Progress report on air pollution hotspots; Committee Programme; Meeting with delegation from Norway

Environment, Forestry and Fisheries

24 February 2015
Chairperson: Mr J Mthembu (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Committee met for the first time this year to discuss a number of in-house matters including the adoption of an outstanding set of minutes, the draft Committee programme for the first term and a draft oversight report to the Gauteng and Mpumalanga provinces on air quality hotspots conducted last year. After some discussion on these issues, the report, programme and minutes were adopted in principle with minor amendments to be made following the Committee discussion.

The Committee then met with the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) to be briefed on progress in priority areas relating to air quality and the Vaal healthy study following the oversight visit. The presentation looked at the background to the issues, capacity building programmes by DEA, coordination and interventions by industry, progress in the Waterberg-Bojanala priority area, the state of air in priority areas before concluding with the Vaal health study vulnerability assessment, medical study and community survey. Generally the purpose of the briefing was to provide a summary of the progress with the implementation of air quality management plans (AQMPs) in the National Air Quality Priority Areas, including progress with respect to the Vaal Triangle Airshed Priority Area Health study, state of Air in the Priority Areas and to provide a summary of the decision made regarding the applications for postponement of compliance timeframes in terms of the Air Quality Act, Section 21 Notice.

Although there was a lack of time and because some of the information needed to fully brief the Committee was not available, it was decided that the Department should return with the full briefing when there was more time available. A Member of the Committee still posed questions relating to:

How would DEA monitor that Eskom was in fact complying with compliance targets? Who was going to monitor this? How would this monitoring be done?

- What would DEA do if there was non-compliance with postponement conditions?

- In what circumstances would postponements be withdrawn?

- There was a feeling that off-sets would cost the economy more than non-compliance or cause more problems for the environment – what was the Department’s response to this?

- When did DEA consider postponements in priority areas if the framework only permitted applications if the AAQSRS was in compliance?

- When did the Department consider applications for 2020 postponements when new technology and financial situations might be different by then?

- She also sought more information on meetings in the Highveld priority area being postponed due to disruptions

Some of these questions were responded to but further discussion would take place at a later stage.

In the presence of the Minister, the Committee was then briefed ahead of the meeting with the Norwegian Committee on the Environment and Energy. The briefing covered the background to environmental cooperation between the two countries, new environmental cooperation and future areas for cooperation.

In the meeting between the two Committees, the historical ties between the countries were emphasised along with cooperation between the two on the oceans economy and climate change action ahead of COP21 in Paris, France.

Meeting report

Chairperson's Thanks
The Chairperson thanked Members and staff for their prayers during the end of last year when he was shot while drawing money from an ATM. He was inundated with calls, messages and visits and he was very grateful for this. He also thanked Mr P Mabilo (ANC) for chairing the Committee during his absence as well as the Committee Whip and staff for ensuring the Committee still ran smoothly. He also thanked the All Mighty.

Committee Minutes dated 11 November 2014
Committee minutes dated 11 November 2014 were adopted with minor amendments. 

Committee First Term Programme
Mr S Makhubele (ANC) took the Committee through key points in the first term programme and broad key performance areas the Committee would explore. This included matters relating to climate change, biodiversity and conservation, waste management and oceans, air quality and pollution and coastal management. The Committee would also be dealing with legislation (development, review and amendment) cutting across various branches.  There was also the performance of entities along with emphasis on the budget votes. The Committee would also be interested in progress made since the 20th Congress of the Parties (COP) in Lima, Peru, 2014, as well as plans and preparations for COP21 in Paris, France, 2015. Sustainable development goals would also be taken into consideration for global expectations. Oversight also formed part of the Committee's programme, especially the outstanding visits. The Committee also intended to look at economic transformation for broad participation, alleviating poverty and inequality and creating employment and the Department's performance in this regard. The issue of rhino poaching would be expanded to look at wildlife crime as a whole in terms of threatened species. The Committee wished to expand on the topic of the waste economy and broad participation as well as the energy mix given the challenges the country currently faced. Broadly, these were the factors which informed the Committee's programme. The Committee would be meeting on Tuesdays.  On 3 March 2015, the Committee would be briefed by the Department on wildlife crime.  The Member mentioned the agendas for each meeting for the rest of this term.

The Chairperson highlighted that the meeting agenda for March 3 made mention of a Department proposal but to the best of his knowledge there was no such proposal. Therefore, the Committee could only request a briefing on the team investigating the matter. 

Ms T Stander (DA) asked who submitted the agenda items for the Committee's programme – was it the Committee or was something received from the Department. She was aware of SA negotiating with rhino range states to support a possible proposal to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) ahead of COP 2016.

Mr T Hadebe (DA) concurred with the Chairperson that there was no agreement or discussion by the Committee on the matter of a proposal. He supported the Chairperson in that such a proposal was never discussed and was never part of any of the Committee's meetings as far as he could recall.

Mr P Mabilo (ANC) thought the Chairperson had the correct interpretation and the time of the meeting should not be wasted.

The Chairperson said there would still be a briefing by the Department – he was concerned of putting words in the mouth of the Department to say there was a proposal. As a Chairperson of the Committee, he had never seen a proposal by the Department on limited trade or sale of rhino horn so therefore he could not say there was a proposal. The briefing could look at the task team set up to investigate limited trade and terms of reference. Members could then raise any matter at such a briefing.

The Committee agreed.

The Chairperson noted the one agenda item missing from the programme was a briefing on preparations for CITIES 2016 seeing as SA was hosting the event. The Committee would want to know the details around this.

Mr Makhubele agreed noting it was important for the Committee to be aware of the financial implications of the country hosting the event. 

Ms Stander was concerned about the lack of time with the Committee being reduced to five Committee meetings after delays and postponements. Many of the items made for important discussion and she was concerned of the history of the Committee running out of time when there was important discussion. She asked if the Chairperson would consider adding Thursday meetings and splitting some of the combined items to allow for more time. She was also concerned that there was only one day to look at the budget of the Department and its entities – she requested an additional Thursday meeting be added.

The Chairperson said these were valid points and the Committee was very loaded with work. He would look at the possibility of adding two Thursday meetings and the logistics around it. The principle was accepted to amend the programme in this way. Other than this, the draft Committee first term programme was accepted.

Draft Report on Oversight visit to Gauteng and Mpumalanga on Air Quality Pollution Hotspots
Mr Mabilo thought the report was a fair reflection of the visit. He had gone through the report three times and was very comfortable with it.

Mr Hadebe agreed that the report was a true reflection of what transpired on the visit.

Mr Makhubele thought there should be some sort of assessment on how the industries visited were faring in terms of air quality in the conclusion of the report. 

Mr Mabilo said, candidly and frankly, that the report was not exhaustive or conclusive but was an entry/starting point. There was a sense of urgency to visit big industries in other provinces to get an overall view. 

Mr Hadebe was also concerned that initially, the visit was supposed to take place in Durban too. It was important to look at emissions in the country overall and not two areas although they were high priority areas identified by government. A conclusion could not be based on two areas.

Ms Stander requested a briefing on the applications of postponements to comply with national air quality standards. With the recommendations of the report, in the case of Eskom, the Committee was shown one of the less problem areas. In future, the Committee should choose which sites were visited instead of being dictated to by any of the role-players. The Committee should be informed by communities as to the problem sites. She highlighted the need for an externality report by the Department and how such a study would show the real impact of air quality on people and the economy. The recommendations should support the Department’s initiative to have fully functional air quality monitoring stations.     

The Chairperson agreed with the last point raised by the Member and suggested she put it in writing. The same went for the point on externality studies. At some stage, all the industry players who did not play by the rules of air quality standards should be named and shamed. These players should be told to pay for the degradation they caused and the health of South Africans who suffered as a result of their emissions. He assured the Committee was on the case of these industry players as public representatives. Pollution was a serious killer and this included water pollution. This might necessitate the Committee meet with the relevant Portfolio Committee. 

Mr Makhubele was comfortable that this be included in the drafting of a conclusion to the report.

Mr Mabilo thought the two issues which came out during the oversight visit – the R800 million investment into the USA by Sasol and matters of litigation – should be included in the report. He thought this was fundamental.

The Chairperson said there was nothing wrong with people investing in the same way as other people from other countries invested in SA. Sasol and other companies however should be encouraged to invest in the country of its origin as they invested in other countries and in view of high numbers of unemployment and poverty.

Ms Stander updated the Committee that apparently Sasol was shelving its R11 billion investment in Louisiana due to the drop in oil price.

The Chairperson said this needed to be verified or investigated before it was included in the report.

The Chairperson said the draft report would then be reworked based on this discussion. 

Change in Committee Membership
The Chairperson noted that Mr A Mngxitama (EFF) had since been replaced by Mr K Morapela (EFF).

Progress on Priority Areas Implementation and the Vaal Health Study HRA
Ms Judy Beaumont, DEA DDG: Climate Change and Air Quality, said it was great to have the Chairperson back in full health. The requested briefing would build on the Committee’s oversight visit in terms of progress of implementation in the priority areas in particular focusing on the Vaal Triangle and the Highveld. With the Sasol legal review, the case was still proceeding and the Department was responding by providing the necessary information. The Committee would be alerted of any updates.

The Chairperson sought clarity on who was responsible for an externality study on the impact on the environment and communities. Was this the responsibility of the Department?

Ms Nosipho Ngcaba, DEA DG, explained the Department had a responsibility to assess the impacts of various pollutants to the environment and health of studies. This was prioritised in the Annual Performance Plan and various comparatives were used for figures on health impacts. With more money, more could be done but the Department was subject to limitations. In short, yes, the Department could undertake an externality study in collaboration with other academic institutions, resources permitting, and it would be of use for the entities to partake. 

Dr Thuli Mdluli, DEA Air Quality Officer, explained the purpose of the briefing was to provide a summary of the progress with the implementation of air quality management plans (AQMPs) in the National Air Quality Priority Areas, including progress with respect to the Vaal Triangle Airshed Priority Area Health study, state of Air in the Priority Areas and to provide a summary of the decision made regarding the applications for postponement of compliance timeframes in terms of the Air Quality Act, Section 21 Notice.

In terms of background, The Vaal Triangle Air-shed Priority Area (VTAPA) was declared a priority area in 2006 and the AQMP was published in 2009 for implementation, the Highveld Priority Area (HPA) was declared in 2007 and the AQMP was published in 2011 and the Waterberg-Bojanala Priority Area (WBPA) was declared in 2012 and the AQMP is currently under development.

Turning to capacity building programmes by DEA, the Department undertook several capacity building initiatives to provincial and municipal air quality officials in the priority area, including, air quality monitoring, stack emission monitoring and reporting of AELs, vehicle Emission Testing and Awareness Workshop and Air Quality Legislations and related regulations. In addition, the Department held several workshops to capacitate NGOs on air quality matters so that they can engage effectively in AQMP implementation. There were also plans to run a number of awareness campaigns.

Dr Mdluli looked at coordination and explained the Department had established the following two structures to oversee and coordinate implementation of the AQMPs in both priority areas. In addition, there were a number of intervention by industry

Multi-Stakeholder reference Group (MSRG): body to oversee the implementation of the AQMPs and was held twice a year.

Implantation Task Teams (ITTs): responsible for the coordination and implementation of the AQMPs and met quarterly

Dr Mdluli said that progress was made on the Waterberg-Bojanala priority area including the establishment of the baseline to characterise current sources of emissions and their impacts, the threat assessment to establish future threats a result of strategic infrastructure projects envisaged in the area and a gap analysis and intervention strategies. The draft AQMP had been compiled and shared with the MSRG. The AQMP was currently awaiting approval for publication in the Gazette for public comment.

Dr Mdluli then discussed the state of air in the priority areas before looking at the vulnerability study of the Vaal Health Study noting that the assessment was done based on population sensitivity (children below 15 years of age and the elderly above 65 years of age) and socioeconomic status (the unemployed, people living below the poverty level of R400 per person per month and people who live in informal houses). Different areas in the VTAPA were found to have different vulnerability scores. Taking into consideration both population vulnerability/sensitivity and prevailing PM concentrations, it was clear that  people living east of Three Rivers and west of Sebokeng were three to seven times at risk of suffering from health impacts associated with PM than the rest of the population in the VTAPA. With the medical survey, it had been undertaken to assess the impacts of air pollution on the lung function of school children (240 learners, Grade 3-6). Lung function tests had been done at the four selected primary schools within a 1-2km radius of the monitoring stations in the Diepkloof, Zamdela, Sharpeville and Sebokeng during winter and summer months. The preliminary test results were currently being analysed to establish relationships between lung function and air pollution. The report on medical survey will be available in April 2015. The community survey (sample of 1000 households) had been completed as well as a multi-variate analysis. The community survey sought to establish the prevalence of respiratory illnesses within sampled communities as well as possible compounding factors. The results of the community survey will be available in June 2015.

The Chairperson suggested that when the information was received by the Committee there could be further discussion with the Department so that Members were clear on when the postponements were being applied for and timelines involved. At the moment, the presentation was going through the motions. At the moment, it was known that there were 37 postponement requests, including Sasol and Eskom.

Ms Stander asked if she would have the opportunity to pose her ten questions in the meantime.

Mr Makhubele agreed that it was best to postpone this discussion. It was also not the primary work of the Committee, like legislation was, but there needed to be an understanding of whether the postponements were applied for in a reasonable manner or not. He did not see why Ms Stander had questions when the issue would be discussed again at a later time.

Ms Stander said the documents relating to the visit by the Norwegian Committee was received by Members on the weekend so there was enough time to have gone through that. The Committee, however, did not have the time to interact with the Department which could occur now.

The Chairperson asked that the Member understand the limitations of time and that there were some issues to discuss before the Norwegian delegation arrived. He allowed her five minutes to pose her questions.

Ms Stander asked:

- How would DEA monitor that Eskom was in fact complying with compliance targets? Who was going to monitor this? How would this monitoring be done?

- What would DEA do if there was non-compliance with postponement conditions?

- In what circumstances would postponements be withdrawn?

- There was a feeling that off-sets would cost the economy more than non-compliance or cause more problems for the environment – what was the Department’s response to this?

- When did DEA consider postponements in priority areas if the framework only permitted applications if the AAQSRS was in compliance?

- When did the Department consider applications for 2020 postponements when new technology and financial situations might be different by then?

- She also sought more information on meetings in the Highveld priority area being postponed due to disruptions.

The Chairperson noted that many of the questions could be answered by the further information the Department needed to supply the Committee with but it could respond to any of the questions if it so wished.

Dr Ntuli replied that with monitoring compliance, this would be done according to the atmospheric emission licences and through licensing authorities. The same legislation provisions would apply as it was not something to be dealt with separately. The legislation was very clear at which point the withdrawal of a postponement would occur so this would be adhered to. The idea of off sets costing the economy more was totally incorrect and this matter could be discussed more when the Department returned. The legislation was clear that applications for postponement must be lodged with the air quality office a year before the required date of compliance. She expected that if the required date of compliance was 1 April 2020 that the application for postponement should be submitted the air quality officer by 31 March 2019 – this was clear in the legislation.  Postponement in priority areas was determined by the sustainable balance. With the priority area meetings, members of the DEA were threatened and the Department was guided by its principals that it was risky to continue with these meetings unless the blue brigade was present and police. At this stage it was very dangerous for the staff of the Department, provincial, district and local authorities because of the threatening of protests.

The Chairperson assured the Committee that this discussion was far from over and more information was needed on certain factors. One of the strongest focus areas of the Committee was air pollution and there was no question about that. He was particularly worried about the Department being threatened for doing their jobs.

The Chairperson welcomed the Minister of the Department of Environmental Affairs, Ms Edna Molewa. 

Environmental Cooperation between Norway and South Africa
The Chairperson noted it was clear the Committee was meeting with people who were prepared to be an assisting and reliable ally to the government and the people of SA. Norway had put money into SA environmental programmes. The country was also a dependable ally in the fight against apartheid along with other Scandinavian countries. The freedoms of SA were achieved through such contributions.

Minister Molewa apologised for her late arrival because she was in a cluster briefing.

Mr Zahir Fakier, DEA Chief Policy Advisor: International Governance, provided the background to relations between SA and Norway, environmentally, highlighting the environmental cooperation programme between SA and the Kingdom of Norway which formally commenced on 13 June 1997. Between 1997 and 2000, there was an environmental programme and a Marine Fisheries Programme with a total value of 20 million Norwegian Krone (NOK) or R18.4 million. Between 2000 and 2005, the Environmental Co-operation Programme was financed through a grant of NOK 60 million (R45 million). Between 2005 and 2010, there was environmental cooperation with a total value of NOK 55 million (approximately R66 million). The areas supported, included, air quality, Wetlands, Threatened Species, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red list, Cultural Heritage and World Heritage sites, Climate Change, SADC Indicators, State of Environment Reporting, pollution and waste, environmental governance, Fisheries research, rights allocation and training in fisheries management.

Mr Fakir turned to new environmental cooperation noting that in June 2013, Minister Molewa signed a Declaration of Intent (DoI) on future environmental cooperation in terms of Climate change, Oceans and coastal management, biodiversity, chemicals and any other areas of mutual agreement. In November 2014 DEA together with the Ambassador of Norway signed the new Business Plan (2014-2017) for the environmental cooperation programme capacity development within the SA National Inventory Unit. A financial grant of up to NOK 5 million (approx. R 7.9 million) (subject to Parliamentary appropriations and the terms and procedures of this Business Plan) was also granted.

Potential future areas of cooperation included Blue (Oceans) Economy, marine transport and manufacturing, offshore oil and gas exploration, aquaculture, marine protection services and ocean governance. Norway was one of the pioneering countries in unlocking the economic potential in the ocean economy and the maritime sector.

Minister Molewa thought this was a very welcome initiative for the Norwegians to request this meeting. It was important to listen carefully to the issues raised by the delegation so that a dialogue could occur. She had a meeting with the Norwegian Minister of Environmental Affairs and the King of Norway about two weeks ago. In the meeting, issues were raised around when SA would be submitting its Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) – something which the Committee needed to be briefed about too. Currently, the INDCs were being processed and the goal was to submit by September/October which was the end deadline. These INDCs were needed before COP21 in Paris. Other matters to discuss with the Norwegians included the oceans economy – this was an important area for which SA needed support and capacity building. The Department was also working with Norway on Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) along with Sasol. 

The Chairperson indicated Members were free to raise any matters during the dialogue. A key matter to raise was Parliament to Parliament cooperation especially on the ocean economy in relation to accountability. 

Meeting with the Norwegian Parliamentary Standing Committee on Energy and Environment
After introductions, the Chairperson commented on the ties between SA and Norway during the anti-apartheid struggle – this partnership was still valued even in democracy. Norway was a dependable ally in the area of environmental governance and the two countries would walk together to Paris to find a lasting solution to the threat of climate change. SA could learn a lot from Norway on the Blue Economy and how to hold the executive accountable on matters such as lowering carbon content. The Blue Economy was particularly important for SA because of the serious problems of unemployment and poverty. The Norwegian Committee was most welcome to sunny South Africa.

The Norwegian delegation, led by the Chairperson Mr Ola Elvestuen, appreciated the historical ties between SA and Norway and the current cooperation between the countries on various matters relating to environmental and energy sectors. The delegation arrived last night after visiting Tanzania and would be staying until Friday. Some of the Members had already visited the country before.

The meeting was adjourned.


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