Climate Change Bill: DFFE briefing, with Deputy Minister

NCOP Agriculture, Land Reform and Mineral Resources

14 February 2024
Chairperson: Ms T Modise (ANC, North West)
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Meeting Summary

Video

In a virtual meeting, the Select Committee on Land Reform, Environment, Mineral Resources and Energy met with delegates from the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment (DFFE) to receive a briefing on the Climate Change Bill [B9B-2022]. The purpose of the Bill is to enable the development of an effective national climate change response, and a long term just transition to a low-carbon and climate-resilient economy and society for South Africa in the context of sustainable development.

Committee Members inquired about several issues, including the language inclusivity on the Bills introduced to the general public, the unmentioned punitive measures for non-compliance with the carbon budgets and regulations, and the funding of the introduction of this Bill and its implementation in municipalities and local governments.

Meeting report

The Chairperson officially opened the meeting, welcoming all Committee Members present and asked that the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment (DFFE) introduce its present delegates.

The DFFE’s delegates, led by Ms Nomfundo Tshabalala, Director-General, comprised of Mr Tlou Ramaru, Chief Directorate: Climate Change Adaptation, Mr Jongikhaya Witi, Chief Directorate: Climate Change Monitoring and Evaluation, Mr Sibusiso Kobese, Director: Law Reform and Policy Direction, and Mr Maesela Kekana, Deputy Director General: Climate Change and Air Quality Management.

The Chairperson permitted the Department to make its presentation.

DFFE: Climate Change Bill

The purpose of the Bill was to enable the development of an effective national climate change response, and a long term just transition to a low-carbon and climate-resilient economy and society for South Africa in the context of sustainable development.

The objectives of the Bill, as explained, were to:

-provide for a coordinated and integrated response by the economy and society to climate change and its impacts in accordance with the principles of cooperative governance.

-provide for the effective management of inevitable climate change impacts by enhancing adaptive capacity, strengthening resilience and reducing vulnerability to climate change, with a view to building social, economic, and environmental resilience and an adequate national adaptation response in the context of the global climate change response.

-make a fair contribution to the global effort to stabilise GreenHouse Gas (GHG) concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that avoids dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system; and

-ensure a just transition towards a low carbon economy and society considering national circumstances.

The Portfolio Committee conducted physical and virtual public hearings on the Climate Change Bill from September 2022 to July 2023 and received the following number of submissions:

-101 Substantive written submissions; and

-1 001 composite emails from “Dear South Africa”.

Between August and October 2023, the Portfolio Committee deliberated on the comments received, and agreed to Amendments to the Bill, after making its own salient amendments. The amended Bill was adopted and referred to the Select Committee on Land Reform, Environment, Mineral Resources and Energy for consideration.

The Policy Alignment and Institutional Arrangements were explained, along with the Climate Change Response for provinces and municipalities. National Government, and all sectors were also issued responsibilities which included knowledge around greenhouse emissions and removal, to ensure the realisation of this Amended Bill.

See attached for full presentation

Discussion

Ms Maggie Sotyu, Deputy Minister of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment, made remarks on behalf of the Minister, who was unavailable due to Cabinet commitments. This Bill was an important piece of legislation as it addressed a global problem. She assured the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) that their recommendations and objections, if any, would also be given priority, just as the Portfolio Committee has.

Ms C Labuschagne (DA, Western Cape) asked for clarity on the disciplinary measures to combat failure to adhere to certain clauses, specifically failure to meet the carbon budget or sectoral emission targets. She expressed concern over the authenticity of carbon budget audits. She asked for a defined timeline for the mechanism to be prescribed by the DFFE Minister to support and finance the country's climate change response. How would this be carried out?

She suggested that the Presidential Climate Commission (PCC) should exist as a separate entity with its own allocation from National Treasury. She lastly asked where the funds mentioned by the President in the State of the Nation Address (SONA) would fit regarding this Amended Bill.

Ms W Ngwenya (ANC, Gauteng) asked if the Bill had any provisions for educational programs to educate the public about the environment. How would these skills and possible funding be disbursed to local communities? Did the Bill fit the requirements to form part of the Presidential Climate Commission’s technical branch?

Mr Z Mkiva (ANC, Eastern Cape) asked whether language inclusivity was considered when introducing new pieces of legislation to the general public, as South Africa is a country with 12 recognised languages, including South African Sign Language. How was this being carried out? He also asked whether traditional climatologists would be consulted or if this Bill only made provisions for academically qualified professionals.

Mr J Nyambi (ANC, Mpumalanga) stated that this Bill was a milestone for South Africa in the context of climate change. He also asked for clarity concerning the punitive measures around failure to meet or exceed carbon emissions targets and budgets. The punitive tax suggestion by National Treasury was ineffective as it would lead to complications money would be unable to fix.

Mr M Nhanha (DA, Eastern Cape) asked about the putting up of the tapestry that had been presented to the President in Dubai in 2023. This tapestry provided simple yet useful information about climate change. What progress was made in putting it up at the Union Building? He questioned the Department’s readiness to ensure inclusivity in raising climate change awareness.

Ms M Mochadi (ANC, Limpopo Legislature) reiterated the issue of language barriers when public participation was undertaken.

Responses

Mr Witi stated that the Amended Bill did not have provisions for punitive measures concerning non-compliance to the carbon budget, however the previous Bill did and could not be used for reference, as advised by state law advisors. National Treasury would draft provisions upon passing the Bill, and had communicated a preliminary rate of R640 per ton of carbon emitted, but a final rate would be communicated. Companies were to submit mitigation plans to the Department to indicate how they intended to utilise the carbon budget. Administrative punitive measures for non-compliance concerning mitigation plans and budgets were underway. To address the concern of companies resorting to paying hefty taxes instead of complying with carbon emission regulations, National Treasury has conducted research since 2019 and concluded that the current imposed tax did not prompt companies to induce their emissions.

Mr Kobese stated that s27(2) of the draft Bill made provision for the Minister’s duty to develop compliance regulations for the allocated carbon budget. A clause addressing regulations had previously been included in the Bill but had to be removed as this was not a money Bill. Clause 10 of the Bill recognised the PCC as a separate entity with its own persona and allocation as a Schedule 3 entity as per the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA). The PCC would continue to exist even after the passing of the Bill. Clause 15 provided for allocated funding to assist municipalities. It remained the Minister’s duty to develop mechanisms that would create the funds to be used. The provision for the PCC’s funding could be accessed in Clause 15(b). The Bill would be translated into one other official language. Clause 11(3) enabled the PCC to establish committees comprised of qualified persons, including those with verified traditional expertise.

Mr Kekana stated that the DFFE and National Treasury were working together to finance the implementation of the Bill in local government. The Climate Resilience Fund mentioned by the President in his SONA speech was underway and its establishment would soon be announced. A follow-up with the Department of International Relations and Cooperation and the Presidency regarding the tapestry would be made.

Mr Ramaru stated that the Bill made provisions for traditional leaders to serve in the PCC. Technical experts would serve in Committees relating to their fields of expertise, and indigenous knowledge systems would be integrated into the climate change responses. The Department of Education and the Department of Agriculture would both be consulted to assist with the development of the National Adaptation Strategy and response plans to ensure food security, respectively. These consultations were already underway and would be reinforced by the passing of the Bill.

Ms Tshabalala stated that the DFFE was working with National Treasury to establish how the climate change responses could be mainstreamed in the planning and allocations by government. The infrastructure that was being planned had to be climate change resilient, with contingency plans in place in the event of damage. Language inclusivity was possible, however challenging and time-consuming, improvement was needed. The South African Weather Services also assisted with developing awareness programmes for local communities.

The Chairperson thanked the Department and permitted them to exit the meeting.

Adoption of minutes

The minutes of the meeting that took place on 21 November 2023 were displayed.

Ms Ngwenya moved to adopt the minutes and was seconded by Mr Mkiva.

The Chairperson adjourned the meeting.

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