Climate Change Bill: public hearings; National Resource Management and Working on Fire Programme: DFFE briefing; Deputy Minister

Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment

07 September 2022
Chairperson: Mrs F Muthambi (ANC)
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Meeting Summary


Tracking the Climate Change Bill in Parliament

The Portfolio Committee met virtually to receive oral submissions on the Climate Change Bill.

The Presidential Climate Commission called for a more ambitious Nationally Determined Contribution, a just transition framework that would lead to a reduction in inequality, and for specific reference to be made in the Bill to the principle that developed countries should pay the costs of the transition to a low carbon economy.

The Commission was asked to define the term social partners. The Commission was asked how they will ensure that the climate change policies are enforced. What was its view on carbon credits? The Portfolio Committee also asked the Commission how they planned to navigate job security in sectors threatened by a move to a cleaner economy. The Department was asked how they were planning to include the work done by this Commission in the Climate Change Bill given that the commission was established after the Climate Change Bill had already been submitted to Parliament. The Portfolio Committee asked for clarity and differentiation of roles between the Presidential Climate Commission and the Department.

The Centre for Environmental Rights supported the Bill and said it would empower South Africa to mount an effective climate change response. Amongst other recommendations, it called for gender differentiated interventions regarding climate change adaptations and mitigations. They expressed scepticism about the notion of a net-zero target because it granted emitters a false license to delay real and meaningful emissions reduction. It should be replaced by “near zero” or “absolute zero.”

Professor Mike Muller and Dr Sean Muller from the Universities of Witwatersrand and Johannesburg observed that the current definition of “just transition” omits who pays for the transition. They also said that the Climate Change bill offered inappropriate climate powers to the Minister, offered no cost of adaptation plans and omits the requirements of the Presidential Climate Commission members.

The Portfolio Committee discussed the possibility of up-skilling workers made redundant by the transition, wondered how the Bill could be implemented given the parlous financial state of many municipalities. They asked if the presenters knew of any best practices to ensure that the impact of vested interests on decision-making around the Bill were minimised.

AmaBhungane observed that the Bill gave the Minister a lot of discretion without transparency which might lead to corruption. It meant that the Minister and the government officials would be lobbied, bullied and fed corporate misinformation and they would be threatened with job loss by major polluters in the country. It also called for a wholly new regime of proactive disclosure, according to which any information provided to the state in terms of Climate Change Bill must be made public within ten days, even in the absence of a specific request.

The Portfolio Committee asked AmaBhungane how they suggest that the discretionary powers of the Minister could be limited without impacting monitoring and evaluation. The Portfolio Committee asked Amabhungane if the regime of proactive disclosure would require amendments to the relevant provisions of the Protection of Personal Information Act. The Committee also asked the Professor and Dr Muller and AmaBhungane for their views on Eskom and Sasol.

The South African Human Rights Commission said the Bill needed to address climate change from a human rights perspective. The Commission added that the Climate Change Bill needed to explicitly reference the Paris Agreement and provide specifics on how education and awareness at all levels would be conducted. The Bill needed to include a specific preamble, and policy focus was required to ensure targeted interventions to assist groups like women, rural dwellers, people with disabilities, and the poor.

The Portfolio Committee asked the Commission what specific clauses in the Bill required amendments. How would the inclusion of human rights in the preamble of the Climate Change Bill affect the legislation?

The Congress of South African Trade Unions supported the Climate Change Bill with few recommendations, such as the inclusion of workers, vulnerable persons, and communities into a just transition.

The Committee asked what a just transition for thousands of workers in the energy sector (including coal) would look like in practice.

The Committee was also briefed by the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment on the National Resource Management and Working on Fire programmes. The Contract for the Working on Fire programme had been extended until January 2023 after the preferred bidder for the contract to replace the current service provider had been identified as non-responsive. A new tender had now been advertised and the Department expected to award it by 30 November 2022. Other contracts had also been allowed to be extended until March 2023 due to the non-responsiveness of bidders for the Natural Resources Management (NRM) Tender.

The Committee asked the Department about their wetland rehabilitation strategy, measures that could be taken if a service provider failed to deliver, and the implications of extending the existing contracts. They asked for information about the availability of firefighting vehicles and aircraft, the relationship between the Working on Fire programme and local fire protection associations, and the reduced effectiveness of conservation and ranger programmes when compared with some pre-democracy counterparts.

Meeting report

The Chairperson observed that Climate Change was changing our lives in alarming and unimaginable ways. For instance, droughts, heat waves, erosive rains, and the catastrophic floods that occurred in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN). Climate change was affecting all the citizens of the country. Climate change is making resources scarcer, including water, arable land, food, and energy which could create outright conflicts between communities. The Climate Change Bill preamble recognised that climate change would contribute to an increase in the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events, which will affect access to human health services, food, water, biodiversity, habitats, ecosystem, coast, and coastal infrastructure including human settlements. The state had implemented climate change interventions using a myriad of tools that sit in different government departments coordinated by the DFFE. This approach had become increasingly inefficient, hence government initiated the process of formulating a law specifically dedicated to climate change. The Climate Change Bill showed the government’s unwavering commitment towards stabilising global greenhouse gas atmospheric concentration levels and to protect South Africa and its people from unavoidable effects of climate change. She noted that 13 200 submissions on the Bill had been received from individuals and organisations.

Mr N Singh (IFP) asked if the Presidential Climate Commission (PCC) had had any input on the Climate Change Bill before it was submitted. Could it clarify its role?

Dr Crispian Olver, Executive Director, PCC, replied that the PCC had been established in December 2020, and only started operating in 2021, when the Climate Change Bill was in the final stages of being put together. “Therefore, we did not have any direct input into the Climate Change Bill before that. But the PCC obviously has had a sight of the Climate Change Bill and made submissions within its mandate. Regarding inputs, we are meeting this bill for the first time in this process”.

Presentation by the PCC
Dr Olver said that the PCC was concerned about the risk to the development of the country because South Africa was one of the most carbon-intensive economies in the world, and therefore decarbonising the economy would make the country vulnerable. Any international trade restrictions would affect the country severely. South Africa would also be vulnerable to extreme weather events that would have a cascading impact on food and water security. The major recommendations of the PCC were:

- A slightly more ambitious Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) which would take South Africa on a steady path to net zero emissions by 2050;
- A just transition framework to ensure that no one, including workers and communities, is left behind.
- The transition should lead to a reduction in inequality as well as decent work, social inclusion and poverty eradication;
- The risk of not acting timeously should be included as part of the proposed risk-averse approach; and
- Specific references should be made to costs to be paid by those responsible for causing the climate crisis, principally developed countries.

(See Presentation)

Presentation by the Centre for Environmental Rights (CER)
Ms Wandisa Phama, Deputy Director, CER, delivered the presentation. She called for a gender-differentiated intervention and also recognition that the Paris Agreement was a human rights issue that took precedence over domestic laws. The CER encouraged a highly comprehensive programme of meaningful public participation on the Bill that included the most vulnerable and excluded communities. This could be achieved through in-person hearings in all regions and large metropolitan areas, translation and interpretation services. Long-term legal certainty and clear statutory law are required to back a number of key mechanisms, such as the assigned amount of greenhouse gas allocated to a person, that currently have no deadlines or time frame.

Ms Phama said that the Bill did not adequately set out the urgent need to curb emissions or give clear targets or a strict emissions trajectory. Without these the new legislation would not be effective. The Bill must make explicit reference to the Paris Agreement target of holding global warming to below two degrees. A strict trajectory was required and it needed to reflect the current NDC. The Bill should also stipulate long-term interim targets. CER was concerned about the notion of “net-zero” emissions because it relied on future uncertain technology and inadequate nature-based solutions to actually remove CO2. The notion granted emitters a false license to delay real and meaningful emissions reduction. “Near zero” or “absolute zero” emissions should replace “net-zero”.

(See Presentation)

Mr Singh (IFP) observed that some of the roles of the DFFE were being passed on to the PCC and asked what the respective roles of the two bodies were. “The world plants trees as a carbon offset,” he noted, “but I do not believe that the western countries can buy their way out by planting trees in Africa and other areas where the land of indigenous people used for agriculture and pasture is taken away.” What was CER’s view on carbon credits?

Mr D Bryant (DA) asked which social partners the PCC saw itself “building consensus” between. Where did this mandate come from, and how would the PCC play that role?

Ms A Weber (DA) noted that enforcement and penalties were taking a backseat in the development of these laws. “To fight climate change we must ensure that enforcement of policies in the Climate Change Bill is prioritised. People do not adhere to existing policies now, so how would they be made to adhere to the provisions of the Climate Change Bill?”

Ms T Mchunu (ANC) asked the PCC how the government could navigate job security in the sectors that would be affected by climate change. She fully supported the PCC in terms of more engagement on the terminology around the climate action plans and climate change response implementation plans in all the spheres of the government. She asked the CER how the government could make effective programmes toward the emission reduction target of 45% by 2030 and net-zero by 2050.

The Chairperson commended the PCC and CER for their detailed substantive input on the Climate Change Bill. She asked whether CER had submitted their recommendations on the Climate Change Bill during the DFEE processes, or if this is the first time commenting on the Climate Change Bill. She was glad that the PCC would bring an independent structure from the Executive. She was concerned that the Climate Change Bill had been submitted to the Parliament before the PCC was founded, and asked the DFFE how it was planning to infuse the work done by the PCC into the Climate Change Bill.

Dr Olver explained that the role of the PCC was purely advisory. “We are not a regulator nor an implementer and we are certainly not taking any functions away from existing government departments and agencies. Our job is to provide independent advice on any matter related to the climate and the just transition.” The advice crossed numerous departments and the PCC could give advice related to any matter. The term “social partners” came out of NEDLAC and referred to organised labour, business, government, and the community. The PCC used a slightly broader conception that included youth, local government, faith-based communities, academic and research communities. He said that the PCC has actively brought representatives from all the sectors mentioned above to consolidate different viewpoints and find a common ground before making any recommendation. “We are one of the social compacting institutions in the climate space. We build consensus by creating a diverse forum for people to discuss issues.” He said that the job of the PCC is not only to mobilise science and provide advice but it is to create a space for public engagement at any government level. He agreed with Ms Weber that enforcement of policies was essential, otherwise, there was no point in making and legislating them. He said that climate modelling was conducted by Energy Systems Research Group at the University of Cape Town, a project run by the National Business Initiative, and a team at the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research that estimated the employment impact if certain sectors are downscaled and upscaled. He said that all of the model outputs show a net positive impact on the just transition as we go into greener technologies. The move from extractive fossil fuel industries into a more decentralised energy system would create a lot of opportunities for employment in the manufacturing of renewables, battery technology, the hydrogen economy, electric vehicles, and so on. However, the net positive impact shown by the model projections was not enough for workers. “We need to show them practically (1) how we are going to transition, (2) where the opportunities lie and (3) how the government will support workers with the skills, job placement schemes, and social protection.” He asked the Committee to be allowed to come present back to them in detail regarding the model projections and the practicality of the just transition.

Mr Brandon Abdinor, Climate Advocacy Lawyer, CER, said that tree planting was a form of carbon sequestration but it was not appropriate in all ecosystems. For example, in places where grasslands occurred, it was better to restore those ecosystems. He added that forestry plantations of pines are not the same as planting trees effectively for carbon sequestration. He explained that the long carbon cycle involved digging, burning, and releasing fossil fuels into the atmosphere, while tree planting took carbon from the atmosphere into the ground through a short carbon cycle. Therefore, planting trees did not counter the impact of burning fossil fuels and emitting greenhouse gases. He said that “carbon credits” was a term that was often misused. “The schemes that are used to sequestrate carbon perpetuate many of the human rights abuses, including land grabs as alluded to by Mr Singh. We need to be very careful with these concepts. It is a way for emitters to buy their way out by taking up the carbon space. There is absolutely no substitute for reducing greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels as urgently and effectively as possible.” He said that the pre-existing environmental law including the Air Quality Act had indirectly started addressing climate change, but this kind of law did not necessarily address the full spectrum of climate response. The Climate Change Bill was needed as soon as possible to ensure that there was proper enforcement, and the CER had suggested a range of enforcement mechanisms that could support and assist the department to implement. He said that to reduce emissions by 2030, South Africa needs to get the Climate Change Act in place as quickly as possible and that the Carbon Tax Act must be prioritised earlier than the anticipated 2026. He said that there was a need for clear and certain interim targets. CER believed that South Africa should be targeting the lower range of NDCs.

Ms Phama said that the CER has been engaging with the DFFE throughout the Climate Change Bill processes. “We made substantive comments in 2018 when the first version of the Bill came out and participated in all the meetings that were hosted by the DFFE.”

Presentations by the University of Johannesburg (UJ) and the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits)
The presentation was delivered by Professor Mike Muller, visiting Adjunct Professor, Wits School of Governance (WSG), and Dr Seán Muller, Senior Research Fellow, Johannesburg Institute for Advanced Study (JIAS).

Prof Muller said that the current definition of “just transition” omitted who would pay for the transition, at a local and international level. He proposed an amended definition that stated explicitly that the cost of the transition would be equitably distributed across and within countries. Professor Muller also argued that the Bill inappropriately allocated climate change powers to the Cabinet Minister responsible for Environmental Affairs. The ministerial responsibility for climate change mitigation and the promotion of a just transition should instead be allocated to a Minister in the Presidency tasked with coordinating economic, social, technical and environmental departments.

Dr Muller observed that there was no substantial provision in the Bill for the costing of adaptation plans. He proposed adding provisions for costing to clauses 15 and 17. He also noted that the Bill did not specify any requirements for members of the PCC, adding that numerous experts who have informed the country’s strategy have material, undeclared conflicts of interest that call into question their suitability to advise on matters of public and national interest. He proposed an addition to clause 2 to ensure that all appointees to the PCC were free of conflicts that might compromise their ability to prioritise the public and national interest.

(See Presentation)

Presentation by AmaBhungane Centre for Investigative Journalism
Ms Susan Comrie, investigative journalist, AmaBhungane, observed that clause 23(4)b of the Bill gave the Minister a lot of discretion. Discretion without transparency created a massive opportunity for corruption. The level of discretion in the Climate Change Bill also meant that the Minister and the government officials would be lobbied, bullied and fed corporate misinformation and they would be threatened with job loss by major polluters in the country. AmaBhungane called for highly transparent processes around the Minister’s discretionary powers. She said that clause 31, on access to information subject to the Protection of Access to Information Act (PAIA) and the Protection of Personal Information Act (POPIA), did not sufficiently address the scope and urgency of climate change. What was required was a wholly new regime of information disclosure. AmaBhungane proposed a regime of proactive disclosure, according to which any information provided to the state in terms of Climate Change Bill must be made public within ten days, even in the absence of a specific request.

(See Presentation)

Mr Singh wondered whether there was not an opportunity for upskilling many of those employed in the coal power sector so that they could contribute to other areas where energy is provided through wind farming and hydroelectric power. He drew attention to the parlous financial state of many municipalities and asked how the ordinary functions of the municipalities could be balanced with the requirements of the Bill. It was good to have legislation that was consistent with international agreements, but if it could not be implemented at a local level, then there was a problem. He asked AmaBhungane what its suggestion was to ensure that the power of the Minister was restrained without having an impact on adequate monitoring and evaluation. Mr Singh asked AmaBhungane to expand on its views on Eskom and Sasol. He was of the opinion that the government had been going too easy on these two organisations. He observed that AmaBhungane’s comments on access to information reflected more general issues with PAIA and POPIA that needed to be addressed.

Mr Bryant said that it was important to discuss the impact of vested interests on decision-making around the Climate Change Bill. “We need to ensure that the feedback that comes from the public and other entities is properly collated and used to inform the legislation rather than curated to suit an existing political agenda.” He asked Professor Muller and Dr Muller if they were aware of the best practice elsewhere in this regard.

The Chairperson appreciated the direct inputs of Prof Muller and Dr Muller on the Bill, in particular the need to review the definition of “just transition.” She asked if the proactive disclosure regime suggested by AmaBhungane would require amendments to relevant sections of POPIA.
Ms Comrie said that there was no amount of funding that could give the government enough resources to deal with monitoring and policing of climate change processes. “It will really take a societal approach. There are resources in civil society and the media, and the general public are willing to get involved, but this requires the information to be put in the public domain.” She said that the limitations on the power of the Minister could be achieved through a radical and transparent system that puts all the information into the public domain. “So that we do not have to go and fight for a very single piece of information on every single company. We need to make sure that the Minister is making decisions that are based on the best available information. The information should not be based on backdoor lobbying or pressure from corporate bullies.” For example, issues around air quality get pushed back—technology was sitting in the capital expenditure budgets and promises were made to the communities that they Eskom and Sasol would start to limit the amount of damage that the power stations are doing. At the same time, consultants always advised them to cut their budgets which she did not think was acceptable. The country was stuck in a situation in which whenever these two state-owned entities (SOEs) were asked to be accountable they always threw up their hands and quoted job losses and an economic apocalypse. “We need to come up with a better solution where we cannot be held ransom by companies in South Africa, which is one of the mandates of the Climate Change Bill.” On the positive side, matters of jurisdiction were central to the Climate Change Bill and Paris Agreement. “Therefore corporate actors cannot take carbon tax matters to different jurisdictions. The whole world is committing to this process and we have an opportunity to end corporate blackmail.” She said that AmaBhungane would go to court to try and challenge the problematic part of the legislation related to PAIA and POPIA. “The problem is we have to wait for a case to come up, which can take a long time, and we have no idea what the judge’s decision will be.” She said that legislation must be drafted for the status quo - “because we cannot assume that the restrictive parts of PAIA and POPIA will be repealed at a later stage”. She observed that the DFFE had shown willingness to embrace automatic and proactive disclosure as a standard.

Prof Muller acknowledged that opportunities for a just transition were quite wide. Which opportunities were appropriate in which context needed to be understood, however. For example, South Africa could import gas from contested and volatile international markets, but also had an opportunity to explore the possibility of finding gas on domestic land through fracking, which had been deemed impossible and disastrous for the economy, people and the environment. But fracked gas was the biggest source of gas that was being traded on the international market. There were desperate and poorer communities in the Eastern Cape, the Karoo and South Free State that would have otherwise benefited from the fracking process and might still even benefit from hydrogen-fired power in the near future. The fracking process was obstructed systematically over a decade by a combination of land- owners and environmental organisations. It is important to have objective guidance on (1) the options available, (2) the pros and cons, and (3) why we were still blocking fracking four years later after the conclusion of the EIA. He added that it was inappropriate to locate the climate strategy responsibility in the DFFE which is conflicted about climate change matters. This would result in sub-optimal outcomes. Eskom and Sasol were admittedly the largest sources of carbon dioxide emissions in South Africa but they were also the drivers of the economy through coal-based energy contributions. Naming Eskom and Sasol as enemies was shooting South Africa in both feet because these two institutions had the capacity to assist in making the just transition. He said that the regulatory framework was biased towards an often polemical and uninformed environmental perspective. For example, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), sulphur dioxide and particulate matter had actually screened the world from global warming to the extent of half a degree over time. Over the last two decades, an unintended consequence of coal-fired power stations cleaning up their exhaust gases was actually an acceleration of the rate of warming. Why then was DFFE still insisting on trying to make Eskom spend R30 billion on cleaning up flue gases at Medupi power station, given that there were very few people living in the area? The money could be used on new mitigation and adaptation arrangements. He added that Sasol was the only domestic organisation that was capable of investing in green hydrogen at the scale that South Africa would need in 20 years’ time to complement the other renewables that might produce the 40 - 50 % of the energy needed. “If we do not support them in that venture, Sasol will reduce their size and invest abroad. South Africa would then have to depend on external technologies and investments. We lack a structured view on the benefits and costs of having institutions like Sasol that has been looking for opportunities for energy transition in South Africa for the past 10 years.” He concluded that it was very important to mitigate the impact of single sector lobbies (including the green lobbies) diverting South Africa from useful and viable pathways that could achieve a just transition.

Dr Muller observed that there had been a recent decision to amend regulations to allow for greater decentralised electricity generation. During a recent conference, he had asked someone from the Presidency why the decentralisation of energy generation had not been costed yet, and why there were regulatory changes that could lead to massive financial implications which would have to be borne by the state and the taxpayer. Nobody had given an answer He said that the costing of decentralised energy generation must be put on the table and dealt with openly. When individuals made submissions on this kind of forum, they must always be obliged to address potential vested interests, funding sources, and so forth. It was highly appropriate to have voices from the business, photovoltaic industries, environmental groups and so forth, but there was an important distinction between individuals and groups that are lobbying for particular agendas. Stakeholder inputs were different from expert inputs. DFFE needed to be concerned about the expert groups and where their funding comes from and how that influences the kind of research they produced.  He concluded that it was very difficult to answer whether there was best practice elsewhere that dealt with the just transition. 

Dr Thulie Khumalo, Chief Operations Officer (COO), PCC, noted the issues raised and said that the PCC would return with inputs after further consideration.

Ms Comrie said that Amabhungane did not regard Eskom as the enemy but that no company should be treated as too big to be held accountable. “In terms of vested interests, we would be happy to share the sort of approach we take in terms of funding to guide the kind of radical transparency we call for.” 

Presentation by the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC)
Ms Yuri Ramkissoon, Senior Researcher, SAHRC, said that climate change was first and foremost a human rights issue and the drafters had missed the opportunity to firmly couch the Bill on this basis. Under a human rights-based approach, the plans, policies and processes of development are anchored in a system of rights and corresponding obligations established by international law. This helped promote the sustainability of development work, empowering people themselves – especially the most marginalised – to participate in policy formulation and hold accountable those who have a duty to act.
The Bill was also not grounded in international, regional, and other domestic legislation, policies, and programmes. It spoke to “the enhancement of public awareness of climate change causes and impacts and the promotion of participation and action at all levels” but provided no specifics on how education and awareness, particularly within communities, would be conducted. It inadequately recognised the devastating impacts that climate change would have on the people of sub-Saharan Africa, particularly those that are already impoverished. It needed to include specific mention in the preamble and have a specific policy focus on the disproportionate effect of climate change on already vulnerable groups. The Bill also did not make explicit reference to the Paris Agreement.

(See Presentation)

Presentation by the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU)
Mr Matthew Parks, Parliamentary Co-ordinator, COSATU, said that COSATU supported the progressive objectives of the Bill. It welcomed the emphasis on a just transition. Responsibilities for all spheres of government and SOEs must be binding, not voluntary. However, it must be a just transition that does not leave workers, vulnerable persons and communities to the vagaries of the market. The Bill was a welcome and long-overdue intervention, needed to tackle an existential threat to humanity, the environment and the planet. It balanced the needs of vulnerable persons with real developmental and economic challenges.

(See Presentation)

Mr Singh agreed with the SAHRC that the Climate Change Bill had to be founded on human rights, but asked if the SAHRC had any suggestions on specific clauses that could be amended or added to the Bill. He asked COSATU what a practical example of a just transition in the energy sector looks like for its thousands of members.

The Chairperson observed that all environmental laws, including the Climate Change Bill, were derived from the Constitution, specifically section 24. She added that the climate mitigation and adaptation interventions were human-centred.  How would the inclusion of human rights in the preamble of the Climate Change Bill affect the legislation? She asked COSATU what their comments were on the country’s coal sector, which had about 92 000 direct employees, with earnings totalling around R22 billion, and which supported around 170 000 indirect jobs. She wanted to know where the replacement of these jobs would come from as the country moved to a greener economy, considering the current 35% level of unemployment in the country.

Ms Ramkissoon said that the commission did not make submissions on specific clauses to the Bill for various reasons. SAHRC wanted to provide strategic comments since they had done a lot of ground work at the local governments that emanated from riots at Gauteng and KZN.  She stressed that the SAHRC supports the Bill because it was an important piece of legislation and the criticism from the SAHRC did not mean that they did not support it. The criticism implies that the Bill needed to be tweaked and implemented. Mention of human rights in the Bill would make an indirect difference in the way the community views the Bill and the way in which human rights issues can be couched.

Mr Parks noted that COSATU had no specific proposed amendments to the Bill because the DFFE and other businesses have addressed its concerns during NEDLAC processes. However, COSATU was still concerned about the impact of the transition on its members. In the case of aging power coal power stations, some of which had been built as far back as the 1950s, COSATU was recommending looking at ways to extend their lifespans. If this proved unfeasible, the next option was to explore converting them to cleaner fuels. If this too was impossible, the recommendation was to look at alternative employment for the workers there. One problem with the current independent power producer (IPP) agreements was that they omitted a social contract. IPPs should be required to prioritise the employment of ex-mine and electricity workers. The materials should be locally produced. We need to support and use our own communities to create decentralised energy generation capacity. The companies involved must have a component of community ownership to uplift the society. COSATU believed that there was a need for an energy mix. Coal was the current base of the energy system, providing 70% of the power. Thus it would be better to manage the transition. But we also needed to offer space for renewable energy to grow. Change was scary, but when people saw the positive things that will help to mobilise society, they became hopeful.

The Chairperson thanked all the presenters for their valuable inputs. She said that everyone who had requested an oral submission would be allowed to present.

Mr Bryant agreed with the Chairperson and said that there had been a diverse range of presentations around the Climate Change Bill. “We could argue that it was uniform in terms of opinions expressed. Going forward, let us make sure that we get everyone’s voices represented.”

Mr P Modise (ANC) thanked all the presenters and their respective organisations for enriching the public hearing process. “We are still at the initial stages of engaging with the public inputs (more than 13 0000 submissions). Some of the inputs are quite comprehensive and all are important irrespective of whether the inputs are a single line or a mini-thesis. Many complementary and opposing views have been expressed and we are aiming to reach a balanced view.” Climate change mitigation and adaptation were beyond the capacity of government because they required organised formations, businesses and all members of society to play an active role. Women, people disabilities, youth and other socio-economic classes must not be left behind. The climate change discussions need a careful and a balanced approach to mitigate unintended consequences. Climate change impacts demanded a co-ordinated and direct action plan in rural and high-risk areas of the country particularly. The country had to act and get more climate friendly technologies that would help to address both climate challenges and the stubborn triple challenges of poverty, inequality, and unemployment. He noted some of the views that there should be a reference to the Paris Agreement, stiffer penalties, improved transparency, disclosure and access to information, clear time frames, and realistic costing and funding of the Climate Change Bill.” He said that there is a clear need for further consultations and engagements to ensure that proper housing of the PCC is established coupled with the budget to enable a revised transition through education, awareness campaigns and training of the society who are involved in the value chain. “There will certainly be a need for capacity building at provincial and municipal level coupled with funding and additional mandates.”

Presentation by the DFFE on Working on Fire Programmes
Ms Nonhlanhla Mkhize, Deputy Director-General (DDG): Environmental Programmes, DFFE, explained that the Environmental Programmes (EP) branch was responsible for identifying and ensuring the implementation of the DFFE mandate through the Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP). The Working on Fire programme was one such project. She reported that the contract with the current service provider was worth R791 m and one of the services offered include the management of 5300 participants across South Africa. It had been extended until January 2023 after the preferred bidder for the contract to replace the current service provider had been identified as non-responsive. A new tender had now been advertised and the Department expected to award it by 30 November 2022. Other contracts had also been allowed to be extended until March 2023 due to the non-responsiveness of bidders for the Natural Resources Management (NRM) Tender. The EP branch had been participating in the hearings on the Veld and Forest Fire Amendment Bill and had identified some issues that bore on the Working for Fire programme.

(See Presentation)

Ms Weber asked what the criteria for identifying a wetland were, noting that the restoration process was complicated? What happened when a service provider was hired on a 5-year contract and 2.5 years down the line it turned out that it did not deliver? Was there something about non-performance in the contract? Did the NRM projects include the building of artificial wetlands? She said that there had been a problem with a mine that had destroyed a natural wetland resource, and asked whether the rehabilitation of that wetland would be a priority for the EP branch.

Mr Bryant was glad that the new tenders were being advertised and that there was also an opportunity to take into consideration some new information coming from public hearings. He asked if the presenter was confident that there are no jobs lost or put at risk with the interim measure in place until January 2023. Would more jobs have been created if the tenders had been effectively put in place? Would the EP branch be using a different model to award the tenders going forward? He noted that one of the criticisms of the Department was that there has been too much centralisation in terms of services provided.

Ms C Phillips (DA) asked how many provinces had aerial support for firefighting and where the aircraft were based. Who was charged for those flying hours? Who paid for the use of those aircraft? How many vehicles are available around the Rustenburg area? There were Working on Fire teams in that area with no vehicles to transport them. How many non-responsive tenders had the DFFE had in 2021/22, and how many contracts were extended by the DFFE in 2021/22?

Ms Mkhize assured the Committee that service providers were appointed with clear deliverables such that, in situations of poor delivery, there was a process within the of the contract that the DFFE followed. “If we do not find each other we would then have to terminate the contract. We are very firm in that regard because we understand that when service providers are not able to meet their contractual obligations in terms of delivery it affects the Annual Performance Plans of the Department in terms of job creation and environmental deliverables.” She said that the tender was advertised in a way that did not communicate a decentralised approach. The tender process was supposed to be an open and competitive process and the terms and conditions and terms of reference were also drafted to support subcontracting arrangements, because the work had to be implemented across all nine provinces. She said that the recent hearings on the Forest and Veld Fire Act had to accommodate certain aspects into the contracts that were not necessarily advertised in the previous tender.

Mr Michael Braack, EP branch, DFFE, said that there were about 5 300 participants under the Working on Fire programme. The Department did not see the jobs being at risk although the attrition rate had been quite high during this period of uncertainty. The contract would be for a 5-year period to reduce the attrition rate. He asked to submit a response on the number of vehicles and the availability of aerial support services in writing.

Mr Ahmed Khan, Director: Operational Support and Planning, DFFE, said that the prioritisation of the wetlands has been informed through a number of consultative studies done by the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI). In line with these studies the Department was prioritising the wetlands where there was a definitive link between strategic water source areas. The newest tender had identified areas in the landscape at a compartment level where work was required. Ideally, the Department would prefer local bidders in a given area. At the same time all the opportunities were there for whoever wanted to bid and had the necessary skills and experience.” He said that there were 24 contracts that had been approved under the single source approval for this financial year to keep the continuity of employment. There were 35 contracts that were extended with budget variations until the end of this financial year.

The Chairperson reported that all the communities the Committee had visited had sung the praises of the conservation and ranger programmes that the Department’s provincial counterparts had once implemented in many communities during the pre-democracy era to combat forest and veld fires, pollution and invasive species, among other things. The communities were calling for these programmes to be reinstated because whatever had replaced them was failing. The Committee needed a briefing on why the replacement programmes were not living up to the standards of the old programmes. Another issue that emerged from the public hearings was that Working on Fire was poorly managed and there was a lack of communication between them and the fire protection associations (FPAs). Was there a working relationship between them? The Chairperson did not think that the Department had given the Committee enough information on litigation and questioned whether it would meet the 30 November deadline for awarding the new tender.

Ms Maggie Sotyu, Deputy Minister of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment, noted that the ranger programmes fell under the Department’s biodiversity and conservation branch, and asked if the Department could respond fully on them at a later date.

Ms Pumeza Nodada, DDG: Forestry Management, DFFE, said that the DFFE had tried to work together with the EP branch to develop a support strategy for the FPAs. The strategy looked at different pillars of governance, capacity building, management and implementation.

Ms Mkhize added that the DFFE had realised that it had not implemented a holistic support strategy for the FPAs. Going forward, the FPAs would be supported as part of the new Working on Fire contracting tender. “We are realising the shortcomings from the past and we recognise that certain FPAs did not receive adequate support. The new tender addresses the issues on an ongoing basis.” She highlighted that the DFFE was prioritising employment creation and non-responsive tenders to avoid situations where terms of reference are not adequately implemented.

Ms Vanessa Bendeman, Chief Director: Legal Services, DFFE, was unable to delve into the merits of ongoing litigation. The litigation had been delayed by the applicant but this would not delay the current tender process. The review application that was brought by the applicant challenges the previous cancellation of the tender. She said that the matter was ongoing and would share in confidence if there was any further information required. 

The Chairperson asked how the new tender would address job creation. She did not think that her question on the FPAs had been adequately answered.

Ms Nomfundo Tshabalala, Director-General, DFFE, said that the department had not yet made a decision on the proposals regarding FPAs that had been made in the public hearings. “We are yet to look into how best the Working on Fire programme and FPAs can work together in the interim while we compose the most feasible and effective delivery model for the future. This will entail a lot of discussions and consultations before a decision is made.”  She said that the 5300 jobs are EPWP jobs which are not long-term, but added that the number was increasing continuously.

Ms Mkhize said that the intention was to appoint a service provider over a five-year period for the 5300 jobs, due to the technical nature of the work. “We also want to ensure that there is continuity of capacity to respond in case there are veld and forest fires. The appointment of EPWP participants will align accordingly with the appointment of the service provider.”

Deputy Minister Sotyu said that all the issues and concerns are noted, especially on Working on Fire and NRM tenders. She highlighted that the Department focused on the job loss area with regards to the two tenders. She said that there were delays because the DFFE was looking for models to appoint a suitable service provider regarding the 5300 jobs.

The Chairperson thanked everyone for attending the meeting and it was adjourned.


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