‘LET’S INVEST IN OUR ENVIRONMENT’
The green economy is a key element in the country’s efforts to radically transform the economy and create jobs, argues Minister of Environmental Affairs Edna Molewa in her budget vote speech
IF we are to realise a prosperous Africa based on inclusive and equitable growth and shared prosperity, it is essential that Africa’s unique natural endowments: its environment, ecosystems, wildlife and wild lands are healthy, valued and protected, as a foundation for sustainable climate resilient economies and communities.
We in South Africa are guided by our National Development Plan (NDP).
We have the scientific, technological and innovative capabilities and we are bolstered by the energies of our citizens; catalysed through strategic partnerships with the private sector; and led by a strong state with a clear policy and regulatory regime.
Every day we witness the negative effects of humankind’s footprint on our planet; as our communities find themselves increasingly vulnerable to the negative effects and impacts of climate change; the pollution of the air and drinking water, and the degradation of our land and natural heritage.
These challenges necessitate Radically Transformative Solutions of creating and facilitating a green growth and development pathway that is inclusive, just, sustainable, low carbon and climate resilient.
The department has a three-pronged strategic approach to facilitate this long-term radical transformation.
Firstly, facilitating and supporting the planning and growth of economic activity in new and existing green sectors and greening less sustainable sectors, which in turn leads to greater investment, creates jobs, and enhances our international economic competitiveness. I call this our Phakisa Strategic Approach.
Secondly, providing an enhanced, coherent, efficient and effective legislative and regulatory system to facilitate the shift towards sustainable production and consumption patterns in our economy and society. This is our Environmental Justice Strategic Approach.
Thirdly, to provide the support and services for on the ground implementation to facilitate and promote scaled-up economy-wide investment, as we strive to realise our objectives. This is our Economy-Wide Service Delivery Strategic Approach.
PLANNING AND SUPPORTING THE GREEN ECONOMY – THE PHAKISA APPROACH
We have registered substantial progress in the past financial year, building on our successes of last year.
We have to date unlocked a total of R 17.7 billion in investment through the Operation Phakisa: Oceans Economy process in the five initially identified areas which is Offshore Oil and Gas, Aquaculture, Marine Manufacturing and Transport, Oceans Governance and Tourism. Biodiversity economy
In 2016, jointly with the Department of Tourism, we co-hosted a Biodiversity Economy Operation Phakisa Delivery Lab to accelerate the economic growth and job creation opportunities in the biotechnology and biodiversity conservation sectors, in particular through the ecotourism and wildlife sectors.
The Biodiversity Economy implementation plans target the creation of 100 000 jobs, and support for 4 000 new SMMEs by 2030. For this financial year, we are:
Prioritising the identification of about 800 000 hectares of land for wildlife economy activities.
Establishing 11 National Biodiversity Economy Nodes and priority projects therein.
Have identified the top 25 plant species for cultivation to provide employment and stimulate economic activities across the bio-prospecting value chain.
Investing in conservation management infrastructure with a focus on base infrastructure such as fencing and water reticulation, through the department’s Environmental Protection Infrastructure Programme.
Establishing eight pilot wildlife economy projects for this financial year.
Developing support interventions for Biodiversity Economy projects implemented by national and provincial entities such as game donations, the provision of veterinary services and capacity building.
The recycling or circular economy
The transition to a circular approach to sustainable socio-economic growth and development is emerging as a priority on the international political agenda. The issue was a key policy discussion point at the recently concluded World Economic Forum for Africa (WEF).
For South Africa, growing the circular economy and broadening access to the opportunities it presents is a fundamental part of government’s programme of radical socio-economic transformation.
This firstly requires a radical rethink of our perception of waste; it is a resource with value once it is recovered, reduced, re-used and recycled; and provides the opportunity for beneficiation, enterprise development and innovation.
Given the potential to significantly scale up green economy initiatives in this sector, we are preparing to host a Chemicals and Waste Phakisa that will see the Annual Waste Khoro for 2017 taking the form of a Chemicals and Waste Circular Economy Lab Programme.
In taking the industry waste management plans forward, we are currently evaluating the inputs received from various sectors on Industry Waste Management Plans (IWMPs) for the Paper and Packaging, Electrical and Electronic and Lighting Industries. These will be published for implementation this financial year.
Supporting broader integrated Green Economy development
At the recently convened WEF in Durban, integrating climate change and the SDGs into development planning featured high on the agenda.
To this end, we are implementing phase one of our Greenhouse Gas Emission Mitigation system to allocate carbon budgets to companies that are significant emitters of greenhouse gases.
We will finalise South Africa’s National Climate Change Adaptation Strategy, which sets out programmes for responding to expected climate change impacts on our economy, society and environment.
Notably, South Africa is increasingly becoming a destination for investment in the green economy, and more specifically as a top 10 renewable energy investment destination globally.
By 2016, South Africa’s Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme had already attracted over R200bn in investment. The Department of Environmental Affairs supported this programme with Strategic Environmental Assessments.
In the past year, the department finalised authorisations for 124 renewable energy development applications, amounting to a total of some 55 000 megawatts of renewable energy, as well as development applications for some 43 Strategic Infrastructure Projects (SIPs).
ENHANCING THE REGULATORY SYSTEM – THE ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE APPROACH
The NDP states that pursuing a sustainable development trajectory requires an efficient and effective regulatory system that reduces cost and increases the ease of doing business; while at the same time ensuring the sustainable use and protection of our natural capital and heritage.
This must comprise coherent legislation; supported by more accessible, user friendly and efficient decision-making tools, as well as effective enforcement.
The recent experience in developing our “one environment system” in the mining and water sectors has indicated many areas for improving and integrating our environmental regulatory system.
We have conducted a comprehensive review of our environmental legislation with the aim of improving procedural efficiency; reducing duplication and fragmentation, as well as standardising, streamlining and aligning legislative requirements.
This comprehensive regulatory review process will also address any emerging areas of concern, gaps or inadequate coverage in our regulatory system, among others, including:
In the climate change area: The domestic measures we need to take in terms of our fair contribution to the global effort to pursue efforts tolimit global warming to 2 degrees Celsius, and to pursue efforts towards 1.5 degrees, as obligated by our ratification of the Paris Agreement to combat climate change in November 2016.
In the chemicals area: We plan to phase down Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), in terms of obligations in the 2016 Kigali Amendment to the 1986 Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer.
Based on a recently completed study, we will manage the public health and environmental impacts of mercury pollution, in terms of obligations in the Minamata Convention on Mercury that we signed in 2015.
We need to manage the phase out, import and export of hazardous chemicals and waste, in terms of obligations in the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions.
In the waste area: We need to manage the detrimental impacts of plastics and the phase-out of micro-plastics in terms of UN General Assembly and UN Environmental Assembly resolutions, as well as the findings of a Plastic Material Study that we will conduct this year in collaboration with the plastics industry, the South African Bureau of Standards, the National Regulator for Compulsory Specifications, the National Treasury and Department of Health.
We are considering measures that allow for independent operators to run clean-up and processing operations in the different waste management sectors and their appointment through an open and competitive tender system.
We are conducting a feasibility study into the option of a landfill disposal tax as a disincentive to landfill, in conjunction with National Treasury.
In the biodiversity and conservation area: We are currently implementing the decisions taken at the 17th Conference of Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), hosted by South Africa in 2016, which include:
Provisions to strengthen actions to combat illicit wildlife trafficking, improve protection of entire groups of species, empowering youth and closer engagement with rural communities.
Provisions to manage the international trade in hunting trophies and the trade in cycads.
The CITES listing of wild ginger and Temminck’s pangolin.
The transfer of the Cape Mountain Zebra from Appendix I to Appendix II by CITES, which recognises a remarkable conservation success story – where a species has recovered from just less than 100 individual animals in the 1990s to over 5 000 in 2016.
The decision not to list South Africa’s elephant population in Appendix I, that would have introduced a ban on the international commercial trade in wild elephant.
This is a victory for scientific, evidence-based decision making.
As I have already mentioned, the purpose of this comprehensive legislative review is to have more accessible, user friendly and efficient decision-making tools.
To this end, the department is developing the following:
A Consolidated Integrated Permitting System (CIPS) to provide a single environmental authorisation and permit application and processing interface. This will enable the issuing of multiple authorisations such as Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), Waste Licence and an Air Emission Licenses. This work is at an advanced stage and will become operational this year.
An EIA Screening Tool, integrated with the CIPS that will provide for an early focusing of assessments and accelerate the assessment and authorisation process.
A Special Needs and Skills Development Programme to provide pro bono environmental services for individuals and organisations who cannot afford to pay for the costs of an EIA.
A special initiative in plastic design to improve the recycling of plastic bags, working with the SABS and National Regulator for Compulsory Specifications (NRCS) to ensure that the manufacturers of plastic carrier bags comply with regulatory requirements.
A 5-year monitoring programme to intervene in support of local government in the management of our nationwide network of 42 air quality monitoring stations, as many stations do not currently meet the required standards of operation.
An air quality offset programme to be rolled out by industries in the Vaal Triangle Airshed and Highveld Priority Areas, informed by scientific studies. In this regard, the source apportionment study of the Vaal Triangle Airshed Priority Area is currently under way as a basis to review of the Air Quality Management Plan of the priority area.
A National Biodiversity Offset Policy, in collaboration with the Departments of Mineral Resources and Water and Sanitation, to ensure that significant residual impacts of development, particularly in the mining sector are remedied.
A national guideline towards the Establishment of Coastal Management Lines to protect coastal public property, coastal protection zones and infrastructure.
Effective enforcement is an important component of a just environmental regulatory system.
In this regard, in the last financial year, all competent authorities processed 1 266 EIAs at a 96% efficiency rate. Of these EIAs, only a few were challenged in court with less than 0.5% found against the government.
While the poaching of South Africa’s rhino remains of concern, we are seeing a slow but steady decline in poaching numbers. This is thanks to the Integrated Strategic Management of Rhinoceros approach approved by cabinet in 2014.
This effort has been supplemented by a Rhino Conservation Lab in 2016 to enhance collaboration between government, the private sector and NGOs.
We have published draft regulations to ensure the highest levels of co-ordination on all matters pertaining to rhino, the possession of rhino horn, and its export for noncommercial purposes. This includes strengthening the processes around the issuance of permits.
These measures are particularly relevant in the context of the North Gauteng High Court’s 2016 order setting aside the moratorium on the domestic trade in rhino horn and the Constitutional Court’s order not to grant leave to appeal against the judgment.
IMPLEMENTATION AND INVESTMENT – THE ECONOMY-WIDE SERVICE DELIVERY APPROACH
The National Green Fund continues to support investment projects, research and development and capacity development initiatives across the green economy.
The government has to date allocated R1.2bn to the Fund, creating approximately 6 620 direct jobs.
One such project being supported by the Fund is the construction of the flagship Hammarsdale Waste Beneficiation centre in KwaZulu-Natal, that will maximise waste diversion from landfill through innovative recycling technologies.
Phase 1 of this project, that is being run by a non-profit called USE-IT, will lead to the creation of 153 permanent jobs, as well as 80 construction jobs. Since its inception, USEIT has created 2 400 jobs from waste beneficiation and has won a number of national and international awards.
However, the onus to create green jobs cannot be on government alone. Forging partnerships and incentivising private sector investment, both domestically and internationally, is key.
South Africa is a member of the Partnership for Action on Green Economy (PAGE), that seeks to put sustainability at the heart of economic policies and practices.
We are also a member of the Switch Africa Green partnership that is implementing innovative pilot renewable energy projects.
In February this year, SANParks convened its first ever Tourism Investment Summit to explore publicprivate partnerships to develop infrastructure in our national parks. The event was a resounding success.
Internationally, we will continue to enhance our co-operative engagement in the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA), the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and the Green Climate Fund (GCF) where we serve on the board and have co-chaired the board for two terms.
Two of our institutions, the Development Bank of South Africa and the South African National Biodiversity Institute have been accredited as implementing agencies for both the GEF and GCF and are now able to process finance applications for climate change adaptation and resilience.
We continue our co-operative engagement in Multilateral Environmental Agreement bodies to advance the environment, climate change and sustainable development agenda.
We continue our co-operative engagement within the African Union and SADC; fostering bilateral relations with key African countries; and strengthening South-South Co-operation within key emerging developing markets such as BRICS.
Our co-operative engagement in research in Antarctica continues, in collaboration with the Departments of Science and Technology and International Relations and Co-operation. This enables us to better understand global weather systems, the shifting location of marine resources, and the impacts of global warming on our oceans.
In the biodiversity and conservation sector, our network of national parks and protected areas provide the base infrastructure for a growing eco-tourism and wildlife use sector.
In the last financial year, South African National Parks (SANParks) received 6.7 million visitors into its 19 parks generating approximately R2.6bn.
The protected area expansion initiative builds up the base ecological infrastructure supporting this growing wildlife economy over time.
Last year, a total of 3 874 hectares were added to our national parks and plans are under way to acquire 3 569 hectares next year.
In support of growing the eco-tourism and wildlife use sector, South Africa has submitted applications to UNESCO for them to consider designating the Garden Route as a Biosphere Reserve, as well as listing the Khomani Cultural Landscape and the Barberton Makhonjwa Mountains on the World Heritage List, in June 2017 and October 2018 respectively.
These international designations will boost local eco-tourism development and provide job creation opportunities for rural communities.
In support of development of poor coastal communities, regulations re-zoning Tsitsikamma Marine Protected Area (MPA) to allow for controlled fishing in three ‘take’ zones comprising 20% of the MPA coastline have been gazetted.
Aided by some of the greatest technological advances witnessed in human history, African countries have the opportunity to leapfrog to new levels of low-carbon, green, inclusive, climate change resilient development. Let us harness the potential of the sustainable development agenda as we strive to realise Agenda 2063 of the AU.
The DEA remains committed to the conservation of our natural environment, the protection of public and environmental justice and health and promoting inclusive growth that creates jobs and grows our economy.
Ultimately, it is the actions of each and every one of us that count the most. In the words of the late Kenyan environmentalist Wangari Mathai: “All of us have a God in us, and that God is the spirit that unites all Life, everything that is on this Planet.”
‘Ultimately it is the actions of each and every one of us that count the most’
This page is in partnership with the Department of Environmental Affairs