Climate Change Bill: public hearings

Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment

16 May 2023
Chairperson: Mr P Modise (ANC)
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Meeting Summary


Tracking the Climate Change Bill in Parliament

Submissions by: NAMUA & MACUA (Outstanding)

In a virtual meeting, the Committee continued its schedule of receiving submissions from various organisations on the Climate Change Bill, and engaged them on the issues raised.

Most of the presentations supported the implementation of the Bill, and there were a number of proposals aimed at enhancing its implementation. A common thread was the need for urgency to address the threat of climate change.

The South African Institute of Race Relations, however, argued that carbon dioxide was a "wonderful, harmless natural gas, essential for green plants and animals that depend on them, including us," and that raising CO² levels would have little or no effect on the climate, and would make plants grow better. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was not a scientific body, but a political lobby group with a powerful vested interest in spreading climate fear.

The Committee raised their concerns on issues of e-waste management, whether the country had the necessary infrastructure to adopt the use of cycle lanes as a mitigating strategy, and the risks of adopting a nuclear energy programme.

Meeting report

C40 submission on Climate Change Bill

Mr Sello Mphaga, a representative of C40, a global network of mayors of the world's leading cities that are united in action to confront the climate crisis, took the Committee through their submissions on the Climate Change Bill.

The presentation outlined key recommendations for implementation by government at the national, provincial and municipal level, and suggested the Bill should incorporate the government plans on how it plans to unpack resource and capacity constraints. He said a climate change action grant fund should be considered that could be accessed by municipalities and other public entities. He placed emphasis on the need to recognise the important role of the metros in climate mitigation.

See attached for full submission


Ms H Winkler (DA) said that the presentation had highlighted a number of elements in the Climate Change Bill that really weakened its current incarnation. She asked C40 to shed light on the grassroots mobilisation of communities, and how the Portfolio Committee and government could really improve the way in which they communicate on climate change to communities -- what it actually meant to the communities on the ground and how climate change impacts them. There seemed to be a lack of understanding of climate change because of how it was spoken about.

Ms S Mbatha(ANC) said that with the lack of HR resources in the municipalities, how was C40 involving environmental health practitioners in assisting in the issue of climate change? She asked whether they had ever thought of the small municipalities, because, in most cases, metros had a bigger budget than the small municipalities which were also affected, but lacked enough resources to combat climate change.

Waste management was a big issue that had been brought up at a lot of the public hearings. She asked for the organisation’s opinion on the plan for its integration when it was part and parcel of climate change, yet waste management issues were under the environmental management department. How did C40 liaise with a municipality to deal with waste management issues?

She asked how the metros were assisting the Portfolio Committee when it came to public participation on the Climate Change Bill, because the support was needed in the municipalities to ensure awareness was created and to increase the number of submissions before 27 May. She appreciated the effort that C40 had made in ensuring that their presentation was actually based on science, and was straight to the point.

The Chairperson asked if C40 conducted any studies on the matter of carbon neutrality that they seemed to be suggesting for the Climate Change Bill, as opposed to low carbon. Did C40 think that South Africa had the necessary resources to attain carbon neutrality, or was it just an aspiration on their part, bearing in mind that climate change should be based on realities?

Response by C40

Mr Mphaga said that in the formulation of the climate change action plan, it was quite important that as part of their stakeholder engagement, they prioritised communities, and that had been through the consultation they conducted with the help of the office of the Speaker, and also as part of the implementation had involved non-profit organisations (NPOs). They also had partnerships with NPOs and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) that were in the environment space, which they supported through grants so that they could take the message of education and awareness, as well as intervening in instances such as garden cleaning campaigns and rainwater harvesting, demonstrating their work in these areas.

They were aware that because climate change had really been seen as an unfunded mandate of local government, it had not been easy for most municipalities to action the climate change function. As far back as 2013, the City of Tshwane had taken a very important step to establish a unit which was currently located in the Office of the Executive Mayor, as even then, it had been important just to galvanise or even elevate the role, function and importance of sustainability and climate change within the city. They were at a point where, in terms of implementation, the climate change function could be located anywhere in the key stakeholders' departments from the beginning to be part of the climate action plan. The current climate action plan was not just developed by the city sustainability unit; it was an effort that entailed a very detailed engagement within and outside the city.

In response to Ms Mbatha, he said that the processes engaged and involved all other stakeholder departments, including environmental health. They would not have managed to actually replicate all the work that the Department was doing, as there were only about five or six of them in the unit, so they depended on liaising with environmental health and management. For issues of the biodiversity programme, they depended heavily on the environmental health and management department, as that was their core function. When it came to energy, there was the Department of Energy and Electricity that they somewhat liaised with in terms of providing renewable energy and alternative energy initiatives, and somehow that was an acknowledgement that it was a transversal function. It therefore could never be just one Department dealing with all of that.

As for the small municipalities, he said that C40 had made it mandatory as part of their participation standards that they adopt one smaller or medium-sized municipality so that they could tag along, just to provide technical support, because they were privileged as metros. The likes of C40 were even able to provide technical support. Warm bodies were embedded within the city that were to provide immediate support on the ground.

Ms Zarina Moolla, Senior Manager, Climate Action Planning Africa Programme,  in response to the Chairperson's question, said that as part of the climate action planning process for all of the five major cities in South Africa, they had run a scenarios planning approach to look at greenhouse gas emissions and reduction opportunities. They found that the country could achieve about 50% to 60 % emission reductions if they focused on electricity, and a further 20% to 30% if they focused on transport. The resource implications would be quite significant, but ultimately there would be between an 80% to 90% reduction in emissions by 2050 with existing technologies and the existing adjusted integrated resource plan (IRP), with a high percentage of renewables. There was a gap in emission reduction, but they believed that it was possible with new technology, constant revision and alignment, and working very closely together with national government. The private sector did require a lot of commitment from across the board, but it was something that they saw as possible. They were happy to share some of the scenario's work with the Committee.

She said community engagement was developing quite simply globally, but on the local front, there was a need for a grassroots movement, community engagement and bottom up approaches. One of the recommendations was the need to focus on local gas transition groups and committees, to ensure the local community was heard and integrated into planning. A lot of the work they were doing in the cities was around co-creation and making sure that local communities were part of the solution so that the buy-in to behavioural change was happening at all levels within the city. The key challenges were around budgets and capacity. The big metros had more budget than the smaller ones, but they were still struggling and trying to integrate climate change into all different sectors. However, the pace and scale were not as fast as they would like, and that was why they were calling for national government to help them to think of innovative ways that they could accelerate finance in that space.

Mr Mphaga said C40 had mentioned that the Bill should also include and be explicit about the involvement and the representation of local government, and they would like to see this in the Bill as well.

Presentation by Pedal Power Association and SEE Sustainability

Mr Gordon Laing, Vice Chairperson, Pedal Power Association (PPA), took the Committee through their submissions on the Climate Change Bill.

He said the world was facing an existential crisis, and urgent intervention was necessary. South Africa was also threatened, with the Indian Ocean spawning stronger and deadlier tropical cyclones. Transport was a key contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, and the PPA's presentation highlighted the urgent need for major changes in both public and private transport, where cycling could be and important factor.

See attached for full submission


Ms Winkler thanked the organisation for a very informative presentation, and said it was known that the transportation sector contributed the most to emissions, after the energy sector. Given the current climate, economic constraints and regulations, she asked what would be envisaged as the key first step in electrifying the transport sector. She asked what the first five-step action plan would look like if they embarked on rapid electrification.

Ms Mbatha said that as much as she liked the idea of electric cars, she wondered whether they were affordable. She asked what impact electric cars had on e-waste management, as there was a challenge with that currently.

The Chairperson said he agreed with Mr Laing wholeheartedly on using pedal power as a mitigating strategy. This seemed to work in the Nordic countries, where they had dedicated cycling lanes and footpaths connecting cities to villages along the roads and railways. He wondered if the current infrastructure would allow for footpaths and cycling lanes, perhaps as a mitigating strategy.

PPA's response

Mr Laing said that electric vehicles were happening anyway, and South Africa had to think of electric cars from a country perspective in terms of their manufacture to replace vehicles with internal combustion engines (ICEs), because they would lose a significant part of their export capability by 2030 if they did not do that. The European Union had placed massive duties and taxes on motor vehicles, and would not allow ICEs to be imported or used in Europe from 2035 onwards. Therefore the migration had to be done at one level regarding the vehicle manufacturing set-up in South Africa. He said a project was looking at creating about 300 rapid charging stations for electric vehicles. The environmental assessment process was just starting along national roads, and one of the issues was the ability to charge rapidly -- rapid charge stations were able to give a 15-minute charge that could last for significant distances, depending on the battery power of the vehicles. He noted that under the current load-shedding constraints, that would be a significant issue, as well as the manner in which electricity in South Africa was created, using fossil fuels. The environmental impact and greenhouse gas emissions from producing electricity were as high as the number of the motor vehicles that were ICE-propelled, so that shift would need alternative renewable energy to become cleaner.

Mr Laing said that one of the proposals within the rollout of charging stations was the local area charging through renewable energy -- primarily solar, and possibly wind. The big issue was that they could not concentrate on renewable sources of power if they were not addressing the underlying avoidance. They shifted their approach to sustainable mobility which brought two things -- the just transition and clean energy -- into the mix. Therefore it was important to start those processes at the moment. He was aware and was part of the team that was looking at the Gauteng provincial land transport framework. There was a proposal on the table that started addressing the Chairperson’s question about the ability to create cycling and walking lanes and public travel ways along existing roads. One of the shifts was that the Gauteng Transport Authority was looking at changing the cross-section requirements for transport corridor developments, which essentially addressed the issue of compatibility. Many cities coming out of COVID-19 had significantly grown in commuter cycling, which was massively important.

He admitted that it was difficult and that it would take political will and support to drive the creation of safe cycleways, as it touched on community engagement and behaviour change aspects, where they needed to change driver behaviour -- and some cyclist behaviour -- in terms of travelling responsibly on the roads. Many approaches were needed, and they were all part of a complex solution, but they had to start somewhere. There were a number of initiatives within the country, and they were looking into all of them. The one thing the country could do in the electric vehicle space was to look at reducing the import duties and taxes on those vehicles so there would be a benefit from that. The financial issues were being dealt with and were being spoken about at National Treasury at the moment, but it was an integrated approach that was needed, and many facets had to be addressed as part of the approach.

In response to the question on E-waste management, he admitted this was a big issue and many of the organisations looking at electric vehicles (EVs) were considering how to create a recycling process. When the first hybrid came into the country, part of their process was that one did not own the vehicle but rented it for eight years, and then the organisation would take the car back for recycling processes. That model was being considered around the world, which addressed the bigger issue beyond just climate change, of waste management and creating closed loop economies, which was something that needed to be looked at from a broader perspective. He was unsure that the Climate Change Bill could address this issue, but Members needed to be aware of that and take it forward as part of the conversation. The issue speaks to the bigger Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change(IPCC) report, looking at the cost benefit analysis and exactly what it needed to consider. The broader strategic assessments, rather than the pure impact assessments, needed to consider the waste management impacts of many if these projects and programmes.

Presentation by South African Institute of Race Relations

The South African Institute of Race Relations (SAIRR) took the Committee through its submissions on the Climate Change Bill. The presenters were Mr Andrew Kenny, who focused on the scientific issues, and Dr Anthea Jeffrey, who dealt with the legal side.

Mr Kenny argued that carbon dioxide was a "wonderful, harmless natural gas, essential for green plants and animals that depend on them, including us," and that raising CO² levels would have little or no effect on the climate and make plants grow better. He said the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was not a scientific body, but a political lobby group with a powerful vested interest in spreading climate fear. As for renewables, solar and wind were good off-grid, but were unreliable and intermittent, and were by far the most expensive source of useful electricity for the grid.

Dr Jeffery criticised the Bill for its vagueness, and said it infringed on the separation of powers doctrine. She asserted that likely damaging consequences of "carbon budgets" could include Eskom being compelled to shut down its coal-fired stations before reliable and affordable alternatives were available. She also criticised the lack of public participation on the issue.

See attached for full submission


Ms A Weber (DA) asked what was raising the earth’s temperature; if they were saying that carbon emissions did not drive the temperature up. Did the human-made ozone layer impact earth’s rising temperatures, and was it part of climate change? Was there a problem with any households using solar, as she was not clear why the organisation was saying that solar and wind energy could not provide energy back to the grid?

She heard what the SAIRR was saying regarding nuclear energy, but wondered whether it was mostly a push from them because nuclear was one of the energy sources they had not used, considering many countries were moving away from it. She asked whether the organisation would support a variety of green solar and coal plants in the country.

She said that the organisation seemed to be leaning towards nuclear energy which was extremely dangerous, and with the country’s history of failure to enforce laws just to have minimum emissions, she wondered how effective and safe nuclear power would be.

Mr D Bryant (DA) said that the organisation's presentation seemed to be opposite of everything they had heard during the public participation process, which had been quite extensive. He asked what impact the organisation believed carbon dioxide had on global warming as opposed to what they had been told so far. He asked what they thought the intention was behind the powerful vested interests that seemed to be predicting disasters and spreading fear. It did not seem to make any sense to him.

Ms Winkler asked whether they had any peer-reviewed science on the number of assertions they were making, especially since the basic premise was that they denied that anthropogenic climate change exists. If there were any peer-reviewed science, how exactly did that weigh against the massive canon of science and the IPCC and what the foremost scientists in the world had put forth regarding evidence? She asked what the number of climate-related deaths in the last 50 years or so had been.

Ms Mbatha asked what Mr Kenny’s take was on waste management, because there was a lot of waste piling up in landfills and streets as well. She wondered if nuclear energy was not contributing to the e-waste, since there was a problem regarding e-waste management. She asked what their plan to correct that issue was.

She asked what the organisation would recommend if they felt the manner in which public participation was being done was not enough on the Climate Change Bill.

SAIRR's response

Mr Kenny said that the rise in the earth’s temperatures was not caused by carbon dioxide entirely, but just a small portion. The earth’s temperature rising was a natural occurrence. When carbon dioxide had been lower than what it was now in the medieval period, the temperatures were higher but the carbon dioxide levels were lower. There was no correlation between the two. Carbon dioxide at present levels did not affect global temperatures whatsoever, which was according to all the science and data.

He explained that the ozone layer was a separate issue. The scare around the ozone layer was that refrigerants were depleting those layers, and this would cause a dangerous rise in ultraviolet radiation reaching earth. This had not happened at all. People seemed to have forgotten about the ozone layer now, because it was a perfectly natural event. He admitted that ozone was indeed a very powerful greenhouse gas but there was very little of it, so there was nothing to worry about there.

Solar power use for household use was great off grid, and one could generate a little bit of electricity for one’s household with solar. Solar and wind energy were not good for the grid, because they were unpredictable and fluctuated horribly, so converting unreliable electricity into reliable electricity would be quite costly. That was why renewables were not good for the grid.

Mr Kenny said that nuclear energy was the safest form of energy that was known. It had by far the best safety record of any energy source by far. There had been only three major nuclear power accidents. In two of them, no one had been harmed at all. Coal accidents kill thousands of people every year. He admitted that countries were moving away from nuclear for a while, but some countries were embracing it -- like China, and France was back to embracing it -- so it was a mixed bag.

He said that combining solar and wind energy was not good. The best source of electricity was coal, but the country should not build any more coal stations -- they should stick to using the ones they had got to operate cleanly. He reiterated that nuclear energy was the best by far.

In response to Mr Bryant, he said that carbon dioxide had no effect on climate, but it would have a wonderful effect on plant life. Plants were doing well thanks to carbon dioxide in regions where they never used to grow. The plants needed less water if there was more carbon dioxide.

Mr Kenny said climate alarm had produced the biggest funding gravy train in the history of the world. This has given a lot of people around the world the opportunity to promote the climate scare. The secondary reason was money. To him, climate change was just another one of the disasters like those in religious texts, like Sodom and Gomorrah, which were predicted. People seemed eager for a disaster to blame on somebody, and climate change was perfect for that primary reason. He personally had no vested interest in fossil fuels, but he had a vested interest in nuclear power even though he owned nothing in nuclear power.

In response to Ms Winkler, he said that the information he presented had massive peer-reviewed science. He was open to sending reams of scientific reports and data and peer-reviewed data to the Member.

He said that the IPCC was not a scientific body; it was a political body advocating climate change. While it was true that they had very good scientists working for them, their reports ignored their work and selected only the work of the small minority of climate scientists who think there is a problem, and none of them had produced evidence to back up their claims.

He said that deaths arising from climate change extremes were going down. Mankind was probably getting much better at adapting to disasters.

He said there was not much e-waste management going on, and it was something that should be investigated.

Dr Jeffery referred to the issue of vested interests, and said that countries gained a great deal of jobs, income or the ability to export and earn money from industry. A country that was more successful in that industry would be able to raise the standard of living of its people. China had been successful at that. It paid lip service to the climate change idea, indicating that it might move towards net zero by 2060, but it is actually one of the greatest users of fossil fuels on the planet. It was building coal-powered plants, whereas many countries were now seeking to phase them out even when they did not have adequate alternatives. The consequence would be that industrialisation would flow even more to those countries that maintained fossil fuel energy.

She warned that South Africa should be wary of doing something which deprived the citizens of the limited electricity they had now. Load-shedding had given them some idea of how bad it could be. She felt that there was very little understanding of just how little energy they would have if they relied too much on renewables that did not have adequate backup. South Africa did not have enough backup available, because their coal-fired plants had been run quite badly and needed a lot of tender love and care to be brought up to standard. They would not be able to provide industry with the energy it needs, and they would suffer the consequences of lost jobs and opportunities, whereas countries that paid lip service to the issue of climate change but did not actually do it in practice would benefit.

Coal was a pollutant, but by far the worst danger to human health came from indoor pollution, where people did not have enough reliable cheap electricity and had to start burning coal and biomass to cool and warm themselves. This caused far more illness and death than the more diffuse pollution. Therefore South Africa should be wary of doing something that would ultimately see more poor people burning coal inside their homes.

She said it was commendable that the Committee had helped many people through many public hearings in many parts of the country, but she questioned whether anybody who attended those hearings would have had an insight into the costs and adverse consequences or the Climate Change Bill. People were not being told the real story of the Bill, and it was impossible to quantify its costs and consequences because it was a framework. There were no clues as to what rules would be adopted in the future, so when one said the benefits would outweigh the costs, this was not a claim that could be made. South Africa was battling to fulfil basic obligations, like cleaning storm drains, and yet they were willing to take on a hugely ambitious programme where they could not begin to say that the costs were going to be smaller than the benefits. Passing the Bill in its current state would negatively affect the economy, which was not the right approach.

Further discussion

Mr Bryant asked if the SAIRR, or any organisations they worked with, intended to challenge the legislation if it were to go through to the next stage.

Ms Weber asked how much more expensive nuclear power stations were, for instance, compared to Medupi and Kusile. Was there a price difference between nuclear energy and solar energy?

Ms Mbatha asked what the difference between man-made climate change and natural climate change was. She agreed that coal power stations should not be shut down, as this would negatively affect human resources.

She asked Mr Kenny whether he was aware that government and Treasury had offered a tax reimbursement for households that had installed solar panels. What was his take on this?

SAIRR's response

Dr Jeffery said that the organisation had not made a firm decision to oppose the Bill, but they were certainly concerned about the damage that the Bill would do to the economy, to jobs and prospects of a better life for South Africans. They were also concerned about the unconstitutionality aspect of the Bill, so there was a possibility that they would go to court to challenge it should it be adopted.

She said that the Bill was trying to distinguish between man-made climate change and natural climate change which affected the composition of the atmosphere. The best scientists in the world could not definitively tell how much of climate change was attributable to human activity and how much was attributable to natural variability. The Bill assumed that the Minister and other officials would be able to make that decision, and that the interventions adopted would therefore be geared towards the climate change that came from human activity. What the Bill was trying to do was actually impossible, because, in the end, they would be trying to address climate change that came from natural variability.

She said that the country should be very conscious of the damage that could be done to jobs and how enormously difficult it would be to replace those jobs. One should not have any illusions about how hard it would be.

Mr Kenny said that the best solar conditions were a long way from the centres of demand, such as Gauteng and Cape Town, and it was very expensive to build solar facilities. With nuclear power, however, one could build a power station anywhere.

Both the Medupi and Kusile power stations had been a disaster because of corruption and incompetence, and had therefore cost far more than they should have. If one looked at the full costs of nuclear power stations, nuclear was probably the cheapest form of energy -- even cheaper than coal. If one looked at it over a period of 60 years and had sensible costs of capital, then nuclear was the cheapest.

He agreed with Ms Mbatha that shutting down coal stations was a bad idea. South Africa needed all the power they could get, and they should keep the coal stations running. It was not the best form of producing electricity, but they needed it all, so they should keep them running.

He agreed with Dr Jeffery that indoor air pollution was a far bigger problem than outdoor pollution from even the dirtiest coal-powered station.

He was unsure about the tax subsidy on solar panels, as he did not think it was a good idea for households to have solar panels for electricity and water heating. Only rich people could afford this, and poor people just could not afford solar panels even if there was a subsidy for them. This meant that rich people would get a subsidy, which was small compared to the total solar installation costs. He was uneasy about the idea of everybody paying taxes, but only the rich people getting the subsidy. He was probably against it, but he was also confused about it.

From a scientific point of view, it was not true that there was no way to distinguish between natural and man-made climate change. They were able to distinguish between the two by looking at the records over time, and whether carbon dioxide went up or down, there was no effect on the climate. From a legal point of view, Dr Jeffery was quite right.

Due to time constraints, the Chairperson said that all the remaining organisations should make their presentations first, and then the Members could ask their questions.

Further presentations

The Committee received further presentations from the following organisations:

  • South African Faith Communities Environment Institute, which fully supported the Bill and stressed the urgency for action;
  • Women Affected by Mining United in Action (WAMUA) and Mining Affected Communities United in Action (MACUA), which raised concerns about the impact of the Bill on communities which depend on the extraction of coal; and
  • Green Connection (internet connectivity was lost).

The Chairperson noted that most of the Committee Members had left the meeting to attend the ongoing budget mini-plenary sessions.

She thanked all the organisations for presenting their submissions on the Bill. She assured them that the Committee respected their contributions, and those that needed further discussion with the Department would be discussed.

The meeting was adjourned.

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