The Committee met in a very packed venue for the second and last day of public hearings for members of the public and organisations to respond to South Africa (SA)'s position on climate change that government would be taking to the 21st Congress of the Parties (COP21) in December 2015 in Paris, France.
The first organisation to present was the SA Local Government Association (SALGA) who provided perspectives on SA’s negotiating position by looking at the challenges faced, reflecting on the mandate and role of local government, sharing organised local government’s perspective on SA’s position and the local government roadmap for COP21. SALGA highlighted key municipal functions that supported climate change efforts and local government contributions to the negotiating mandate.
The Economic Justice Network then noted the lack of focus brought into SA’s Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) by civil society and academia, the missing role of agriculture as the second largest area of Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions and the broader issues around small scale producers and food insecurity. The submission highlighted the need to introduce climate smart agriculture and for a paradigm shift in agricultural development. The Network called on the state to:
-develop a much more aggressive approach toward facilitating a successful integration of small scale producers using agro-ecological methods into the food value chain within SA
-develop a much more aggressive approach toward the development of a global alliance at the climate negotiations that reflected the importance of transition to small scale agro-ecology
-continue to support initiatives within other departments to promote a speedy land reform transition.
Business Unity SA (BUSA) then presented on international commitment to climate change by looking at BUSA’s views on climate change (which recognised the need for SA to transition to a lower carbon economy), SA’s national emissions profile, overall mitigation policy and INDCs. BUSA supported a holistic climate change policy with a multi-pronged approach to mitigation and BUSA was committed to playing its part in lowering emissions.
The SA National Energy Institute (SANEDI) spoke on activities to a low-carbon future where the submission spoke to smart grids as enablers to address SA’s distribution industry and for integration of renewable energy. The submission also highlighted energy efficiency and carbon capture and storage/sequestration.
The Centre for Environmental Rights (CER) spoke to SA’s negotiating position for COP21 and climate change as an environmental issue. The Centre highlighted the need for negotiating positions at COP21 to give effect to the Constitutional obligations as expressed in Section 24, industrial activities threatening human health and the need to take steps to mitigate climate change and move away from fossil fuels for health benefits and to strengthen government’s efforts to realise Section 24. The CER spoke of mitigation as constitutional obligation using the case of the Netherlands, SA’s current decisions (such as new coal-fired power stations ) making it impossible to meet even proposed targets to combat climate change and directly contradicting the need for an effective response to climate change and the need for transparent monitoring, compliance and enforcement.
An Adjunct Professor at the Energy Institute of the Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT), spoke in his own capacity, and provided input on plans grounded in dreams and not reality, and examined claims the Department was making in its negotiating position as being extremely exaggerated and completely unsubstantiated. The submission then went on to argue this by looking at the rainfall trend which was not statistically significant, rising oceans which had been rising for the last 200 000 years, and the fact that it was not possible to substantiate claims that the sea level was rising due to climate change, similarly the case with coastal erosion, and said that sustained increases in GHG emissions were not appearing to be having an significant effect on the global temperature. The submission found that long term mitigation scenarios were a figment of imagination and spoke to the non-committal of other BRICS countries such as China and India. It was recommended that SA abandon the draft discussion document and join the Like Minded Group of Developing Countries (LMDC) whose focus closely aligned with SA's national development priorities which the draft document ignored.
The Botshabelo Unemployed Social Movement spoke to climate change and unemployment being crises that were rooted in capitalism, raised concerns of food security and access to water and land for the poorest of the poor, while business interests seemed to be the primary concern. The Movement wanted SA to set an example by committing itself to enforceable targets and a substantial reduction of GHG emissions, consistent with the National Development Plan (NDP).
The Philippi Horticultural Area Food and Farming Campaign (PHA FFC) spoke to agro-ecological farming as a socio-economic beneficial climate mitigator. The submission focused on the important role of soil as a carbon sink and said that therefore soil played a major role in mitigating and adaptation in terms of climate change. However SA’s soil was in a very bad state and the role soil could play was not being capitalised on. The PHA FFC spoke to the need for revolutionary agricultural methods. It urged that government needed to encourage and incentivise farmers with policies to change farming practices. If soil health was improved there would be a wide range of benefits for both farmers and the environment but this was all dependent on government policies to incentivise putting carbon back into the soil for climate change and mitigation. The submission also noted that the Philippi area was under threat of development by the City of Cape Town.
The Green Building Council of SA (GBCSA) broadly supported SA’s position but found there was a role to for certain key industries to play, such as the built environment, which was also responsible for a large portion of emissions. The submission spoke to the need for the INDCs to address specific industries to make firm commitments in terms of SA’s position and noted the great potential for green buildings for climate change mitigation and adaptation by saving water and preventing carbon dioxide from going into atmosphere. This capacity could be greater with the support of government and the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA).
The African Climate Reality Programme briefly highlighted education as the real tool for mitigation and adaptation but said this education was currently non-existent in the school curriculum. For SA to become an adaptable and resilient nation against climate change, it was clear that future generations, the public and communities needed to be educated, not only about the huge problems and interconnected issues which came with climate change, but the amazing opportunities to create jobs, to become food secure, to move towards renewable resources and to protect the environment. The Programme pleaded to government, the education department and all departments to focus on education because without it, there would be no change or adaption.
Geasphere presented key climate change concerns regarding SA’s climate change approach and real solutions to be prioritised, which were also easily implementable. The organisation emphasised that timber plantations should not be used for climate change mitigation as they were not forests, but instead they were a part of an industrial production process that destroyed natural vegetation, consumed huge amounts of water, caused soil erosion, displaced communities and fed wasteful consumption. It then moved to discussion of their negative impacts on biodiversity, ecosystem services and water resources and people, before noting the importance of the dimension of fire.
Fossil Free SA felt that SA needed to be more ambitious at COP21 especially with commitments to decreasing the global temperature while emphasising the need to move away from fossil fuels which were the source of many of the country’s problems, like poverty. The submission said the argument that fossil fuels were indispensable to development was incorrect. The state of California was used as an example of a concerted effort to divest from fossil fuels – this was part of a global movement, yet SA was increasingly relying on fossil fuels. The organisation called for SA to commit to complete decarbonisation by 2050 and for turning away from fossil fuels which was not just a turn away from climate change but a turn away from many other problems outlined above. SA should join those areas phasing out fossil fuels but continuing with development. SA should commit to 100% renewable energy.
A member of the public then made a submission on fracking, shale gas, methane emissions and global warming, by noting concerns about the proposed practice of fracking in the context of SA’s INDCs to COP21 and raising issues relating to GHG methane emissions from fracking and its related activities. The submission spoke about the health impacts of fracking, and the impact of methane gas emissions on global warming, as significant amounts of methane was lost as fugitive emissions during the exploration and production stages. This gas had a bigger impact on global warming than coal and carbon dioxide. The submission also highlighted fracking as producing toxic radioactive flow back water. It addressed current permit applications with the Department of Mineral Resources.
Another member of the public spoke to the urgent need for SA to respond to the realities of climate change and the global problem, nationally and collectively, on a global stage. The submission noted vested interests of industry continuing with carbon emissions and resisting change. Positive opportunities presented by climate change were then discussed, including solar energy resources. It was noted that there was a very slow movement toward renewable resources. The submission emphasised the need for redesigning of minds and to move toward the direction of renewables and for SA to commit to a far more ambitious reduction in carbon emissions.
The Department of Environmental Affairs responded by noting the incredibly rich contributions added to the growing debate on key issues and said there were a number of these issues to take forward into a lower carbon future and climate change resilient economy. The Department reflected on the key arguments raised during the hearings, which needed to be considered in the negotiating position and included in the INDCs.
Closing the hearings, the Chairperson noted key decisions needed to be taken for future planning which the organisations brought to the fore. The Department was urged to take these inputs on board. There might be the need for future engagement and follow up, but it was very important that SA continue to discuss this most important debate.
Chairperson's Introductory Comments:
The Chairperson welcomed a very packed venue to the second day of public hearings for members of the public and organisations in South Africa (SA) to respond to SA’s position on climate change that government would take to the 21st Congress of the Parties (COP21), under the United Nations Convention on Climate Change (UNCCC) in Paris, France December 2015. The aim of the hearings was to get submissions from all those interested on this matter. He noted that, as indicated on the previous day, the objective of SA was to work with other nations of the world, through the UNCCC, to reduce Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions to below 2ｺcelsius by the turn of the century, to avoid the catastrophe that could indeed ensue if immediate action was not taken. The catastrophic effects included, amongst others, serious floods, serous heat waves and disturbances to water streams and rivers to the extent that there would be a serious scarcity of water if immediate action was not taken.
He noted that on the previous day, the Committee was told that snows on Mount Kilimanjaro had started melting, along with those in Antarctica, with serious consequences to the flow of water in the area. Weather patterns showed that climate change impacts were already felt and if these were not reversed, heat levels in the atmosphere would get increasingly worse. SA had a duty to do what the Constitution instructed – namely protect the citizenry, their health and well-being from the harmful effects of the environment, and protect the environment for future generations. This was exactly what was being done now. If not, the current younger generation, and their children, would ask the older generations what they had done when they were expected to act to avert real catastrophes of climate change that would definitely visit Mother Earth. He expressed appreciation for all the submissions heard on the previous day, which had left Members wiser.
SALGA submission: Local Government Perspective on the SA COP21 Negotiation Position
Councillor S Ramaremela, SALGA representative, noted that structures were created at the level of SALGA which met bi-monthly to discuss issues affecting municipalities, and this included climate change. SALGA was the voice of local municipalities and these municipalities needed to be recognised as key drivers where service delivery happened and where climate change impacts were most evident. The link between municipalities and communities provided an opportunity to work on climate change solutions. In the lead up to COP21, it was felt as though two separate vehicles were moving toward the same goal and this should be avoided – programmes needed to be driven by one government. Local government had significant contributions to make, and many cities already demonstrated ambition and expertise.
There were some challenges being faced, which included the poor level of inclusion of local government in building the national climate change position. Another challenge was the translation of delivery obligations to local implementation mechanisms. This was currently weak and did not consider the implementation landscape at local government level. As a sector, there was support for the country’s agreement on issues of climate change and the national position.
Ms Telly Chauke, SALGA Specialist: Environment and Climate Change, outlined the objectives of the presentation. She would reflect on the mandate and role of local government, share the organised Local Government perspective on the SA position and present the local government roadmap for COP21.
In terms of the local government climate response mandate, the National Climate Change Response White Paper recognised local government as an important actor to achieve climate change objectives. Section 10.2.6 identified the key constitutional mandates of local government that were critical in developing SA's national climate response, namely:
-Planning and urban development
-Municipal infrastructure and services
-Water, energy and waste demand management
-Local disaster response
Ms Chauke then discussed key municipal functions that support climate change efforts, which included:
-Land-use planning and management
-Water and sanitation services
-Municipal health services
-Refuse removal, refuse dumps and solid waste disposal
-Municipal parks and recreation
-Fire-fighting and disaster management
-Municipal roads and storm water management systems
-Environmental management functions carried out in terms of NEMA (including the Coastal Management Act, Environmental Conservation Act, Protected Areas Act and Biodiversity Act)
-Electricity/energy (renewable energy and energy efficiency)
With local government’s perspective on the SA negotiating position, SA’s national position in the Paris negotiations was informed by the following principles:
-To ensure that environmental and developmental imperatives were balanced;
-To ensure that global emission reduction efforts were adequate to avert dangerous climate change, while respecting developing countries’ priorities for development and eradicating poverty
-To recognise that, in accordance to the principle of common but differentiated responsibility, respective capability and equity, developed countries had an obligation to provide sufficient means of implementation to support both adaptation and mitigation efforts by developing countries.
-To recognise that adaptation and mitigation must receive equal priority, in accordance with SA’s national policy framework and the National Development Plan (NDP), and further that adaptation was recognised as a global priority.
- To continue to subscribe to a multilateral rules based regime.
In summary, she said that SA’s position sought:
-A legally binding agreement with legal parity or a balanced approach to mitigation and adaptation;
-Enhanced ambition for mitigation, to ensure that the world stayed below a 2oC increase in temperature
-Enhanced finance, technology transfer and capacity building mechanism, with added emphasis on adaptation support for developing countries.
SALGA, on behalf of member municipalities supported the SA position. However, it would like to add that the position must be more reflective of sub-national (local) government and non-state actors' positions. The SA negotiating position was largely in keeping with the desired outcomes that would be beneficial to local government in SA. However, SALGA had observed that the position did not place even greater emphasis on climate change adaptation and loss and damage which were critical considerations for municipalities and their vulnerabilities. Municipalities faced the most significant risk to infrastructure, particularly those that would experience higher incidence of flooding. Socio-economic disparities in many urban (peri-urban) and rural contexts also posed greater risks for municipalities.
Local Government contribution to the negotiators' mandate included:
-Balanced attention and merit of initiatives to both mitigation and adaptation efforts
-Setting of country-specific mitigation targets. These were intended nationally determined contributions (INDCs) that were reflective of local government capabilities and contributions
-Increased financial contributions of developed countries to financing mechanism with added emphasis on accessibility of such facilities to sub-national and non-state actors
-Adequate technology transfer mechanisms for developing countries, with financing also extended to supporting research, concept/proposal development and meeting reporting requirements
-A legally binding agreement for all parties, with enhanced means of implementation, and with consideration of the current legislative vacuum and fiscal deficits in the country, particularly for local government.
Overall, DEA should more clearly articulate and emphasise the role of cities and sub-national (non-state actors),as the position was silent on local government as a critical implementation lever.
Ms Chauke concluded by noting that although local government had a representative on the negotiations team, SALGA and its members were concerned with limited engagement of both the designated official and the broader local government community specifically in the mandating platforms. SALGA was appreciative of the opportunity and platform afforded by the INDC consultations roadshow in the provinces and was in the process of preparing a written submission of comments on the INDC discussion document. However, the consultations only involved local government in a cursory manner and SALGA thus appealed for more targeted and thorough engagement in future. Local government partners, including SALGA, ICLEI and the SA Cities Network, represented the diversity and complexities of local climate change responses and offered an avenue for a consolidated approach to taking on board municipal experiences, contributions and aspirations.
Economic Justice Network submission
Ms Sibulele Poswayo, Project Manager, Economic Justice Network, explained the Network was a civil society organisation which encompassed a number of Christian councils in southern Africa.
Mr Gary Maguire then took the Committee through the submission, noting that the Economic Justice Network was particularly concerned about the lack of focus brought into the INDCs by civil society and academia, particularly when it came to the role of agriculture.
There were further concerns about water insecurity and the adverse impacts this would have on many small-scale agricultural producers. More focus was needed on agriculture, especially because it was the second largest area of GHG emissions. He explained that the sector did account for less than 10% of national emissions but it amounted to over 21 000 tonnes of GHG emissions and CO2 emissions per annum, which was more than the total emissions of SA's other neighbouring SADC countries, with the exception of Angola. This was why it was important to address agriculture from both an emissions and adaptation perspective. Globally, agriculture was the single largest element of global carbon emissions – more than energy and any other sector. This was another reason why, at a global front, it was critical that agriculture needed to be immediately addressed.
There were broader issues around small-scale producers. Oxfam had shown that one in four South Africans were food insecure, and this was a situation which could not be tolerated. At COP17, President Zuma announced the introduction of “climate smart agriculture” as a national imperative, and it was aimed at increasing productivity of the sector while increasing climate resilience and stimulating an inclusive economy. There were also global calls for a fundamental rethink of the way agriculture was practised, along with conservation agriculture, organic agriculture and a greater reliance on renewable energy. This went along with reduced reliance on chemical and synthetic fertilisers which required concerted policy action. The world needed a paradigm shift in agricultural development, from conventional mono-culture based and high external input-dependent industrial production, towards sustainable, regenerative production systems. There needed to be a move from a linear to a holistic approach in agricultural management, which recognised that a farmer was not only a producer of agricultural goods, but also a manager of agro-ecological systems that produced quite a number of public goods and services such as water, soil, landscape, biodiversity and recreation purposes.
Mr Maguire said that at COP20, there was an initiative to launch a global alliance for climate smart agriculture, to facilitate the transition of 500 million farmers in developing countries towards climate smart agriculture by 2030. Unfortunately SA was woefully under-represented in the two subsidiary bodies created for the initiative, and it had not done much to develop a strategy for actual implementation of climate smart agriculture within the country. While the global alliance had a number of excellent sustainability initiatives that it was planning to introduce, there was a strong emphasis on a number of processes which were likely to render the initiatives open to being co-opted by corporate interests and multi-nationals. The concern was that substantial sums of money would be pumped into the adaptation sector, which was likely to be co-opted by agro-industrialists, particularly because of the fact that small scale farmers were not represented at international negotiations. It was felt the state was not taking the issue of agriculture forward with them into the negotiations. For this reason the Network called on the state to:
-develop a much more aggressive approach toward facilitating a successful integration of small scale producers, using agro-ecological methods into the food value chain within SA
-develop a much more aggressive approach toward the development of a global alliance at the climate negotiations, that reflected the importance of transition to small scale agro-ecology
-continue to support initiatives within other departments, to promote a speedy land reform transition.
Business Unity SA: International Commitment on Climate Change submission
Mr Stan Pillay, Chair: Industry Task Team on Climate Change, Business Unity SA, began the presentation by noting that Business Unity SA (BUSA) was a confederation of companies and business organisations, membership of which contributed over 75% to GDP. Membership included mining, manufacturing, agriculture and services. Its function was to ensure that business played a constructive role in the country’s economic growth, development and transformation and to create an environment in which businesses of all sizes and in all sectors could thrive, expand and be competitive. The Industry Task Team on Climate Change (ITCC) was a voluntary, non-profit association made up of a number of large companies whose activities taken together played a material part in the nature and scale of SA’s carbon footprint. The focus was on developing fact-based technical work on climate change, and on working with government to achieve sustainable, low-carbon economic growth. Each of the member companies brought a wealth of experience and knowledge in energy efficiency and climate change projects and many were actively involved in pursuing renewable energy solutions. International networks also brought valuable climate change policy experience from a range of jurisdictions. ITCC members were fully committed to a positive future for SA, defined by strong economic growth, an attractive investment environment, equity, social cohesion and climate change.
Mr Pillay then discussed BUSA’s views on climate change. BUSA recognised the need for SA to transition to a lower carbon economy and supported a holistic climate change policy to achieve this goal. It supported a multi-pronged approach to mitigation policy as contemplated in the National Climate Change Response White Paper, and was committed to playing its part in reducing emissions, taking into account current dependence of the economy on fossil fuels, lack of alternatives and national circumstances of the country.
In terms of the national emissions profile, the National Greenhouse Gas Inventory 2000-2010 (2014) showed that national emissions were at 518 Mt for 2010, which was lower than the projected 563 Mt for 2010. Emissions reduction was partially due to lower-than-projected economic growth. The decline in carbon intensity of GDP was due to sharp electricity price increases, increase in low carbon intensity electricity and improved energy efficiency by industry. The lower emission trend was likely to continue to 2021.
With the overall mitigation policy, there was a need to balance national contributions to global efforts, to reduce emissions and national imperatives of increasing economic growth and employment. Key elements included: a mitigation strategy to address energy security of supply; socio-economic development and the transition to lower carbon.
The White Paper contemplated an overall mitigation system but although individual elements were being developed, a holistic approach remained elusive. A holistic approach was an essential element of the national climate change system, and should provide the departure point for the national commitment to the international effort. It was imperative that national policy and international commitment were aligned and retained or enhanced industry competitiveness.
Mr Pillay then turned to the INDCs, stating that the peak, plateau and decline trajectory had not been updated since 2007 and that a number of projections had not materialised. Maximum flexibility needed to be built into the contribution, particularly given that the nature of the legally binding instrument was not yet known. BUSA believed that it was essential to keep the national benchmark trajectory up to date at all times and that the updating process which should have commenced by now should be urgently implemented
South African National Energy Development Institute (SANEDI): Activities to a Low-Carbon Future
Prof Tony Surridge, Head: SA Centre for Carbon Capture and Storage, introduced SANEDI as a state-owned entity tasked by the National Energy Act to address energy research and develop except nuclear. SANEDI focused on renewable energies, working for energy, smart grids, energy efficiency, green transport and cleaner fossil fuels. All of SANEDI’s activities were geared to striving toward a low carbon economy. SANEDI’s activities covered 50% of flagship programmes in the Climate Change Response White Paper.
Smart grids were enablers to address the South African distribution industry challenges and for integration of renewable energy. There were six municipalities already involved in pilot projects with smart grids.
In terms of energy efficiency (EE), regulations in terms of Section 12L of the Income Tax Act of 1962 made allowances for energy efficiency savings. There were tax incentives, with the objective of motivating large energy consumers to reduce high energy consumption by adopting EE technologies. The accelerated reduction of high consumption from fossil fuel based energy would contribute to the reduction of carbon emissions. There were also international EE knowledge platforms with a focus on appliances, buildings and policies, targeted at policy makers and investors. The objective was to effectively disperse EE knowledge and information to relevant stakeholders. The accelerated adoption of EE technologies would contribute to the reduction of high energy consumption and thus reduce the high emissions impacts of carbon from fossil fuel based electricity. An example was the EE cool surfaces project, where energy passive materials were used in buildings to improve thermal comfort for inhabitants as cool surfaces reflected heat and light. There was also EE in transport to reduce emissions.
There were only three types of energy available – fossil fuel, renewable and nuclear. The aim was for a renewable and nuclear future and to wean the world off fossil fuels, not just for climate change but because fossil fuels were finite. This made the transition critical.
Ms Polly Modiko, Lead: Stakeholder Engagement, Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) division, said that although fossil fuels were finite, they were a reality and this was where 90% of SA’s primary energy was currently derived. The question of how to deal with fossil fuels thus needed to be addressed, because such fuels emitted large amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere. SANEDI was tasked by the Department of Energy to ensure that the technology of Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS), or sequestration, was deployed in SA and to this end the South African CCS roadmap was endorsed by Cabinet in May 2012. In 2004, the potential for CCS in SA was realised. In 2010, the SA Centre for CCS, in partnership with the Council for GeoScience (CGS), developed the atlas identifying the potential sites for this technology. The piloting of CCS in SA (injecting CO2 into the subsurface) would take place in 2017 and would be one of the ways to mitigate climate change. Technological and financial support was needed from developed countries, especially North America and Europe, as they were already deploying the technology. CCS was a transition measure to address CO2 emissions and providing job opportunities.
Stakeholders were addressed in trying to deploy the CCS technology. It was believed with the requisite funding and technical support, SA would be in a position to contribute quite significantly towards a reduction of CO2 emissions.
Centre for Environmental Rights (CER) Submission on SA’s Negotiating Position for COP21: “Climate Change is an Environmental Rights Issue”
Ms Nicole Loser, Attorney, Centre for Environmental Rights, briefly explained the scope and mandate of the CER work (see attached presentation).
She noted that in terms of climate change and the right to a healthy environment, SA’s negotiating positions at COP21 should give effect to the constitutional obligations as expressed in section 24 of the Constitution, with special regard to human health. Section 24 stated that “everyone has the right –
(a) to an environment that is not harmful to their health or well-being; and
(b) to have the environment protected, for the benefit of present and future generations, through reasonable legislative and other measures…”
Industrial activities such as mining and coal-fired power generation threatened human health. Taking steps to mitigate climate change and to move away from fossil fuels could have enormous health benefits and strengthen government’s efforts to realise section 24. The Lancet Commission Health and Climate Change 2015 report stated that “the central finding from the Commission’s work is that tackling climate change could be the greatest global health opportunity of the 21st century”. The Commission recommended that, over the next five years, governments must move to protect cardiovascular and respiratory health by ensuring a rapid phase-out of coal from the global energy mix. It concluded that “With an increase to 26% renewable on global final energy consumption by 2030 (from 18% in 2010)… up to $230 billion of external health costs annually [could be avoided] by 2030”.
Ms Loser then discussed mitigation as a constitutional obligation, noting that taking adequate action to mitigate SA’s contribution to global warming was not only a matter of policy but a constitutional obligation. Government had to take steps to guard against the harmful impacts that climate change had on the environment and human health, as this was required by, inter alia, the Constitution of RSA and the duty of care contained in section 28 of the National Environmental Management, Act (1998).
In the case of Urgenda v the State of the Netherlands 2015, it was found that the Dutch government’s plans to cut emissions by just 14% to 17% of 1990 levels, by 2020, were unlawful, given the scale of the threat posed by climate change and the significant potential for damage to Dutch citizens. Article 21 of the Dutch Constitution outlined the duty of care. The Court ordered the State to limit the joint volume of Dutch annual greenhouse gas emissions by at least 25% by the end of 2020, as compared to the level of the year 1990. The Court said that since it was an established fact that the current global emissions and reduction targets of the signatories to the UN Climate Change Convention were insufficient to realise the 2ｺ target, therefore the chances of dangerous climate change should be considered as very high. It concluded that “the State is obliged to take measures in its on territory to prevent dangerous climate change”. “Due to the severity of the consequences of climate change and the great risk of hazardous climate change occurring – without mitigating measures” – the court concluded that the State had a duty of care to take mitigation measures.
This case confirmed that effective and adequate climate change mitigation measures were not just a matter of policy or a matter to be negotiated with GHG emitters, but in fact a legal and Constitutional obligation cast upon the state. Committing to targets that were lower than science required did not discharge the state’s Constitutional duties to implement reduction measures.
She urged that decisions taken now must take climate change into account. SA was currently making decisions that would make it impossible to meet even the proposed targets to combat climate change. The National Climate Change Response White Paper stated “government further recognises that an effective response to climate change requires national policy to ensure a coordinated, coherent, efficient and effective response to the global challenge of climate change”. Proceeding with coal-based energy plans directly contradicted the need for an effective response to climate change. Coal-fired power generation was highly water-intensive and impacted significantly on human health. Impacts of climate change would exacerbate water scarcity and have further impacts on human health. Ongoing investment in coal-fired power contradicted the objectives of mitigation and adaptation contained in the national policy and in SA’s negotiating positions for COP21.
She noted that upcoming coal-fired power stations in SA included Medupi (4800MW) and Kusile (4800MW).
At least nine coal base load independent power producer projects had applied for Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs) and three environmental authorisations had already been granted to Thabametsi, Boikarambelo and Khanyisa. SA was expressing international and domestic commitments to fight climate change, whilst simultaneously adopting policies and making decisions which defeated these objectives. Decisions about energy were being made with no regard for Constitutional obligations in terms of transparency, consultation with affected parties, the right to an environment that was not harmful to health and well-being and the rights of access to drinking water.
Ms Loser moved onto transparent reporting, and effective compliance monitoring and enforcement, which would be needed for effective climate change mitigation. Effective regulation of GHG emission required enforceable emission reductions, transparent and effective monitoring and reporting by emitters and effective compliance monitoring and reporting by regulators. The Draft National Greenhouse Gas Reporting Regulations showed little ambition for transparency of data on GHG emissions.
In conclusion, she noted that section 24 of the Constitution required SA to take adequate steps to reduce GHG emissions and to adapt to climate change in a way that protected the citizens' environmental rights. This was not a matter of policy or negotiation and these obligations remained no matter what SA proposed or what was agreed in Paris. To give effect to our Constitutional obligations, SA needed to have:
(1) a comprehensive, transparent, consultative, comparative evaluation of different energy options and their implications for water resources, human health, costs to the state, the distribution of costs and benefits and the probable return on energy invested
(2) decision making that could not comprise the country's future ability to comply with section 24 of the Constitution
(3) proper regulations around GHG emissions, for meaningful, clear obligations to reduce emissions, transparency within government and industry, strict, well resourced compliance monitoring and enforcement and effective cooperative governance.
The CER called on the Committee to ensure that government complied with its Constitutional obligations.
Prof Phillip Lloyd (Energy Institute) submission
Prof Phillip Lloyd, Adjunct Professor at the Energy Institute, Cape Peninsula University of Technology, speaking in his own capacity, emphasised the need for plans grounded in reality and not dreams. The Department’s discussion document “Stakeholder Consultation on SA’s Position Towards COP21” was very short on facts and did not give the ordinary South Africans any clue of what government planned to do. He referred to claims in the document that “climate change is one of the major global challenges of the 21st Century that require global response. The adverse impacts of climate change are affecting all countries, especially developing countries, in the form of persistent drought and extreme weather conditions, rising sea levels, coastal erosion and ocean acidification”, but said that these were extremely exaggerated and completely unsubstantiated.
He noted that in order to show that a drought or weather event was “persistent” or “extreme”, it was necessary first to establish a baseline from which to measure deviation. The longest weather record that science possessed was the rainfall over England and Wales since 1766. This showed that the rainfall trend was very slightly upwards – some 37mm, or about 4%, over 250 years. Scientists would expect it to be slightly wetter in a warmer world, but the trend was not statistically significant. There was absolutely no sign of these extreme events being more frequent in recent years, even though the world had measurably been warming up for the past 160 years. The point was that trends had to be measured for a very long time before anyone could be certain that they were indeed extreme. In the case of rainfall, he suggested that scientists would probably have to measure for at least 1 000 years to be certain the rate had increased.
The same reasoning applied in the case of the rising oceans. He agreed that the sea level was rising but noted that it had been rising for at least 20 000 years (since the end of the last Ice Age) and the rate of sea levels had dropped to about 3mm per year. At some stage it was rising at over 50mm per year, and he said that the world could be truly thankful that it was so slow today. The evidence that it was rising at about 3mm per year came largely from tide gauges, whose records dated back to the 1850s. Some believed that the rise was accelerating but the satellite records, which only extended back to the early 1990s, confirmed the tide gauge estimate, and thus exactly concluded that it was not possible to substantiate claims that the sea level was rising due to climate change. Coastal erosion had been ongoing for thousands of years, as the sea level rise reported previously made this inevitable. The question was whether climate change had exacerbated the effect. Unfortunately it was not possible to determine if erosion had worsened in recent years because of climate change, because it was not possible yet to assess “what was normal”.
Prof Lloyd said sustained increases in GHG emissions did not appear to be having any significant effect. For instance, in 1996, global CO2 emissions were at 24 billion tonnes – and in 2014, 18 years later, they were at 35 billion tonnes, an increase of 45%. Over this period, global temperatures, as measured by satellite, barely moved. To be sure, during this millennium there had been observations of the highest temperatures ever recorded, but temperatures had effectively overall been constant. Models of the impact of CO2 on global temperatures had predicted at least 0.2 degree calculus per decade. Instead, there had been a 0.053 degree C per decade, a quarter of what was predicted, even though CO2 levels had increased by 45%. He pointed out that this proved that a large increase in CO2 had caused only a very small increase in temperature.
At COP17, SA had pledged to play its part in reducing global emissions. With financial and technological support from developed countries, SA would be able to reduce emissions by 34% below “business as usual” levels, by 2020 and then by 42% by 2025. However, COP17 was six years ago and the Department had failed to tell the citizens exactly what financial and technological support it had received from developed countries over that period, presumably because there had been none. Instead SA had “bravely” committed over R200 billion of its own hard earned capital to a successful renewable energy programme almost entirely driven by a desire to move towards a lower carbon world. But the real question was - were the targets – namely 34% below “business as usual” by 2020, and 42% by 2025 - even faintly realistic? The short answer was that they were not. These targets were derived from an exercise reported as the “Long-Term Mitigation Scenarios” and were “a figment of someone’s imagination and not informed by science”. The reason was primarily because the scenario depended on technologies and measures whose parameters were largely unknown, and therefore cannot be assessed within a modelling framework based on known technologies with well-understood parameters including the cost. This scenario was therefore the classic “story of the future” with its components imagined rather than arrived at through rigourous modelling.
On 30 June 2015, the Chinese government submitted its INDCs, detailing its commitment to climate change mitigation and adaptation for the post-2020 period. In short, China did not foresee any reduction in its emissions before 2030 at the earliest; yet SA proposed to reduce its emissions by 42% by 2025. SA hoped to save about 100 million tonnes a year by 2025. China, on the other hand, intended to grow its emissions by about 2 000 million tonnes. Seen as part of the global effort, the SA proposals were truly fruitless. India had still not developed its INDCs, taking into account the sensible imperatives for addressing challenges of poverty eradication, good security and nutrition, universal access to education and healthcare. In short, India had put development ahead of control of carbon emissions.
Prof Lloyd recommended that SA abandon the draft discussion document and join the Like Minded Group of Developing Countries (LMDC) whose focus closely aligned with SA's own national development priorities, which the draft document ignored.
Botshabelo Unemployed Social Movement submission
A representative of the Botshabelo Unemployment Social Movement (the Movement) said unemployment and climate change were crises in the country. Climate change was caused by and rooted in capitalism. Botshabelo organised both rural and peri-rural classes in the Free State to strengthen the capacity of the unemployed. It fought for food security, and encouraged communities not to use Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs). There was also mobilisation for water access and land for those who were poor. Botshabelo partnered with many other organisations around the country.
It was known that COP21 was a “make or break event” for the survival of the world as a habitable home. It would be helpful to have a reference pint acceptable to SA negotiators at COP21. He did not understand why the goalposts were always shifted, as they had been, from 2015 to 2030. He asked how much further those goalposts would be shifted, before being able to liberate the poorest of the poor on the ground?
The earth and its atmosphere was an integrated ecosystem. SA must set an example by committing itself to enforceable and substantial reduction of GHG, consistent with the NDP. The Movement warned that the pace of change was slow and deeply worrying. If government was serious about the danger to humanity, business interests should not be the primary consideration. Whilst the representative was not saying economic interests should be ignored, the primary focus should be on securing a future for humankind. SA should act consistently with the Africa Group position on the temperature increase. SA’s commitment should not be conditional on financial support. China was supporting SA financially but China was responsible for the most air pollution of all countries. Given the financial support, SA was unlikely to tell China to stop polluting. SA should show it practised what it preached.
Last year the Movement submitted 100 000 signatures to the Presidency to create climate jobs, but up to today it had never received any response from the Department or government. The Movement wished the Department well for its negotiations.
Philippi Horticultural Area Food and Farming Campaign (PHA FFC): Agro-Ecological Farming as a Socio-Economically Beneficial Climate Mitigator
Mr Nazeer Sonday, a small farmer in the Philippi Horticultural Area in the City of Cape Town and Convenor of the PHA FFC, wanted to bring to the Committee’s attention the important role of soils. It was not widely known that soils were a carbon sink, and so soil played a major role in mitigating and adaptation in terms of climate change. The soils in SA were in a very bad state – the UN Environmental Protection Agency classified the soil in SA as “very degraded”. This meant the carbon content of the soil was about 1%, when it should be at around 6%. This spoke to common agricultural methods depleting the carbon content of the soil.
Government needed to be encouraged to put policies in place that would encourage farmers to change their farming practices, and also to incentivise them to change. The emphasis was on building soil structure to increase the carbon content trapped in the soil and out of the atmosphere. When a plant grew, it needed nitrogen and oxygen as well as carbon. When the plant died, the carbon was then held in the soil; and this was then a way to mitigate carbon out of the atmosphere. Modern agriculture, food production and distribution were major contributors to greenhouse gases. Agriculture was directly responsible for 14% of total greenhouse gas emissions, and broader rural land use decisions had an even larger impact.
In this context, a historical perspective needed to be considered. Dr Rattan Lal, Professor of Soil Science at Ohio State University, had calculated that over the last 150 years, 476 billions of tonnes of carbon had been emitted from farmland soils, due to inappropriate farming and grazing practices, as compared to ‘only’ 270 Gt emitted from of burning of fossil fuels. A more frequently quoted figure was that 200 to 250 Gt of carbon had been lost from the biosphere as a whole in the last 300 years. Whatever the correct figure, these reductions of ‘living carbon potential’ had resulted from a combination of the following:
- bio-diversity loss
- accelerated soil erosion
- loss of soil organic matter
- salinisation of soils
- coastal water pollution
- acidification of the oceans
Mr Sonday was clear that if soil health could be improved, it would have a wide range of benefits for both farmers and the environment. Government should put in place policies that incentivised putting carbon back into the soil to help with climate change mitigation and adaption. Soils and farmers were new weapons in fighting climate change in an inexpensive way, by using natural methods. This was not a fantasy, but was a technique being practised in different parts of the world at this very moment.
The Philippi area was a 3 000h area that supplied 150 000 tonnes of vegetables to the city. It was a very unique area with the best soil, water and micro-climate, and was close to the market as it was almost in the middle of the city area, thus occupying a unique urban-agriculture space. It was also very close to consumers, which made transport inexpensive. However the area was under threat of urban development and sand mining. Local government was allowing the agricultural land to be used for development/ This was a serious problem, as it showed that government did not understand climate change and the impact on food security. The Philippi Horticultural Area was under direct threat by MEC Anton Bredell, who unconstitutionally and irrationally moved the urban edging in 2012 for development. Climate change also impacted on water and food resources. Already, part of the country were drought stricken and it was believed SA was moving towards water scarcity. This was a huge problem. As a farmer himself, he said he faced direct annihilation by the government who threatened to shut down the area for housing development. The area furthermore employed many workers, mostly from the vulnerable groups of women, the unskilled and the youth, in the Cape Flats. Shutting the area down would prevent further employment or expansion of the “green lungs” of the City as a means for mitigation and adaptation in the fight against climate change. Many faced the loss of livelihoods, coupled with the loss of capacity to feed the city, which would increase food insecurity.
In summary, he said that on the one hand it was obvious that there was climate change and its effects and on the other, there could be a solution, in changing change farming practices from conventional, common agriculture addicted to chemicals and fertilisers to an agro-ecological way of farming where natural systems were used. He repeated that he was under direct threat by the City of Cape Town and provincial government to pave over the area and provide permission for housing developments.
Green Building Council of SA (GBSA)
Mr Manfred Braune, Chief Technical Officer, GBCSA, began by noting that the vision of the GBSA was to inspire green buildings. The Council had about 1 300 member organisations from both corporate and government, it educated over 7 000 people and certified about 130 green buildings to change thousands of lives for those occupying the buildings. The GBCSA recently signed an MOU with SALGA to allow municipalities to become part of the critical network and to build capacity for councillors, management and technical services. The GBSA represented a vast network which was incredibly powerful.
The Council broadly supported SA’s position but stressed there was a role to play for certain key sectors like agriculture, which had already been spoken about and now the built environment. Climate science was a very complex one and trying to fit the entire world into a laboratory was impossible. It might not be an exact science but there was a lot of good extrapolation being made with real hard evidence showing that the built environment had made, and will make, a big difference. Globally, the built environment was responsible for at least 40% of energy and emissions. There were also issues related to water and waste. He highlighted that the INDCs developed needed to be very specific and address urgent sectors to make firm commitments in terms of SA’s position. The UN had for the first time recognised the importance of buildings and the built environment and the role they played. Thinking about daily interactions, the most part of the day was spent in a building, whether it be the home or office. Transport was another critical sector.
About 100 buildings in SA were certified as green buildings, and every year these buildings saved millions of tonnes of CO2 from going into the atmosphere. Given the tens of thousands of buildings owned by government and the private sector, there was a massive potential of the sector. These green buildings saved millions of litres of water annually, which was critical in terms of adaptation. Since setting up the green star rating system, the growth of green buildings was quite exponential but this could be far more significant with the support of government and DEA. He invited DEA to work with the GBSA to ramp these numbers up significantly. The Department’s own building in Tshwane had a six star rating and this was a fantastic display of leadership.
Mr Braune reiterated the need for the INDCs to be very specific per sector, with specific targets and attributes in terms of the built environment as well. Government and industry was welcome to join the GBCSA for the fight against climate change as it was not necessary to wait until global agreements were reached in COP21.
African Climate Reality Project
Mr Deon Robbertze, Climate Reality Mentor, African Climate Reality Project, said that he had been to COP15 and 17, where he had seen hopes dashed and negotiators arguing about a comma or a sentence in a paragraph. Education was the real tool for mitigation and adaptation. He had two children aged 10 and 14 and eight months ago he delivered a talk to Camps Bay High School, after which various subject teachers came up to him asking for the slides of the presentation because it was not in the curriculum. Other students could attest to the fact that climate change was covered, in the current curriculum, by about one sentence in a grade eight textbook, so the education system was treating climate change as if it did not exist. In order for SA to truly become an adaptable and resilient nation against climate change, future generations, the public and communities needed to be educated not only about the huge problems and interconnected issues which came with climate change, but the amazing opportunities to create jobs, to become food secure, to move towards renewables and to protect the environment.
He pleaded to government, the education departments and indeed all departments to focus on education because without it, there would be no change or adaption. Whatever happened in Paris would happen, but education was needed for adaption. He did not have much hope for what would come out of COP21 because so far there had been a lot of talk but very little action. A plan B was needed, and this plan B was education.
Mr Lianne Greef, representing Geasphere, said Geasphere would have liked to have been here today but were told not enough funding was available for transporting civil society. He noted that key climate change concerns regarding the SA Climate Change approach were related to:
-“Clean Coal technology”
-Carbon capture and storage
-Unsafe nuclear energy
-Carbon trading and CDM
Real solutions that could be easily implemented, but which were not prioritised, included:
-Better town planning
-Targeted energy/carbon taxes
-Renewable solar energy
-Decentralised energy grid
Ms Greef emphasised that timber plantations should be not be used for climate change mitigation. They were not forests. They also had several impacts of their own, as follows:
1. Biodiversity Impacts:
-SA’s biodiversity resided in its grasslands
- Indigenous plants needed fire, light and water, and the plantations took away all three
- Plantations were planted in the mist belt which had the highest flower diversity, plus many medicinal plants
- Large scale industrial timber plantations converted huge tracts of land into a green desert where little life existed
- Indigenous birds, insects and soil microbes were not adapted to this alien plant species
2. Impact on Ecosystem Services:
-These included the water retention services provided by grasslands
- There was a need for prevention of soil erosion
- Siltation in rivers occurred
- The rivers in Mpumalanga were badly affected and industry did not have the capacity to undo the damage
There were also impacts on water resources and people:
- Diversity impoverishments which impacted on traditional healers
- Rural people who collected thatching grass, wild fruits, wood for fire,
- Eucalyptus and pine did not make coals so they were not good for cooking
- Spiritual connections – traditional healers and indigenous knowledge systems were dependent on a healthy environment
- Rivers were drying up and fountains were disappearing – e.g. the Mooifontein fountain disappeared
- Farmers were affected by the loss of rivers
- The cost was borne by farmers who had to pump from boreholes but did not cause the problem
- Employment was very low in plantations because of the slow rotation of 10 to 20 years
- Much of the industry was being mechanised – replacing hundreds of workers or encouraging the use of contact workers rather than having a regular workforce.
Ms Greef explained there was also an important dimension of fire which had traditionally been an important tool used for integrated natural resource management, especially for grasslands. Now land owners were being forced to burn too early in the season which resulted in a different temperature of fire with the overall impact that grasslands areas were turning into savannah areas – resulting in loss of biodiversity.
Tree plantations were not forests - they were a part of an industrial production process that destroyed natural vegetation, consumes huge amounts of water, caused soil erosion, displaced communities and fed wasteful consumption.
Fossil Free SA
Mr David Le Page, environmental journalist and representative of Fossil Free SA, noted that he was glad to speak to the Committee because earlier this year he was going to speak to parliamentary researchers but they wanted to censor his slides before he spoke to them. He endorsed many of the calls heard already at the hearings by other organisations. The US state of California was taking a principle stand against fossil fuels by divesting – this decision was extremely significant considering that California was one of the biggest states in the US and the seventh biggest state in the world. It was divesting from fossil fuels because they caused climate change which was a threat to humanity and collective human rights. Coal was fast becoming a very bad investment. California was an example of a state that was growing while reducing emissions – and the state was part of a movement of 30 universities, hundreds of towns and cities, churches and associations all divesting from fossil fuels because it was wrong and risky to invest in them. Fossil Free SA was part of this global movement and working on persuading investors in SA to start looking at this issue and start divesting from fossil fuels.
Mr Le Page, turning to SA’s position for COP21, said SA needed to be more ambitious - there was no safe level of climate change or safe maximum temperature that was allowable. Already with 1.5 degrees rise, there were 400 000 people dying as a result of climate change and many of those dying first were children in Africa and Asia. More ambition was needed.
It was “delusional” to think that fossil fuels were somehow indispensable for development yet this was embedded in thoughts and arguments. It was said that many evils needed to be stopped, like poverty, yet people were choosing the same development model repeatedly that did not create prosperity. The faster fossil fuels were phased out, the faster and more secure SA’s development would be. As Nelson Mandela said, poverty was not natural but man-made and it could be overcome and eradicated by the actions of human beings. SA’s poverty was a product of its current development model and the way business conducted itself – and if the country were to change the way it did business and to value people and the environment as much as profit, then this would create an economy which served everyone equally. Again and again, in the pursuit of development in SA, there would a move towards mining, fossil fuels and coal. However, every time the world created a coal-mine which destroyed water, health and property rights of the surrounding community, it would create poverty. Mines that poured carbon dioxide into the atmosphere created poverty for future generations. Every time a coal-fuelled power station was created, it killed people with air pollution, polluted precious water. This was also a lost opportunity to invest in cleaner and healthier renewable energy and to create more, better and safer jobs for people. Even if there was no such thing as climate change, everyone would still benefit from getting rid of fossil fuels.
Powerful vested interests kept making the argument that fossil fuels were needed for development to lobby support for the continuation of their business model – this business model essentially demanded the destruction of human civilisation. If the reserves of all the fossil fuel companies were burnt, the climate would be reserved as a liveable place for human beings. In Mpumalanga, research showed that communities were deeply upset by the destruction of roads by mining companies, there were widespread protests about the broken promises of mining companies, communities did not trust mining companies, there was increased unemployment, farmland was being devalued, there were increased respiratory problems, migration, increased crime and increased levels of HIV/AIDS. 46% of SA’s arable land was in Mpumalanga and 26% of that land was threatened by coal mining, yet this was called development. SA was increasing its use of fossil fuels at a time when the rest of the world was turning away from coal – in the past five years, 200 coal plants closed down in the US. Ten of China’s 34 provinces had pledged to decline their coal consumption and had banned the construction of new coal fired power plants. The giants of the world economy were turning away from coal. By continuing to invest in coal, SA was locking itself into a dinosaur economy.
Mr Le Page said there was no safe level of global warming, but SA did not need to limit its ambition. Fossil fuels could not be phased out overnight but SA should commit to complete de-carbonisation of its economy by 2050 – Turning away from fossil fuels was not just a turn away from climate change but a turn away from many other problems outlined above. SA should join those areas phasing out fossil fuels but continuing with development. SA should commit to 100% renewable energy. DEA had programmes on Working for Fire and Working for Water but should have Working for Trees and Working for Carbon Capture.
Submission by Member of the Public
Mr Eugene Cairincross, retired professor of chemical engineering at CPUT, thought it was clear that climate change was happening and its cause was GHG emissions due to human actions, as the relationship between the two was well proven by the scientific evidence. Eskom and Sasol were amongst the largest polluters of GHG emissions. The SA negotiating position for COP21 accepted the realities of climate change and the urgent need to respond to the global problem, nationally and collectively, on a global stage. The argument was less between countries but rather with industries who had vested interests in continuing CO2 emissions and resisting change.
There were positive opportunities presented by the climate change crisis as the SA economy was one of the most carbon intensive economies in the world. Three sectors in SA were responsible for the most CO2 emissions. However in SA, solar energy resources were particularly good and there were areas where solar energy could be produced more economically than coal-based power. Instead of looking at coal in the ground, with all its problems around extraction, tit should look to the enormous free resource of solar energy. SA also had enormous areas which were favourable to wind-based power. Since both wind and solar power were renewable they were thus a non-exhaustible, infinite resource.
Mr Cairincross found that the problem was with the extremely slow and cautious roll-out of renewable resources. Coal fired power stations were coming to an end as a number of current stations were ageing. He urged that these needed to be replaced immediately with renewable energy. Because of the climate change crisis, technology for utilising these renewable energies had happened very rapidly and so they could be built, and energy could be produced, more cheaply than coal-based power. The old story of base load power could be solved using pump water storage which SA already had. SA simply needed to redesign the collective minds away from the grid and point Eskom to the direction of using renewables. SA could then, with this picture in mind, commit to a far more ambitious reduction in CO2 emissions over the next 20 year period.
Marylin Lilley submission: COP21 Hydraulic Fracturing, Shale Gas, Methane Emissions and Global Warming
Ms Marylin Lilley noted that, as an individual member of the public, she wished to raise some issues of concern about the proposed hydraulic fracturing (fracking) in SA and the impacts as experienced by many communities living in areas near to high volume fracking activities. Specifically in the context of SA’s INDCs to COP21 in December 2015, she wanted to raise issues relating to the GHG methane emissions from fracking and related activities and during its use.
Communities living near to fracking and the many related activities and infrastructure such as drilling rigs, toxic waste water ponds, flaring, noise, pollution, compressor stations, venting, fugitive emissions, truck traffic, spills, contaminated wells and other activities, were often affected by many serious health issues. In addition, there were impacts to the environment, water, air, livestock, wildlife, birds, insects and fish as well as many related social impacts.
Ms Lilley said that, in the context of SA’s INDC, the GHG fugitive methane emissions occurring during the various fracking related activities that escaped into the atmosphere needed to be taken into account, due to the global warming impact of these methane emissions.
Like coal, shale gas was a fossil fuel and its extractive process with the health, environmental and GHG impacts were important issues to be included and addressed at this international forum. The pollution and GHG impacted affected people living in the area, both in the short and long term.
Significant amounts of methane were lost as fugitive emissions during the exploration and production stages of shale gas, as well as from related activities and infrastructures. These emissions were invisible to the naked eye but many could be clearly seen using FLIR cameras. Methane gas had a bigger impact on global warming than coal and had a greater global warming potential than carbon dioxide.
Ms Lilley outlined that fugitive methane emissions occurred over the lifetime of a well, resulting from drilling, toxic flow back fluids, leaks, flaring, venting, spills and accidents. Once plugged and abandoned, well casings would rust and all wells eventually would leak for many years afterwards.
South Africa's NDP advocated for the exploration of shale gas fracking for methane gas as part of SA’s energy mix. Questions were raised whether this gas would be used for domestic purposes or sold offshore.
She noted that the exploration stage also included fracking and related activities with gas emissions. This included full construction of a well pad, approximately 1 000 truck trips, followed by the well completion stage where the well was drilled to a depth of about three to four kms to the shale layer and a horizontal well of about 2 km was drilled. The well casing was then perforated, during the perforation stage, with a perforating gun with armour piercing charges and powerful explosive charges that simultaneously fractured the shale rock. During the fracking stage, about 20 million litres of water with silica sand and toxic chemicals were pumped under high pressure to enter the fractures and this released the methane gas that returned to the surface together with the toxic radioactive flow back water.
The size and extent of the areas to be fracked was of significance in order to assess the accumulative amount of fugitive methane emissions and global warming impacts and also to assess the cumulative impacts of air pollution, health and other impacts. Well pads were built about three to four kms apart, often in a grid formation. Each well pad could have up to 30 horizontal wells. Each well could be fracked multiple times. Approximately 20 million litres of water was needed for each frack. Many thousands of well pads over large areas needed to be developed, for shale gas exploration and production to be viable. Despite asking questions there were, to date, no answers with details of exactly where water in SA's water-scarce country would be sourced, or how and where all the toxic waste would be disposed of.
Ms Lilley emphasised that each frack produced toxic radioactive water that came back to the surface as flow back, and whilst this was kept in ponds or tanks, eventually it had to be disposed of. There was no known way to properly clean or safely dispose of this toxic waste water.
The Department of Mineral Resources appeared determined to permit exploration that could lead to the full production stage, with its resultant increased methane emissions. Current permit applications covered an area of about 20 000 sq km in the Karoo alone, which could result in many thousands of well pads over this area. In addition more permits had been applied for in other areas of SA.
She stressed that if SA were to go ahead with exploration fracking and the likely follow-on of the production stage, with multiple fracking and related fugitive methane gas emissions, along with other toxic emissions, SA would not be reducing its GHG emission levels but would in fact be increasing GHG emissions and contributing to global warming and climate change and resultant impacts.
Ms Lilley said that, based on current ongoing reports and footage of fugitive methane emissions in places around the world where fracking took place, it appeared that mitigation attempts and processes were not effective in preventing methane gas emissions. If ways to mitigate fugitive methane gas emissions were available or in place at present, the documented related health impacts on communities and also the increased global warming emissions would not have initially occurred or would have ceased.
The fact that fugitive methane gas emissions continued to date was of concern for those communities currently impacted by accumulative fugitive emissions and the cumulative impacts on global warming – and it was therefore of concern that these same issues could be experienced in SA.
The Department of Mineral Resources had stated that it “will adopt best practices and monitor at every stage”. However, it seemed that despite regulations where fracking took place, methane emissions continued to be emitted as well as other impacts.
Ms Lilley believed that SA’s position on climate change at COP221 would need to take into account the impacts of the increase of methane gas emissions and resultant global warming effects and impacts, if fracking activities, including the exploration stage, were to go ahead in SA.
SA’s position in the international negotiation included that it should ensure that global emission reduction efforts were adequate to avert dangerous climate change, and to oblige all countries, whether rich or poor, to come forward with pledges to manage their GHG emissions
She believed that SA, by promoting fracking, was essentially saying one thing but doing another in reducing GHG emissions. To stand on an international platform, promoting underlying principles committing to lower GHG emissions that would “produce significant benefits for human health and ecosystems and curb air pollution” (which was what was crucially needed), yet at the very same time having a clear intention to permit fracking activities that would increase emissions of methane gas, resulting in serious impacts on human health, ecosystems and air pollution and that would increase SA's global warming with emissions, was highly problematic and contradictory.
She wanted to stress again that SA, in actively pursuing policies that advocated fracking for shale gas, also permitting Coal Stream Gas (CSG) or Underground Coal Gasification (UCG) and opening up more coal mines and coal powered power stations, would actually increase the country's emissions. These would cause significant global warming and add to climate change.
She believed that SA’s position on climate change at COP21 should include an examination of whether its current policy, that could lead to full scale fracking over wide areas in SA with the resultant fugitive methane gas emissions that increased global warming and related serious climate change impacts, should be reversed. The lead up to COP21 and development of SA's INDCs presented an ideal opportunity for the Departments of Mineral Resources, Energy, Environmental Affairs, Health and others to collectively take a hard look at SA's current energy policies, with their GHG impacts, including health impacts and to change direction to reduce our global warming emissions.
Many bans and moratoria on fracking had been instated worldwide. She called on the SA government and the Department of Mineral Resources to institute a moratorium on fracking in SA, especially as two research projects on fracking were currently under way. One was the Strategic Environmental Assessment that hopefully would include full research in the global warming effect of methane from shale gas fracking. It made more sense to wait for outcomes of the research projects. The new Minister for Mineral Resources, Mr Mosebenzi Zwane, would also need time to fully assess the many issues before him.
Ms Lilley believed, in summary, that a commitment to reduce GHG emissions was not compatible with a policy that advocated fracking for shale or coal seam gas with the accompanying global warming methane gas footprint and emissions.
Department of Environmental Affairs Response
Ms Judy Beaumont, Deputy Director General: Climate Change and Air Quality, Department of Environmental Affairs, thanked the Committee for leading the important forum which presented a remarkably rich debate covering a range of issues relating to climate change. It was a critical process to take forward into the lower-carbon and resilient economy. The Department (or DEA) would be transparent with the references and these would be included in the final document. The timeframes were acknowledged and general concerns about giving effect to section 24 for environment rights were fully taken on board, and would be reflected.
There were a number of points raised about adaptation and the national adaptation process in relation to timeframes and the need to be more ambitious. Questions were raised about adaptation costs, what SA was doing to transit to a lower carbon economy and points raised around mitigation and whether it was sufficiently ambitious. Some felt it was too ambitious, while others felt it was not ambitious enough. There were questions around the fair share and consistent methodologies. He submissions raised questions around what SA’s contribution actually was, and what SA was doing to reduce emissions. A number of points were made on national policy and implementation matters around energy policy, national circumstances and the challenges SA faced at a national level, and for these to be reflected in the INDCs.
Points were made around the importance of alignment across different departments and spheres of government for different strategies. There was concern that too much emphasis was placed on strategies and plans, when it should be on scaling up and dealing with actual implementation, to create an enabling environment for adaptation and emission reduction on all levels. Points were raised about the importance of local manufacturing and bringing technology home, for SA to grow its capacity to develop green technology. A number of critical points were made around addressing unemployment and the under-emphasis on the key role of local government, where implementation actually occurred in an urban and rural context. Valuable points were made on the importance of green building, soils and agriculture in the debate, both in terms of adapting to climate change and reducing emissions. The importance of the transport and energy sector was highlighted.
There were contextual considerations to note in SA’s INDCs. The reality was that the country was operating at a time in which a negotiating process was currently under way and SA was negotiating hard as the Africa Group and Group of 77. The stakes in an international negotiation were incredibly high. This was a tough negotiation, and developed countries were pushing for symmetrical obligations by all parties. The common but differentiated responsibility of varying countries went to the heart of the negotiations. There was also a key issue around multilateral oversight and whether SA, from a multilateral perspective, could add up all the pledges being made to ensure that, globally, there was sufficient ambition to keep the global temperature rise well below two degrees. In addition, the stakes were high nationally for economic transition was a tough process, and SA operated in the context of quite significant development, employment and energy challenges. This had implications on SA’s skills transition, technology transition and changing energy mix. She agreed that SA needed to take ambitious actions.
Ms Beaumont explained that SA’s INDCs were abound balancing and presenting a signal in the international negotiations that SA was contributing its fair share, were committed to negotiations and was creating sufficient policy space to accommodate national economic, energy and development circumstances. This meant that if SA's renewable sector took off and did well, the country had the flexibility to adjust to greater ambition. The emphasis was on having no further losses in employment.
Detailed work was done on the climate scenarios for Southern Africa and not SA alone, because SA was absolutely and intricately intertwined with its neighbours on the impact scenarios, what could be expected, adaptation options and the costs. This was seen in the context of water, agriculture, forestry, marine fisheries, health, biodiversity, human settlements. Work was constantly being done, and required input from a range of departments and academic institutions doing detailed climate impact work, for a detailed understanding of what the potential impacts were and what adaptation was then needed. Water was indeed at the heart of the matter. There was a long term vision and medium goal for the peak plateau and decline stage and flexibility was built in to increase or adjust ambitions in case the country was not able to respond as rapidly as expected.
Ms Beaumont said that in regard to the fair share contribution, SA was an outlier and had relatively high ambitions per capita, in the context of coal-based energy. There were short term challenges due to high-carbon infrastructure and this presented a challenge for adaptation. This was not to say that SA should not take ambitious action. There were many methodological approaches to take when determining the fair share and it required further debate. There was an integrated resource and integrated energy plan and the debates on climate change were contributing positively to the discussion on SA’s energy mix to transition to a lower-carbon energy mix. Energy efficiency was improving and there was economic growth associated with fewer emissions. SA was doing well in growing its renewable energy capacity and the price of renewable energy was dropping dramatically, especially when compared to coal. There was an energy efficiency target monitoring system with the key message being that there were improvements, but more could still be done. There was a process under way to establish carbon budgets so that industry had mandatory planning and reporting systems to transition to cleaner technology. Legislation was currently under discussion.
She supported the idea of getting horizontal and vertical alignment and the need to address unemployment issues, but there were opportunities in the transition to a low carbon and resilient economy. The Department of Science and Technology was leading with a technology plan, but this built on extensive work being done by academic institutions, which was incredibly exciting, on new technologies.
Emphasis on SA’s social, economic and environmental vulnerabilities needed to be strengthened in the INDCs and to clearly reflect on the current development challenges. The debate on developmental and environmental considerations needed to be re-framed and balanced, so that it was not presented as either / or approach, but as sustainable development. A just and inclusive transition needed to be included along with strengthening the adaptation component. These negotiations would take place post-2020 and this time frame was reflected in the INDCs. In terms of actual implementation, this work was currently under way. The emission reduction ambition needed to be reflected on and to strengthen the emphasis on local government.
With the COP21 position, the call was for SA to strengthen its pre-2020 ambition before the new legal agreement kicked in, because there was not enough emission reduction in the pledges already on the table by all countries to keep the world way below a two degree rise. SA needed to send strong signals on a number of points, to move away from fossil fuels, mechanisms for loss and damage, the global adaptation goal and mobilising climate finance. SA ‘s position was to limit the temperature increase well below 2ｺ Celsius, which included the official Africa position of keeping this to 1.5 ｺ Celsius. A was also part of the Group of 77 which was a broad church of developing countries which varied across the 1.5ｺ to 2ｺ spectrum.
Ms Beaumont then turned to national implementation, where the emphasis was on urgent consolidation of a national adaptation strategy, with a focus on enabling implementation, particularly on a local government level. She stressed that there was an urgency to several processes, including a process for mapping SA’s transition to a lower-carbon economy, and practically making the transition happen. SA recognised the urgent need to develop a national mitigation system (which was under way), and the pressing need for national climate change legislation. It also had to develop a national capacity building and awareness raising programme on climate change. The DEA would need to link with the Department of Education, align the national policy strategy with departmental mandates, and strengthen SA’s capacity to track the transition in terms of adapting to the impacts, building a more climate resilient economy and decreasing emissions.
Chairperson’s Closing Comments
In closing, the Chairperson noted there were some political decisions to take, including in Parliament itself. This Committee would be speaking with other committees so that everyone was on the same page on this issue. There needed to be a time set to consciously jump start to the new and important low-carbon economy, a point that was raised strongly in the public hearings. Organisations showed there was scientific evidence to look at and that, when embracing this new development trajectory, everyone was likely to benefit. New technologies needed to be embraced because the country could not continue in the same old way and this raised questions around whether the country could afford to build coal-fired power stations. This was a discussion t to see what message was actually sent out to the world and future generations. The major source of GHG difficulties was coal, but if SA continued to use coal for power generation capacity and SA planned to build more coal-fired power stations, then effectively it could be said to be “speaking from both sides of its mouth”. It was important that it not do this, as a leader in Africa and the G77. A could not be a proponent of enhanced climate change and build coal-fired power stations at the same time.
The Chairperson said the emphasis was on bringing everyone on board, including subsistence farmers and others, to roll out awareness programmes on these matters and to present new practices for adaptation in all sectors, including agriculture which was most vulnerable. The Committee would have to speak to all other Committees on these cross cutting issues. A debate was also needed in Parliament before COP21 to have a general sense of the direction of the country going into these negotiations, especially on the INDCs and plans for mitigation and adaptation. There might also be a need to engage in a networking session with organisations and the SA community on the SA negotiating position to look at how inputs were included from these interactions and to have some sort of report back mechanism, so that those making inputs were not taken advantage of and ensure submissions were made in the future.
Collected efforts were needed from organisations, industry, academics, those in rural areas and women to respond to the reality of climate change for the transition to a low carbon economy being gender sensitive. This should also be built into the INDCs and for long-term approaches to be very sensitive of our women and gender in a very innovative way.
It was the job of the Department to take the responses and see how to include them into the negotiating positions and the INDCs, as almost all the submissions agreed that climate change was a reality. The country needed to err on the correct side. He was grateful for all the well-prepared organisations presenting their inputs – this was what made SA such a wonderful place to live in. People were able to robustly discuss and differ but in a respectful manner. This was what SA was known for, even when engaging with other countries. He thanked all those who provided representative inputs. It was important that SA started to talk. Issues needed to be followed up, such as when a climate change bill would be brought before Parliament. He thanked Members and Members from other Committees for their attendance. He also thanked the parliamentary staff for organising the two-day hearings.
The meeting was adjourned.
- Geasphere submission
- A bridge to nowhere: methane emissions and the greenhouse gas footprint of natural gas: Robert W. Howarth
- Robert W. Howarth submission
- SALGA submission
- PHA Food and Farming Campaign submission 2
- PHA Food and Farming Campaign submission 1
- Energy Institute, CPUT submission
- BUSA submission
- Stakeholders Consultation on SA’s Position Towards COP21 (Discussion Document)
- South African National Energy Development Institute
- Centre for Environmental Rights
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