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Address by Minister Creecy in response to SONA in the National Assembly

Address by the Minister of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries, Ms Barbara Creecy in the National Assembly in response to the State of the Nation Address (SONA)

Western Cape Province, Cape Town, Parliament of the Republic of South Africa, 18 February 2020

Madam Speaker
His Excellency President Ramaphosa and Deputy President Mabuza,
Honourable  Members,

Allow me at the outset, to acknowledge, the important commitment President Ramaphosa made in his SONA address, to undertaking a decisive shift in our energy trajectory at a time when human kind faces the greatest threat, to its sustainable future, namely Climate Change.

I also want to welcome the President’s promise that the Presidential Climate Change Commission will lead our just transition to a low carbon, climate resilient and sustainable society, which, will leave no one behind.

Science tells us that our country and our continent are warming much faster than the rest of the world. Whereas the world, on average, has warmed by roughly 1 degree, above pre-industrial times, in southern Africa, the rate of warming is twice that.

A warmer climate is accompanied by extreme weather events.  The Eastern, Western and Northern Cape have experienced the most prolonged periods of drought in recorded history.

Kwa-Zulu Natal and the wild coast of the Eastern Cape have experienced severe storms and flooding with unprecedented frequency that destroyed lives, homes and infrastructure.

Heat-waves and multi-year droughts are impacting on agricultural production, the livelihoods of thousands of subsistence farmers and, more systemically, on our country’s GDP.

Our coastal cities already face sea-level rise and storm surges.  People, animals and plants confront new diseases and infestations of pests.

Climate change also impacts negatively on biodiversity, ecosystem structure and on the survival of most species.

It is now an accepted scientific fact that the phenomena which collectively represent Climate Change result from greenhouse gas emissions, a by- product of our industrialised society and human activity.

Most recent research confirms that greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise and that atmospheric levels are currently at an all-time high.

It is the ultimate injustice that developing nations, such as our own, have historically contributed the least to greenhouse gas emissions, but today are the most affected.

Historically the African continent has been responsible for only one percent of green-house gas emissions. Today our continent contributes four percent to global emissions, with our own country responsible for half of these.

South Africa’s vulnerability to climate change is exacerbated by our economic inequality, poverty and our current dependency on coal-fired power generation. So, no matter how we look at it, Climate Change poses significant risks to our country’s current and future socio-economic development.

But all is not yet lost. There is still time to take decisive action to mitigate the worst impacts of climate change and to adapt to a warmer climate.

This year the Paris Agreement under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) comes fully into force.  Throughout the world there is a call to enhance ambition in the fight against Climate Change.

The Paris Agreement identifies three related and equally important aspects to ambition: firstly ambition in mitigating or reducing greenhouse gas emissions, secondly ambition in adapting to the consequences of Climate Change and lastly ambition on the means of implementation ( finance and technology).

As a responsible global citizen, South Africa must also make a fair contribution to the global effort to reduce greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere.

This year our country is expected to submit a revised Nationally Determined Contribution at COP26. Already in consultation with all stakeholders, we are finalizing our long-term low emissions development strategy. (LEDS),

In putting our submission together we will be mindful of both the opportunities and the difficulties involved.  International experience demonstrates the potential of green industries  to stimulate growth and create jobs.

A recent study by Accenture estimates green industries and technology could unlock economic activities to the value $350billion on the African continent.

To ensure the South African economy can benefit from these new technologies and industries, our National Employment Vulnerability Assessment (NEVA) and the Sector Job Resilience Plans (SJRPs) must identify economic sectors vulnerable to climate change;  find viable new green economic activities; quantify the value of these opportunities; and  understand which sectors have to change and how.

Together with the Department of Science and Technology we must intensify research and development on clean technologies and increasing the ‘sink’ capacity in the land sector to enhance mitigation potential.

As we transition, we must also be mindful of our country’s current dependence on fossil fuels  both for energy generation and foreign exchange earnings.  Our movement to a lower carbon and climate resilient economy and society must be undertaken in a responsible, phased and planned manner.

The soon to be constituted Presidential Commission on Climate Change will be tasked with co-ordinating the work of all sectors of government and society in a common effort to ensure a Just Transition. Only by working together can we ensure no one is left behind.

This year we must bring the Climate Change Bill to the National Assembly.

The legislation provides for effective management approaches to the inevitable impacts of a changed climate.  We will finalise the National Adaptation Strategy so we galvanise our nation to invest in preparedness, early warning capabilities and risk mitigation measures for society.

Most provinces and a number of municipalities have formulated Climate Change response strategies. This is the year we assist sub- national government to start implementing their plans.

Three weeks ago I met with the South African Weather Service and we  agreed the service  will educate local communities across the country so they  can better understand Climate Change and respond appropriately. We will also strengthen relations between the Weather Service and municipalities in developing adaptation and response plans.

Through our environmental programmes this year ,we are spending R1.9 billion to restore wetlands, estuaries and coastal dunes to better protect built infrastructure and human settlements from storms, floods and sea level rise.

Honourable members, it is already estimated that African countries are spending between two and nine percent of their GDP on adaptation.

South Africa will continue to lobby developed countries to provide for an adequate, reliable and predictable source of international funding for both mitigation and adaptation.  Our country will also participate in a range of international forums to access both grant based and blended finance solutions for our Climate Change needs.

Honourable members, we must all be clear that Climate Change and its associated consequences can only be addressed by the world’s nations working together.  Accordingly we must be seriously concerned that one of the world’s biggest emitters has taken a decision to withdraw from the Paris Accord.

It is essential that the nations of the world stand together in support of the Paris Agreement.

We have a common moral responsibility to future generations to honour our mutual commitments and our differentiated responsibilities to fight the causes and consequences of Climate Change. Our country is a responsible global citizen. We will not shrink from the task that confronts us.

I thank you


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