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Minister Barbara Creecy delivers 2021/22 Budget Vote speech to National Assembly

Minister of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment, Ms Barbara Creecy, delivers budget speech to national assembly

14 May 2021

Honourable House Chair
Our Deputy Minister Ms Makhotso Sotyu;
Honourable Fikile Xasa, and Committee Members
Chairpersons of the Entities reporting to the DFFE;
Director-General, Ms Nomfundo Tshabalala;
CEO’s of our Public Entities;
Ladies and gentlemen

I want to start this debate today by quoting President Xi Jinping of China who said, at the World Leaders Climate Summit hosted by President Biden in April:

“To protect the environment is to protect productivity, and to improve the environment is to boost productivity - the truth is as simple as that. We must abandon development models that harm or undermine the environment, and must say no to short-sighted approaches of going after near-term development gains at the expense of the environment. Much to the contrary, we need to ride the trend of technological revolution and industrial transformation, seize the enormous opportunity in green transition, and let the power of innovation drive us to upgrade our economic, energy and industrial structures, and make sure that a sound environment is there to buttress sustainable economic and social development worldwide.”

I choose this quote because it ably sums up the complexity of the task that faces us as we implement our Economic Reconstruction and Recovery plan in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic.

I am heartened to report to you today, that the Green Stimulus Recovery Programme forms part of the post Covid-19 recovery programme for our country.  It aims to protect our natural resources while contributing to equitable economic growth, providing employment to marginalised communities and growing economic sectors reliant on the environment without destroying it.  

Already drought, tropical cyclones, floods, and wildfires are contributing to ever greater loss of lives and livelihoods. Accordingly, in his weekly letter to the Nation on Monday 26 April, President Ramaphosa said “even as we continue to fight the Covid-19 pandemic, tackling climate change is a national priority for South Africa”

In this regard the President went on to say that as a country we are committed to contributing our fair share to the global climate effort. He urged the newly-established Presidential Climate Change Commission to advise government on an ambitious and just transition to a low-carbon economy.

At the beginning of April our government released our revised Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) for public comment ahead of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in November.

The enhanced NDC significantly boosts both mitigation and adaptation ambition. The document proposes emissions decline begin in 2025 – a full 10 years ahead of our previous peak, plateau decline trajectory.

It further proposes that by 2030 our greenhouse gas emissions must decline by twenty -eight percent compared to the current levels. Government has set a measurable target in the IRP to increase renewable energy from the current eleven percent to thirty- four percent by installing well over 26 gigawatts of renewables by 2030.  This can reduce the share of fossil fuels in energy generation from the current eighty percent to fifty- one percent.  We are currently processing the public submissions we have received and are awaiting advice from the Climate Commission before we process the final draft for approval by Cabinet and submission to the UNFCCC.

Honourable members, the regulatory architecture to guide our transition processes has advanced over the last year.  The Low Emissions Development Strategy was communicated to the UNFCCC and the National Climate Change Adaptation Strategy was finalised last year. These co-ordinate adaptation actions at all levels of government.

The long awaited Climate Bill has been certified by the state law advisor and is on its way through the Cabinet system in preparation for tabling in this house later this year.

A key area for attention in the coming weeks and months will be the implementation of the recommendations of the High Level Panel, which reviewed policies, legislation and practices related to the management, breeding, hunting, trade and handling of elephant, lion, leopard and rhinoceros.

As you are all aware, this Panel was appointed following a 2018 Colloquium on Captive Lion Breeding which resulted in a resolution by this house that the department initiate a policy and legislative review with a view to putting an end to this practice.

The report of the High Level Panel Report comprising 18 goals and 60 recommendations was tabled in the public domain two weeks ago. The expected outcomes once we implement the recommendations include better balancing our economic, social, cultural and natural heritage needs. The report   re-imagines the role of protected areas, both state and others, in contributing to ecologically sustainable rural development.

It places communities living with wildlife at the centre of our thinking so we focus on enhancing human-wildlife co-existence, and transformative approaches to access and benefit sharing for communities living on the edges of conservation areas.  It demands a renewed focus on transforming the ownership and management of the commercial wildlife economy, particularly in the eco-tourism and authentic hunting sectors. Finally, the report recommends the ending of certain inhumane and irresponsible practices that greatly harm the reputation of South Africa and the position of South Africa as a leader in conservation.

There is great interest in the Panel’s outcomes in particular from private rhino owners who feel that the substantial contribution they make to rhino conservation has been ignored. Nothing could be further from the truth.  Next week I will be meeting with the Private Rhino Owners Association so we can share full details on how the panel’s recommendations focus on securing the survival of rhino in the wild through recognising the high conservation value that privately owned rhino, including captive ones, hold and their essential role in any conservation strategy.

We will also discuss with them ways to integrate privately owned rhino into a national long-term strategy for rhino conservation consistent with the Rhino Action Plan adopted by Cabinet in 2016.

It should also be noted that the panel identified the potential contribution a legal commercial international trade in rhino horn could make to conservation of rhino in the future provided we meet the conditions set out in the 2016 plan to combat poaching, enhance community engagement and demand management in the destination countries. Any future CITES approval for such trade requires us to indicate that we have built this solid foundation and are able to demonstrate that a legal trade will not endanger wild rhino elsewhere in the world.

Work has already begun setting up a programme of stakeholder feedback sessions and on a draft Policy Position that covers the key policy implications and recommendations which will shortly be published for public participation. The Department is also initiating a process to develop a draft White Paper on Biodiversity Conservation and Sustainable use for consultation.

Honourable House Chair in October this year China will host the fifteenth conference of the parties on the Convention on Conservation and Bio-Diversity in Kunming. South Africa has been assigned the responsibility by the Africa Group of Negotiators to lead the negotiation on the Global Biodiversity Framework on behalf of the African Region.

In so doing, South Africa will advocate that the scope of the Global Biodiversity Framework should adequately and equitably cover the three objectives of the Convention, namely, the conservation of biological diversity, the sustainable use of its components and the fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising out of the utilisation of genetic resources. 

Last year, Cabinet approved the reviewed National Protected Areas Expansion Strategy (NPAES) for implementation. This strategy aims to achieve cost effective protected areas expansion for improved ecosystem representation, ecological sustainability and resilience to climate change, while safeguarding more than 418 000 biodiversity-based jobs. 

The new strategy, which extends to freshwater and marine components, is framed to ensure that the country contributes to its international obligations on the protection of conservation estates. We can report to this house today, that our country is on course to achieve 17% of our land under the conservation estate during this government term.

Work is also being done to secure strategic water sources and wetlands given that South Africa is a water scarce country.  These areas supply water that sustains 60% of the country’s population, more than 90% of urban water users, 67% of national economic activity and 70% of irrigated agriculture.  We are firmly of the view that, as a water scarce country, we cannot afford to compromise any of our strategic water sources for short term gain.

In this regard, the department will continue to work with relevant government departments and other sectors responsible for mining, human settlements, agriculture and water affairs to protect strategic water sources from potential undesirable environmental impacts.

Invasive species are major contributors to biodiversity loss and water scarcity. Our Working for Water programme, not only realises conservation outcomes, but also creates much needed jobs for youth and women in rural areas where few other opportunities are available. 

This year we will create 66 432 work opportunities in clearing of alien invasive species and wetland rehabilitation. We intend through different partnerships to formalise accredited training for almost fourteen thousand of these participants so they have a recognised and tradeable skill at the end of the programme.

Honourable members, a healthy environment must be one free from waste pollution.  And so the implementation of the National Waste Management Strategy 2020 is a top priority.

First and foremost, we must change citizen behavior and encourage everyone to dispose of waste in a responsible manner! We must stop dumping household waste and fast food  packaging in the environment!  We must refuse single use plastics buying our favourite take away!

Plastic is the key focus area in terms of managing pollution. Last month we published the new requirements for plastic carrier bags which require all to contain 50% recycled content from 2023, increasing to 100% by 2027. This will not only ensure circularity, but will see product design taking the environment into consideration.

Marine litter, including plastic litter, is of increasing global and national concern.  For the past eighteen months, the Department has implemented a pilot marine litter prevention project in the eThekwini Municipality with a focus on five priority rivers. The main objective is to reduce marine litter by capturing and recovering  waste in these river systems.

As part of the Presidency’s Employment Stimulus Initiative the Department has obtained approval to expand the Source-to-Sea Programme into 16 coastal districts with the target of creating a minimum of 1 600 work opportunities.

To ensure all municipalities increase the number of households that have regular access to weekly refuse removal we have agreed with National Treasury that cash strapped municipalities can now use a portion of the MIG funding to address shortages in the waste management fleet and landfill operation equipment.

We are supporting municipalities to develop Integrated Waste Management Plans and ensure that these are integrated for funding into the IDP processes of local government.

As part of the Presidential Economic Stimulus, the Department has revitalised our Good Green Deeds Programme to support cleaning up dumping hotspots across all district and metro municipalities. To enhance cleaning efforts across the country, 12 000 unemployed youth will be offered work opportunities in support of the municipal Cleaning and Greening Programme.

We are finalising norms and standards for organic waste treatment that will enable biogas generation and assist with organic waste diversion from municipal landfills.

To begin to ensure manufacturers and importers of products are responsible for the impact their products have on the environment, Extended Producer Responsibility plans were required for the paper and packaging, electrical and electronic equipment and lighting sectors in 2021.  This will divert these waste streams from landfills and increase recycling and up-cycling.   In the 2021/22 financial year, the scope of products is being broadened to include pesticides, lubricant oils and batteries.

Honourable Members,

Our local fisher communities rely on the oceans for their livelihood. The fishing sector is also a significant contributor to food security and the economy. Stabilising the sub-sector through the allocation of longer-term fishing rights is critical to attracting investment into the industry.

The fisheries sector is worth around R8 billion a year and the commercial sector directly employs approximately 28 000 people with many thousands more people depending on fisheries resources to meet basic needs in the small-scale and recreational sectors.

The transformation of the South African fishing industry is a constitutional and legislative imperative. The Fishing Rights Allocation Process (FRAP) and the management of commercial fishing rights are an important site for industry transformation. Twelve sectors are due for re-allocation of fishing rights this year.

As part of the FRAP 2020/21 process, the Department will be reviewing the General Policy on the Allocation of Commercial Fishing rights; the 12 sector-specific policies; the Policy on the Transfer of Commercial Fishing Rights, and the Policy on Fish Processing Establishments (FPEs). The department will also be reviewing all our fees for applications, licences and permits.

The FRAP 2021 implementation process aims to be clean, transparent, accountable, transformative and legally defensible. The Department has appointed various service providers to bolster its capacity to meet the deadline of allocating fishing rights by 31 December 2021.

For the first time in an allocation process, we will be conducting Socio-Economic Impact Assessments (SEIAS).  The outcome of the SEIAS will be taken into account when reviewing policies and allocations to promote profitability, whilst optimising transformation and job creation.  The SEIAS will be published for stakeholder comment this month.

Honourable House Chair a total of 110 Small-Scale Fishing cooperatives were allocated 15-year fishing rights in the Northern Cape, Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal prior to lockdown in March 2020. Unfortunately, due to the Covid 19 restrictions, the support process to these co-operatives was uneven over the past year. We are currently working with all levels of government to ensure there is sustained support to these emerging enterprises. 

Central to the success of small fishing cooperatives is an increase in the basket of species available to them. Earlier this year we published for public comment an apportionment split for the squid, linefish and abalone sectors to enhance the high value species available for allocation to the small scale sector. The final outcomes of this process will be announced shortly.

Due to a number of challenges in the Western Cape, I have approached the courts to set aside the small scale rights process in the province.  This decision was informed by the outcomes of an independent audit which found that the process was not fair and transparent; and that many bona fide fishers were left off the successful list while others were included who should not have been successful.   

I have lodged all the necessary legal papers to the Western Cape High Court and have informed the affected parties and community-based organisations in the Small-scale Fishing sector.  Until such time that the process has been redone, those with existing rights under different dispensations in the small scale sector can continue to fish.

Honourable Members,

South Africa is a maritime nation with jurisdiction over one of the largest exclusive economic zones in the world. Our oceans represent a significant asset for current and future generations, with enormous economic potential, in aquaculture, bioprospecting, marine ecotourism, extractive industries, and less obvious benefits of healthy ecosystem services such as climate regulation, carbon storage and waste absorption.

The growing ocean economy has thus far contributed R41 billion to South Africa’s GDP, creating 26 764 jobs in six focus areas including marine transport and manufacturing, offshore oil and gas exploration, aquaculture; small harbours development, coastal and marine tourism, marine protection services and ocean governance.  

Over the last year, our increased effort has seen us working with sister departments and the respective industries to stabilise the sub-sectors and sustain jobs.   The Department of Trade, Industry and Competition is helping us to address issues around market diversification, both internationally and locally, for the aquaculture and fishing sector affected by Covid 19 - related market restrictions.

Numerous steps have been taken to address the challenges of the boatbuilding and the ship/rig repair sub-sectors, including repairs to infrastructure and dry-docking facilities.

To support regulatory certainty, consultations on the Aquaculture Development Bill are being finalised and we hope to table this Bill in Parliament in 2021. We are also developing a National Freshwater (inland) Wild Capture Fisheries Policy.

As we grow our ocean economy, we are mindful of the impact of increasing human activity on the health of our oceans. We must balance economic development with measures to protect our oceans, coastal ecosystems, and biodiversity.

Hence our Oceans Economy Programme includes a specific focus on marine protection and ocean governance.  Our Marine Spatial Planning Act provides for the development and implementation of a shared marine spatial planning system to facilitate responsible use of the oceans, and to conserve the oceans for present and future generations.

Honourable Members,

Environmental crimes threaten our natural resources; result in significant economic and social loss, and place a financial burden on the state and private owners.

In the 2020/21 financial year, the Green Scorpions conducted three and a half thousand inspections, issued 971 administrative enforcement notices, and handed over 203 criminal investigations to the National Prosecuting Authority for prosecution.

Given the organised nature of these crimes, the sector continues to work closely with the various law enforcement role players and intelligence structures.

The successful work of the integrated compliance and enforcement programme of Operation Phakisa – Initiative 5 – will be scaled up this year with more targeted operations,  more efficient monitoring of cases, quicker reaction times and more interventions focused on illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing. 

The Department will also be introducing an administrative penalty system across the environmental regulatory regime, as well as rolling out an integrated information management system to enhance our analysis and investigative capabilities through the newly established Environmental Enforcement Fusion Centre.

By way of conclusion, Honourable members,

I am pleased to inform you today that the removal of the approximately 4 200 tonnes of mercury-containing waste, which was stockpiled in Cato Ridge, Kwazulu-Natal, began in earnest last year.  When I was appointed to this portfolio, I committed to leaving no stone unturned to have this material removed and to ensure an end to a three-decade pollution legacy issue. 

An intergovernmental expert team, comprising of officials from the Ethekwini Metropolitan Municipality, the Kwazulu-Natal Department of Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs, the Departments of Labour, Health and Water and Sanitation, and the South African Police Services are working together to resolve the pollution-related issues surrounding this matter.

To date, 1 211 (one thousand two hundred and eleven) tonnes of material have been exported in 63 forty-foot sea freight containers.  It is anticipated that the repackaging and removal of this material will be finalised by mid-2022 with final remediation completed by 2023. 

Its important today to salute Councillor Musa Mkhize from Ward 1 in Ethekwini who waged a tireless battle to highlight the plight of residents living near this dump site and who can now leave this clean-up as a lasting legacy to his term of office! 

I thank you

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Albi Modise
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