DFFE on legislative amendments; Fishing rights allocations; preparations for UNFCCC COP26 conference; with Minister

Environment, Forestry and Fisheries

07 September 2021
Chairperson: Mr P Modise (ANC) (Acting)
Share this page:

Meeting Summary

Video

The Portfolio Committee met virtually to be briefed the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment (DFFE) on amendments to legislation, the Fishing Rights Allocation Process (FRAP) update, and preparations for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Conference of the Parties (COP) 26 conference.

Members said they could not engage with much of the legislation as it had yet to be introduced to Parliament. Members were concerned the bills still with the NCOP and asked about public consultation on bills still with Cabinet. The Minister suggested it was more appropriate for the Committee to engage the NCOP with the timeframes around bills still with that House. The Committee resolved to consult with the Select Committee

The Minister said that the objective of the DFFE was to conduct a clean, accountable, and legally defensible FRAP that attained the transformation targets. The Department stressed that FRAP 2021 dealt with commercial fisheries, not small-scale fisheries. Phase 2 of the FRAP would occur once the Presidency had certified Phase 1. She encouraged the Committee to participate during the public consultations on the FRAP.

The Committee asked the DFFE to continue with its efforts to educate South African citizens and government officials on climate change issues, mitigation and adaptation. They emphasised the need for the negotiations at COP26 to focus on climate change financing and adaption for developing countries, especially those in Africa.

In preparation for the COP conference, the Committee asked its support officials to prepare a comprehensive report for presentation on Friday that highlights the role of Members at the conference, clarifies the multiparty delegation procedure, and provides guidelines on the United Kingdom's COVID-19 quarantine regulations.

Meeting report

DFFE briefing on legislative documents

Ms Barbara Creecy, Minister of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment (DFFE), introduced the presenting team for the briefing on the Department's legislative documents, Ms Linda Garlipp, Chief Director: Law, Reform and Policy Coordination, and Ms Vanessa Bendeman, Acting Deputy Director- General: Regulatory Compliance and Sector Monitoring.

The Committee was provided with an update on the following pieces of legislation:

  • National Environmental Laws Amendment Bill [B14-2017]: Once the Bill is passed by the NCOP, the Bill will be referred to the National Assembly to be considered. The National Assembly will either pass the Bill or refer it for mediation
  • National Forests Amendment Bill [B11-2016]: Once the Bill is passed by the NCOP, the Bill will be referred to the National Assembly to be considered. The National Assembly will either pass the Bill or refer it for mediation
  • Climate Change Bill: The Bill is currently being taken through the Cabinet processes
  • National Veld & Forest Fires Amendment Bill: The Bill will go through the Cabinet system in September
  • Aquaculture Development Bill: The Bill will be reintroduced in Parliament during 2022/23 financial year
  • National Environmental Management Biodiversity Bill: The Bill will probably only be ready for tabling in 2023.
  • Marine Living Resources Act: It is foreseen that the Bill will be tabled late in 2023 or early 2024

(See attached documents for details).

Discussion

Mr N Singh (IFP) said that the presentation was a briefing by DFFE to update the Committee on the legislation that was on the table. The legislation would also be on the table in the future after it goes through Cabinet processes so that the public could comment. He was not going to engage on any of the content of the legislation, but would note it as legislation to come before the Committee for further consideration.

Ms A Weber (DA) agreed with Mr Singh. She said there were no timelines for the first three Bills, and the DFFE needed to stick to basic timelines because this was a lengthy process. Had the consultations on the Aquaculture Bill been private? Would public participation take place?

Mr D Bryant (DA) asked how the change in the current parliamentary schedule , with Parliament now rising on 13 October, would impact some of the presented timeframes. Would the DFFE have ongoing engagements with all the stakeholders involved in the drafting of the presented legislation?

Ms S Mbatha (ANC) said she was concerned about page 9 of the National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act (NEMBA) presentation, where the High Level Panel was mentioned. The matters mentioned there required urgent attention, especially the references to management, breeding and hunting of elephants, lions, leopards and rhinoceros. The presentation had said it would be tabled in 2023, yet there was a crisis in lion breeding. They were still waiting for the High Level Panel report to give the Portfolio Committee feedback on lion breeding. She was concerned because the timeframe was very long. What were the Committee's timeframes when it developed these policies and bills? What was considered continuously when it was busy with the bills?

Minister Creecy said Members should understand that once a bill left the Executive, and entered into the legislative arm of the state, the DFFE was only there in a supportive capacity. The DFFE did not determine the timeframes and approaches. She suggested that the Portfolio Committee have discussion on the amendments to the legislation with the Select Committee in the National Council of Provinces (NCOP). It would be very inappropriate for her to tell the legislative arm of the state to hurry up. The Committee needed to understand that there were always two sets of consultation. The first consultation was when the Executive decides to put out a bill in a draft format for public comments. The comments go to the Cabinet and the legislative arm. Secondly, the legislative arm would also run its own public consultation processes.

When she started her term, industries came to her and said there were provisions in the Aquaculture Development Bill that they regarded as difficult, and they intended to contest it. She instead worked with them to rule out the complexities in the bill. When the Executive is satisfied, it hands over the bill to the Portfolio Committee to run its processes. The Committee would then suggest amendments to the Bill after thorough consultations, and the Executive decides to accept or decline the amendments. She wanted all the Members to understand that in these bill processes, there were different powers and responsibilities.

The Minister said the specific recommendations of the High-Level Panel report were put out for comment and public consultation in a policy paper format. She had been approached by members of the public to extend the public consultation on the document from 30 to 60 days. Once all the submissions were considered, they would make policy decisions regarding the four iconic species. She highlighted that there were broader recommendations in the High-Level Panel report that cut across the biodiversity and conservation sector. In the end, one needed to look at the draft White Paper on biodiversity and conservation of 1997, which had never been finalised.

Ms Garlipp said that once the Climate Change Bill was approved by the Cabinet on 15 September, the DFFE would still need to publish it in terms of the rules in the Government Gazette. The Bill must be submitted to the state law advisor for certification and translation. It would take a while before it reached the Committee. The same applied to the Forest and Fire Amendment Bill. It would be with Cabinet on 22 September, and might be approved on 29 September. The Department had not yet consulted with the public regarding the NEMBA Bill. It would go to the Cabinet for the first time, be submitted for public consultation, and then go all the way through all the Cabinet processes again before it was tabled in Parliament. The Aquaculture Development Bill had previously been consulted with the public, and tabled in Parliament. The Aquaculture Bill had been withdrawn from the consultation process, and if few amendments were made, it could be tabled in Parliament directly after the Cabinet.

Ms Mbatha asked the DFFE to start informing the Committee about the public consultations because in most cases, the most affected communities did not get a chance to participate in the bills. She was worried about the illiterate people in black communities who might not be given a chance to comment on the bills. The bills were always in the favour of those who could read or write, and all communities needed to be afforded time to participate.

The Chairperson alluded to the timelines of the legislation and the inclusivity of all communities during public comment process.

Minister Creecy suggested that the question of timeframes lay in the domain of the Portfolio Committee, because the only thing the DFFE could do was to submit the bills to the relevant assemblies. The bills' processes and the parliamentary schedule implications lay within Parliament’s domain. If the Members of the Committee were concerned and needed these bills, they should engage with the relevant offices in the two assemblies, as it was outside the DFFE’s responsibility.

The Minister said that the National Assembly had learnt very important lessons regarding including all involved communities in the participatory process on the land issue. She suggested that the Portfolio Committee should interface with the land process, and use similar techniques to encourage public participation amongst broader groupings of society.

The Chairperson advised the Committee Secretary to record that the Portfolio Committee had reached a decision that there must be extensive consultation with the Select Committee of the National Council of Provinces.

Fishing rights allocation process

The Minister invited Ms Sue Middleton, Deputy Director-General (DDG): Fisheries Management, to update the Committee on the fishing rights allocation process (FRAP).

The Department said it last presented on the matter to the Committee on 10 November 2021. Since then, the Department set up systems to ensure the project was delivered within the agreed timeframe of 31 December 2021. 12 fishing sectors were due for reallocation in 2021

Members were provided with a progress report on the implementation of the allocation processes and major milestones achieved.

(See attached document for details).

Discussion

Mr Bryant said that of the twelve fishing sectors mentioned in the presentation, there was one notable omission -- the abalone sector. Why was abalone not included? He said that abalone rights expired in 2013 and they had been operating on exemptions since 2014. There were numerous people such as divers involved in abalone fishing. Communities would be interested to know why abalone had not been included as the 13th sector.  There were several issues dating back to 2016 from service providers related to appeals, and asked how far along the process was. There had been a number of challenges for small-scale fishing in the Western Cape, and a lot of these issues were central to the success of FRAP.

Referring to information technology (IT) and the communication aspect, Mr Bryant requested more details on the service provider. What was the timeframe for the building and the design of the online system? Was there already a system in place that would be used, or a brand-new system? How long was it going to take?

Regarding the finalisation of the resource-split apportionment, squid was already in a state of flux involving outstanding appeals, as mentioned in the presentation. If these appeals were still outstanding, how could they proceed with the FRAP, as they were still waiting for the final consultation with the mussel, oyster and hake sectors?

Mr Bryant said that an internal review of the policies had had to happen earlier in 2019 to ensure that the allocations were done on time. He asked Ms Middleton to comment and expand on the conclusions of Phase 1 and Phase 2. Why were line fish exemptions not granted permits, especially at Yzerfontein?

Mr Singh asked if they could be assured as a Committee that some of the challenges of meeting transformation targets, corruption, assisting new companies on the market and fronting, would be dealt with in this term. He also asked how the budget cuts would affect the targets and objectives of the FRAP regarding the reschedule parliamentary timetable.

Ms Mbatha referred to page 8 of the FRAP presentation, and said she hoped that when Ms Middleton had mentioned the allocation of fishing rights, she was including everyone, especially the small-scale fishers. She also hoped that the multidisciplinary members mentioned in the presentation covered everyone, including those who would represent the small-scale fishers, youth, women and people living with disabilities. She was worried that the online system was exclusive to those who did not have enough resources, and pointed out that there were many disadvantaged people who would need to have fishing rights, despite their education. She wished that the personnel who were employed to assist with the FRAP were youth, women, and people with disabilities.

Minister Creecy said the objective was to run a clean, accountable, and legally defensive process that would help the DFFE to attain their transformation targets regarding the FRAP. They had built in checks and balances. They had broken up the delegated authority in the allocation of the FRAP so that different people were responsible for different fisheries. Support structures had been brought in to assist them with the checks and balances. One needed to understand that the fishing industry was full of controversies and vested interests, so it was very difficult to deal in this kind of process to ensure fairness and transformation. This was the most participative sector in the country –  the Department was inundated everyday with messages, emails and telephones calls.

She said that she could not give guarantees to Mr Singh, but she had tried to create processes where the power was distributed. She had brought in additional capacity and dealt upfront with some of the transformation issues. She had hoped that some of the big players would come to the party, "but if they cannot come to the party, the party must go on.”

Ms Middleton clarified that the presentation dealt with the fishing sectors whose permits had expired in December 2020. She agreed that abalone fisheries were outstanding, and a decision needed to be made, but said the rights had expired in 2015 not 2013. A decision had been reached in 2015 not to allocate the abalone rights because of the dire status of the under-threat abalone resources. The abalone sector was still under threat, but a decision and consultations would take place. She added that abalone qualified as a small-scale species, therefore the branch needed to decide whether abalone was classified as a small-scale species, or came under commercial fisheries, or both. She stressed that the abalone matter would be dealt with separately from FRAP 2021, which was not dealing with small scale fisheries, but commercial fisheries.

South Africa had three types of fishing sectors: commercial, small-scale, and recreational. FRAP was an open competitive process, while small scale was a different process. Apportionment splits were done to those small species that qualified both as commercial and small-scale. During FRAP 2015, the branch had been criticised for not being upfront with apportionment splits of small-scale and commercial fisheries.

Ms Middleton confirmed that the IT service provider was an IT specialist, not a chartered accountant. She also confirmed that the branch was not building a new system, but IT specialists were enhancing the current system and that had been developed during FRAP 2015. The testing of the system would take place in October, prior to the opening of the online applications in November.

She acknowledged that the South African Squid Management Industry Association had appealed the apportionment split and the Total Allowable Effort (TAE) decision for the current season. The Minister had appointed a Senior Counsel to deal with the appeals. The Senior Counsel was aware of the urgency of the squid matters, and she hoped that the Minister would take a decision before December.

Ms Middleton said a review of the policies had commenced in 2019, and a public workshop had been held in 2019, which had been well attended, Since then, the Department had developed and worked on the inputs received at the workshop. All the policies have been reviewed and a draft was in place, ready for gazetting. The Department was waiting for the Presidency to certify Phase 1 this week, then Phase 2, and public consultation on application fees and policies would start in September.

She was aware that Mr Bryant had tabled a parliamentary question on line fishing exemptions, and said that the Department would respond in detail in a written format. She said line fish were not included in the current exemptions, but these had been granted for one month for squid, fish processing and import and exports permits only. The exemptions were in place because of the backlog due to COVID-19. The backlog had been cleared, but it was not ideal to manage fisheries on exemptions. She confirmed that there was no crisis in line fish, as the numbers were up to date in terms of allocations and the issuing of permits. There were 15 outstanding permits, and they had been processed yesterday and today.

Ms Middleton said that the vessel that could not operate was because the South African Marine Safety Authority (SAMSA) permits and certificates had expired. It was the responsibility of the right holder to review and renew the SAMSA certification.

Part of the policy statement that they were about to release for public comment included proposals on how to deal with fronting, paper quota holders and transformation. She would welcome any comment from the Committee once the general and sector specific policy was released. She proposed that there should be a moratorium on the ability of the successful right holders to sell their rights for a certain time, to prevent fronting. The small-scale applications would not be an online process, and people would be assisted to apply. Those who were employed on a short-term contract to assist them with the rights allocation process were a combination of youth and women.

Ms Middleton said that the budget had been included during last week’s meeting, and confirmed that the cost of the FRAP was covered by the Marine Living Resources Fund (MLRF). The revenue was generated through licences, permits and application fees from industries on a user pay system. A budget of R41.6 million had been set aside for FRAP, which came from their own revenue and was not affected by the national budget cuts. When one applied for a FRAP right, there was once off non-refundable application fee. Successful applicants paid a grant fee that varied across fisheries, depending on the commercial and economic value of that fish. The successful applicants also paid for permits and levies. She highlighted that this was an expensive process, but some of the costs were recouped by the MLRF.

The Minister said she was not expecting the local government process to impact on the DFFE’s officials.

Follow-up discussion

Ms Mbatha said she understood the response from Ms Middleton, but was concerned that at the last meeting an issue was raised that only one company was owned by blacks, and one by a coloured lady, under FRAP. She would like to see FRAP rights given to previously disadvantaged people and females. They had to make sure that they included black people and women in the commercial fisheries.

Mr Bryant asked about new entrants to the squid and rock lobster sector. Had they been anticipating a significant number of new entrants? Did they have a target? Was it envisaged that within the tight timeframe there would be a lower number of new entrants?

Minister Creecy said Ms Mbatha was asking the DFFE to say yes, there would be new entrants, while Mr Bryant wanted them to say no. She supposed this was what the debate on transformation was all about. The DFFE would put forward policies where members of the public would comment, and they were in the middle of the rights allocation process to predetermine in this meeting what the outcome of that process would be. She said that all the decisions were informed by the policies, and these were the subject of public comment. She asked the Committee to participate during the public consultations process, and added that it was not right for the Committee to ask the DFFE to make concrete commitments.

Ms Bendeman said that there were pending hake and trout appeals from the FRAP of 2015/16. She said that the appeal advisory team were assessing the appeals and would make recommendations. The recommendations had been finalised, but the technical advisory team on hakes was currently considering the rights allocations based on the score of respective appellants. Once this process was concluded, the Minister would be briefed by the appeal advisory team for her to decide on the recommendations. They were currently sitting on the 58 micro appeals which had emanated from a legal challenge. She hoped that these appeals would be concluded by November. She confirmed that the outstanding appeals from FRAP 2015/2016 would be concluded prior to the new FRAP process.

UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) COP26

The Department briefed the Committee on the DFFE's preparations for the UNFCCC Conference of the Parties (COP26) due to take place in Glasgow, Scotland, from October 31 to November 12 2021, and the country’s proposed negotiating position.  

It was said South Africa expects an outcome for the Glasgow Climate Change Conference that is negotiated in a transparent, inclusive and balanced manner, with priority given to all core issues under the UNFCCC and its Paris Agreement

(Please see attached document for details)

Discussion

Mr Bryant said it was good to see government following science guidelines. He said that the main issue was to stress climate change issues, adaptation responses and mitigation strategy, as a matter of urgency, especially with many frequent global disasters. Setting the Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC) was the easier part, while compliance would be a challenge for the South African government. He said that in terms of Article 6 -- Market Mechanisms under the Paris Agreement -- the DFFE needed to give a separate presentation so that the Committee could understand what it really entails. The DA certainly shared the goals and ambitions as they were set out in the presentation, and the DA caucus would assist where it could. Climate change was a critical issue, and it required cooperation across the board because they did not have the luxury of time anymore.

Mr Singh said that the impact and the effect of climate change on human beings was well documented. One continued to live in hope that the plans and decisions that come from COP meetings were just not good to read on paper, but were implementable across global and national scales. He said it was not a good thing to be the number one polluter in Africa. To what extent did one take legally binding agreements? Were there sanctions that would be imposed? Was there an example of those who had not complied and been sanctioned? How much funding, as South Africans, had we been promised? Was the DEFF going to take a position as sub-Saharan Africa when they went to the conference? Were they really satisfied with the pace of change in the country? He commented that Eskom had not left them with much hope last week! He asked if they thought the country was doing enough to inform the layman about climate change and its impact.

Ms C Phillips (DA) said the presentation and policies did not look good at the local level, because people did not understand the climate change issues. Some of the municipalities could not even get the basics on water, electricity and sanitation right, so there was no way somebody would expect them to understand climate change issues. The country needed to make compliance more important, and education regarding climate change a priority, for government officials and citizens.

Ms Mbatha said that there was renewable energy in South Africa -- wind and solar energy. She had seen the new reconstruction and development programme (RDP) houses using solar energy, and electric cars being charged at Brooklyn mall. There were areas where there was too much wind, which could be used to generate electricity. South Africa had a lot to do regarding their emissions. The Department of Public Works and Infrastructure (DPWI) was looking at the use of LED bulbs for energy efficiency. The Portfolio Committee needed to empower ordinary citizens with some of these energy efficient applications, so that they could aid the government with climate change mitigation. The Western Cape had one company that converted waste to energy, and this technology should be extended across South Africa to comply with emission regulations and assist with renewable energy. She asked how do they could create awareness in the communities, especially in rural areas and townships, and suggested they needed to put emphasis on climate change awareness when working with other departments.

Ms T Mchunu (ANC) asked the team going to Glasgow to emphasise and negotiate harder with developed countries regarding the financing of climate mitigation programmes.

Minister Creecy said that the DFFE would bring to the Committee the revised INDCs that were going to be submitted to the UNFCCC. South Africa had to make sure that what they were committing to at the COP was implementable. Proper planning and research would enable INDC compliance. The country had an obligation to submit the INDCs, but they were not legally binding. There was a lot of pressure because people were worried about the future of South Africa, and they wanted to submit an INDC that they could comply with and implement.

The President had given the Department a mandate to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The Minister said that it was important to note that in total numbers, the country was contributing only 1% to 2% of global emissions, although South Africa was the eleventh highest emitter. There was an imperative that developing countries must do more, especially after the developed countries were changing their attitudes and were willing to work on their reductions of emissions post COVID-19. T

Minister Creecy said that even if there were no formal carbon barrier tariffs, South Africa was vulnerable to transition risk. Its goods and services would no longer be competitive because the consumers want to understand what the carbon footprint of goods and services was. Therefore, South Africa would need to have not only a moral imperative to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but also and economic interest to ensure that its goods and services were effective.

ESKOM had been doing research work into the decommissioning of coal-fired power stations, and this was where the "just transition" concept came in. Who paid the price during the decommissioning of coal-fired power stations to combat emissions? The concept of climate justice meant that the workers from that coal-fired power stations and the community that was part of the power stations' economic system must not suffer and carry the burden of the "just transition." What could one do to repurpose a power station? How did one re-skill the workers?

The Minister said that they had worked with all local governments to try and develop climate change adaptation and mitigation strategies. The issue of waste was very issue for advocacy work. Most of the African countries were not big emitters, but they were most vulnerable to climate change. Adaptation was a key issue for the African continent. The big challenge was that everybody wanted to focus on mitigation, rather than adaptation at the COP meeting. Climate change was threatening the achievement of sustainable developments goals (SDGs) in developing countries. The adaptation and financing question for developing countries was very important. Developing countries would require trillions to adapt to climate change -- where was the money coming from?

The Minister said that in addition with the work they were doing with municipalities to mainstream adaptation budgets over the next years, the DFFE would reinstate the programme post COVID-19 that would offer education in rural communities, in collaboration with the South African Weather Service (SAWS), to equip them with resilient adaptation strategies and processes.

Mr Maesela Kekana, Chief Director: International Climate Change, DEFF, said that the Paris Agreement architecture was quite different from the Kyoto Protocol. There was a compliance committee under the Paris Agreement that would not sanction any country, but had a responsibility to check whether a country was compliant with its obligations. The legal obligation under the Paris Agreement was to submit the nationally determined contributions (NDCs), and follow up with bi-annual reports. These reports must show the progress of a country. A compliance committee would evaluate whether a country had submitted its NDCs and transparency report and if not, they would ask that country when they were planning to submit. No country had been sanctioned, and the implementation of the NDC started in 2021 and reports would be submitted in 2023.

He said that the Article 6 was divided into three parts: clean development mechanisms; cooperative approaches (Article 6.2); and non-market mechanisms. The article had not been concluded due to:

  • Transition:  What did one do with units developed under the clean development mechanism? How did one transition them to Article 6?
  • Accounting: How did one account for the units that were generated under this market? This was where the issue of environmental integrity and counting came in.
  • Financing: There was a clear commitment from the Paris Agreement for countries to have a share of the proceeds.

The Minister advised the Portfolio Committee that the sooner they could arrange their logistics, the better, because they had been told that accommodation was not easy to find in Glasgow. Her colleagues needed to appraise themselves with the United Kingdom COVID-19 requirements. The number of quarantine days might be reduced, but they must not forget that South Africa was on the red list.

Committee matters

Ms Mchunu moved the adoption of the minutes of 31 August, and Ms N Gantsho (ANC) seconded.

The Chairperson said that the multi-party delegation to the UNFCCC COP26 conference would be decided in the Office of the Chairperson of Chairpersons.

Mr Bryant asked the Committee Secretary to investigate what the requirements for COVID-19 compliance were, once the Committee had decided on the delegates.

Mr Singh added that Members of Parliament (MPs) sometimes went to these kinds of conferences and had nothing to do. He asked what site events MPs could participate in. There was a guideline for overseas visits, and the Secretary could obtain that from the Chairperson of Chairpersons.

Ms Mbatha said there had been a preparatory meeting called the "Road to COP26,” through the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO), which the Chair of Chairs had attended. Therefore, they had all the necessary information regarding COVID-19 compliance and delegations.

The Chairperson said that the administrative team should give the Portfolio Committee a report at the next meeting that detailed the role of MPs at the COP26 conference, the delegation procedures and COVID-19 guidelines. He added that the Chair of Chairs should tell them how many multiparty delegates would represent the country at the conference in Glasgow. He had been part of the delegation that went to COP25 in Madrid, and their roles had not been clarified.

Mr Singh said they must get the report before Friday, because Parliament was going into recess.

Mr Bryant said that the Secretary must include the Committee's decision that it would be preferable for multiparty delegations to attend the conference.

The meeting was adjourned.

Audio

No related

Download as PDF

You can download this page as a PDF using your browser's print functionality. Click on the "Print" button below and select the "PDF" option under destinations/printers.

See detailed instructions for your browser here.

Share this page: