Hansard: NA: Minister Edna Molewa: Parliamentary Debate on Drought and Climate Change

House: National Assembly

Date of Meeting: 24 Nov 2015


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Minister Edna Molewa: Parliamentary Debate on Drought and Climate Change

24 Nov 2015

Minister Edna Molewa’s speech at the Parliamentary Debate on Drought and Climate Change


Today's debate is taking place less than a week before the nations of the world gather in Paris, France for the 21st Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) (CoP21).

It affords us the opportunity to share with all South Africans our progress in the international negotiations, as we limber up for Paris, where Parties are expected to to adopt an internationally legally binding instrument under the UNFCCC to comprehensively address climate change.

Most importantly, Speaker, it affords us the opportunity to underscore that in the lead-up to Paris substantial work has been going on at a national level. We can proudly say that we have long put in place progressive, innovative and proactive policies and plans to deal with an ever-changing climate.

These policies are guided by the overarching principle of sustainable development, which is the cornerstone of Vision 2030 contained in the National Development Plan (NDP).

We have a National Strategy for Sustainable Development, a National Climate Change Response Policy, Green Economy Strategy, and Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) – which outlines our country’s energy mix. This is in addition to our Industrial Policy and Action Plan that recognizes that energy efficiency and less-carbon intensive production are central tenets of a green economy.

Our approach balances our contribution as a responsible global citizen to the international effort to curb emissions, with the need to adress economic growth, job creation, and poverty alleviation.

Thanks to the aforementioned policy instruments instituted by this government, led by the African National Congress, we are proudly leading from the front, and at the same time hard at work behind the scenes, and beyond the headlines.

I want today to assure the members of this House, and each and every South African: that their government is prepared and ready to deal with and effectively to manage the impacts of climate change.

The ANC led government is progressively fulfilling the Consitutional mandate to give effect to the right of citizens to an environment that is not harmful to their health or wellbeing, and to have the environment protected for the benefit of present and future generations.

National Climate Change Response Policy

The National Climate Change Response Policy was gazetted in October 2011 and has two objectives.

Firstly to effectively manage the inevitable climate change impacts through interventions that build and sustain South Africa’s social, economic and environmental resilience and emergency response capacity.

Secondly, to 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 within a timeframe that enables economic, social and environmental development to proceed in a sustainable manner.

Our Policy is both developmental and transformational.

It is developmental in that it prioritizes climate change responses that have significant mitigation / adaptation benefits as well as significant economic growth, job creation, public health, risk management and poverty alleviation benefits.

It is transformational in that it addresses climate change at a scale of economy that supports the required innovation and finance flows needed for a transition to a lower carbon, efficient, job creating, equitable and competitive economy.

South Africa is taking massive strides in reducing our emissions and building our resilience, with sector departments taking the lead in major programmes.

National efforts to reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions

South Africa is  proud of our widely acclaimed Renewable Energy Independent Power Procurement Programme (REIPPP) that has seen the procurement of 5 243 MW with an additional 6 300 MW to be procured in the next 5 years. By March of this year, close to 2000 MW had already been built and were generating clean energy.

There is also extensive progress in improving energy efficiency. The Department of Energy has reported that the total outcome of all energy efficiency measures, in the industrial, commercial, public services and residential sectors, is close to 300 megatonnes of CO2 saved over a 5 year period. This includes the national industrial energy efficiency improvement project aimed at transforming industry energy use patterns and assisting industry to improve energy management within their organisations and plans. And of course, in many instrances, reducing CO2 emissions has the additional effect of also reducing sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and particulate matter associated with the impacts of air pollution on the health of our people.

In the transport sector, programmes are underway to shifting freight from road to rail, and introducing electricity regenerative braking in locomotives. This is already saving close to 0.5 Mt of CO2 annually.  In addition 14000 taxis are being converted to compressed natural gas, with an expected emission reduction of 23 – 27% per vehicle.

Long Term Adaptation Scenarios

South Africa is also working hard to build resilience to the impacts of climate change. The whole of southern Africa is in the grip of a drought, brought on by the worst El Nino event experienced in our young democracy. The scientists tell us that the drought, and high temperature effects of this El Nino are exacerbated by temperature increases associated with global warming. As a water scarce country, we have to be strategic, and cautious about how we use, conserve and manage this precious resource.

Climate impacts on water resources affect every aspect of our economy and society. We have developed longterm adaptation scenarios that assess these impacts in all key economic and social sectors, and elaborate adaptation options to ensure security of our water resources, food production, health, human settlements and infrastructure. This work has analysed climatic trends and assessed climate scenarios over the last five decades, identifying climate risks for key sectors and presenting adaptation options for implementation.

To date the Water, Health, Agriculture, Rural Development, Biodiversity and Ecosystems sectors have drafted their sector based climate change plans, demonstrating our readiness to respond to the likely effects of a 2 degrees, or warmer world, including the possibility of extreme events, and slower onset changes in climate.

A number of provinces have also completed their climate change vulnerability assessments and preparing response plans. Cities too, are co-ordinating their own responses.

Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC)

Honourable Speaker,

At the 19th Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC (CoP19) in Warsaw, Poland, a call was made for all Parties to initiate domestic processes to prepare Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDC's), whereby countries propose their own targets and the UN tracks whether the aggregate of these pledges is sufficient to keep the temperature increase below 2 degrees Celsius.

In support of our country's transition to a lower carbon and climate resilient economy and society, two months agowe communicated our INDC to the UNFCC Secretariat.

Our INDC is ambitious, fair and pro-development: and takes into account the country’s triple challenge of poverty, inequality and unemployment.

This is in alignment with the implicit recognition by the UNFCCC of both the vulnerability of poorer countries to the effects of climate change, and theright of poorer nations to economic development."

It sets National Goals for our adaptation effort, and it clearly outlines that South Africa will peak and plateau its greenhouse gas emissions by 2030.

Bold action underpins these commitments, evidenced through massive progress in growing the renewable energy sector, significantly improving energy efficiency in all sectors, and enhancing our green and public transport programmes, to mention but a few.

Our INDC was broadly consulted with all stakeholders including business, civil society, and all spheres of government, through a provincial consultation process in partnership with the 9 provinces.

The submission of our INDC before the 1 October deadline represented a significant milestone on our country's climate change response roadmap, and we can be proud as a country of this achievement.

International negotiations

Honourable Speaker,
Honourable Members,

Allow me to now turn to the global negotiating process in the lead up to the Paris climate talks.

CoP21 will conclude a 4 year negotiation process that was launched  at COP 17, on South African soil, in Durban, in 2011.

In Paris all Parties to the UNFCCC are expected to adopt a protocol, another legal instrument or an agreed outcome with legal force in order to conclude the Durban Mandate. The agreement will be applicable to all Parties, and will come into effect from 2020.

South Africa is one of 196 Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) that was adopted in 1992 and came into force in 1994.

It sets an ultimate objective of stabilizing "greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic (human-induced) interference with the climate system." It further directs:


  • that this must be achieved within a time-frame sufficient to allow ecosystems to adapt naturally to climate change, to ensure that food production is not threatened and to enable economic development to proceed in a sustainable manner, and
  •  that efforts to protect the atmosphere should be shared fairly among countries in accordance with their "common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities and their social and economic conditions".


The Convention also notes that the largest share of historical and, until recently, current emissions originates in developed countries. Its first basic principle is that developed countries should therefore take the lead in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and supporting climate change activities in developing countries, to take action, and adapt to the impacts of climate change.

It acknowledges the vulnerability of poorer countries to the effects of climate change, and recognises that poorer nations have a right to economic development.

Honourable Speaker,

As we prepared for COP 17 in Durban in 2011, the multilateral negotiations were deadlocked in 2 competing paradigms for a future global regime.  On the one hand, the “top-down model” of a comprehensive, multilateral rule based, legally binding regime with levels of ambition informed by science.

On the other hand, a “bottom up, pledge and review model” of incremental domestically determined policies, measures and rules (that may or may not be domestically legal) with the levels of ambition being informed by national priorities and circumstances and which are “internationalised” through the UNFCCC reporting and review procedures.

The Durban Climate Change Conference was significant in that it marked a turning point in the climate change negotiations and called for bolder actions by all governments.

Durban had to resolve a set of complex and inter-related issues, namely:

(i) How to address the questions of securing the multilateral climate change system which related to the future of the Kyoto Protocol balanced by the legal form of the outcome under the Convention?

(ii) Therefore, what next steps should be taken in the multilateral climate change negotiation process?

(iii) Addressing unresolved issues such as:

  • How to increase the level of ambition of mitigation pledges from developed and developing countries.
  • How to give effect to the principle of equity in the allocation of the burden and costs between developed and developing countries;
  • How to achieve a politically acceptable level of comparability and compliance between developed countries with commitments under Kyoto and those under the Convention (i.e. USA)
  • How to balance this with a politically acceptable degree of symmetry between developed and developing country transparency and accountability obligations.


The Durban Conference achieved an unprecedented outcome that effectively reconciled the so-called “top down” and “bottom up” paradigms, and retained the principle of common but differentiated responsibility, and respective capabilities.

The Durban agreement not only significantly advanced the global effort needed urgently to address the immediate global climate change crisis; it also set a new long-term pathway for the development of a fair, ambitious and legally binding future multi-lateral and rules-based global climate change system which can balance climate and development imperatives.

This new agreement would ensure the fair participation of all countries (both developed and developing) in the global effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, both now and in the future.

Hence we say that Durban 2011 indeed delivered a breakthrough in the international community’s response to climate change.

Honourable Speaker

It is absolutely imperative that the Paris meeting delivers on the Durban Mandate, to conclude the 4 year multilateral negotiating process to develop a protocol, another legal instrument or an agreed outcome with legal force under the Convention, applicable to all Parties.

Under South Africa’s leadership, the Group of 77 and China is demonstrating coherence and common purpose, in achieving an outcome at COP 21 that  progressively enhances implementation of the Framework Convention on Climate Change.

These multilateral negotiations require a delicate balance to bridge the positions of developing and developed countries alike, and to achieve an outcome that meets the ultimate objective of the Convention.

There are vexing issues that remain unresolved, as the negotiation teams prepare for the final days to conclude the text of a new legal agreement. These include:

(i) how to give effect to the principle of common but differentiated responsibility;
(ii) how to mobilise the finance to meet the developed countries pre 2020 obligation of 100 billion US dollars per annum, AND how to scale up finance beyond 2020, to enable developing countries to transition to low carbon and climate resilient economies and societies;

(iii) how to frame a global goal for adaptation, that reflects the reality that the lower the ambition on reducing global emissions, the greater the impact and the higher the cost of adaptation; and

(iv) how to raise the ambition of global emission reductions to ensure that the global temperature goal of way below 2 degrees temperature rise is met.

Honourable Speaker,

As part of the Africa Group, South Africa will negotiate for a Paris agreement under the Convention that is ambitious, durable, fair, and effective.

The agreement must balance environmental and development imperatives. It must ensure that global emission reduction efforts are adequate to keep global temperatures well below 2 degrees Celsius.

It must have adaptation at the centre of the deal, with a global adaptation goal that reflects that adaptation is a global responsibility. Climate change impacts are being driven by global inaction on mitigation, thereby deepening the adaptation burden on developing countries. Finally, there must be an ambitious outcome on finance, technology and capacity building, to support the adaptation and mitigation efforts of developing countries.

Honourable Speaker,

CoP21 is taking place at a time and in a context in which global solidarity and common purpose is vital, so we must continue to consolidate our efforts and resources.

Paris presents a golden opportunity to build an ambitious and fair agreement that is effective, durable and strengthens the global approach.

Climate change affects us all, and the efforts that we take today to fight climate change will define our true value for the generations to come.

I thank you.


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