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Environmental Affairs Budget Policy statement 2019/20

Minister of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries, Ms Barbara Creecy, tables the Department of Environmental Affairs Budget Policy statement 2019/20, National Assembly, Parliament

11 JULY 2019

Honourable Chairperson of the Session;
Honourable Deputy Minister Ms Makhotso Sotyu
Honourable Ministers and Deputy Ministers;
Honourable Fikile Xasa, Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee,
Honourable Members of the Portfolio Committee;
Honourable Members of Parliament;
Members of the Executive Councils from Provinces present;
Director General Ms Nosipho Ngcaba
Chairpersons and Chief Executives of Public Entities;
Representatives of Business, organised labour and civil society;
Distinguished guests;
Ladies and gentlemen;

It is an honour to table before this house today the first Budget Policy Statement for the Department of the Environment, soon to also include Forestry and Fisheries.

Just six weeks ago, President Cyril Ramaphosa acknowledged at his inauguration, that South Africans had, on the 8 of May this year, chosen hope over hopelessness. He said that we all want action and not just words and promises. That it is through action we will create the society for which so many have fought and sacrificed and for which all of us yearn.

During the course of this sixth administration, Ladies and Gentlemen, our government led by President Cyril Ramaphosa, has prioritised actions that will promote social and economic transformation, fight poverty, inequality and create work particularly for those entering the labour market for the first time.

Ours is a collective vision of a South Africa where no person goes hungry; where our economy grows faster than our population; where two million more young people will be in employment; where our schools will have better educational outcomes and violent crime will be halved.

From an environmental perspective, it is our mandate to facilitate an economic growth path that is equitable, inclusive, sustainable and environmentally sound.

A path, that in line with our Constitution, promotes sustainable development and the right of all of us to enjoy an environment that is not harmful to our health or well-being.

Our debate takes place today, in a context which in recent times has seen school children across the world, including in our own country, organising strikes to demonstrate against adult inaction to address the risks irreversible and dangerous climate change pose to their futures. These young people insist that we talk about a climate emergency and not about climate change.

Their actions are motivated by an understanding that global warming and its resultant climate change threatens the underpinnings of our economies and our social fabric. The youth insist that taking action to keep global temperature rise at one and a half degrees centigrade, below pre-industrial levels, is essential for our survival as humankind.
In his State of the Nation address three weeks ago, President Ramaphosa said: “Together with all the nations of the world, we are confronted by the most devastating changes in global climate in human history. The extreme weather conditions associated with the warming of the atmosphere threaten our economy, they threaten the lives and the livelihoods of our people, and – unless we act now – will threaten our very existence.”

Ladies and Gentlemen, more than two million South Africans are directly dependent on natural resources and the natural environment for their income.

These figures include almost 900 000 who work in agriculture, six hundred thousand who depend on fisheries and activities linked to our oceans; and almost four hundred thousand who rely on various aspects of the bio-diversity economy. Hundreds of thousands more are employed in the value chains associated with these industries.

When we take into account that each of these breadwinners supports eight to ten others, we start to understand the true significance of our natural resources to our economic and social well-being.

These natural assets are under unprecedented threat from climate change, environmental degradation and the loss of our biodiversity. We know that here, as elsewhere in the world, those living under conditions of poverty and vulnerability will be hardest hit by drought, floods and extreme temperatures. These people will also have the least capacity to adapt to climate change.

These realities have been recognised by the Global Risks Report tabled at successive meetings of the World Economic Forum in Davos.

Since 2012, ‘climate change’, ‘extreme weather events’ and ‘water supply crises’ have consistently featured in the top 5 risks in terms of both the likelihood of these events occurring and the consequences of their happening.

In recent years, ‘failure of climate-change mitigation and adaptation’, ‘Man-made environmental disasters’ and ‘biodiversity loss and ecosystem degradation’ have also started to appear in this disturbing top 10 of global risks.

But all is not lost. For the first time, the world has agreed on a set of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that have turned the often misused term of ‘sustainable development’ into a real and practical vision for the future – a practical vision that is clearly reflected in our National Development Plan – Vision 2030. Our country will submit its first voluntary report on progress we have made in implementing the SDGs later this month.

We are living in a time when renewable energy technology is becoming both more effective and cheaper by the day. A time when electric vehicles are becoming mainstream. An era when a circular economy, is a practical and affordable alternative to the unsustainable take-make-use-dispose model that is the root of many of our current problems.

The National Development Plan requires us to leave future generations an environmental endowment of at least equal value to the one we have now. No single government department, entity, or municipality can do this alone.

The work of building a sustainable and environmentally sound growth path is the work of the nation as a whole. It will require all spheres of government, business, organised labour and civil society to come together in a programme of joint action.

In line with our understanding that our climate change response has to involve all sectors of our society, the second draft of our Climate Change Bill is currently being discussed and debated at NEDLAC.
The Bill aims to create a framework to implement the Vision 2030 call for a just transition to a climate-resilient and lower-carbon economy and society.

Hence its objectives are to provide for a co-ordinated and integrated response to Climate Change; to provide for the effective management of inevitable climate change impacts and to make a fair contribution to the global effort to stabilise greenhouse gas concentrations so that economic and social development to proceed in an environmentally sustainable manner.

Right now such far reaching change is hard to imagine. Society at large is worried about immediate issues of energy security, job losses and retrenchments.

This means that while we debate the Climate Change Bill, we must of necessity also discuss the objectives and the process of the just transition itself and ensure that it takes place in an orderly manner. We must tread this, our future path towards 2050, while maintaining energy security and creating employment.

We must begin now, to invest in essential research and development to create the new businesses and skills needed. This will enable existing industries and their workforces to proactively manage necessary changes in ways that create new jobs and economic growth.

Teamwork and partnerships must also guide how we ensure we comply with our National Ambient Air Quality Standards.

In the Priority Areas of the Highveld, Vaal Triangle and Waterberg the public are calling for immediate action. At our strategic planning session this past Monday we already agreed to review our Priority Area Air Quality Management Plans and their implementation.

Going forward we must set up a multi-stakeholder implementation partnership, including at the highest levels of government. In this regard I have already written to Minister Mantashe and Minister Gordhan to assist.

The management of waste and in particular single use plastic waste, is a matter that also requires our most urgent and pressing attention.
Our Plastic Bag Regulations and the plastic bag levy are two mechanisms government has used to influence consumer behaviour and reduce littering. This is clearly not sufficient.

The department is currently assessing single-use plastic products – plastic carrier bags, straws, earbuds, crockery and cutlery – and we will be conducting various stakeholder engagements in this regard.
We want to see consumers challenging their favourite stores, we want to see the retailers challenging their suppliers and we want to see suppliers coming up with real, and sustainable solutions. With the proper co-ordination and consumer action, voluntary change can be a sustainable and cost effective solution.

Happily, our plastics industry is already looking at local innovations to give these products a second, sustainable life amongst others in the building, construction and furniture-making industries.
Importantly, the global plastic waste crisis challenges the take-make-use-dispose approach to production and consumption. There is no waste in a circular economy – when we have finished with something it becomes the raw material for something else.

Our Chemicals and Waste Economy Phakisa is the key ‘circular-economy’ component of our just transition to fully sustainable development. The plan includes increasing the volume of waste diverted from landfills to beneficiation processes.

As agreed at the Jobs Summit in October 2018, the department is studying 49 applications for the beneficiation of waste slag from the ferrochrome sector; ash from combustion plants; and recycling of gypsum, paper and cardboard.

While we find ways to reduce the waste in our landfills, we must also find ways to clean up our communities and improve our public open spaces. When President Ramaphosa launched the ‘Good Green Deeds’ programme earlier this year, he spoke about Rwanda a country where – the community takes pride in keeping their public spaces clean.
Many provincial and local governments already have clean-up campaigns. It is our intention that under the banner of the Good Green Deeds Campaign we should unite and massify these campaigns into a national effort to clean up our country.

South Africa is one of the thirty driest countries in the world. This phenomena has been intensified by a prolonged drought.

A critical programme aimed at improving our water security is the control of invasive plants in our catchments and wetlands. Recent research estimates that protection and clearing of river catchments can increase our water supply by as much as one sixth, at a fraction of the cost of projects such as desalination.

The Working for Water Programme has cleared and maintained almost 3.5 million hectares of land. This year work is being intensified in both our key catchment and wetland areas with 190 wetlands scheduled for repair.

Wetlands and estuaries also play a crucial role in flood management. Accordingly, the department is working with other affected departments and entities on a joint Wetlands Framework to improve wetland protection, management and conservation in an integrated manner.

I am pleased to announce that we have just added new areas, namely Dyer, Geyser and Dassen Islands in the Western Cape, and Kgaswane in North West Province to our prestigious Ramsar List of Wetlands of global significance.

This year our Environmental Programmes will create 67 953 Work Opportunities. A particular emphasis is on assisting young people in rural areas to enter the labour market for the first time and accordingly sixty five percent of all opportunities will be set aside for those under the age of 35. More work must be done to ensure that as youth exit these programmes, they have been adequately equipped for other productive activities.

We are fortunate that our country has a well-developed suite of policy and legislation for the management, conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity, including two overarching national tools: the National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan and the National Biodiversity Framework.
Preserving our natural wealth for future generations compliments and contributes to our nation’s scientific achievements as we finalise a new, 140 000 hectare, National Park around the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) in the Northern Cape. This new park will provide a combination of science, nature, education and recreational experiences that will offer new opportunities for employment and empowerment to local communities.

Illegal poaching and the illicit wildlife trade continue to threaten both our conservation and sustainable use efforts. Accordingly the time has come for us to review our efforts together with our sister departments in the Security and Justice Cluster.

We need better controls at our ports of exit, more support in the war on the ground, and faster prosecution of offenders. We must also redouble our efforts to make sure that communities who live on the boarders of our parks benefit from conservation and the biodiversity economy so they are not vulnerable to recruitment by syndicated poaching operations.

Accordingly, the department has set ambitious targets to transform the biodiversity economy during this sixth administration. As part of the national stimulus package, our department is supporting 107 projects with infrastructure such as game fencing, water reticulation, game donations, training and capacity building for new and emerging game farmers.

To optimise the economic, development and job creation potential of our indigenous plant wealth, initiatives like the BioProducts Advancement Network South Africa (BioPANZA) are aimed at working with industry, and conservation to ensure rural women in particular benefit from both the intellectual property rights of indigenous knowledge systems and the cultivation and harvesting of indigenous plants.

Our flagship Oceans Phakisa has so far contributed R127 billion or four and a half percent to our GDP. Currently there are 676 017 jobs across the ocean-related sectors. Investments amounting to R29.4billion and 7 351 direct jobs have been achieved to date in the six Phakisa focus areas.

By 2024, facilitated ocean economic activities and investments are projected to contribute R143 billion to GDP and sustain 779 213 jobs.
The recently gazetted network of twenty new Marine Protected Areas increases our protective refuges to 5.4% of our Exclusive Economic Zone. These areas will help to sustain fisheries for long-term food and job security, secure eco-certification for the hake fishery, and contribute to the growth of marine ecotourism.

It is important to re-state today the decision to review the FRAPP 2020 process which will see the re-issuing of licenses for 12 of the 22 fisheries.

This decision has been taken following consultation with the sector and is aimed at ensuring we follow all regulatory and legislative requirements. It is essential that the process is seen to be fair, open and transparent. It must promote the transformation of the sector, and create sustainable livelihoods for the many coastal communities who have no other means of support.

I want to thank the many people who attended the stakeholder meeting myself and Deputy Minister convened recently. I also want to thank all those who have subsequently sent us detailed proposals on how we can reform and transform the sector.
The hard work of how to meet what, are often competing interests, starts now!

Processes to transfer both Fisheries and Forestry to our Department are at an advanced stage.

Honourable members, effective compliance and enforcement underpins environmental justice and the integrity of our regulatory system. Upholding environmental rights and combating environmental crime in all its forms contributes to our efforts as government to ensure social cohesion, safety and security.

The Environmental Management Inspectorate, our Green Scorpions comprising 3 000 officials from 18 entities, have been effectively driving our compliance monitoring and enforcement efforts and will continue to do so.

At the same time, as part of the collective effort to reduce the impact red tape has on economic activity, we are consolidating and streamlining regulatory processes, automating permit and developing other applications to reduce the cost of compliance.
The department has embarked on a programme of Strategic Environmental Assessments to support the Strategic Integrated projects and government priority projects. These assessments proactively identify development corridors or zones with the least environmental sensitivity to allow for proactive infrastructure planning and streamlined authorisation.

As I conclude allow me to thank the Director General Ms Nosipho Ngcaba and her team for their ongoing commitment to environmental protection and the sustainable use of our natural resources.

Honourable members this month of July. A month when we traditionally honour our former Head of State and father of our Nation, the late President Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela. For this reason, I thought it fitting to end with his wise words. He said:
“Our people are bound up with the future of the land. Our national renewal depends upon the way we treat our land, our water, our sources of energy, and the air we breathe…Let us restore our country in a way that satisfies our descendants as well as ourselves.”

I Thank you

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