate change when it was the other way around. A second concern was the part where there was an absence of an integrative link to the strategy for sustainable development. The framework of the sustainable development strategy should be a thread running through the document. There was also not enough acknowledgement of eco-based biodiversity and natural resource in terms of the economy and the link to tourism. In talking about natural resources, there were areas in which SA was rich but did not utilize these such as solar energy. There were areas missing in Chapter 8 on Human Settlements where the NPC needed to look back to the Climate Change White Paper, such as infrastructure that was falling apart and needed maintenance. There were also gaps where the Department and the NPC could work together to fill. For example, SA had a vast marine territory which was bigger than the land area, which provided a whole lot of opportunities. There was also a need to think about offsets in terms of carbon and climate. The mining sector for example would need to have offsets through the public works process in terms of benefit creation. In terms of natural resources, the demand side management and the supply side management for water could be strengthened. There was also the discussion on institutional arrangements and who would do what and how to fit the different processes into each other, and if the Plan is adopted, how would these be revised. The DEA found contradictions between infrastructure, energy, and transition to low carbon economy. The DEA and the NPC had a heated debate on the issue of fracking. The Department said that it would be a better option if it replaced higher intensity coal. If arguing from a carbon perspective, shale gas was less carbon intense than coal and higher than nuclear. There was also a discussion on environmentally appropriate technology as SA was using fracking like technology in the mining of gold. The Department was saying that a specialist task team was needed to understand what the risks and consequences were before opening up this area and to really understand what it meant.

Discussion
Mr De Lange reminded the meeting that the NPC had said the National Development Plan document was for discussion and that the DEA was in full engagement with the NPC. The Committee would need to find a way to look at the issues raised from their perspective and from the perspective of sustainable development as an overarching theme. Mr De Lange reminded Members to keep their comments focused on water and environmental issues.

Mr J Skosana (ANC) asked what the NPC’s stand was in energy, electricity and use of solar energy to reduce the use of coal. He asked if there was a plan in implementing waste management in municipalities and if there was a plan for dealing with problems relating to water.

Mr G Morgan (DA) remarked that it was refreshing to see that the NPC realized how hard it was to make the transition to a low carbon economy. He was wondering if it was the NPC’s job to align itself with a particular commitment as stated in the White Paper of below 34% by 2020 and below 40% by 2025 as some say it was not achievable. Another problem was that the second version of the integrated resource plan (IRP2) claimed far more carbon space than it should be allowed - as he was told it was probably more than 50%.

Mr Morgan suggested that the Plan needed to look into infrastructure and how resilient it was and to really be explicit about it. For example, if new roads were built, it would be useful to ask if the road would be resilient in the event of a 100 year flood or a 150 year flood. That is, if adaptation were built up to climate proof the economy, would the infrastructure be destroyed more often.

Mr Morgan also advised that the NPC needed to be more explicit in the area of water that it actually dictated what was possible, or whether or not water followed the demands of other developments. The President had announced a big infrastructure bill which included water, but he wondered if water had a real place at the table of planning and development in SA. Also, the dilution capacity was very small to dilute the pollution.

Ms M Wenger (DA) commented that sanitation had also not been mentioned in detail and that the NPC needed to look into that.

Ms C Zikalala (IFP) agreed with Mr Morgan’s comments about water and the need to raise the importance of water as there were a lot of people who were crying out that they did not have water for a long time.

Ms D Tsotetsi (ANC) asked how SA would deal with smoke emissions when the number of informal settlements was mushrooming. She also suggested looking into the area of technology for mining so that the methods used would be less harmful to the environment. 

Mr S Huang (ANC) asked if SA would sign the petition signed by Brazil and China against the carbon trading scheme, especially if it was talking about carbon tax.

Ms J Manganye (ANC) asked if the Plan looked into the open mines which were said to be more dangerous but were close to areas where there were a lot of people

Ms Essop reminded Members again that though there were strong expectations from the NPC, its role remained advisory. The NPC had noted the comments and would take them and integrate them. However, the Commission had not been entirely sure about how high or how low the commitments might be.

Ms Essop said that the NPC would look into using water as a driver for change after listening to the comments by Members. It would also look into the quality of water. The potential of water to become a scarce resource would bring the discussion back to economics. Water should also be added in those areas to identify capabilities, in terms of basic needs for humans.

On the issue of renewable energy and planning for it (solar energy), Ms Essop said that the Plan had identified it as a critical path towards transition to a low carbon economy, but did not say how to implement it. She though that a plan like the one in discussion could emphasise a much more scaled up investment in renewable energy.

In relation to infrastructure investment, Ms Essop said that besides resilience, the Commission could also look at locking the potential of investment where SA could have standard capital. The NPC could present the options and part of the process going forward was to apply minds to that.

Ms Essop suggested that it would be great to have a member of the Portfolio Committee attend a number of the roundtables which explored deeper elements of the issues raised.

Mr De Lange said that in dealing with the issue of infrastructure, it was important to look at the way the government did budgets so that the funds allocated to water would reach the actual place where the need was. Water infrastructure at local government level was funded by the equitable share – a pot of money given to municipalities. Most were not spending it on water because there was no obligation for them to do so. Treasury indicated that there was nothing they could do about it, as it was in the Constitution. The issue was about government creating systems that did not work.

Ms Essop said that the issue of smoke emissions in informal settlements was also about having access to electricity to stop the use of smoke emission fuels.

In terms of institutional alignment, the NPC could play a strategic role but one that avoided duplication.

Mr De Lange said he was worried about sending out mixed signals. Carbon pricing was important and the NPC should not send out mixed signals but pick a side it agreed with and to stick with it. He said to the Committee had a bit of time to ask questions outside of water and environment.

Mr De Lange said that Thandi’s story was incongruent. He also raised the issue of education and the fact that SA had an academic based education system and not a skills based one, and asked if such an issue could be considered.

Ms Manganye said that people were generally moving from rural to urban areas because they knew they would have a better chance of getting attention in the urban areas and therefore get the services in housing and other areas that they needed.

Ms Tsotetsi asked if growth by 2030 also meant rural development or was it only urban development. She asked if the plans were looking at areas of ownership so that people were not only working for others.

The NPC said that the flow of movement would be defined and that rural towns would be part of the process as well.

Mr Huang raised concern about the Plan looking so far ahead to 2030 - which was 18 years into the future. He asked about the present and the many people like Thandi, who were out there experiencing the current problems with education, HIV/AIDs and other matters. He suggested the NPC look at statistics and the changes affecting the population.

Ms Essop said that the Commission was not saying that poverty would go away but had integrated the positive elements into the 2030 vision.

Ms Zikalala asked what made municipalities weak, if it was insufficient funding or corruption. She raised concerns about the lack of education in maths and science and the problem of not having enough teachers for this. The Plan needed to do something to fix the problem. School dropouts also needed to be dealt with and career planning needed to happen in the schools so students knew which path they needed to take.

Ms Wenger shared the sentiments expressed about local government and the funding method for municipalities. She added that when it came to the Water Boards, the financial year did not coincide with other government structures. She suggested that functions of water and sanitation should be handled by the same institution.

Ms P Benghu (ANC) said that inspectors were needed to monitor areas where illegal dumping was happening. The issue of Sector Education and Training Authorities (SETAs) was also not mentioned in the Plan.

Mr Skosana asked how the NPC disseminated the information from its office to the community. In terms of infrastructure, the department needed to work with communities. Planning at national level needed to be understood by local government.

Mr P Mathebe asked how the NPC monitored the implementation of the plan, if the NPC had systems that monitored what they reflected.

Ms Essop said that she viewed the comments being made as suggestions not expecting a response. In terms of dissemination, the NPC had embarked on an exercise which saw the staff communicating with a wide range of stakeholders across the country. She said that they would look more into monitoring systems when they revised the plans.

Ms McCourt from the DEA said that they had discussed how they understood the different roles between NPC and DEA. Monitoring and Evaluation and NPC were in a cycle with the government departments in the three spheres. The cycle needed to continue where the NPC would do the planning, reviewing, critiquing and for other government departments to implement, monitor and evaluate.

Mr De Lange said that it was important for government to talk with the same voice and there try to harmonise its message. Water should be a chapter on its own. Lack of infrastructure would stifle growth and development.

The meeting was adjourned.