Climate Change Bill: finalisation & adoption

Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment

20 September 2023
Chairperson: Mr P Modise (ANC)
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Meeting Summary


Tracking the Climate Change Bill in Parliament

The Parliamentary Advisor briefed the Portfolio Committee on the amendments to the Climate Change Bill [B9-2022] B-list.

The Committee asked why the Bill was not explicit in its requirement for climate change scientists to form a part of the technical committee that would assist the Presidential Climate Commission in discharging its duties.

The Department of Forestry, Fisheries and Environment clarified that the Bill had not specifically listed such scientists, but had provided for the inclusion of expertise from all fields, inclusive of climate change scientists.

The Committee adopted the final version of the B-list and the Committee report on the Bill. 

Meeting report

The Chairperson said that the meeting was a continuation of the meeting that was held the day before. He requested adoption of the agenda.

Ms S Mbatha(ANC) moved the adoption, and Ms N Gantsho (ANC) seconded.

Amendments to Climate Change Bill

Ms Thiloshini Gangen, Parliamentary Legal Adviser, said that the first change they made to the B-list was on the very first page, where they had added the word ‘the’ before the word ‘environment’ in the phrase 'Portfolio Committee on Forestry Fisheries and the Environment.'

On page 3, under chapter 3, they removed an inverted comma after '15A finance mechanism.'

On page 6, the definition of National Greenhouse gas emissions had unfortunately been left out, but Creda had admitted to putting that into the B-list, so they had added it.

On Page 7, in line 36, they changed the word ‘circumstance’ to ‘circumstances.'

On Page 7, line 54, the word ‘impact’ had been changed to the word ‘impacts.'

On page 8, line 22, they changed the word ‘subsections three’ to ‘subsection three.'

On page 10, on the appointment process after subsection 12 1(b), they removed the inverted commas. Under Clause 12 B, the last word had inverted commas which they had since removed.

In Clause 13 (4), after the word 'website,' they had removed inverted commas.

In Clause 14 (2). they had also removed the inverted commas after the word ' Commission.'

On page 12, Clause 15 1(d), they had inserted the word ‘least.'

On page 15, Clause 22 4(c), they had removed spacing.

On page 16, Clause 22 (8), they had removed the spacing between the ten to 15 year period. On lines four to five, they had removed a duplication of the word 'must.'

On the memoranda and objects of the Bill, she said that there had been a consequential number changes because they had added clauses in the Bill. This meant there was also a numbering change, apart from the substantive changes.

In Clause 4, they added the words that ‘the bill is applicable within the borders of the Republic and it binds all organs of state as defined in section 239 of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa 1996.' The Clause further provides that the Executive Director of the Presidential Climate Commission (PCC) must submit to the Minister a report on its activities and the performance of its functions and its expenditure at the end of every quarter. In addition, the Executive Director must submit the PCC's financial statements and audit reports on such statements to the Minister on an annual basis, and the Minister must table such reports and statements in the National Assembly.

Ms Gangen said that in Clause 7, they had added the words ‘laws.'

In Clause 10, they had added the words ‘government,’ ‘traditional leaders,’ ‘the South African Local Government Association,’ and the phrase ‘advice on the Republic’s climate change response, the PCC that existed immediately before the commencement of the envisaged Act continues to exist, and the existing commissioners will serve on the PCC for the remainder of their term.'

They had added a sentence in Clause 11 which stated that ‘the Presidential Climate Commission may establish committees to assist in the performance of its functions.’

Clause 12 A was a new clause, which provides for the appointment of the executive director of the PCC.

Clause 12 B, which was also a new clause, provides for the financial administration of the PCC.

Clause 13 had been amended just to add the word ‘to.'

They added the words ‘appointment and responsibilities of the secretariat of the PCC' in Clause 14.

Clause 15 A was a new clause which provided for a financial mechanism to be prescribed by the Minister to support and finance the Republic’s climate change response.

In Clause 19, they had added the words ‘at least.'

In Clause 20, they added the phrase ‘fulfilment of the objectives of the envisaged Act.'

In Clause 21, they added the sentence, ‘the latest updated nationally determined contribution surveys as the trajectory.'

In Clause 22, they had added the words, ‘and such lists must reflect the national greenhouse gas emissions profile,’ and also the words ‘noting that the cumulative amount of greenhouse gas emission reductions which the sectorial emissions targets represent, ensures that the natural greenhouse gas emissions profile is kept within the national greenhouse gas emissions trajectory’ .

In Clause 23, they had inserted the words ‘or has the potential to emit.'

In Clause 27, they had included the words 'furthermore any regulations made in terms of section 15 A must be tabled in Parliament 30 days prior to the publication in the Gazette.'

In Clause 33, they had added the word ‘the.'

In Clause 34, page 30, they had changed it to 'Schedule 3.' Under 'financial implications for these states,' they had removed a star after the word ‘costs.'

She concluded by stating that those were the amendments they had effected to the B-list.


Ms H Winkler (DA) said she had a question regarding the composition of the Presidential Climate Commission, where it was stated that individuals needed to have expertise or background in environmental management, climate change mitigation, and law. A comment had been raised in the Committee on a few occasions was a need for the inclusion of climate scientists, or those with such expertise.

Mr D Bryant (DA) asked for the reason for including the words ‘potential to emit.' In terms of financial mechanisms, it seemed that the wording had changed slightly from the original intention, which provided for more of a mandate to the Minister to implement a finance mechanism as opposed to now, where it appeared to give the Minister the prerogative as to whether or not they wished to.

Department's response

Mr Tlou Ramaru, Policy Advisor, Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment (DFFE), in response to Mr Bryant's question on the inclusion of the term 'potential to emit,' said that that would take into account the evolving technologies and also the ongoing listing that would also happen with UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). It was just to allow for a situation where they took into account the evolving technologies.

On the financial mechanism, he said Clause 15 A reflected what exactly had been agreed to in the A-list.

In response to Ms Winkler, he said that the intention was not to be overly prescript of the different disciplines. When one looked at the words different socio-economic environmental and broader sustainability field, it was inclusive of the science discipline, which could include physical sciences, climate scientists, economic scientists, as well as social scientists. The approach really was to allow a multidisciplinary representation to be included in the Commission, but not to be overly specific.

Ms Winkler said that it was concerning to her that for a climate change commission not to specify overtly that there must be climate scientists on the panel, because it did not really place any mandate on the PCC to then invoke their assistance, or to have someone like that on the board.

 Mr Sibusiso Kobese, Director: Law Reform, DFFE, said that what Ms Winkler was referring to was Clause 11 (2) and (3), where it would not be practical to list all the fields. However, her concern was covered by the last wording -- ‘related fields’ -- which ensured that the Commission may look at all the relevant fields that it deemed necessary. So it was all-encompassing.

Ms Winkler said that as the sole purpose of the body was to be a climate change commission, then it should be a priority for science and technical expertise to inform the decision making of the body. It was still concerning for her that that would be subsumed under a broad statement of related fields.

Mr Ramaru said that Mr Kobese had tried to impress on the Committee that the expertise within climate change mitigation was inclusive of climate science, so people who had expertise in climate change mitigation also had climate science knowledge in different focus areas and specialities.

The Chairperson said that in his view, the term 'related fields' seemed to cover, it, but it seemed that Ms Winkler wanted it to be explicit and specific.

Parliamentary Adviser's response

Ms Gangen explained that in terms of their process, the A-list was the agreed list of changes, so the B-list merely reflected the changes that the Committee had agreed to. As far as she and the legal team were concerned, the terms did cover the concerns being raised. However, in terms of process, they were past the point of making changes. The changes had been agreed to by the Committee, which had then resulted in the formulation of the A-list which was merely transposed and formulated to become the B-list.

The Chairperson then called for the adoption of the B-List.

Mr Bryant moved the adoption of the B-list.

Ms T Mchunu (ANC) seconded.

The Chairperson declared that the B-List of the Climate Change Bill had been adopted.

Report of the Portfolio Committee on Forestry, Fisheries and Environment on the Climate Change Bill [B9 – 2022]

The Committee was taken through the report page by page, after which the Chairperson invited the Members to make comments or corrections.

Ms A Weber (DA) asked why Clause 13 did not indicate the appropriate committee to which it may be allocated, and just read that the PCC would report to Parliament. However, when asked to direct the Committee to the particular Clause, she said that the Clause was fine, as she had misread it.

The Chairperson called for the adoption of the Report.

Ms Mchunu moved for the adoption of the report as it was.

Ms Mbatha seconded the adoption of the report.

The Chairperson thanked all the Members of the committee, members of the public, and the representatives of all the formations who had interacted with them in any part of the legislative process ever since the Bill had been referred to the Committee in February. He said that all the insights had been instrumental in helping them to develop a bill that was realistic, optimistic and, of course, comprehensive in addressing the climate concerns. The Committee was immensely grateful for the unwavering participation of all the people in the Republic of South Africa throughout the journey. They had demonstrated their shared commitment to fostering an inclusive and participatory democratic process, and it could only be through such collaboration that they could achieve meaningful change on critical issues such as climate change.

He said that while it marked a significant milestone, it did not mark the end of the journey but merely the beginning of a new chapter for South Africa. The Bill still needed to go to the National Assembly for debate, then to the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) for concurrence before it was sent to the desk of the President. For the Committee, there remained much work ahead related to service delivery and following up on parliamentary recommendations. Some key areas included enhancing parliamentary systems and processes supporting robust legislative consultations and communications. All the stakeholders involved had been clear on the need for education and awareness, which he believed that the Department would also take note of and certainly not disappoint them in creating the necessary awareness programmes across all municipalities that needed further attention. This should not exclude the non-governmental organisations (NGOs).

The enforcement of legislation such as the Air Quality Act, climate disaster preparedness support or recovery, and waste management in the circular economy, also required the Committee's continued focus. He expressed confidence that with the same level of dedication and collaboration demonstrated thus far, they could overcome any environmental challenges ahead and achieve their shared vision for a sustainable and resilient future.

Mr Bryant said that he echoed the sentiments of the Chairperson. One of the important things that came out of the entire process, taking in all the input from all sectors and all spheres of South African society, was that they must focus with laser-like precision on the challenge of climate change and the impact that it was having and that it was going to have going forward. It was important to ensure it was balanced with the needs and the unique circumstances South Africa faced. There had been some countries that were reneging on some of their original commitments, particularly some of those in the developed world. There was a need to make sure that every decision taken regarding climate change going forward was carefully balanced between the socio economic conditions facing all South Africans, as well as the crisis presented by climate change.

Ms Winkler expressed appreciation to the Committee and to all the members of the Department for the work that had been put into the Bill. It was a very seminal piece of legislation that was going to inform the climate change response and how they would protect the country and the most vulnerable in it. She agreed with Mr Bryant that the rest of the world had shown a sense of urgency when it came to dealing with the climate crisis. She hoped that they could use this piece of legislation to effectively implement a climate change response, and that they did not let down the millions of South Africans looking to them for that guidance and protection.

The meeting was adjourned.

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