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Speech delivered by Minister B Creecy during a Parliament debate on climate change

Parliament of the Republic of South Africa, Cape Town, Western Cape Province
11 March 2020

Hon. Chairperson of the NCOP;
Honourable Members;

Allow me at the outset, to once again welcome the President Cyril Ramaphosa’s commitment to establishing the Presidential Climate Change Commission to lead our just transition to a lower carbon, climate resilient and sustainable economy and society that, will leave no one behind.

Let me further also restate, science is telling us that the Southern part of Africa has been identified as a climate change hotspot, with increasing extreme weather events.

We have in recent times experienced unprecedented and devastating flooding and severe storms in the Kwa-Zulu Natal Province as well as parts of the Eastern Cape leading to loss of lives, destruction of infrastructure and homes.

The Eastern, Western and Northern Cape have experienced the most prolonged periods of drought in recorded history. These extreme weather events put pressure to our already constrained fiscus, health sector, disaster management and social security systems.

Our national biodiversity assessments confirms that the impacts of climate change on biodiversity has rapidly accumulated and now spans all realms and most species groups. Impacts include changes in ecosystem structure and function as well as direct threats to a wide range of species.

It is important at the outset to acknowledge that Climate Change poses both risks and opportunities to our country.

On the one hand climate change has the potential to reverse progress we made under the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and further impede our efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals we have adopted together with the international community.

Our vulnerability to climate change is exacerbated by our economic inequality, poverty and our current dependency on coal-fired power generation.

This year the Paris Agreement under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) comes fully into force.   

Climate change and its associated consequences can only be addressed by the world’s nations working together. It can only be addressed when together we all honour our mutual commitments and our differentiated responsibilities. It can only be effected when we stand together in support of the Paris Agreement and the Kyoto Protocol.

South Africa will continue to speak in support of multilateralism and the Convention and its Paris Agreement.

When I spoke in the state of the nation debate I outlined in some detail how national government is responding to climate change and how we are fulfilling our obligations in terms of the UNFCCC, the Kyoto Protocol and the Paris Accord to which our country is a signatory.

Today it is appropriate to focus on what subnational government can do. At Cop 25 in Madrid last December the UCLG (United Cities and Local Governments) had the following to say:

“In the face of multiple, complex and interconnected challenges at the global level, it is essential to work together among the different spheres of government in order to achieve common objectives considering all stakeholders.

Increasingly, local and regional action is accelerating commitments to implement Agenda 2030 and the Paris Agreement so that the future of the climate considers the principles of solidarity, social justice, intergenerational dialogues and peace and with a human rights approach.”

This significant statement acknowledges the role that all levels of government must play in achieving Agenda 2030 and the Paris Agreement. It also stresses that such agreements cannot be achieved without involving local communities and a wide range of  civil society actors.

The Climate Change Policy outlines that

“Our overall strategic approach for South Africa’s climate change response is needs driven and customised; developmental; transformational, empowering and participatory; dynamic and evidence-based; balanced and cost effective; and integrated and aligned”.

Honourable Members, we are currently finalising the Climate Change Bill. The legislation provides for effective management approaches to the inevitable impacts of a changed climate and measures to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions.

In this regard, all provinces and municipalities have to undertake climate risk assessments and develop customised climate change response strategies which take local circumstances into account.

To this end, at a technical level, we have already worked with the provinces to develop provincial adaptation plans and supported all districts in developing climate change response plan. Now we need Provincial Executive Councils and municipal Councils to officially adopt the strategies to ensure political leadership in addressing climate change.

For provinces and municipalities to prioritise implementation will require resource allocation, and building necessary local capacity. In this regard we welcome the districts which have already integrated climate change into their Integrated Development Plans. 

A number of Cities are also members of global City movements relating to climate action and city networks that contribute to the climate change agenda such as 100 Resilient Cities, ICLEI Local Governments for Sustainability, and C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group.

Many have internal (through their statutory planning documents) and global carbon commitments and targets that apply to the functions of Transport planning, urban development and Spatial planning, Infrastructure investment and service delivery.

Furthermore, there is increasing regional coordination and horizontal integration of climate change responses as municipalities are sharing practice and learning with one another, such as through the Kwazulu-Natal Climate Change Compact.

Some of South Africa’s metros are pioneering Net Zero Carbon Building policy and regulations. This requires that buildings exceed the country’s energy efficiency and energy consumption standards, and that their remaining energy demand is met by renewable energy.

We are working with the South African Weather Service to enhance our early warning systems for extreme weather events so provinces and municipalities can ensure readiness to address and avert climate induced disasters.

Three weeks ago I met with the South African Weather Service and we agreed the service will also begin to educate local communities across the country so they can better understand Climate Change and respond appropriately.

We are also working with a range of non -governmental institutions to create awareness amongst schools and learners of issues such as climate change and sustainability.  We will also enhance our existing partnership with the Department of Education to improve teaching of the environmental aspects of the Life Orientation curriculum.

National, provincial and local government have environmental programmes that aim to restore eco-infrastructure, those services which nature provides free of charge. 

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. 

If we work much more closely together, and co-ordinate our work better, we could have much more significant impact.

Our Government is currently in discussion with the German government to leverage grant funding earmarked for land-based programmes to enhance the carbon sequestration potential of South Africa’s biomes. 

Through this initiative, we plan to enhance carbon sequestration in grasslands and savannahs through improved grazing management as well as restoration of our indigenous forests.

Honourable members, we often emphasize the risk climate change poses to our country. It is important to understand that it also presents us with opportunities. Responding appropriately to climate change provides provincial and local government new opportunities for inclusive growth and job creation in the field of renewables and green technology.

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

In the wake of the release of the Integrated Resource Plan and the announcements on different dispensations for energy generation by the Minister of Energy new possibilities are opening up at sub national government level.

Standard Bank has also just issued a green bond for the first time, aimed at raising US$ 200 million in a 10 year facility to support environmentally friendly projects in renewables, energy and water efficiency projects and green buildings.

Our country has some of the world’s largest high-grade resources in vanadium, platinum, palladium, nickel, manganese, rare earths, copper and cobalt.

With the platinum-catalysed fuel cell and hydrogen markets beginning to grow exponentially, South Africa, which has one of world’s most extensive platinum reserves, is poised with potential.

Exploring private public partnerships thereby enhancing access to capacity, technology and contribute to bankability of investments.

As a country we have prioritised development of various instruments including the carbon tax, carbon budget, desired emission reduction outcomes as well as sectoral emission targets to enable us in reaching our greenhouse gas emission targets. We have developed a web-based greenhouse gas emissions reporting system for industry termed the South African Greenhouse Gas Reporting System (SAGERS).

We are currently finalising the national employment vulnerability assessment and associated Job Resilient Plans for the four value chains namely coal, petroleum transport, metals, tourism and agriculture. We need to work together toward the implementation of these plans at a provincial and districts levels

Since 2018 we have mobilized in excess of US$ 500 million (R 7.5 billion) grant and concessional finance from both bilateral and multilateral funding sources.

These funds are funding the climate support programmes in government, local adaptation programmes , energy efficiency, development of low-emission development strategies and capacity building as well battery storage and renewables programmes, a new “DBSA” Climate Finance Facility (CFF) and an ecosystem based adaptation programme in the Western Indian Ocean.

This includes a US$ 3.6 million grant from the Global Environment Facility (GEF) for scaling-up and mainstream sustainable land management for large-scale impact in the grazing lands of target sites in Limpopo and Northern Cape.

R140 million over 5 years from Germany for a non-motorised transport programme in eThekwini, Polokwane and city of Johannesburg and a  R 20 million EU grant for promoting market-based deployment of clean energy technologies and services in municipality waterworks in the Kheis Local Municipality and Nelson Mandela Metro.

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.

I thank you.


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