Climate Change and Long Term Mitigation Strategies


10 June 2008
Chairperson: Mr L Zita (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Department briefed the Committee on options available to South Africa to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions. The briefing first looked at two scenarios: the “Growth without Constraints” scenario if South Africa did not mitigate its emissions and the “Required by Science” scenario that looked at full-scale mitigation undertaken by South Africa.

Carbon emissions could be reduced and the country could be more energy efficient by adopting four strategies. The “start now” strategy looked at mitigating emissions through state action. The “scale up” strategy would achieve mitigation goals through regulatory decisions. The “use the market” strategy would introduce a carbon tax and the “reach for the goal” strategy focused on using new technologies to reach mitigation goals. The Finance Minister had introduced South Africa’s first carbon tax in his 2008 Budget Speech. A levy was imposed on the sale of electricity generated from non-renewable sources. Cabinet was to be briefed at its July Lekgotla on the long-term mitigation scenarios.

Members were concerned that the strategies would not work, as there were some very energy inefficient sectors such as road transport and there were a lack of resources. They also wondered how the Department would encourage companies to provide capital for and adhere to mitigation practices. Other topics were the carbon market, public awareness-raising strategies and inter-department collaboration.

Meeting report

Climate Change Mitigation Strategies: Environmental Affairs & Tourism Dept (DEAT)
Mr Peter Lukey, Chief Director: Air Quality Management and Climate Change, stated that South Africa was exceptionally energy inefficient. It was only now, with the energy crisis, that people had become more aware of the situation and were starting to talk about it. The country had suddenly realised how energy was being abused. It was through this crisis that Cabinet had made the decision to focus on long-term mitigation scenarios (LTMS). This process would examine the options available to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions.

If the country did not implement mitigation strategies, then the consequences would be dire. The cost of inaction created emission levels five times higher than mitigating greenhouse gas emissions.

The “Required by Science” scenario showed that in order to maintain an increase in the global temperature between 2
°C and 2.4°C, global emissions of carbon would have to decline by 60-80%. South Africa, as a developing country, would not be expected to reduce carbon emissions by this much. However, emissions would still need to be reduced by 30-40%. If the country did not make efforts to decrease its production of carbon emissions, then it would be seen as a “global pariah”. South Africans, particularly the poorer communities, were most vulnerable to many of the future climate impacts. It was therefore important that global emissions decrease to a degree that avoided dangerous climate change.

The actions required to mitigate emissions would be driven by policy and investment in new technologies. South Africa would also have to adapt to the predicted impacts of climate change. An emission profile that emerged from a “Growth without Constraints” scenario showed that carbon emissions continued to be dominated by energy production. Electricity generation accounted for 45% of greenhouse gas emissions in 2003.

The “Required by Science” objective could be reached with four strategies. The first strategy was to “start now” where mitigation actions would be implemented through state action. The mitigation actions would have up front costs; however, savings over time would more than outweigh the initial costs. Each government department would have to consider the policy drivers and other actions that would drive the emissions reduction actions. The second strategy would be to “scale up” the actions taken in the “start now” strategy. South Africa would increase its target levels and achieve its goals through regulatory decision. The third strategy would “use the market” to promote the uptake of accelerated technologies and appropriate social behaviour through incentives and taxes. A carbon tax would make the use of fossil fuels much less attractive and would encourage greater investment in low-carbon technologies. The tax would also provide the incentive to use solar water heaters and would move the electricity supply away from coal and toward nuclear and renewable energy. The fourth strategy, “reaching for the goal” looked at using new technology to reach the “Required by Science” objective. New technologies would emerge and awareness of climate change could induce significant changes in patterns of consumption and behaviour. The development of new technologies and behavioural changes would result in a decrease in carbon emission reductions. 

Mr Lukey explained that the Long Term Mitigation Scenarios (LTMS) document was policy descriptive and mapped out the potential future for South Africa. The Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism would put together a series of policy directives to be considered by Cabinet. They also wanted to present the LTMS and the adaptation aspects at the Cabinet Lekgotla in July 2008. DEAT wanted to show that the country was not completely “geared up” to deal with climate change and that South Africa had to build resilience to climate issues. Policy directives that would be presented to the Cabinet included setting a target to decrease greenhouse gas emissions, scaling up existing initiatives around the energy crisis and focusing on renewable energy and looking at “Business Unusual” strategies in the energy sector.  

Mr I Cachalia (ANC) stated that energy had to be saved in the different sectors, however, the transport sector posed a problem, as the country had an inefficient transport system. He was concerned about nuclear energy and asked if there was any danger in using it. It was clear that it would be more costly not to implement mitigation practices for greenhouse gas emissions. He was worried that the country did not have the resources to enable people to save energy. He wanted to know how adaptation practices could be implemented in industrialised countries and how one could get countries like the United States of America to join the initiative.

Mr Lukey answered that the only public transport that people aspired to was air travel. Public transport on roads was seen as being for the poor. If you had money, then you had to have a car. This was a behavioural attitude that had to be changed. There were positive signs of change. However, more attention had to be focused on the behavioural aspect for measurable success. South Africa had to implement adaptation processes as well as mitigation strategies to show the rest of the world that the country was playing its part. The country needed financial support and government interaction in order to implement these practices.  

Mr Lukey commented that he was not qualified to talk about the use of nuclear energy. However, his belief was that the chance of great danger was exceptionally small.

Mr G Morgan (DA) noted that with all the new practices that the Department wanted to implement, there would be a need for more capital investment. What factors would get CEOs to invest and participate in these practices? He asked if Mr Lukey could give the Committee a status report on the state of the carbon market.

Mr Lukey replied that it was clear that the corporate sector did not understand the regulatory approach. They preferred being taxed, as they understood money transactions rather than climate change. The Department needed to find tools that would make a difference. However, the reality was that people were resistant to change. The concept of a carbon market had great potential but it was not being exploited to the extent that it should be. Carbon had to be given a price. Mr Lukey noted that Finance Minister Trevor Manuel, in his 2008 budget speech, had imposed government’s first carbon tax aiming to reduce carbon emissions.

Mr A Mokoena (ANC) commented that information about climate change, the energy crisis and air quality had to be spread across the country so that people could be sensitised to climate change and simliar concerns. DEAT had to collaborate with the Department of Science and Technology and propose a joint meeting to discuss these concerns.

Mr Lukey stated that there were dramatic changes happening around the country, specifically with sector outreach projects. The Department would have to collaborate with other departments such as Housing and Agriculture so that they could become active participants in the climate change conferences that were held. The collaboration with the Department of Science and Technology (DST) was important. The DST had been exceptionally progressive, taking the climate change challenge to heart.  

The Chairperson suggested that a conference be held the following year to discuss, solely, issues concerning energy efficiency.

Mr D Maluleke (ANC) suggested that the DEAT collaborate with the Department of Education (DoE) to find ways of changing behaviour in terms of climate and energy awareness at an elementary level.

Mr Lukey answered that the collaboration with the DoE was very important. DEAT was going to host a workshop on communicating climate change in July and the DoE would be present. The challenges of communicating climate change would be addressed in an empowering fashion so that people would see that they could make a difference.  

Ms C Zikalala (IFP) added that it was imperative that there was a change in people’s behaviour toward climate and energy control. She asked Mr Lukey to elaborate on ways in which people could save energy.

Mr Lukey replied that electrically operated cars were being manufactured that were energy efficient and would reduce carbon emissions. People could also switch off lights and geysers when they were not needed. 

The Chair stated that the Committee would want to have public hearings on the LTMS so that more people would know about it.

Mr Lukey informed Members that the LTMS was the first document to be published by the Department that spoke of climate change. The Department was hoping to empower people to come to public hearings in Parliament and voice their opinions about the issue.

Adoption of Committee Minutes
The minutes of the 7, 13, 14, 21, 27 and 30 May were adopted.

The meeting was adjourned.


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