Green Fund; Convention on Control of Trans Boundary Movements of Hazardous Waste & Disposal: briefing

Environment, Forestry and Fisheries

12 May 2015
Chairperson: Mr J Mthembu (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Portfolio Committee on Environmental Affairs agreed that South Africa should ratify the Basel Convention Ban Amendment, after a briefing by the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) on the Convention. The Basel Convention was an international treaty that was designed to reduce the movements of hazardous waste between nations, and specifically to prevent transfer of hazardous waste from developed to less developed countries (LDCs).

The Department indicated that South Africa should ratify the convention because the country already applied the notification and control system as set out in the Basel Convention. Ratifying would complement what was already practised in South Africa. Pursuant to International Trade Administration Act (ITAC) No.71 of 2003, a permit was required to be issued by ITAC before any waste identified in Annexure 111 of the Convention could be imported or exported. Already, there was a Memoranda of Understanding between ITAC and DEA. It detailed the coordination and consultation procedures pertaining to import and export of waste.

Ratifying the Ban Amendment would have no negative economic or other implications for South Africa. It would only have positive implications for the environment and human health. In line with the Ban Amendment, South Africa did accept waste from SADC countries which did not have the necessary capacity to dispose of hazardous waste in their own countries.

It was also noted South Africa fully supported the objectives of the Ban, recognising that Africa, in particular, had no capacity to adequately deal with hazardous waste. The Ban would make a significant contribution to reducing the problems in Africa related to the dumping of hazardous waste.

Stakeholders that were consulted regarding the proposed ratification all concluded that the ratification of the Ban would not conflict with the domestic laws and international obligations of South Africa.

The Committee was also briefed about the progress on the Green Fund. It learnt that a total of 53 projects had been approved. This included 29 Investment Projects, 16 Research and Policy Development Projects and eight Capacity Building Projects. A sum of R1 126 250 446 has been allocated for these projects.

Out of the 53 projects, three projects were withdrawn because the projects failed to meet the terms and conditions as per approval, and one was cancelled due to poor performance despite interventions undertaken including conflict resolution.

It was believed that these projects would, amongst other things, increase investment flows, attract private sector participation, and provide opportunity for sustainability in the medium to long term. They would create jobs, empower the young, help in the transference of skills, reduce greenhouse gas carbon emission, help in the diversion of waste from landfill, and provide sustainable environmental management.

Members, concerning ratification, wanted to know the reasons that developed countries gave on why they could not deal with their own waste in their own countries. They asked what the instrument of ratification entailed, and if the Basel Convention protected poor countries. Members wanted to establish how long South Africa would have to wait for other SADC countries to have capacity to deal with hazardous waste.

Regarding the Green Fund, they commented that there was nothing done on the geographical spread of investment projects, only commitments were indicated. They asked if the Department was going to roll out the breeding of the Ox-pecker birds to other provinces and wanted to find out if a feasibility study has been carried on the migration of the Ox-pecker birds. They asked why COSATU was the only federation benefiting from the Climate Change Capacity Building Programme; and wanted to know why the CSIR Anaerobic Digestion Technology Project was withdrawn.
 

Meeting report

Briefing by the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) on the Basel Convention on Control of Trans Boundary Movements of Hazardous Waste and their Disposal

Mr Obed Baloyi, Chief Director: Chemical Management, Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA), in his brief background of the Basel Convention Ban Amendment, informed the Committee that at the Conference of the Parties (COP) 1 in 1992, parties adopted Decision 1/22 requesting industrialised countries to refrain from exporting hazardous waste for disposal to developing countries. In 1994 at the COP 2, parties agreed to ban immediately all export of hazardous waste from Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) to non-OECD countries for final disposal, and they agreed to ban the export of hazardous waste intended for recovery and recycling by 31 December 1997.

The agreement on the entry into force of the Ban Amendment was reached at the 10th COP in October 2011. However, it had not yet entered into force due to lack of sufficient ratifications. It would enter into force globally once three-quarters of those parties that were parties when the amendment was adopted had deposited their instrument of ratification. At that time, 49 of the 88 parties of the Convention at the time of COP 3 had ratified the Ban. This left a further 16 ratifications to bring the amendment into force.

South Africa should ratify the Ban Amendment as the country already applied the notification and control system as set out in the Basel Convention. Ratifying would complement what was already practised in South Africa. Pursuant to International Trade Administration Act (ITAC) No.71 of 2003, a permit was required to be issued by ITAC before any waste identified in Annexure 111 of the Convention could be imported or exported. Already, there was a Memoranda of Understanding between ITAC and DEA. It detailed the coordination and consultation procedures pertaining to import and export of waste.

It was also noted that South Africa fully supported the objectives of the Ban, recognising that Africa, in particular, had no capacity to adequately deal with hazardous waste. The Ban would make a significant contribution to reducing the problems of Africa regarding the dumping of hazardous waste. South Africa had already increasingly experienced imports of used products such as used tyres, electronic equipment and others being imported as used goods but often being waste.

Ratifying the Ban Amendment would have no negative economic or other implications for South Africa. It would only have positive implications for the environment and human health. In line with the Ban Amendment, South Africa did accept waste from Southern African Development Community (SADC) countries which did not have the necessary capacity to dispose of hazardous waste in their own countries. The Ban Amendment did not affect the export of hazardous waste from South Africa to non-OECD as well as OECD countries. South Africa would be able to continue to send waste abroad for recovery and disposal in accordance with the Basel Convention.

In conclusion, Mr Baloyi stated that parties that were consulted regarding the proposed ratification included the Departments of Justice, Correctional Services and International Relations and Cooperation. They all concluded that the ratification of the Ban would not conflict with the domestic laws and international obligations of South Africa. Other relevant stakeholders like the Departments of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Science and Technology, Transport, Health, Labour and NGOs such as Groundworks, Chemical and Allied Industries Association (CAIA) and Agricultural and Veterinary Chemicals Association of South Africa (AVCASA) were consulted through the Multi-Stakeholder Committee.

Discussion

Mr S Makhubele (ANC) wanted to know the reasons that developed countries give on why they cannot deal with their own waste in their own countries; and asked what the instrument of ratification entailed.

Mr Mark Gordon, Deputy Director-General: Chemicals and Waste, DEA, responded that, from a morality point of view, the developed world was far ahead of us in terms of regulations and policies. The developed countries had developed standards in their own countries which barred them from disposing waste in their own countries. That was why they exported waste to Africa under the pretext of recycling. From a technology viewpoint, Africa did not have, and was still struggling to have, capacity to use technology for recycling waste. From an economic viewpoint, it was cheaper to dump waste than to recycle it. It was only recently that countries like South Africa were starting to introduce legislation and policies around foreign waste.

Mr Baloyi responded that if South Africa ratified, the instrument would indicate the commitment of South Africa which would then be forwarded to the Secretariat of the Basel Convention.

Mr T Hadebe (DA) enquired about the financial implications of exporting waste to other countries.

Mr Baloyi said South Africa did not receive most of the waste. The country had world-class landfills which allowed it to receive some of the waste but under very strict conditions.

Mr P Mabilo (ANC) asked what penalties and deterrents were there for developing countries that continued to dump waste in South Africa and if there was capacity to check compliance.

Mr Baloyi reported that the country had prevented large proliferation of hazardous waste and it was protected by regulations which were very strict. There was capacity to deal with such waste in an effective manner.

Ms J Maluleke (ANC) wanted to find out if the Basel Convention protected poor countries because they might receive waste unknowingly thinking that it what useful goods.

Mr Baloyi indicated that the Department was currently busy training custom officials in chemical management. A pilot project had been started in KwaZulu-Natal already in order to identify and combat illegal dumping of foreign waste.

Ms J Steenkamp (DA) remarked that if ratification had no economic effects, it should be stopped immediately, and she wanted to know why Africa was allowed to be a dumping place in the first place.

Mr Baloyi stated that for a long time Africa had been regarded as cheap. For instance, in one country in Africa, waste was dumped under the disguise of storage. Later, these ‘goods’ were discovered to be a toxic waste and it killed many people. In some African countries this was done for economic purposes because of ties they had with the developed countries. They depended on them for financial support. But in South Africa the case had been different and was tackled step by step.

Mr Hadebe suggested that the DEA should brief the Committee in detail about the Basel Convention so that the Committee could understand this story intimately.

The Chairperson accused the Department of sleeping on the job. He did not understand why the Department was bringing the issue of ratification to the Committee now yet the problem has been in existence around 1992 after the Basel Convention and could have been handled as early as 1994. It was 2015 and South Africa still had not ratified. He further suggested the Department should start dealing with dumping broadly because there were other things like clothes and third class cars from other countries that were dumped in South Africa.

Mr Baloyi responded that it may seem that the Department had been sleeping on the job but the problem was around capacity to implement. In 2008 South Africa did not have a Waste Act. It came later to try to supplement what the Basel Convention what advocating. It would not make sense to ratify if there was no capacity to implement. The laws of the country regarding waste matters had been too lax but now there were many regulations that had been introduced to deal with electronic waste.

Pertaining to other things that were dumped in the country, there were countries that shipped computers or electronic appliances, for example, to Africa as goods. These “goods” bypassed the Basel Convention guidelines because the shipment was labelled as goods. However, they worked only for a few months and then broke. Currently, South Africa was developing guidelines to identify if these goods were going to be useful and not be useless or waste.

Mr M Shelembe (NFP) wanted to establish how long South Africa had to wait for other SADC countries to have capacity to deal with hazardous waste.

Mr Baloyi acknowledged that many SADC countries did not have the capacity to deal with hazardous waste. But South Africa, to a certain extent, had the capacity. The Basel Convention did not limit South Africa to export the waste it generated but could not deal with. South Africa also imported waste it could deal with but did not generate.

Ms Lize McCourt, Acting Director-General, DEA, added it was important to look at the economic state of other SADC countries. This meant the waiting period was going to be longer. Some of these countries did not even have legislation on waste. This meant bilateral agreements had to be revisited to see what the role of South Africa was regarding waste.

South Africa was party to all four conventions that governed chemical and hazardous waste. A lot of policy discussion still needed to happen around what had been happening between 2011 and 2015. Her team was putting together all the requirements for the Basel Convention, working on the timelines for reporting to the Secretariat, and compiling the report to be presented to the Committee about compliance and readiness.

The Chairperson informed the meeting that the Committee did not have a problem with forwarding an approval for ratifying. This could have been done in 1994. Unfortunately, it did not happen. The DEA should go back and finalise all the issues pertaining to ratification. It should also consider “other dumped things” and not confine itself only to issues that effected it. A broader discussion on this was needed and input from other relevant stakeholders should be given attention.

The Committee considered the request tabled before Parliament to recommend it approved the ratification of the Basel Convention Ban Amendment by South Africa. The Committee unanimously agreed to ratify.

Briefing by the DEA on the Green Fund

Mr Tlou Ramara, Chief Director: Sustainable Development, DEA, told the Committee that a total of 53 projects had been approved. This included 29 investment projects, 16 research and policy development projects and 8 capacity building projects. A sum of R1 126 250 446 had been allocated for these projects.

Investment Projects

Of the 29 investment projects that had been approved, 18 projects were under implementation; seven projects were at various stages of contracting which were subjected to terms and conditions and this included four newly approved projects. Three projects were withdrawn and one project was cancelled as the projects failed to meet the terms and conditions as per approval.

The Durban University of Technology (DUT) project was cancelled due to poor performance despite interventions undertaken including conflict resolution. Its focus was on supplying portable water in remote rural areas. The Reliance Composting project was withdrawn by the Project Developer. It focused on integrated waste management and composting of green waste from the coastal towns.

The implementation of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) Anaerobic Digestion Technology Project was withdrawn as the project failed to meet terms and conditions as per approval. Its objective was to increase the biogas production potential for the generation of electricity. The Microhydro Electric Plant was withdrawn by the Project Developer because the project failed to meet terms and conditions as per approval. Its focus was on the development of the plant and generation of renewable energy.

It what projected that approximately 14 150 jobs would be created once the projects were fully implemented and these were multiple year projects. A total of R1 024 006 159 had been approved for these projects. The Treasury had approved a new allocation of R590 million to 2018/19 financial-year.

Research and Policy Development Projects

The main objective here was to inform policy imperatives. A total of 16 research and policy development initiatives had been approved to the value of R36 270 177. The contracting of all 16 projects had been undertaken, and funds allocated to the research and development initiatives had been fully disbursed. The expected dates of completion were envisaged to be between September 2015 and December 2015.

Capacity Building Projects

The Green Fund supported strategic capacity building initiatives in order to assist in the transition to green economy. A total of eight capacity development projects were approved to the value of approximately R66 000 000. The timeframes for these projects varied from one to three years. These projects included:

  • Green Economy Skills and Small, Medium and Micro Enterprise (SMME) Development
  • Renewable Energy Centre of Excellence
  • Establishment of the Environmental Assessment Practitioners Association of South Africa
  • Climate Innovation Centre Programme
  • Green Economy Postdoctoral Fellowship Programme
  • Green Jobs Training Programme for South Africa
  • Building Climate Change Capacity for Labour programme
  • Building System Capacity for Green Skills Development in South Africa

Tables were shown to illustrate the budget, geographical spread of investments and the list of all 53 projects and what they entailed.

Mr Ramara concluded that, from an economic viewpoint, these projects were going to increase investment flows, attract private sector participation, provide opportunity for sustainability in the medium to long term, reduce energy consumption, and have the potential for leveraging off additional investments. Socially, they were going to create jobs, empower the young, help in the transference of skills, and improve the quality of life. Environmentally, they would reduce greenhouse gas carbon emission, reduce energy consumption, help in the diversion of waste from landfill, and provide sustainable environmental management.

Discussion

Ms H Nyambi (ANC) said that there was nothing done on the geographical spread of investment projects, only commitments had been indicated. She asked how many women and young people were trained in these projects.

Mr Ramara indicated that a commitment meant there was money available but there must be milestones achieved before disbursements came in. With regard to training of women and young people, he explained that on some projects most people employed were women while others trained young people. He added that there was going to be a team that was going to look seriously into the figures of women and young people who were on these projects and the kind of training they would be receiving. The figures would then be tabled to the Department.

Ms H Kekana (ANC) asked if the Department was going to roll out the breeding of the Ox-pecker birds to other provinces.

Mr Ramara stated that there were plans to extend the roll-out to provinces where it was known they would survive. South African National Parks (SAN Parks) was also involved in this project. The Western Cape would not be considered because the birds would not survive in the area. Limpopo and Mpumalanga, after KwaZulu-Natal and Eastern Cape, were the next provinces to benefit from this project. There was going to be a shared allocation between the two provinces on the Ox-pecker project. It was further highlighted the Ox-pecker birds were extinct because of the medication applied to cows when they were dipped in order to kill ticks. The Ox-pecker birds had a mutual relationship with the cows because they survive from eating the ticks of the cows.

Mr Mabilo wanted to find out if a feasibility study had been carried out on the migration of the Ox-pecker birds so that the country did not lose money in this project.

Ms McCourt said the Ox-peckers were not the longest migratory birds like the predators. They would just go across the river and come back. The project was sustainable.

Mr K Morapele (EFF) wanted to know why the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) was the only federation benefiting from the Climate Change Capacity Programme.

Mr Ramara reported that advertisements for participating in this programme were placed in regional and national newspapers. COSATU was the only federation that applied and had been successful in its application to receive support for capacity development. Every application was treated on its merit.

Mr Makhubele wanted to know if the Green Fund contributed to the Green Economy.

Mr Ramara said the Green Economy was a concept that facilitated resource efficiency and low carbon trajectory while the Green Fund was one of the mechanics that helped to achieve the green economy trajectory.

Ms Maluleke wanted to establish why the Free State Province was lagging behind in the implementation of Jobs in Waste for Youth.

Mr Ramara said the Free State needed to fast-track the procurement of waste bins.

Mr Makhubele enquired if there would be permanent jobs left after the completion of these projects.

Mr Ramara explained that projects that continued past the allocated funding would continue to provide permanent jobs. Projects with a shorter lifespan would provide temporary jobs.

Mr Hadebe wanted to find out if a new tertiary institution would be appointed to replace the Durban University of Technology (DUT) which withdrew from one of the Green Fund Projects of providing water to the rural villages.

Ms McCourt explained that DUT withdrew from the project because it was fighting with its partner over the Intellectual Property (IP) rights. The project was about testing purifiers to make sure water was consumable. The co-partner of DUT had leverage over the IP and the two organisations fought. There were interventions but DUT resigned from the project. That was why the project was still on hold and no service provider had been approached for the project.

The Green Fund wanted to ensure that if the government solely funded a project, the intellectual property rights would belong to the people of South Africa. This was a matter of principle and it was important in the long term.

Mr Makhubele wanted to know why the CSIR Anaerobic Digestion Technology Project was withdrawn.

Mr Ramara reported that the issue was around the agreements. The service provider did not sign the agreement because it did not commit on the issue of waste water which was necessary for the project. This followed many months of interventions.

Mr Makhubele expressed dissatisfaction with the answer, saying the Department was not telling the Committee the full details on why the service provider refused to sign the document.

The Chairperson  stated the Department must find a way of resuscitating the DUT and CSIR projects; and indicated that it was important the Committee was educated about the role of the Green Fund in climate change adaptation, greenhouse gas and natural disasters.

Ms McCourt informed the Committee that the Department had resolved to review the Green Fund after three years. Many of the projects were co-funded. There had been no success in trying to attract funding to the investment itself. The current review was trying to find out why there was no investment in the fund. Many institutions had expressed interest but no funding had been received up to now. The Department had pockets of money that focused on climate change and adaptation and environmental programmes. The Natural Resource Management and the Conservation Management were said to have a climate adaptation focus. There was no funding from the private sector. Which was why the review had to look at the programmes that had sustainability, identify programmes which were of short-term nature, and indicate which ones addressed climate change technologies.

The meeting was adjourned.
 

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