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Minister Creecy's speech during budget plenary on revised DEFF budget and annual performance plan 2020/21

Speech by the Minister of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries, Honourable Barbara Creecy, during the budget plenary on the revised Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries’ budget and annual performance plan 2020/21.

23 July 2020, Parliament of the Republic of South Africa, virtual delivery

Honourable House Chair
Our Deputy Minister Ms Makhotso Sotyu;
Honourable Fikile Xasa, and Committee Members
Chairpersons of the Entities reporting to the DEFF;
Acting Director-General Mr Ishaam Abader; and
CEO’s of our Public Entities;

Ladies and gentlemen

Last Saturday on Mandela Day, I spent my sixty-seven minutes with the World Wildlife Fund, meeting representatives from fishing communities in the Overberg Region of the Western Cape.

The representatives spoke of the hardship small-scale fisher men and women face in this difficult industry: including their exclusion from the more profitable aspects of the fish processing value chain through lack of access to affordable loans for tools of trade and investment;  of lives burdened by debt to marketers; and their hunt for viable catch in the face of dwindling wild fish stocks.

By October this year, we hope to issue 15 year fishing rights to small scale fishers in the Western Cape. For the first time in our country’s history, this will conclude a Small Scale 15 year Rights Allocation Process to over ten thousand five hundred fisher men and women organised into 110 co-operatives nationwide.

The rights allocation process is a first step to formalising and developing small scale fishers, who even before the Covid 19 Pandemic, faced enormous inequality, insecurity and barriers to economic participation.

And so, Honourable members, we must today ask the question as to how our road to recovery from this pandemic will promote a more sustainable growth path for our people and our country.

One that protects our natural resources, while at the same time confronting the inherent contradictions and constraints to human development, including skewed and exclusive patterns of production and distribution.

At a continental level, as President of the African Ministerial Conference on the Environment (AMCEN), South Africa convened a virtual meeting of the AMCEN Bureau on 28 May 2020, to discuss a proposed Green Stimulus Programme, which has 12 focus areas and includes a key area on enhancing Climate Action.

The Green Stimulus Recovery Programme will be presented to the African Union with a view to it being incorporated into the overall COVID-19 Recovery Programme for Africa, to ensure our recovery is sustainable and contributes to a Just Transition.

Throughout the world countries and formations as diverse as the European Union, India, Canada, Rwanda, Gabon, China, and Japan are recognising that what the World Economic Forum terms a “nature positive future”, can unlock enormous potential and investment opportunities for both developed and developing countries.

A nature positive future can enable economies to recover and to grow; successfully service their national debts; and carry out their governmental responsibilities to citizens. This can be done in a way that sustains both the natural environment and human health and well-being.

For South Africa, embracing a nature positive future as part of our overall economic recovery would have four advantages.  First and foremost it will have a positive impact on job creation in new industries which offer potential for the creation of new enterprises using new technologies.

Secondly, dedicated international “green funds” offer an investment source for these new industries. Thirdly, green bonds have been shown to be cheaper than traditional vanilla bonds and finally, investment in green and sustainable solutions offers us opportunities to promote our long term economic competitiveness and climate resilience.

And as our government develops our medium term recovery plan, attention must be focused immediately on stabilising sectors hard hit by the pandemic. In our space this includes particularly nature based tourism, the oceans economy, and the circular economy.

The revised budget and plans we table for consideration today, represent our Department’s response to the difficult choices that confront us in stabilising our sector and opening possibilities for future growth.  Allow me to explain.

Firstly, our Department received a net budget loss of 8.6%, amounting to a budget cut of R766 million. This money we surrendered as part of our collective contribution to the national COVID-19 response plan and to the post-lockdown economic recovery initiatives.

To ensure the budget cut had a minimal effect on our programmes, we effected savings on advertorials, domestic and international travel, public meetings, stakeholder consultation and events, most of which are no longer possible under current conditions.

Our four entities: South African National parks (SANParks), South African National biodiversity Institute (SANBI), iSimangaliso Wetland Park Authority (iSimangaliso) and the South African Weather Service (SAWS), all of which have a good record of revenue generation and financial self-sustainability, are unable to realise their usual income streams.

In the first quarter or this financial year, our “Working For” programmes were not able to operate due to lockdown conditions. By cutting back on now unachievable targets in this programme, we have been able to transfer R39 million to the iSimangaliso and R961million to SANParks.

In doing this we have ensured the sustainability of our protected areas and the significant role they play in supporting our country’s mega-biodiversity. We have also ensured the future sustainability of our contribution to nature based tourism and its longer term employment potential.

To further secure the financial viability of our four entities we have taken the following decisions:

  • Capital spending in all four entities has been postponed while we look for alternative funding sources through the agency of the Presidential Sustainable Infrastructure Development Programme (SIDS).  In total twenty-nine projects have been submitted for project preparation.
  • Budgets initially earmarked for capital spending have been shifted to prevent job losses and ensure we have the human resources to continue with the valuable work performed by these entities, including anti-poaching and ranger services, wildlife management; the day to day running of our botanical gardens and the Tshwane Zoo; weather prediction services which remain essential for shipping and aviation purposes; and the extensive programmes of scientific research co-ordinated by SANBI.

Our national parks are not the only conservation formations facing distress during these times. Our provincial parks also face revenue shortfalls and tough choices.

To assist in this regard, all Members of the Provincial Executive Councils have agreed that the recommendations of a 2012 study entitled “Review of Institutional Arrangements for Management of Protected Areas” must be revisited. Work is currently underway to review these recommendations for consideration over the coming year.

Several non-governmental organisations in the conservation space are also facing financial distress due to cessation of international visitors who provided the lifeblood of their projects.

As a result, conservation authorities across the continent are facing severe funding constraints that will over time impact negatively on their operations, efforts to protect species and ecosystems, and on the lives of rural communities dependent on revenues and jobs from protected area estates.

In response to this situation I have taken a two-pronged approach informed by South Africa’s current position as the President  of AMCEN and the important role that the biodiversity economy plays in the country’s development plan.

Firstly, I have established a Ministerial Task Team on resource mobilisation for conservation COVID-19 responses, comprising experts from diverse backgrounds to consider innovative approaches to sustainable funding for the conservation sector. The task team will also identify potential funding sources that could be mobilised.

Initial work is focusing on an emergency response, but with the view to longer term sustainable funding mechanisms and models.  Diverse investment sources are being considered, including innovative financing solutions, debt-for-nature swaps, grants, and impact investments.

The second initiative is one our department is working on together with the International Union for Conservation of nature (IUCN), and the Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT). We have established a number of working groups to make recommendations on how we support the post Covid-19 recovery of the biodiversity and conservation sector and build our nature positive future.

While this work is still at an early stage, future success will require much greater co-ordination between government and non-governmental sectors. Together we will have to rethink how we co-operate to restore ecosystem services, protect strategic water sources and develop green infrastructure.

It will require us to rethink the form and nature of our current Environmental Programmes and how we will share resources we mobilise from both domestic and international sources.

Despite budget cuts and a late start to our expanded public works programme, we still aim to create 16 315 work opportunities this year. We will ensure that 60% of the people who benefit from the implementation of our programmes are women, 65% are young people, and 2% percent are people with disabilities.

Honourable members, this year the Paris Agreement that falls under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) comes fully into force. Our country is a signatory to the Paris Agreement and together with other signatories, we are reviewing our contributions to reducing emissions and building our resilience to the impacts of climate change, through our Nationally Determined Contributions—or NDCs. We aim to commence with the public participation process on South Africa’s Nationally Determined Contributions, while adhering to the Covid-19 lockdown regulations in September.

Work also continues on our Climate Change Bill with processes in National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac) hopefully reaching conclusion in August, so we can still submit to this House before the end of the current financial year.

To fast-track the development of renewable energy projects in line with the integrated resource plan, our department last week called for public comment on three more renewable energy development zones (REDZ) namely Emalahleni in Mpumalanga, Klerksdorp in North West and Beaufort West in the Western Cape. This will bring to eleven the number of REDZ in the country.

The declaration of Emalahleni and Klerksdorp officially earmarks these coal and gold towns as regions in which large-scale solar photo voltaic (PV) facilities could be deployed.

The REDZ represent priority areas for investment in the electricity grid, regarded as an enabler of higher levels of renewable penetration in our country. Projects located within the boundaries of the REDZ are beneficiaries of streamlined environmental authorisation processes.

Honourable Members, waste recycling and the transition to a circular economy is an area where our Department must speedily and dramatically upscale its interventions to create jobs, formalise micro waste recovery enterprises, divert waste from landfills and the environment and improve the overall system of waste management.

In this regard I am happy to share with this house today that the waste tyre management plan and the extended producer responsibility plans, for sectors including paper and packaging, lighting and e-waste, have been published for public comment and will soon be gazetted. These plans have been developed under sections 29 and 18 of the Waste Act respectively.

As I conclude allow me to return to the Blue Economy. The South African fishing sector remains 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.

To this end, in 2019, the Cabinet extended the timeline for dealing with the fishing rights allocation process (FRAP). The revised period for the commencement of the 2020/21 FRAP process for the granting of commercial fishing rights was published on the 26th June 2020 for comments. We have revised our project plan to meet the new deliverables and timeframes. 

Of crucial importance at this point in time is to stabilise our Aquaculture sector and the 4 875 jobs it currently sustains. In this regard we are finalising consultations on the Aquaculture Bill so that we provide policy certainty without over-regulation. We hope to bring this Bill to the house next year.

Securing sustainable markets for our aquaculture products remains of crucial importance at this time when Asian markets have been disrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic and SA producers face competition from cheap imports. Our team is currently working with the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and the industry to identify and secure new international and domestic markets.

Securing the safety of our domestic fish stocks is a central requirement for a sustainable fishing industry. High quality scientific information to inform management decisions is the cornerstone of sound fisheries management. Under tight resource constraints the department must rebuild this capacity in partnership with other branches, the industry and tertiary institutions. This year we will deploy 300 catch data monitors across the four coastal provinces to record catch information.

Under the auspices of Phakisa Initiative 5, we have, together with other law enforcement authorities, focused on preventing illegal harvesting of marine resources. To date total confiscations of illegal catch have amounted to more than R13 million.

To ensure more permanent deployment of security personnel, the next step is to undertake a marine and coastal sectoral threat, risk and opportunity analysis to inform where we should focus at a strategic and operational level.

Allow me to thank our Deputy Minister Ms Makhotso Sotyu, our Acting Director General Mr Ishaam Abader and team Environment Forestry and Fisheries as well as the CEOs of our Entities for all their support and hard work over the past year.

My appreciation goes to Honourable Fikile Xasa and members of the Portfolio Committee for their oversight role and for ensuring we remain accountable in the public domain for all we do.

I also take this opportunity to thank the many non-governmental organisations and individuals who dedicate their time and efforts to the sustainable management of our environment and our natural resource base. Your passion and commitment inspires us each and every day.

I thank you.


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