Minister on Sustainable Development Goals post 2015; Doha Amendment to Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change;

Environment, Forestry and Fisheries

26 August 2014
Chairperson: Mr J Mthembu (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Committee was briefed by the Minister of Environmental Affairs on the importance of ratifying the Doha Amendment to the Kyoto Protocol. The briefing covered why the Amendment should be ratified, SA’s national interest, background to the Amendment, an explanation of the proposed amendment, advantages of accepting it. The Committee approved its ratification by the National Assembly.  

The Minister Molewa explained the year 2015 marked the end, not the death, of the term of implementation of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The question then was to come up with a plan for post-2015. Under the Office of the UN General Secretary, preparations had begun on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which presented a new regime or set of development goals. The development of the SDGs was explained starting with the Zero Draft document at Rio+20 in 2012. The list of proposed goals were outlined after which the key principles drawn from the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) were discussed. The recommendation to the Committee was for it to note the SDGs and for it to engage on the draft working document on the SDGs. The Committee agreed to this recommendation after Members engaged on the progress made by SA in achieving MDG goals and the monitoring and measurement of goals.

Meeting report

Public Hearings preparation
With the Minister and Deputy Minister in attendance, the Chairperson said the Committee would be looking at the Doha Amendment of the Kyoto Protocol and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs. The Chairperson, over the weekend, accompanied the Department to KZN, Mpumalanga and North West and reported to Members that preparations were advanced for the Committee’s public hearings with stakeholders beginning Friday and Saturday in KZN, next Friday and Saturday in Mpumalanga and the following Friday and Saturday in North West. He was happy to report that the stakeholders involved in the public hearings included traditional leaders, rangers from the Parks, industry in the relevant provinces, members of the provincial legislatures and municipal councillors. This was a good cross section of participants. NGOs were also expected and Members were free to invite whom they wished to participate. Furthermore, the logistics for the hearings were well afoot. The emphasis was on the Committee interacting with the people – the real people that mattered. He thanked the Department for their help over the weekend especially with linkages with stakeholders and relevant officials from the provincial DEA. He was happy with the level of commitment the Department illustrated with regard to these public hearings, working late and over a weekend. He was honestly touched by the level of commitment shown by these public servants.     

Ms T Stander (DA) thanked the Department and Chairperson for their organisation of the public hearings. The hearings would cover several matters but she was concerned there was not enough general publicity about the hearings. This could perhaps be done through general press statements to the media.  

Mr P Mabilo (ANC) welcomed the level of preparations for public hearings that had been organised in a short space of time. He was encouraged and heartened by the cooperation between the Chairperson and Department and while the Committee had an oversight role to play, credit needed to be given where it was due.

The Chairperson indicated there would be a press briefing the next day at 10h00 where a statement would be issued. There was also a plan for printed adverts in provincial and national newspapers. Posters and pamphlets would be sent to provinces and made available to Members. There did have to be engagement with the media but there was an administrative team in parliament to deal with such matters.

Deputy Minister Barbara Thomson stressed, where possible, there needed to be engagement in a language people best understood. 

The Chairperson noted all public hearings would have translation relevant to the community so the matter was being attended to logistically. It would be pointless to make presentations in English when it was not the first language. He thanked Deputy Minister for raising this.

Doha Amendment to Kyoto Protocol to UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC)
Minister Edna Molewa spoke briefly to the political importance of this Amendment both for SA and the world noting the second commitment period was agreed to here in SA after non-agreement at COP16 in Cancun. The Doha Amendment was important as it enabled a move away from the two-track model of negotiations and ensured an increase in ambition for carbon emission reductions. A certain number of parties at the United Nations Framework on Convention Climate Change (UNFCCC) were required for the second commitment period to be enforced. SA was one of the first few countries to accede to this second commitment period. This second commitment period would turn into a resolution at COP18 in Qatar. The President would make an announcement when SA ratified the Doha Amendment of the Kyoto Protocol.

Mr Alf Wills, DEA DDG: Environmental Advisory Services, took the Committee through a presentation outlining why the Doha Amendment of the Kyoto Protocol should be ratified. Looking at SA’s national interest, the country needed to be part of a global climate change regime which minimised the impact of climate change because SA was extremely vulnerable to its impacts. Such a regime should not impose a mitigation burden on SA which would compromise the country’s ability to meet its development challenges. To achieve this, there needed to be acceptance of the Doha Amendment to the Kyoto Protocol to the UNFCCC by SA and the international community.

The Doha Amendment came out of an agreed work-plan for negotiation of the new legal agreement, in Doha, to be concluded by 2015. The agreement reached on entry into force provisions for the eight-year long second commitment period under the Kyoto Protocol that was already agreed to in Durban to come into effect on 1 January 2013. This required ratification/accession/acceptance (depending on what applied to individual parties as per national laws) by those countries party to the Kyoto Protocol. Parties intending to provisionally apply the amendment pending its entry into force may provide notification to the Depository of their intention to provisionally apply the amendment.

Mr Wills explained the proposed amendment meant the Doha Amendment effected major changes to Annex B, Annex A and Article Three of the Kyoto Protocol to the UNFCCC. Annex B contained two columns, one listing the names of the parties and another containing the quantified emission limitation or reduction commitment, or what was referred to as Quantified Emissions Limitation and Reduction Commitment (QELRC). Annex A contained the Greenhouse Gases (GHG) that parties will need to report on. Parties will now have to include Nitrogen trifluoride to the other six GHGs for reporting thus bringing the number of GHGs for reporting for six to seven under the Kyoto Protocol. Article Three, paragraph 12 in particular, also prevented Annex 1 parties from carrying over new hot air into the third or subsequent agreement. There was monetary value in carrying over hot air from the first to the second commitment period.

The advantage of accepting the Doha Amendment included a legal commitment to Annex1 parties to contribute to a global effort to mitigate GHG emissions. Under Article Three of the Protocol, Annex 1 parties were obliged to achieve their quantified emission limitations and reduction commitments. There was a financial benefit through the continuation of capitalisation of the Adaptation Fund through the 2% share of proceeds from the sale of assigned amount units, as well as a 2% levy on certified emission reduction units from projects under the Clean Development Mechanism and assistance to mitigate and adapt to impacts of climate change, technology, capacity building and networking with other nations. There was an advantage in the continuation of a clean development mechanism by providing opportunities for sustainable development, promoting job opportunities, improving air quality and transferring technologies.

The recommendation then was for the Portfolio Committee to recommend to the National Assembly acceptance of the Doha Amendment to the Kyoto Protocol of the UNFCCC.

The Chairperson noted the clear recommendation and the obligations which came with ratifying the second commitment period.

Mr Mabilo wanted to know if DEA thought the recommendation was clear. He wanted to know if the rest of Africa and SADC was on board with ratifying the Doha Amendment. 

Minister Molewa indicated that ratifying the Doha Amendment was one of the biggest aspects Africa was pushing at the COP17 and 18 negotiations due to the importance of a rule based system. Adaptation was important for Africa as opposed to just concentrating on mitigation which amounted to chasing a moving target. Africa was one of the groups of the world that negotiated at all times with one voice so there was no doubt there would be support. She was not sure how far the African group was with ratifying the Second Amendment as this involved public and executive consultation and because of this, countries were moving at different speeds.

Ms Stander asked for confirmation that there were 198 signatories in total to the UNFCCC and the USA was the only country that did not want to sign. She asked why SA did not appear on Annex B? – did this mean SA’s carbon emissions had not yet been quantified or did we not have a specific emission commitment? She did not otherwise see any problem with the Doha Amendment.

The Chairperson noted there had always been a political issue vis-a-vis the USA not ratifying the first agreement under the Kyoto Protocol. This could be because of economic or political considerations or simply a means to hold onto power by hook or crook. The developing world was not happy with the USA as one of the serious emitters and it was unthinkable for it not to deal with this world problem. The solution would be to bring everyone on board so that the matter was dealt with as a united world.

Mr Wills elaborated that all African countries had started the process of ratification but at this stage only China had ratified. This was because of the country’s fast legal system with processes different to other countries. The USA had a theoretical commitment under the Kyoto Protocol but this was not legally binding because the country did not ratify the Kyoto Protocol. In actual real terms, the USA had increased, by 16%, in its emissions. SA and other developing countries were not under Annex B because the Kyoto Protocol was set up in a way so that those countries with the capability and historical responsibility, would take on the legally binding, quantifiable targets. Flexibility mechanisms were set up whereby developed countries could invest in developing ones to achieve global reductions. Because the USA did not join Kyoto, this system and balance was upset. The negotiations beyond 2020 were to set a system which was applicable to all but one needed to be careful when negotiating what kind of commitments to take on. SA did have commitments under the UNFCCC (34% deviation by 2020 and 42% by 2025) but did not have commitments under the Kyoto Protocol. In other words, SA had a relative not an absolute commitment while developed countries had an absolute, legally binding commitment It was however a misnomer to say SA’s commitment under the UNFCC was voluntary because it was binding. Article 4.1 of the Convention said “all parties shall”.  

Minister Molewa added this was still a two-track system which was being negotiated into a single, fair, ambitious, legally-binding and enforceable regime for all. It was heard the US Congress would, at the time, not allow ratification. While at COP 17 in SA, the USA had agreed to negotiation for agreement by 2015 to apply to everyone fairly through an instrument with legal force. It was hoped the USA would stick to its word. She referred to the explanatory memo which she felt important to highlight the role played by SA in amending in 2012, to provide for the second commitment period by the adoption of the Doha Amendment to the Kyoto Protocol. 

The Chairperson agreed that this was factually correct.

Mr Mabilo formally moved that the Committee recommend to the National Assembly to ratify the Doha Amendment of the Kyoto Protocol.

Mr M Shelembe (NFP) seconded this move.

Mr T Hadebe (DA) felt the citizens participating must be informed about what SA’s emission reduction would be. Other than this, he did not have any issues with ratifying the Doha Amendment.

The Chairperson explained the Committee was now ready for when the Amendment came before them from the National Assembly. It could simply be referenced from the minutes of this meeting.

Mr Wills highlighted the minor difference between acceding to or ratifying the Amendment. The Amendment would be ratified if it was still open for signature in New York otherwise SA would accede. This was a matter of legal terminology.

The Chairperson said either way, the Committee had given the Doha Amendment its nod.

Sustainable Development Goals
Minister Molewa explained the year 2015 marked the end, not the death, of the term of implementation of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The question then was to come up with a plan for post-2015. Under the Office of the UN General Secretary, preparations began on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which presented a new regime or set of development goals. The history of the MDGs showed it came introduced as a package by the UN General Secretary to which the world agreed. The SDGs were being agreed to in a more participatory manner as featured in the Zero Draft of the Rio+20 Outcome Document of 2012 which has continued to be discussed in greater detail at subsequent informal negotiations convened to finalise this document. The SDGs were a continuation of goals outlined under the MDGs, for example, goals on poverty as this was not completely eradicated. There had been consultation on the SDGs with the UN Secretary General setting up a panel which included SA and co-chaired by President Zuma and the Prime Minister of Finland. For the Committee, it was important to link up with other Portfolio Committees, when it came to specific development goals such as education, agriculture and health. It was expected for these SDGs to be discussed at the UN General Secretary’s Climate Summit in September 2014, where adoption of SDGs would be done and it would begin discussion on a Zero Draft leading into 2015 before implementation.       

DEA Chief Policy Advisor: Sustainable Development, Mr Tlou Ramaru's briefing to the Committee looked at the Rio+20 outcomes on the SDGs, prepossessed SDGs, key principles underpinning these SDGs, the preparatory process and recommendations.

With the global sustainable regime, the 1972 UN Conference on the Human Environment had come to an agreement that both development and the environment could be managed in a mutually beneficial way. In 1992, the UN summit on environment and development presented a blueprint for sustainable development and birthed the three key conventions on sustainable development – the UN Convention on Biodiversity, UN Convention to Combat Degradation and the UNFCCC. Following this, in 2000, the UN Millennium Summit adopted the MDGs. In SA in 2002, the World Summit on Sustainable Development was hosted which produced the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation (JPOI) which was viewed as plan to implement Agenda 21. In 2012, in Rio, “The Future We Want” was adopted which looked at the Green Economy for Sustainable Development and an institutional framework for the attainment of sustainable development.    

Looking at the Rio+20 outcomes, where the “The Future We Want” policy was adopted, paragraph 245-251 focused on the development of the SDGs. Member states agreed that the SDGs must be anchored on certain building blocks, including, Agenda 21 and the JPOI, full respect of all Rio principles with a key one being common but differentiated responsibility, contribution to the full implementation of the outcomes of all major summits in economic, social and environmental fields as a cross-cutting measure, consistency with international law and to build on the commitments already made. This stemmed from an outcry by the developing world not to start at the bottom but on commitments already made. 

Mr Ramaru explained that Rio+20 was the UN Conference on Sustainable Development, hosted in Rio de Janeiro in 2012, which marked the 20 year anniversary of the first UN conference also hosted in Rio and out of which came Agenda 21 or the blueprint for the world to start moving toward the attainment of a sustainable development agenda.  

The other Rio+20 outcomes were to address and incorporate in a balanced way, all three dimensions of sustainable development and their inter-linkages, to be coherent with and integrated into the UN development agenda beyond 2015. This was not to divert focus or effort from the achievement of the MDGs, include active involvement of all relevant stakeholders in the process for a participatory process, the goalshad to be action-orientated, concise, easy to communicate, limited in number, aspirational and global in nature. Following this, a 30-member Open Working Group (OWG) of the General Assembly was established to prepare a proposal on the SDGs.   

The organisational work of the OWG on SDGs was structured on two phases – the first phase was focused on deliberations on main themes encapsulated in the Rio+20’s Framework for Action. This took on experts’ perspectives, inputs and views from member states and a range of stakeholders through a stock-taking exercise from March 2013 – February 2014. The second phase, from March 2014-September 2014, will entail the preparation of a report to be tabled at the 69th session of the UN’s General Assembly with a proposal of SDGs in September 2014. The number of goals proposed as per the current Zero Draft text were 17 goals in total with 169 targets.

Mr Ramaru then took the Committee through a large list of proposed goals. These included to end poverty in all its forms everywhere, end hunger, achieve food security and improve nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture, ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages with a focus on HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis, ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote life-long learning opportunities for all, achieve gender quality, empower women and girls, ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all, ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all with an emphasis on renewable energy, promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all.

Other proposed goals included to build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialisation and foster innovation, reduce inequality within and amongst countries including through financial investment, make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable, ensure globally sustainable consumption and production patterns through capacity building, conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development, protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems and take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts with the caveat that this goal was part of ongoing engagement in the UNFCCC so this was more of a generic goal.

The remaining proposed goals were to promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels, to strengthen the means of implementation and revitalise the  - global partnership for sustainable development, finance, technology, capacity building, trade and systemic issues, particularly, policy and institutional coherence, multi-stakeholder partnerships and data monitoring and accountability.

Mr Ramaru explained the key principles drew on lessons learnt from the MDGs, were specific on the actions required to attain the goals (which was one of the structural kisses of the MDGs), the means of implementation should accompany targets and commitments, the policy space should be afforded to countries as required and poverty eradication should be an overarching objectives of the SDGs along with social dimension, including, inequality, health, nutrition and education, as it deserved a special focus that extended through the faming of the post 2015 development agenda.

In preparation, there was work through inter-governmental engagements on the working draft with the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO), multi-stakeholder engagements on the working draft, participation in the 69th session of the UN General Assembly, formulation of the SA position on al proposed goals, approval of the SA position on the SDGs and participation in the formal negotiations on SDGs.

The recommendation to the Committee then was for it to note the SDGs and for the Committee to engage with the draft working document on the SDGs.

Minister Molewa noted there had been changes in some of the coordinating mechanisms. 

Mr Ramaru said there used to be a UN Commission on Sustainable Development which used to coordinate monitoring and reporting of the implementation on agreed targets under the JPOI. Going to Rio, there was a view this structure was no longer relevant and it was bringing in political participation which was not good for the global agenda of sustainable development. A High Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development was then constituted to draw on various ministries to ensure there was coherence and political participation at a high level through ministerial meetings to be convened every year with a meeting of the heads of state in the third year. There was ongoing work in terms of the alignment and restructuring of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) under the UN to be integrated into the High-Level Political Forum for convention back-to-back with UN General Assembly to draw on the participation of heads of state. In essence, the aim was to elevate the thinking of global sustainable development to the highest political leadership from Rio+20.

The Chairperson said this was important detail to be noted and included. Such high level participation showed the world was taking sustainable development seriously.

Ms Stander congratulated the Department on the document receiving such welcomed input. She asked if the SDGs were based on or aligned to the National Development Plan (NDP) because she saw a lot of referral to 2030. If SA was to test itself on the attainment of MDGs today, what percentage would it achieve out of 100? This was important to understand how far we had to go. The presentation spoke of a monitoring tool and measurement – had that been finalised? Did the goals have any steps on how to reach it given that the specifics would be different for each country? The “how” to achieve goals and targets were vital.

Mr Shelembe saw the Department was involving many other stakeholders but how was it going to see the goal to be achieved was clearly explained especially to local municipalities where there were mayors. His experience with the Integrated Development Plans (IDPs) was that there was no monitoring if local departments were attaining service delivery targets set out in the IDPs. The emphasis was on making delivery tangible to the people.

Mr Ramaru said the SDGs were largely informed by the NDP and this demonstrated the strength of SA’s planning system and tools.

With monitoring and evaluation, the MDG reports were used to monitor progress. When the target changed, the existing system simply needed to be aligned to the new targets. To determine percentage of achievement would differ from one goal to the next. On some goals SA was doing well while with others, achievement would be achieved by the deadline of 2015. The goals would be internalised and be aligned to the Department’s own strategies to look at what was needed to achieve each target.

Deputy Minister Thomson added what with local government, this was, simply put, the need for plans to talk to all spheres of government and this was precisely the role of the NCOP as this was the House which dealt with provinces. It was simple and understandable that plans should talk to all spheres of government.

Ms Lize McCourt, DEA, COO, was overseeing work on sustainable development even though did not fall under the branch she managed. It was not an accident that the NDP informed the SDGs as the NDP itself was informed by the national strategy for sustainable development. The Future We Want document outlined the need for an annual sustainable development report to look at indicators for these targets. The baseline measurement for the SDGs would come from progress made with the MDGs. Many of the new goals came out of the state of environment reporting or the sustainable development strategy and framework which would be used as an indicating baseline. Achievement of goals was linked to the national strategy for sustainable development. It was also important to look at the local and global state of environment reporting to look at what was measured, how frequently it was measured and the commonalities. The common but differentiated approach was key, based on where each country was in terms of its development path. With the IDPs, there was now the Spatial Planning and Land Use Management Act which allowed for upfront protection and allowed for alignment and a lack of delay in the intergovernmental forums.

Ms Stander’s first question was not answered which was where SA was now if were to be graded in the progress made toward achieving the SDGs. She understood that with some areas SA was more advanced than in others.   

Minister Molewa explained it was a little difficult to put a percentage mark. SA’s progress on the MDGs was reported to the UN last year and it would have to be consulted to answer the question definitively. There were some goals SA had surpassed by far. An example was access to water where the country was currently on 92% access with the challenges of a lack or non-functional infrastructure. This was way above the MDG of 50% by 2015. Universal access was now being targeted. With health, child mortality figures had surpassed the 50% target. Targets had also been achieved in the areas of energy and education. SA also had a role to play in assisting other African countries in achieving MDGs.

She heard a subtle call to discuss the impact of Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs) on development. This was an area to be unpacked as there needed to be a harmony between development and environmental protection.        

The Chairperson heard this but as the Committee interacted with the Department through various programmes, one of these programmes was enforcement so the matter would be discussed then. The Committee would also be grappling with how DEA fared with the Auditor-General, areas for improvement and intended action moving forward.

When the MDGs were put before the UN General Assembly, it was given a term of operation of 15 years since starting in 2000. The timeline put on NDP coincided with the SDGs operational timeline ending in 2030 after starting in 2015. This was a wonderful coincidence for SA and came in handy. SA was thus better placed and it would be foolhardy not to accept these SDGs because of the coincidence with the country’s broad internal developmental framework in the form of the NDP. The Committee had a full sense of what the SDGs were and the thinking within the corridors of the UN. There were basically no contradictions between the SDGs and NDP so there should be no qualms. The Committee was not the final decider as Parliament was obligated to involve South Africans on whatever matters directly affected them – one such matter was the SDGs. It was not foolhardy to take these matters to the people for their endorsement. This meant the Department, when they went to the UN, not only had Cabinet endorsement but the endorsement of the ordinary people of SA. The Department would then be emboldened and strengthened by the knowledge of endorsement by ordinary South Africans. He was happy the matter was up for discussion at the public hearings. It was important to explain to people how far the country had come in achieving the MDGs because this question might be asked.          

Ms Stander said this was all very well but she felt progress needed to be communicated in a way that showed where the country started and what the target had achieved. 

Ms McCourt said this would be done. She mentioned an important difference between the SDGs and MDGs were that the latter had an end date while the former did not, as yet. Very few of the dates were exactly 2030.  

Mr Shelembe proposed the Committee agree with the recommendation as proposed.  

The Chairperson noted the briefing helped the Committee in facilitating the public hearings.

The meeting was adjourned.

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