Air Quality compliance & industry postponement applications; Kigali Amendment to Montreal Protocol on Substances depleting Ozone Layer, with Minister

Environment, Forestry and Fisheries

12 February 2019
Chairperson: Mr P Mapulane (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Portfolio Committee met for a briefing by the Department of Environmental Affairs on the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol on Substances depleting the Ozone Layer. The intention of the Department was to motivate for Parliament to ratify the Kigali Agreement. The Department also briefed the Committee on air quality compliance and the situation with regards to industries that had requested permission to postpone the implementation of specific levels of air quality. The Department made a presentation on the issues around carbon amendments, including benchmarking the country against other developing countries.
 
The Minister of Environmental Affairs noted the importance of international agreements for the South African economy. However, such agreements had to be considered in the light of the particular context of South Africa and, if necessary, the need for adaptations of international protocols. Sustainability was a vital consideration.
 
The 28th Meeting of the Parties to the Montreal Protocol held in Kigali in October 2016 had adopted the Kigali Amendment to phase down hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs). Those were the greenhouse gases that fell under the scope of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Developing country parties would use a baseline averaging their calculated levels of HFC consumption for the years 2020, 2021, 2022 plus 65% of their baseline consumption of Hydrochlorofluorocarbon (HCFCs). The US policy change with regards to the Climate Change Paris agreement was concerning as it might have a negative impact on the finances but sufficient additional financial resources would be provided for developing countries to offset costs arising out of the obligations. The Department of Environmental Affairs recommended that Parliament approved South Africa’s ratification of the Amendment.
 
Members wanted assurance that SA would be ready by 2021 to implement the amendments to the Montreal Protocol. What was the status of the matter in the SADC region? What were  the financial costs of the amendments and the legal requirements? How was data reporting going to be managed?
 
The Committee agreed to recommend the ratification of the Kigali Amendment.
 
The Air Quality Act provided for the existing plants to apply for postponement with the compliance timeframes in respect of Minimum Emission Standards. The Portfolio Committee was advised that although it had recommended the appointment of a Technical Advisory Panel to help the affected parties find a long-lasting solution, the Minister had instructed that a Needs Assessment Report be produced on the progress of all the previous postponements granted and the challenges experienced. Based on the report, the Minister would decide on the way forward regarding whether or not there was scientific evidence favouring the establishment of the Panel. The Committee was also briefed on the details of the listed activities in the Amendment to the Act in respect of emissions. The Amendment contains a list of activities which result in atmospheric emissions and which are reasonably believed to have or may have a significant detrimental effect on the environment, including health, social conditions, economic conditions, ecological conditions or cultural heritage.
 
Members asked if there had been public consultations on the granting of postponement. What was the rationale for amending section 21? Members asked if there was agreement within the industry as to the level to which the emissions should be lowered.
 
The Department of Environmental Affairs briefed the Committee on the state of air quality in South Africa and the status quo of monitoring networks, including the functioning , and non-functioning, of ambient air quality monitoring stations.
 
Members asked why there was no data from some provinces, especially North West and KwaZulu-Natal. Had the Department engaged with the South African Local Government Association for capacity in local government? Was there any form of a forum for municipalities and provinces to discuss air quality matters? Members asked what the situation was with regards to Eskom which had indicated it would not be easy for it to comply with the minimum emission standards and that it wanted to use the minimum emission standards budget for other projects. Would the Department resist industry lowering the standards and pushing for its own agenda of not wanting to comply with standards?
 

Meeting report

Opening remarks
Mr P Makhubele (ANC), on behalf of the Chairperson, stated that not everyone was in attendance but would be coming soon. The meeting could begin and others would be welcomed when they arrived.
 
He welcomed the Minister of Environmental Affairs. He invited the Minister to make a few introductory remarks before the Department of Environmental Affairs briefed the Committee.
 
Minister’s Remarks
Minister Nomvula Mokonyane thanked the Committee and indicated that the Deputy Minister was accompanying the Director-General, Ms Nosipho Ngcaba, who would be speaking during the High-Level Segment at the United Nations Environment Assembly. Although she offered apologies for the Director-General, the officials would be able to take the Committee through all the matters on the agenda. She would have to leave early for another engagement.
 
Minister Mokonyane was aware that some of the issues that the Committee would need to look at was the Amendment to the Kigali Agreement, the air quality compliance and industry postponement applications and the issue around carbon amendments and where they wanted to take the country, as well benchmarking the country against other developing countries. She noted the importance of international agreements for the South African economy. However, such agreements had to be considered in the light of the particular context of SA and, if necessary, to consider the need for adaptations of international protocols. Sustainability was a vital consideration. The Department would brief the Committee on the panel. It was important to inform the Portfolio Committee of progress being made by the Department and to keep the Committee in the loop.
 
The Acting DG noted that he would be leaving with the Minister and informed the Committee that the briefing on the Kigali Amendment would be presented by Ms Noluzuko Gwayi.
 
Briefing on the Kigali Amendment
Ms Noluzuko Gwayi, Senior Policy Advisor: International Chemicals and Waste Cooperation, DEA, informed the Committee that the purpose for the briefing was to request Parliament to approve South Africa’s ratification of the Amendment to the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer to include hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), (the Kigali Amendment).
 
The 28th Meeting of the Parties to the Montreal Protocol (MOP) held in Kigali in October 2016 had adopted the Kigali Amendment to phase down HFCs. HFCs were greenhouse gases that fell under the scope of the UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change). HFCs were introduced to the Montreal Protocol as a replacement for Hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs). The amended Montreal Protocol included provisions requiring new reporting of data and information by the parties on production, imports and exports of each HFC for the years 2020 to 2022 for Article 5 group 1 parties and from 2024 to 2026 for Article 5 group 2 parties. The decision and its annex state that most developing country parties would use a baseline averaging their calculated levels of HFC consumption for the years 2020, 2021, 2022 plus 65% of their baseline consumption of HCFCs.
 
Ms Gwayi reported that Article 10 contained the MLF, the financial mechanism which had been successful before in supporting Article 5, or developing, countries. The US policy change with regards to the Climate Change Paris Agreement was concerning as it might have a negative impact on the finances but sufficient additional financial resources would be provided by non-Article 5 Parties to offset costs arising out of HCFC obligations for developing countries under the Amendment.
 
In order to satisfy the basic domestic needs of developing countries, the calculated levels of production might exceed the limit by up to 10% of calculated production levels of controlled substances, to be gradually reduced.
 
Ms Gwayi stated that each party should, by 1 January 2019, or within three months of the date of entry into force of the paragraph, whichever was later, establish and implement a system for licensing the import and export of new, used, recycled and reclaimed controlled substances in Annexure F. The paragraph also stated that non-Article 5 parties not in a position to establish and implement such a system by 1 January 2019 might delay taking those actions until 1 January 2021.
 
The Department of Environmental Affairs recommended that Parliament approved SA’s ratification of the Amendment to the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer to include hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) (the Kigali Amendment).
 
Briefing on the postponement of compliance with Minimum Emission Standards of NEM
Dr Thuli Khumalo, Chief Director for Air Quality Management: DEA, indicated that he would brief the Committee on progress in implementing the PC’s February 2018 recommendations, a roadmaps towards full compliance by industry, offset programmes and their progress; and applications received for further postponements
 
Dr Khumalo reminded the Committee that legal provisions for postponement of compliance timeframes stipulated in the Section 21 Notice of NEM:AQA, 2004 stated that:
-new plants must comply with new plant emission standards immediately,
-existing plants must comply with existing plant standards on 01 April 2015; and
-existing plants must comply with new plant standards on 01 April 2020.
 
The Air Quality Act (AQA) provided for the existing plants to apply for postponement with the compliance timeframes and indicated that the applications for postponements had to include an air pollution impact assessment, detailed justification, and a concluded public participation process. Postponements should not exceed five years. 34 applications had been received in 2014, and from 2015 to 2017 the DEA had received 20 new applications.
 
Dr Khumalo reminded the Portfolio Committee that it had recommended that the terms of reference for the appointment of a Technical Advisory Panel should be developed to help the affected parties find a long lasting solution. The Minister had considered the submission and instructed instead that a Needs Assessment Report be produced on the progress of all the previous postponements granted and the challenges thereof for the past five years. The Needs Assessment Report would also detail what the establishment of the Panel would entail in line with other expectations for compliance with the minimum emission standards. Based on the report, the Minister would decide on the way forward regarding whether or not there was scientific evidence favouring the establishment of the Panel.
 
She said that the terms of reference that would inform the approach of the needs assessment exercise had been drafted. The amended Section 21 Notice was promulgated on 31 October 2018 wherein the new plant standard for SO2 for existing plants had been revised from 500 mg/Nm3 to 1000 mg/Nm3 , applicable from 1 April 2020. The revised standard was opening the scope for a wider range of technologies to be utilised to achieve compliance. However, the regulated community would advise whether there were still major difficulties at that stage or not.
 
Dr Khumalo recommended that the Committee noted the Minister’s recommendation on the SO2 Panel, the roadmaps towards full compliance by industry, the offsets programmes and their progress and the national emissions status for South Africa.
 
Identification of listed activities (2013) Section 21 amendment notice; Technical Evaluation of SO2
Mr Vincent Gololo briefed the Committee on the Amendment Notice and provided details of the technical evaluation of SO2.
 
Section 21 of the AQA required the Minister to publish a list of activities which result in atmospheric emissions and which he/she reasonably believed to have or may have a significant detrimental effect on the environment, including health, social conditions, economic conditions, ecological conditions or cultural heritage.
Once identified, these activities are known as Listed Activities and any activity that has been identified as a “Listed Activity” requires an Atmospheric Emission License (AEL) or provisional AEL in order to operate.
 
The standards setting process was more than just the identification of the defined standard of a specific pollutant and a number of factors beyond the exposure-response relationship needed to be taken into account. Those factors included understanding the current concentration of pollutants and exposure levels of the population, the specific mixture of air pollutants, and the specific social, economic and cultural conditions encountered within a country. A technical and legal process had to be followed to ensure that proposed standards could be achieved in practice and at a justifiable cost.
 
Standards consider the health, safety and environmental protection objectives, analytical methodology; technical feasibility; monitoring capability; and socio-economic consequences. A protocol is developed to ensure that the methodology for the determination of standards relating to the AQA follows a process that ensures that standards are realistically achievable at a justifiable cost.
 
An expert panel had to be established for the development of standards. The expert panel included representatives from the national department, other affected national departments, provincial and municipal government, industry, business, civil society and the academia.
The amendments to the Air Quality Act announced in 2018 were intended to align Section 21 with the amendment of the 2012 National Framework (NF) for Air Quality Management. The NF and S21 Notice had the same provisions in some instances, e.g. the provisions for postponement of compliance timeframes are both in the NF and Section 21 Notice. Any amendment to such provisions in the National Framework had to be accompanied by consequential amendments to Section 21 Notice. The Amendment was also intended to address issues related to the use of pyritic limestone that were continuously raised during the implementation of the notice and to clarify provisions of storage and handling of petroleum products for clarity purposes only.
 
The Department engaged with the on the content of the Amendments Notice before the amended Section 21 Notice was promulgated on 31 October 2018 – Annexure 18 which contains the new plant standard for SO2 for existing plants which has been revised from 500mg/Nm3 to 1000mg/Nm3 and is applicable from 1 April 2020 – as discussed earlier. The revised standard opens the scope for a wider range of technologies to be utilized to achieve compliance. It is not a “no investment” scenario. The regulated community is still to advise whether there are still major difficulties at this stage or not and all of that will be considered by the Panel of Experts who will report back as necessary.
 
Deliberations on the Kigali Amendments
Mr Makhubele wanted to be assured that SA would be ready by 2021 to implement the amendments to the Montreal Protocol on Substances that depleted the ozone layer.
 
Ms Gwayi assured the Committee the country would be ready because the Department met quarterly to assess how much was exported and imported to the country, and they were aware of statistics.
 
Mr Obed Baloyi, Chief Director for Chemicals Management, DEA, added that DEA had calculated the baseline for 2020 and 2022 and was working on the baseline of quantities. It was the greenhouse gas that had the impact on the climate. He said that SA was going to meet its obligations. The protocol was allowing for exemptions which included the phasing out of methodomide until the correct alternative was found.
 
The Chairperson wanted to know the status of the matter in the SADC region.
 
Mr Baloyi explained that Lesotho, Botswana and Zimbabwe were the only countries that had ratified and they were depending on SA for substances.
 
Mr T Hadebe (DA) remarked it was important for the Committee to know the financial costs of the amendments for it to allow ratification, and the Committee also needed to know the legal requirements.
 
Mr Baloyi stated there was a legislative framework that was being developed and which would also look at the legal framework.
 
Mr R Purdon (DA) added that more information was needed on the reporting of the data and how it was going to be done in the future in order to get to 2024.
 
Mr Baloyi informed the Committee there was a planned workshop, and technical details would be given to the Committee. He further indicated reporting was an obligation according to the Montreal Protocol. The Department was reporting on a yearly basis and it has never not complied. He stated DEA had done an inventory to know about the exports and imports that had an impact on the climate. He further stated the International Monetary Fund (IMF) was supporting the obligations of the developing countries. Where there were challenges, there had been commitments to funding.
 
The Chairperson remarked that even though there had been amendments in Kigali, the SA amendments did not have to be in exact accordance with what happened in Kigali.
 
Mr Hadebe warned that the country should proceed cautiously so that it did not create problems or challenges for the new members. The workshop should be done with the new members.
 
Ms Gwayi told the Committee that some technical obligations had been sent to the Department of Justice and Correctional Services for consideration.
 
Deliberations on the Air Quality Minimum Emission Standards, update on postponement of applications and the identification of listed activities
Mr Hadebe asked if there had been public consultations on the granting of postponement.
 
Dr Khumalo said DEA had standard procedures it followed, such as completeness checks. The Department engaged participants during the completeness check. She said the Department engaged the public at different places, even though they did not have enough resources to cover all areas. She further indicated it was not an easy period currently for public participation processes in SA in terms of safety, especially in politically charged environments.
 
The Chairperson wanted to know the rationale for amending section 21.
 
Dr Gololo stated that everything had been based on the inputs during the public hearings, on the cost-benefit analysis, and on technical review undertaken by the Department.
 
Mr Makhubele asked when the panel was going to be concluded and what would be the terms of references.
 
Dr Khumalo indicated the Department did not foresee consultation going over eight months after the panel had been established. The task would be completed within eight months. Once the panel had been established, they would determine the scope of work to see if the eight months would be enough.
 
Mr Matshediso, Deputy Director for Atmospheric Policy, Norms and Standards: DEA, said postponements had occurred due to the need to amend section 21 which was followed by public participation processes, and the Department had to look at the required technologies to meet the targets.

Dr Tsakani Ngomane, Deputy Director-General for Climate Change Air Quality & Sustainable Development, DEA, said the cost-benefit analysis would provide information in relation to the questions asked by the Members. She said the cost-benefit study for the Air Quality Act was instituted to look at health implications and costs. The main objective was to check costs and benefits. She said the Department was using the best available technology for cost-benefit studies.
 
The Chairperson said that the panel to be established has to look at the SO2 to advise the Minister accordingly. He wanted to understand if it was possible to wait for the establishment of the panel of experts before continuing with the work of lowering the standards.
 
Dr Ngomane indicated that given that the Department had looked at the recommendations from the Committee to establish the panel, the process was seeking to make balanced recommendations by looking at the cost-benefit analysis. So, it was better to accelerate the process of establishing the panel.
 
The Chairperson asked if it was possible to revert to the standards set in 2013 and wait for the establishment of the panel. He wondered whether there was a need to start with the public participation process or to give the panel space to do its work and come up with recommendations.
 
Dr Khumalo said it was possible, but the consequences were far reaching. The Minister would need to make a determination. The technology for SO2 reduction was there, but the public participation processes could be done on the approval of the Minister. The industry was pushing for something between 1500 mg/Nm3 and 2000 mg/Nm3 for the lowering of standards, whereas the Department stated it could work with 1000.
 
The Chairperson stated that during the public participation processes, the industry had requested the lowering of standards to 500 mg/Nm3 and there was another view in the industry that wanted 2000 mg/Nm3.
 
Mr Hadebe commented the Committee needed to be given clarity on the movement from 2000 to 500 mg/Nm3, and he wondered what the consequences would be if the panel of experts came up with 750 mg/Nm3.  He further wondered why the Department could not work with the 500 mg/Nm3 instead of waiting for the bomb to explode.
 
Mr Makhubele remarked the Committee needed to understand what it took to review the process and reach the decisions taken in terms of the legal requirements. He said members needed to understand the basis for moving from 2000 to 500 mg/Nm3. If there were changes, members needed to know what the consequences would be. The Department should educate the Committee about the pros and cons of changing and then come up with recommendations.
 
The Chairperson remarked that the Committee was not in a position to say the Department must change or not and did not know what it would require to effect the changes and it was not aware of the legal implications for the review of the process. He suggested the Department should reflect on the matter and engage with the Minister. Recommendations should come from the panel of experts after consultations with the industry and other stakeholders. The lowering of standards was not something that could be arrived at easily. The industry had to participate in the process and there had to be a basis for lowering the standards. The Department should find the best possible way of dealing with the matter.
 
State of air quality in SA and the status quo of monitoring networks; and functioning of ambient air quality monitoring stations
Dr Thuli Khumalo, Chief Director for Air Quality, at the Department of Environmental Affairs briefed the Committee on the state of air quality in SA and status quo of monitoring networks; and functioning of ambient air quality monitoring stations
 
Deliberations on the State of Air Quality in SA and Status Quo of Air Monitoring Networks
Ms J Steenkamp (DA asked why North West was excluded from the low network data recovery system.
 
Dr Khumalo explained that an instrument was sometimes taken in for repairs and did not record data for a certain period, and sometimes an instrument was vandalised. That meant that the data from that station was incomplete. Vandalism was one of the many troubling issues, as was load-shedding.
 
Mr Makhubele wanted to find out why there has been no data from KwaZulu-Natal since 2013.
 
Dr Khumalo explained that the stations had been out of service for a long time until the Minister intervened. The interventions have been made via the MinMEC structures where the Minister had requested that resources be deployed to take care of the monitoring instruments. There had been improvement, though it was minimal.
 
Mr Hadebe asked if the Department has engaged with South African Local Government Association (SALGA) for capacity in local government.
 
Dr Khumalo said DEA had been in constant engagement with SALGA about air quality management.  The challenge was related to competing priorities. For example, waste had to be collected, but people did not see the issue of clean air quality as something important because it was not a visible problem. There had to be a budget for air quality as we all had to breathe.
 
The Chairperson commented it was a good thing to see that most air monitoring stations were working because that was the most important thing in the priority areas. Most stations operated by municipalities were struggling. That was speaking to the nature of concurrent dysfunction. That was one area that was not prioritised by the municipalities. He asked if there was any form of a forum for municipalities and provinces to discuss air quality matters.
 
Dr Khumalo said there was an existing forum to address air quality issues between the provincial departments and municipalities where priority areas were identified and problems solved. The forum included information-sharing sessions.
 
Mr Hadebe indicated it was important to state in the Committee’s legacy report that provinces that did not know about the quality of air that the people breathed in some of the provinces.
 
The Chairperson indicated that conclusions could be drawn from the state of the air quality report that many South Africans were breathing air that was harmful. That meant that a lot still needed to be done because everyone had a right to an environment that was not harmful. He said postponement had to be looked at in a proper context and there was a need to comply with the Minimum Emission standards. Eskom had indicated it would not be easy for it to comply with the minimum emission standards because it wanted to use the minimum emission standards budget for other projects.  He said the Committee and Department could not agree to that. They should instead guard against the industry lowering the standards and pushing for its own agenda of not wanting to comply with standards.
 
Adoption of the Kigali Amendment Report
The Chairperson put the adoption of the Kigali Amendments to the Montreal Protocol to the Committee.
 
Ms H Kekana (ANC) moved for the adoption of the report and Ms H Nyambi (ANC) seconded the motion.
The report was adopted by the Committee with no objections.
 
The meeting was adjourned.

 

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