State of South African Environment; with Minister
Environment, Forestry and Fisheries
18 February 2020
Chairperson: Mr F Xasa (ANC)
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The Committee was briefed by the Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries (DEFF) on the state of the South African environment. The Committee heard that South Africa has been warming significantly since 1931. In some parts of the Western Cape, Eastern Cape and Northern Cape there is strong evidence of significant increases in rainfall. On freshwater biodiversity, the Department noted that freshwater fish were under threat. On air quality, the most problematic air pollutants are particulate matter (PM10 and PM2.5). The interventions for climate change in South Africa include building local climate change resilience using the District development model and improved stakeholder involvement.
Members told the Department that the presentation was too limited in detailing its interventions. They complained about inaction over air quality compliance. They asked what the Department was doing to absorb the informal waste picking industry that was doing a better job recycling waste than municipalities. Members asked what DEFF was doing to educate the public and support municipalities on waste management. They asked which provinces had not yet submitted environment reports. Landfill sites, electric cars, fishing policies, climate shift and canned lion hunting were also discussed.
*State of South African Environment* The Minister of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries, Ms Barbara Creecy, said that the Department would do its best to present its mandate to the Committee and handed over to the Director General.
The DEFF Director General, Ms Nosipho Ngcaba, noted that the environmental outlook is a prescribed report in terms of the National Environmental Management Act (NEMA). The Minister is required to publish the South Africa Environment Outlook (SAEO) report for the public in intervals of four years. Six provinces had submitted their reports to the Minister for the publication of the SAEO report.
The Director General briefed the Committee on the impact of climate change in South Africa. South Africa has been warming significantly over the period 1931-2015. In some parts of the Western Cape, Eastern Cape and Northern Cape there is strong evidence of significant increases in rainfall. She profiled a graph on South Africa’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The graph showed a steady increase in GHG emissions in South Africa between 2000 and 2017. She also showed the top 20 GHG emitting countries which included China, India and the United States.
Ms Ngcaba presented a biodiversity graph illustrating the status of species under threat status which include freshwater fish.
On air quality, the most problematic air pollutants are particulate matter (PM10 and PM2.5). There had been no compliance with the national ambient air quality standards since the Department started monitoring PM10 and PM2.5 trends from 2003 to 2010.
On waste, a table was shown on waste generation and management in South Africa since 2017. Ms Ngcaba pointed out that landfills emit GHG.
On climate change interventions, the Director General said that these include building local climate change resilience using the District development model and improved stakeholder involvement. Improved stakeholder involvement include the establishment of the Presidential Climate Change Coordinating Committee (P4C), assisting provinces and municipalities with their climate change response strategies and periodic ministerial interactions with civil society.
*Discussion* Ms H Winkler (DA) asked what the timeline for the Climate Change Bill is. She asked why South Africa was still planning to build coal stations in 2023 when it has high Co2 emissions. She recommended an article titled “The pathway of achieving renewable electricity by 2050”. She said this would help South Africa meet its obligations under the Paris Agreement. She referred to the statement: “there has been no compliance with the national ambient air quality standards since we started monitoring the trends from 2003 to 2010” on slide 24 of the presentation. For seven years there was non-compliance – what was done during and after that period to ensure compliance? She referred to the graph showing GHG emissions on slide 4 and asked why they omitted South Africa from the list showing the top 20 countries responsible for Co2 emissions from fuel combustion in 2016. South Africa was number 14. She asked what DEFF was doing about this. On the waste approach by the Department, she does not see any initiative to create waste pick up cooperatives. She asked why it was not equipping municipalities with the tools and expertise needed to absorb the informal waste picking industry that is actually doing a better recycling job than municipalities. This would be effective in tackling the high unemployment rate. She asked for a timeline for the establishment of the Presidential Climate Change Coordinating Committee (P4C). Why had they omitted to address canned lion hunting which has becoming a concern?
Mr N Singh (IFP) asked what provinces have not presented Environment Outlook reports. He would score the presentation on the State of Environment a 3 out of 10. The presentation identified the environmental challenges in South Africa without highlighting the necessary interventions. Air quality was a serious concern and he does not understand why DEFF was consulting with these industries on this matter and not presenting the air quality benchmarks to the industry and monitoring compliance instead. He asked what it was doing on electrical cars and if there was ministerial and inter-department engagement on this.
Mr Singh said the Committee needs to see how much financial and educational support on waste management, DEFF is giving to the municipalities. He asked if DEFF is also educating the public on waste management. On fishing policies, he said DEFF should focus on fishing trawlers and leave the line fishermen alone. He asked if it has the capacity to do this.
Ms T Mchunu (ANC) asked if there is a plan to reduce agricultural, forestry and other land use emissions. There was no mention of the required interventions for landfill sites that produce methane. She proposed that landfill sites be discussed at the periodic ministerial interactions with civil society. She asked if there is a plan to introduce legislation regulating unwanted landfill sites. The protection of freshwater fish as presented on a graph in slide 7 is less than 50% and should be seen as a priority. DEFF’s collaboration with the Department of Small Business Development is commendable. She requested a time frame on the implementation of the fishing rights allocation process – FRAP 2021.
Mr N Paulsen (EFF) said DEFF has not demonstrated to the Committee that it is engaging the energy and mining industry to deal with air quality. On slide 3 it spoke of climate change but did not mention the fact that there is a climate shift in South Africa. In places like KZN there is increased rainfall and the Committee is interested to know if DEFF has advised the Department of Water and Sanitation to harvest the water. It is important for DEFF to showcase the programmes that it is involved in to mitigate climate change. He asked what the Department is doing to address the problem the Phillipi Horticultural Area is having with the City of Cape Town. The City of Cape Town wants to implement a development programme on the wetlands in this area. What is DEFF doing about the development and promotion of aquaculture projects? Aquaculture could reduce unemployment. The efficient operation of rail transport could provide an incentive for people to move from road to rail transport.
*Responses* Minister Creecy replied that the Department planned to table the Climate Change Bill in 2020 in Parliament. The holdup has been the fact that the Bill has been with the National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac).
On energy security and energy mix, the Minister said that this should be addressed to the Minister of Energy.
On air quality, the Minister said DEFF had given a very extensive presentation on that.
On waste, the Minister said DEFF is in the process of dealing with the recycling or packaging of electronic waste. DEFF is calling for new plants that will be led by the industry. The idea is to get those who produce the waste to get involved in its recycling and reuse.
DEFF is formulating strategies of how profits can be shared across the value chain of the waste industry – from the informal waste pickers to those responsible for recycling. The profits in the industry are in the recycling and reuse and not in the waste picking process.
The Minister confirmed that the President indicated he will be establishing the Presidential Climate Change Commission.
On Co2 emissions, the Minister said that while South Africa is one of the top 14 emitters in the world, it is only responsible globally for 2% of emissions. Whilst campaigning for this issue, it is important to note that the world’s biggest emitter is withdrawing from the Paris Agreement.
Ms Winkler commented that the other 24 countries are still adhering to the climate agreement targets and the fact that the US pulled out from the Paris Agreement is not a disincentive for South Africa to control its emissions.
The Minister assured the Committee that they will get more details about the interventions that DEFF has come up with to fight climate change.
On consulting with the industries about air quality, Minister Creecy replied that ultimately what DEFF is trying to balance is protection and production.
She replied that the Minister of Trade and Industry in his Automotive Masterplan will look at the question of how South Africa will get involved in the production of electric cars.
On the question of support of municipalities in the waste sector, the Minister said DEFF will evaluate what the Waste Bureau has been doing in fulfilment of its functions stipulated in the Waste Act. Part of these functions include supporting municipalities but the Waste Bureau has been focused on the disposal of tyres. The Minister said DEFF will redirect the Waste Bureau to fulfil its duties.
On fishing, the Minister said that DEFF is in discussion with law enforcement agencies on the protection of South Africa’s fishing territory. The Minister confirmed that South Africa has aquaculture.
The Director General explained that DEFF was focusing on expanding aquaculture. There is an abalone farm that DEFF has drawn lessons from. Some of the challenges or hurdles include the fact that South Africa does not have experienced fish doctors. She said that the Minister is reviving the Aquaculture Development Bill.
On land use emissions, the Minister said that DEFF is looking at how land users are investing in offset projects and carbon sinks.
Minister Creecy replied about fresh water fish, saying that these are in areas where they are not protected. What this means is that these species are under threat because of general poor management of water sources and river catchments. DEFF has engaged the Departments of Water and Sanitation and Agriculture to formulate strategies to protect water sources and river catchments.
The Director General noted that the Eastern Cape, Northern Cape and Free State are the three provinces that have not yet submitted environment reports.
On canned lion hunting the Minister said DEFF has set up a high level panel to deal with this.