COP21 UNFCCC Paris 2015: progress report; Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs): update; Climate Change negative impacts

Environment, Forestry and Fisheries

08 September 2015
Chairperson: Mr J Mthembu (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The DEA presented on climate change and the forthcoming COP21 meeting in Paris later this year. There were now two approaches to greenhouse gases (GHGs). One was the top-down Kyoto-style agreement driven by science -- multilateral, internationally legal, and with the level of ambition informed by science. The other approach was unilaterally self-determined, domestically determined and legal, and the ambition was informed by national priorities. South Africa sat in both camps, believing in nationally-formed Intended National Determined Contributions (INDCs) and also internationally legal agreements informed by science.

The Paris 2015 meeting was to try to set up INDCs for legal status, to see if the contributions added up to what was needed and if they were fair and just. This was after many developed countries had left the table regarding the Kyoto Protocol. SA’s position was to ensure the implementation of commitments already agreed to, that there was parity between adaptation and mitigation, and an environmental balance between integrity and development. SA’s expectation was that it needed to be fair and effective, temperature increases needed to be below 2 degrees Celsius, there must be a transition to low emissions and climate reliance, it must be legally binding and be consistent with science.

The INDCs dealt with post-2020 goals, while the Workstream II programme would deal with current and pre-2020 goals.  From 2020 onwards, $100 billion per annum would be mobilised for climate change and set up under the Green Climate Fund. Parliament would be holding public debates in September to discuss GHGs. The INDCs would then be submitted in October 2015. So far, 49 countries had submitted their ranges.

The INDC was moving to a trajectory range where it was measured in actual tons of GHGs. In SA, carbon budgets would be set for companies producing over 0.1 mega tonnes (MT) of carbon as a means of regulating emission of greenhouse gases. The first phase would run from 1 January 2016 to 31 December 2020. Companies that participated may receive a 5% allowance to reduce their tax liability as an incentive.

Discussion focused on where African countries were in this process, the developing country definition, what SA’s INDC range was, whether Paris would be a success, water security for farmers, whether the Green Fund was being used in SA, the capacity of the DEA and why there was no Act to deal with climate change yet. The Kyoto Protocol had begun with developing countries being allowed leniency, hence the slow start by SA.

Since 2011, SA had been ramping up its capacity and the DEA had 140 staff dealing with air quality and climate change, and had many experts now. The Climate Change Act was in the pipeline and a draft version would be presented to the Committee. At the moment, the DEA was reliant on the Air Quality Act to make legislation. The Paris meeting would be a success, and as confidence in the system grew, so the system could be organically ramped up. The Green Fund had supported 23 projects, using different technologies from waste recycling to natural resource management.

Water security was vital - a crop switch was needed, where crops could grow in different climates as changes occurred. A technology shift was needed to make water usage more sustainable. There had been three development annexe definitions set up in 1992 that needed to change to reflect modern changes. SA’s target range for INDCs was from 398 MTs to 614 MTs of carbon dioxide emission annually. At the moment, eight African countries had submitted INDCS and most of the African countries would submit by October.

Meeting report

Chairperson’s opening address

The Chairperson welcomed the Committee and offered a special welcome to the DEA team. In Lima, SA had been tasked with curbing greenhouse gases (GHGs). The submission month was now October 2015 for SA’s plans and preparations for COP21. This affected various industries and the buy-in must be from various players. As Parliament, they had had a duty to let the public have an input into the greenhouse legislation. The Committee had arranged for discussion in three provinces. The mandate given by the public was that it wanted a clarified position on climate change.    

Presentation by DEA

Mr Alf Wills, Deputy Director General (DDG): DEA, said that climate change talks began in 2001 with the Kyoto Protocol, where developed countries had strict binding constraints, but developing countries did not. The USA did not sign the Protocol, and this had led to fall out of commitments, with only 13% of emissions covered by countries under the Kyoto Protocol.

There were now two approaches to GHGs -- a top-down Kyoto style agreement driven by science (multilateral, internationally legal, level of ambition informed by science), or an approach that was unilaterally self-determined, domestically determined and legal, and the ambition was informed by national priorities.

COP17 in 2005 had tried to get everyone who had jumped ship in Kyoto on board. In 2012, the Doha round had led to the amendment of the Kyoto Protocol. Warsaw 2013 had led to Intended National Determined Contributions (INDCs) being created. Lima 2014 had reinforced the INDCs. Paris 2015 was to try set up INDCs for legal status, to see if the contributions added up to what was needed and if they were fair and just.

SA’s position was to ensure implementation of commitments already agreed to, and that there was parity between adaptation and mitigation and a balancing environmental between integrity and development.

SA’s expectation was that it needed to be fair and effective. Temperature increases needed to be below 2 degrees Celsius, there must be a transition to low emissions and climate reliance, it must be legally binding, and be consistent with science and equitable. Finally there must be legal parity between mitigation and adaption. The pre-2020 Workstream II programme was paramount to implement, as urgent changes were required to keep temperatures low. Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) should ratify the second commitment of Kyoto Protocol.

The subsidiary bodies to be discussed would be adaptation, mitigation, finance, capacity building and response measures. On finance, $100 billion per annum from 2020 onwards would be mobilised for climate change and set up under the Green Climate Fund. Capacity building would be enhanced via sharing of information and technology hubs.

Countries needed to see what other countries were doing to make sure that the process was fair and equitable. Science critiques had been under fire and so the debate had become more of a political issue. For SA, responsibility would depend on when the date started -- was it 1850, 1900 or 1960 for these GHGs? SA had used the 1850 criteria for its INDCs. 

The DEA had been in eight provinces so far and had engaged in extensive public debates. Parliament would be holding public debates in September to discuss this process. The INDCs would be submitted in October 2015. So far 49 countries had submitted. The US and EU had submitted adaptions separately from the INDCs.  Four were as would be discussed: adaption, mitigation, means of implementation and equity.

Water security in SA was vital, as all of SA’s power was generated by steam. There were sea level rises that were a concern, and shifting rainfall patterns. The criticism of a deviation from business as usual with these INDCs was that it was a model, and did not reflect what was happening on the ground. The INDC was moving to a trajectory range where it was measured in actual tons of GHGs. Big scale expansion in renewable energy was driving prices down in this sector.

Ms Deborah Ramalope, Chief Director: Climate Change Mitigation, DEA, continued that the mitigation potential analysis had been formed in 2014, carbon budgets would be set in 2015, and a call for pollution plans for 2015. Carbon budgets would be set for companies producing over 0.1 megatonnes (MT) of carbon as a means of regulating emission of greenhouse gases. The first phase would run from 1 January 2016 to 31 December 2020. There was no compliance measure though. The budget was for a period of five years, with a large amount of flexibility for companies.

The National Pollution Prevention Plan had been developed under the National Environmental Management Air Quality Act. These regulations prescribed the submission and implementation of pollution prevention plans for companies with carbon budgets. The DEA would be setting up sectoral goals, using a phased approach: 2020 would be short term, and 2030 medium term. The DEA would be mapping the appropriate policy mix, using incentives and interventions. To align the carbon tax and carbon budget, companies that participated may receive a 5% allowance to reduce their tax liability (this document was still in process).

There was a draft National Greenhouse Gas Reporting Regulation that had been published for public comment. This would create a single national reporting framework to collect GHG data, formulate a national policy and meet its obligations.  There were supporting programmes: a mitigation technology plan, national employment vulnerability assessment and social economic impact plan.

Discussion

Mr S Mabilo (ANC) asked about the two scenarios given. Which model was SA favouring, and what were the pros and cons? What was the perspective of Africa, as SA was part of the African bloc? Was there co-operation in the African bloc to meet the October target? Industry seemed to be dictating terms, saying they were not ready. Why was government being dictated to regarding carbon budgets? Did the DEA have enough capacity to monitor this? Why New Year’s Day for the start?

Ms H Kekana (ANC) queried whether the DEA believed that the negotiating system was taking SA somewhere?

Mr T Hadebe (DA) asked about the Green Fund -- how accessible was the fund by businesses? How would it be possible to impose legality on countries that did not sign the Kyoto Protocol?

Mr Z Makhubele (ANC) said that the DEA had not got exactly what they would be taking to Paris finalised yet. A further meeting may be needed to share this. How rapid were the response measures? The issue of political judgement – how close was SA to making a political judgement on this? Carbon tax was controversial -- how should this be implemented, and should other options be used? Why were companies given these tax allowances; was government being too kind? Government should be tougher on companies.

Ms J Steenkamp (DA) asked whether the carbon tax targets were within minimum emission standards.

Ms P Ntobongwana (EFF) asked how the DEA could help farmers with climate change mitigation.

The Chairperson asked if there was a linking of minds on what the international fund would be used for, including climate change technologies to share with the developing world. Where was the international community on the definition of a developing country? The USA had stated that China was not a developing country. Where was SA on the political landscape -- what was the attitude of the major players? If the USA and China did not lead, was the process doomed? What was SA’s current GHG emission target in tonnes? Where would SA be through these mitigation measures? Would they be detrimental to the economy? Why were they focused on air quality laws and not a climate act?  How reliable was the number of mega tonnes, when there was no verified data? When policy was backed by legislation it was powerful, but when it was not, it could be very weak. Was the speed of this GHG movement reflective of the task?

Ms H Nyambi (ANC) asked what would be done for those companies that did not sign up to the carbon budgets. How many were there?

Mr Wills responded that SA had tried to get a mix of both scenarios. INDCs were bottom up, but they were looking for parameters and legally binding constraints from top down too. This mirrored Africa’s approach too. The Durban deal at COP17 had tried to maintain the top-down rules. Kyoto would be replaced with a new system post 2020. Workstream II aimed to reduce climate change radically prior to 2020.

At the moment, eight African countries had submitted INDCS and most of the African countries would submit by October. This would cover over 80% of global emissions. Yes, the negotiating was going somewhere. As confidence in the system grew, so the system could be organically ramped up. The costs of green technology were expensive, and a system was required to move these costs downward.  There was a high probability of Paris being successful. It would operate in five year cycles.

On the Green Fund, 75% had been spent on demonstration projects and 5% on research. Just on 23 projects had been approved for funding using different technologies from waste recycling to natural resource management. Business had been fully involved. A final brief would be made prior to October, which would be a closed meeting. The developed world argued that liability should be taken to the World Trade Organisation (WTO). There were mitigation loopholes that happened in areas that were not governed -- for example, over the oceans, from ships and planes. These response measures were the best efforts to close the gaps. The five year review cycle would help, with peer pressure, to ask countries to do more. Every two years there was an opportunity to engage.

Farmer’s issues mainly revolved around water. Over 60% of SAs water was used by farmers. A technology shift was needed to make water usage more sustainable. The wheat belt had shifted due to climate change. There were stranded assets due to the movement of this belt. A crop switch was needed, where crops could grow in different climates as the changes occurred. Vineyards had moved up the slopes.

There had been a meeting of minds that adaptation was vital. 50% of the international fund would be allocated to adaptation. There was a political force for change, with the US stepping up its game. The definition of developing countries was one of two major political issues. There were three development annexe definitions set up in 1992 that needed to change to reflect modern changes.

Mr Wills continued that the target range was from 398 MTs to 614 MTs of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions annually. SA’s actual emission was 517 MTs annually at the moment. The new coal stations that were being put on line would lead to the decommissioning of 38 MTs from old coal stations that were inefficient. The introduction of nuclear, renewable energy and gas turbine would change the energy mix from high carbon emissions to low carbon emissions. There was the mitigation system which was applied to the transport, construction and industry sectors to reduce GHG emissions. The renewable energy window had been extended to encourage more energy. This was based on SA’s energy policy. The 5% allowance was a tax break or incentive -- it did not affect the budget. There was an incentive to join the system if you were below 0.1 MT due to the tax break. Once you had joined, you had joined -- it becomes mandatory.

The carbon tax system was controversial. Some countries in the EU that had used it had been successful. The carbon tax system to be used in SA was economy wide. Treasury would have more information on research done on carbon tax. The system had been worked on since 2011. The DEA had a climate change branch. The Department of Monitoring and Evaluation (DME) had a capacity of 23 staff with many experts. Germany had helped to assist SA with this. The branch had around 140 staff in air quality and climate change. The balance was between making a fair contribution to climate change while creating sustainable jobs. The impact on household welfare was negligible, as long as the benefits were filtered through to the individuals via social safety nets.

 The Department was not concerned with the New Year’s Day start. The green paper and white paper cycle for a Climate Change Act were complete. They were drafting what the substantive content would be. The concept legislation would be presented to the Committee. While this was under way, the Air Quality Act was being used. The Air Quality Act could not cover the budgets or carbon tax though. There was an indirect verification of carbon emissions, but the direct verification was missing.

There was no obligation on developing countries to set targets, which had slowed down the process. This was an intended contribution nationally, and it was for 2020 only. There were eight flagship programmes on reducing GHGs. One of them was a big push for expanded public works programmes in the green economy. The target for renewable energy was now 16% of the energy mix. In 2011, the DEA did not have capacity, but now they had capacity, hence the slow start.

There had been six GHGs identified via volume, life span in air and data. There had been two more gases added, and three of these were synthetic or man-made. The best way to deal with this was to find a green alternative and ban the synthetic gases. There were hundreds of thousands of gases, but in the bigger picture, they were a small percentage. Methane, carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide were the main ones. The first phase would cover the six main gases. This information would be provided to the Committee.

Ms Ramalope said that they had decided on a full calendar year, and the reporting would be done on 31 March each year. The DEA was limited by the Air Quality Act, as discussed. They did have a list of the major carbon offenders. The DEA looked at the emission standards. The flexibility did not affect the targets that companies had to meet.

The meeting was adjourned.

 

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