International Conference on Fresh Water Governance: report by Water Research Commission; Doha UN Conference on Climate Change, COP 18: report by Department of Environmental Affairs

Water and Sanitation

20 February 2013
Chairperson: Mr J De Lange (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Committee heard a report-back by the Water Research Commission on Fresh Water Conference held in November 2012 and a report-back by the Department of Environmental Affairs on the United Nations Conference on Climate Change, COP 18, held in Qatar in November/December 2012.

Members offered various suggestions on how to expand practices of good water governance and stressed the importance of in-depth research in order to formulate policy and legislation. Members were pleased to discover that the Water Research Commission was creating a central database for water research. Ms Judy Beaumont and Mr Zaheer Fakir presented the second briefing and report-back. Members were satisfied with the Department of Environmental Affairs’ efforts at the Climate Change Negotiation COP18/CMP8.

Meeting report

Introduction by Chairperson
The Chairperson told the Committee to expect four press statements in the next day or two and to expect a hearing on those statements in the second term. He announced that on 26 February, the Committee would be considering a number of amendments and that if time allows, they would also discuss industrial waste solutions. On 27 February, the Department of Water would discuss the methodology for the choosing and setting of performance targets. Afterward, the Committee would hear from the Auditor-General and the Treasury. The meeting would be focused on information sharing. The Auditor-General Office had released a performance audit on the use of consultants.
He had had two briefings from the Auditor-General on the role of consultants. He noted that the Auditor-General’s report lacked a proper definition of “consultant.” Even service-providers could be classified as consultants. A clearer distinction between what the Department could and could not do was needed. It must be determined which consultants were redundant and which were necessary. He said that there were certain consultants that were unnecessary and that it was wrong to hire them. There were certain consultants that were justifiable, but should be phased out over time, and there were certain consultants that were essential for the proper function of the Department. He expressed his hope that the Auditor-General would breakdown the definition of “consultant.” Then it would be easier to engage the Department of Water Affairs and discuss how consultants were used. He had received an invitation from the Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs to go to Bangkok with a delegation at the beginning of March and that he was hoping to attend because of the importance of the event. The Water Research Commission was present to discuss the impact of the International Conference on Fresh Water Governance for Sustainable Development.

International Conference on Fresh Water Governance: briefing by Water Research Commission
Mr Dhesigen Naidoo, CEO of the Water Research Commission, played a short video about the International Conference on Fresh Water Governance for Sustainable Development (5-7 Nov 2012), featuring Mr Johan de Lange, Mr Naidoo, and Ms Eiman Karar, who served as the Conference Chairperson.

Mr Naidoo and Ms Karar gave the PowerPoint presentation which discussed:
▪ physical science and engineering water management solutions;
▪ contextualised water governance;
▪ legislation, regulation, rights, and accountability;
▪ markers of good governance;
▪ multi-level, multi-sectoral, and trans-boundary governance and adaptive management;
▪ tools for implementation of water governance; and
▪ additional steps the WRC was taking to better SA’s chances to achieve sustainable development solutions.

The presenters announced important upcoming events: WRC Dialogues on Governance Matters, Gender Summit 2013, and the Second International Freshwater Governance Conference (Adelaide 2014). They also suggested an inter-parliamentary engagement between the South African legislature and that of the Australian Commonwealth and the State Legislature of Australia.

Mr Naidoo asked about the way forward and reiterated that water governance was a very complex issue. He said that the November 2012 conference was the first-ever international conference on water governance. Several countries in the region were looking to South Africa for guidance, as well as much of the rest of the world. In the past, economic and political factors were considered before a decision was reached, and only after the decision was made, would the environmental factors be considered. Clearly, this thinking was problematic. Water influenced how development happens. For example, the fracking debate presents an opportunity to position water as one of the core considerations.

Mr Naidoo noted that it was largely expected that only scientists would be present at the conference. He said that the international community, both the developed and developing world, were impressed by the South African government’s representation at the Conference. He suggested that South Africa lead an inter-parliamentary event for the Second International Freshwater Governance Conference (Adelaide 2014) with the State Legislature of Australia.

The Chairperson asked when this event would be held in 2014 and expressed his hope that it would be held in the beginning of 2014. Since 2014 was an election year, it would be difficult for the Committee to commit to an inter-parliamentary event as there was no guarantee that the current Committee Members would win re-election.

Mr Naidoo replied that an event date had not been finalised yet because their counterparts in Australia did not want to commit to the event until after their elections were held in September. He expressed his hope that they would be able to work out a date that would work for both parties.

The Chairperson asked to what extent the Commission could help.

Mr Naidoo announced that they hoped to launch the proceedings of the International Conference on Fresh Water Governance for Sustainable Development (5-7 Nov 2012) at the International Water Association (IWA) Development Conference, which would take place in Africa for the first time in history. In November, Nairobi in Kenya would host the IWA Conference. South Africa would be part of an African Water Leaders Summit.

Mr Naidoo read an extract from the opening remarks of Advocate de Lange at the November conference: “While serving the needs of big business, the mines, the farmers, our systems must ensure that Mrs Mkwanazi, just down the road here, was able to access water for productive and domestic purposes, that she had access to sustainable sanitation services, that she had access to a road and transport services to get her produce to market, and that she can make a living that enables her to feed and educate her family, and to live with dignity.” He concluded the PowerPoint presentation and thanked the Committee for listening.

The Chairperson asked to what extent the Committee could help with their work.

Ms Eiman Karar thanked the Chairperson for his question. Some of the points that were lifted from the conference and some of the papers that were presented give a number of indicators of what one should look for in a new strategy. She began to outline practices of good governance:
▪ Engage the energy-food-water nexus because the three were so interconnected.
▪ Build stakeholder relationships, especially from other sectors that influence and were influenced by water.
▪ Creating the platforms for these discussions was emphasised as important at the conference.
For engaging businesses, risk and opportunity must be considered. She asked what private-sector proactive involvement and management of their risk could mean to water governance. She asked what the opportunities and the risks were in increased involvement of the private sector in water management. She explained the significance of engaging businesses by putting forward a “low or no regrets” investment decision-making process. She said that people should weigh the costs and benefits of decisions that affect water. A balance must be struck, especially considering the uncertainty brought about by climate change.
Effective devolution and decentralisation were also attractive. She noted that there were challenges to effective devolution: authority, resources, and the empowerment of stakeholders themselves to make decisions. Mainstreaming gender in water governance was deemed a good governance practice and was viewed as a mechanism for women’s empowerment.

Ms J Manganye (ANC) thanked the presenters. She asked the Chairperson why the Committee was not invited to the International Conference on Fresh Water Governance for Sustainable Development.

The Chairperson replied that the Committee was invited. He said that the timing of the conference was problematic because it was held during a busy week for Parliament. He was only able to go for a short time - for the Sunday session at the conference and he had rushed back to Parliament.

Ms J Manganye (ANC) asked the presenters to expand on the presentation slide on establishing “effective and mutually beneficial partnerships… between rural and disadvantaged communities”. She thanked the Chairperson for explaining that the Committee was invited and praised him for the remarks he made at the Conference, particularly for framing the issue around a fictional character, “Mrs Mkwanazi.”

Ms B Fergsuon (COPE) said she was impressed by the conference and was pleased that the first conference on water governance was held on South African soil and that South Africa was seen as a major global player in water and environmental affairs. She urged the Chairperson to position himself and the Committee as a whole to be “part and parcel of this” going forward. She commended the Chairperson for his use of the fictional character, “Mrs Mkwanazi,” in his speech at the conference. She noted that her story captures the concerns of a whole lot of people. She asked the presenters to discuss fracking more. How did they see engaging the South African public in terms of education? How could parliamentarians help? She asked the presenters to elaborate on how to improve water governance at the local level. She was excited to see what went into the Gender Summit and what came out of it.

The Chairperson welcomed a school group from Johannesburg, who had just arrived to observe. He summarised what the Portfolio Committee on Water and Environmental Affairs did and summarised the meeting’s agenda. He expressed his hope that they would follow the discussions and thanked them for being there.

Ms M Wenger (DA) thanked the presenters. She said that she found the presenters silent on the role municipalities and requested that the presenters expand on municipalities’ relationship with water.

Ms D Tsotetsi (ANC) said that good laws were meaningless if they were not implemented. She explained that most of the time, water was not used properly due to leaky taps and other technical issues. Water was key to basic services. She noted that “we are between a rock and a hard place”. It was important to learn how to use water from a young age and to teach the responsible use of water through presentations to schools and programs that distribute gardening tools to children to motivate them to use water responsibly.

Mr J Skosana (ANC) welcomed the presenters and asked the Chairperson for his input and plans for the business community and the poor community. He said that the poor use less water than businesses do. He asked the Chairperson for his opinion of management strategies. He noted the implications of an increasing population on water governance. He concluded that the presentation was very good and said he looked forward to popularising its content.

Mr S Huang (ANC) thanked the presenters. He noted that the current water situation could be considered a crisis. He asked the presenters to elaborate on the relationship between the private and public sector in terms of water governance. He noted that the private sector benefitted from public water. Aquaculture and food security relationship were important to consider. He urged the Committee and the researchers to continue working toward win-win solutions for the public and private sectors.

Ms B Ferguson (COPE) asked the presenters to elaborate on the history of water legislation. She thanked the presenters. She hoped that the Gender Summit helped because women were especially impacted by water governance practices.

The Chairperson commended Ms Eiman Karar for her explanation of “devolution” and “decentralisation” and how those processes fit into a capacity environment. The further down a policymaker or a decision-maker went in water governance, the more likely it was to find evidence of Apartheid. He noted that twenty years down the line, South African suburbs look basically the same despite all of the achievements made under democracy. He then asked why and commented on the power of the South African people to overcome the datedness. It was important to empower the municipalities, but explained that challenges arise when municipalities lack the capacity to deliver services. [He noted that “Tecmo’s” Board of Directors structure may help decentralisation, but his concern was with the structure. Even with great people sitting on the boards, different interpretations of policy would occur. Since the Boards of Directors have an interest in water, conflicts of interest may arise]. If we promote decentralisation, problems would arise. If the Committee advocates decentralisation, the definition of “decentralisation” must be clear.

Based on his 10-20 years of government experience, he had learned that the most important aspect of decision-making was information gathering. If one does not have a strong central data system to rely on, then policy was likely to be based off of generalisations. Going forward, the Water Research Commission should think about creating a national database on water that outlines what needs to be done, where it needs to be done, and by whom. Then the Committee could work to put resources there. There should be a sit-down meeting with National Water Resource Strategy (NRWS).

The Chairperson asked what the shortcomings were of some of the solutions proposed at the International Conference on Fresh Water Governance and by the Water Research Commission itself. He asked what they thought the shortcomings of decentralisation were specifically. He noted that the idea was sound, but expressed doubts in South Africa’s ability to move to decentralisation. The water system was fragmented because some water was managed by water boards and some was managed my municipalities. Water boards usually existed in poor, former Bantustans. Since the water board got their funds from the water users themselves, it was difficult to build new infrastructure for effective water use because of the poverty in those areas. He asked what would happen if water prices were universal. He requested an analysis of decentralisation for the use of the Department, the Committee, and the NRWS.

Ms Eiman Karar replied that she thought the Chairperson put his finger on the issues. Governance happens in different contexts. Water governance happens, especially in rural areas. Each person had to understand what his/her contribution was to achieving good water governance. It was important to consider past water legislation and current water rights when discussing rural engagement. The National Water Bill covered domestic water. She reminded Members of the practices of good water governance outlined in her presentation.

She noted that the Chairperson rightly brought up the distinction between policymaking and action. She reviewed the Chairperson’s points on decentralisation, noting that there were those that measure the water and formulate strategy, but that water boards have an oversight role. Agriculture was needing more and more water. There were lots of discussions on regulatory parameters and the makeup of government. Especially in South Africa, there were lots of disparities and vested interests in water. The WRC had been working with a number of government departments to engage the rural areas about what needs to be done. For example, the WRC was working with the Commission on Women and Gender. In addition, a new Africa study was being conducted to compare water governance conditions in different regions of Africa. The WRC hosts scientific discussions, but includes rural women’s voices, to be as inclusive as possible. Some Members had asked about public education and she reiterated her belief that in order for good water governance practices to be formulated, there must be involvement from different sectors of society. She noted the benefits that good parenting, good schools, and food garden programmes could have on good water governance in the future. The WRC had sent publications to schools before and was committed to continuing sending publications.

Mr Naidoo thanked the Committee for their questions and input, noting that the Water Research Commission had invited the Committee to the November conference. He noted that the exposure was good for Members, especially because others praised the informality of the discussions other conference guests were able to have with Chairperson De Lange. He said that water boards had very specific authorities. The WRC learned from the Catchment Management Agency (CMA) processes in South Africa and that they were planning on conducting a new study. He warned of too much government involvement in water affairs. He warned against the assumption that fracking was bound to happen in South Africa. There were task teams working on the fracking issue in more detail.

Mr Naidoo said the conference was roughly 30% solutions to problems in water affairs, 50% research on water affairs, and 30% unanswered questions. He reminded Member that water impacts everything and that the problem of water governance was a worldwide problem. He mentioned various groups working together on water governance, such as UNESCO and the Water Council.

In reference to Members’ questions on the role of municipalities in water governance, he discussed the Non-Revenue Water Report, which was published earlier that day. He said there was a three part strategy focused on national benchmarking and following models for good water governance practices. The WRC had done a study on water and municipalities. It was important to understand the limitations of municipalities and that it was important for municipalities to learn from one another. Mr Tsotesti brought up a good point on water losses. Large water losses in poor areas usually are not due to irresponsible use on the part of individuals, but water losses were often due to poor infrastructure. The WRC had been thinking about this for a long time, but admitted that perhaps it was not as vocal on this as it was in past years. He compared water use to electricity use and said for both, there was an imbalance between households and businesses, since certain users receive preferential treatment. The WRC had been implementing a voluntary water use disclosure program. Several companies had already signed up for this, in part because resource efficiency helped companies stay competitive.

He addressed the increasing population challenge. No one had determined how high the population must get before there was a risk of running out of water. He noted that people have been discussing water scarcity at least since the 1800s. There was some elasticity in the Earth system. In Germany, water from the Rhine River must be used six times in one city before it goes on to the next one. He did not know what South Africa’s benchmark numbers were, but it was discussed at the conference, and the WRC was wanting to find these out.

ndustrial ecology was a new focus in water affairs and that salinity and aquifers would begin being discussed more. The total average rainfall had been the same over the past ten years or so, but that rainfalls were shorter and more intense. Road foundations could not handle these weather conditions. It was helpful to work with an international coalition to gather information on water affairs and to work together to develop research focus areas. Every seven years, the Water Research Commission conducted a national study on water use. One was currently being processed: WR2012. The WRC was making a closed website so Members could use a search engine to sift through all of their research. Some parts would be available to the public. The WRC was working to centralise information.

The Chairperson asked when the WR2012 database would be ready.

Mr Naidoo replied that studies like this usually took three years to finally be completed, but that research results would be reported in batches, as they were determined. The working name of the study was WR2012. He said the Water Research Commission worked with the NWRS to fill gaps for analysis. There was a standing invitation for the Committee to visit the Water Research Commission’s facilities and that there was a standing offer to come back and speak to the Committee.

Mrs B Ferguson asked for feedback about fracking.

Mr Naidoo said that fracking movements were very different in South Africa than in other countries, such as the United States. He added that the private sector would like a case study to determine the costs and benefits of fracking, but that the WRC had concluded that fracking was potentially dangerous.

The Chairperson said the Constitution clearly states that South Africa should do the least harm possible to the environment. He predicted that the fracking debate would be very rational and that people would consider the risks. He expressed his hope that the debate take place on an intellectual level, not on an emotional one.

The Chairperson thanked and congratulated the presenters for their excellent work. Obviously the Committee would be happy to be a partner in the WRC’s work and to be part of the conference. He asked Mr Naidoo to keep the Committee in the loop, especially on the timing of the conference. He noted the WRC’s special role as a research component for the Committee. It was important to "practicalise" WRC proposals.

The Chairperson wondered where the current water governance could be critiqued, especially on how South Africa had begun the process of decentralisation. South Africa was centralised for about three hundred and fifty years and that when it became a democracy, a water governance structure was created over the existing one. The new structure tried to be consultative, but it was unequal. In reality, municipalities decide pricing. In reality, water boards were fragmented systems. After twenty years of democracy, it was time for an honest evaluation of water governance. He wondered if South Africa should have a water board system or if it should give more water governance powers to the municipalities; and what should happen to pricing.
Doha Climate Change Conference: report by Department of Environmental Affairs
Ms Judy Beaumont, DEA Deputy Director-General: Climate Change and Air Quality, explained that at the  United Nations Climate Change Conference in Doha Qatar (COP18), 26 November to 7 December 2012, South Africa sought the full implementation of the Durban outcomes:
▪ A second commitment period under the Kyoto Protocol on 1 January 2013
▪ Conclusion of the work under the Convention on commitments for developed countries not participating in a second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol
▪ Support for the developing country actions up to 2020
▪ Progress in the planning of work for the ADP.

The main tasks for Doha were to:
▪ Conclude and adopt a second commitment period up to 2020 through the amendment of the Kyoto Protocol
▪ Conclude an agreed outcome under the Convention on comparable developed country commitments and developing country actions which were enabled and supported with finance and technology
▪ Address the current challenge of low ambition pre-2020
▪ Develop a work programme for the negotiation of a future post 2020-legal outcome.

The climate change conference in Doha secured the Durban legacy with an outcome that:
▪ Concluded the necessary provisions to give effect to a second commitment period under the Kyoto Protocol, including legal, operational, ambition, and environmental integrity considerations, thus terminating the Ad hoc Working Group on the Kyoto Protocol (AWG-KP)
▪ Concluded an agreed outcome under the Convention track, and terminated the Ad hoc Working Group on Long-term Cooperative Action (AWG-LCA)
▪ Confirmed the agenda and a multi-year plan of work for negotiations under two work streams of the Ad hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform, namely, the work stream on ambition, and the work stream on negotiating a future legal outcome by 2015, to come into effect by 2020.

Ms Beaumont said that 8-year reviews were critical and that there should not be legal gaps between commitment periods.

Mr Zaheer Fakir, DEA Deputy Director-General, International Relations and Cooperation, discussed finances, explaining that the Department of Environmental Affairs needed more financial resources. What the Department achieved was an extension of the work program, but nothing more. The Department hoped that there would be further agreements by the end of the year. He noted the problem of such a low price of carbon (about 30 cents per ton). An additional pledge of 6 billion was needed.

Ms Beaumont said there was relatively limited progress except that a work plan was agreed on and that a clearer international relationship was formed under the new negotiating working group. She added that there was a sense of momentum going forward, but that the negotiations would probably be very tough in 2015. There was an opportunity for South Africa to co-chair the Africa Group at the 2015 Conference.

Mr Huang asked why South Africa should contribute funds going forward, when the United States, Japan, and other countries were unlikely to do so. 2020 negotiations were so far in the future that it was difficult to think about that now.

Mr Skosana said that developed countries should assist the underdeveloped countries. The Kyoto Protocol was a guiding document for how countries should contribute to the climate change problem. He was uncertain about what South Africa’s role was. He understood that South Africa was capable of leading climate change talks, but wondered if South Africa was an assumed leader because South Africa was visible on the issue of climate change. The spirit of the Durban Climate Change Conference ought to be revived.

Ms Tsotetsi asked for a more in-depth summary of the financial situation.

Ms Beaumont thanked the Members for their questions and comments. She noted that there was an emphasis on financial matters and suggested that Mr Fakir would be better suited to reply.

Mr Fakir said he did not intend to dispel hope for successful negotiations in the future. It was important for government officials to make presentations of what Members need to hear, not necessarily what they wanted to hear. He reiterated the need for new money in order to receive loans from the African Bank or the World Bank. The 100 billion dollar figure that was proposed in Copenhagen was being reached through direct and indirect donations from many sources, both public and private. Analyses had been made that determine that reaching 100 billion dollars was manageable. The
Minister in the Presidency, Trevor Manuel, said this 100 billion dollar figure was achievable under certain conditions.

The Chairperson said that political agreement would be derived from ordinary activism, not from committees.

Mr Fakir said that co-financing was important. South Africa could use the Green Climate Fund to further the interest of South Africa, Africa as a whole, and other developing countries. The Green Climate Fund (GCF) was a fund within the framework of the UNFCCC founded as a mechanism to transfer money from the developed to the developing world, in order to assist the developing countries in adaptation and mitigation practices to counter climate change. He added that it was unlikely that a significant amount of money would be added to the Green Climate Fund in 2014, but that 2015 seemed promising.

Ms Beaumont said that Mr Skosana had raised three key issues: the proper role of South Africa, the visibility of climate change in South Africa, and the withdrawal of certain countries. In the lead up to the Durban conference, South Africa was playing the role of Conference President and of a party seeking to push forward an agenda. She noted that it was important for South Africa to push forward its own priorities and to facilitate coherence within the Africa bloc and push that consensus through. She admitted that building consensus could be challenging, especially since some were aligned with the European Union and prefered legally binding contracts for developing countries. The Department of Environmental Affairs must be able to present back to Cabinet every single item discussed at climate change conferences and report what was or what was not achieved. Goals were not reached for financial items. There were close to 40 negotiating items.

In Qatar, a detailed, definitive understanding of the intentions of the developing countries must be secured. She said there was a need for a work programme that understands, analyses, unpicks, and re-interrogates the role of Japan, Canada, and other countries. South Africa would be active.

The visibility of climate change was a good point. She noted that 2011 was a special year in South Africa because the Durban conference and the adoption of the National Climate Change Response Policy created a lot of noise. The Department had taken the suggestion of Members and was working on a more robust climate change communication strategy and it was conceptualising a National Climate Change Policy Response Conference. This conference would take place during the first week of November because many of the deadlines for implementation were for October. The Department was seeking to create the space for presentations by provincial and local authorities, non-government organisations, labour groups, and others. The Department planned to discuss the conference program with the Committee.

Closing by Chairperson
The Chairperson reminded Members that the Protocol would be in place up to 2020. A work stream was trying to develop a mechanism for developing countries to get the treaty agreed to before 2015, so that it could be implemented in 2020.

The Green Climate Fund would be up and running soon, but it would be a hollow fund in the sense that although there were tools to collect and measure the 100 billion dollar goal, it was unlikely that would start happening until 2015. There was a separate commitment of 6 billion dollars. Technically, not much came from the conference, but that under the circumstances, the outcome was the best outcome possible.

He requested that the Department keep the Committee in the loop, especially on movements on the legal treaty. A legal treaty would create a binding solution. If the Department kept him in the loop, he would be able to determine when it would be appropriate for the Committee to hear progress reports.

He requested that Ms Beaumont draft an agenda as soon as possible that included a section at the end on finances.

He was satisfied with the report on the outcomes of the climate change negotiations.

The meeting was adjourned.

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