Action 24 project manager comments on South Africa’s draft national climate change bill

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The Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) published the draft National Climate Change Bill last month, and there are several avenues for much-needed public participation in this important legislative process in the coming weeks.

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The draft Bill is open for public comment until August 8, 2018, and there are ‘public stakeholders engagement workshops’ being hosted by the DEA across South Africa – the national workshop being held in Gauteng on July 16, 2018.

 

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South African citizens are urged to seize this opportunity and participate in shaping South Africa’s response to the critical and all-encompassing threat of climate change.

“Climate change is a challenge that concerns us all, and it is our responsibility to engage on it and demand ambitious and progressive legislation,” says Noelle Garcin, Project Manager of Action 24 – Active Citizens for Responsive Legislatures.

Noelle Garcin’s comments:

  • We welcome this draft of the long awaited Climate Change Bill, and some of its features – especially the overarching ambition of a “just transition to a climate-resilient and low-carbon economy and society”, and the effort to mainstream action from all spheres and sectors of government. It sends a clear signal that climate change is a cross-sectoral, holistic challenge that all sectors and sections of society need to help respond to. This is needed to give more muscle to the Department of Environmental Affairs.
    The consultative approach prescribed in the draft Bill to determine future policies and targets for climate change response should also be applauded. It highlights the responsibility that all sectors of society – and not just well-resourced lobbies – have a role to play in shaping our collective response.
  • The draft Bill prescribes a number of mechanisms, procedures and planning required by government to advance a “just transition to a climate-resilient and low-carbon economy and society”. Unfortunately, it is much less prescriptive as to the level of ambition that these measures must seek to achieve, and leaves most decisions in that regard to be negotiated at a later stage. Clearly the language in the current clauses is the result of careful political negotiations; we should interrogate whether legislation on an issue as critical and all-encompassing as climate change shouldn’t be more constraining from the outset. In particular, stricter and clearer provisions are needed regarding the national greenhouse gas emissions trajectory – South Africa’s projection of the levels of emissions until 2050. It is grossly insufficient in its current form and inconsistent with our commitment under the Paris Climate Agreement to contribute to the global effort to remain below a 2°C increase in global temperatures.
  • We should also be cautious of the somewhat complex legislative and policy structure proposed in the Bill (multiple regulations, frameworks and plans), which may create confusion as well as delay much-needed rapid implementation of mitigation and adaptation measures.
  • It is important to note that this is a draft Bill, which means that the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) is still working on the document. DEA has invited public comments by 8 August, which should be considered in another iteration of the Bill before it’s submitted to Cabinet for approval. If and once approved, it will go to Parliament. The parliamentary process led by the Portfolio Committee on Environmental Affairs will include another opportunity for public engagement on the proposed Bill.
  • We encourage citizens to seize this opportunity to provide input, by attending the “stakeholders engagement workshops” that DEA is currently hosting in each province and submitting written comment. Too often these conversations are left to so-called experts, or to private sector actors with interest in (and the means to) pushing legislation one way or the other. Climate change is a challenge that concerns us all, and it is our responsibility to engage on it and demand ambitious and progressive legislation.
  • The DEA workshops are an opportunity to ask for clarifications on the draft document, and discuss it with other stakeholders. The events haven’t been well advertised, and in fact we do have some concern about the timing (the first workshop took place four days after the Bill was published in the Gazette, leaving participants with very little time to prepare or make arrangements to attend) and their inclusiveness. However, for those interested, the schedule is available on DEA’s website. Access to the draft Bill, a direct comment form and consultation schedule is also available on Action 24’s web page: http://climatereality.co.za/comment-on-the-draft-national-climate-change-bill/.

Citation: Noelle Garcin, Action 24 Project Manager (project co-funded by the European Union).

About Action 24:

Action 24 is a 30-month action co-funded by the European Union, aimed at strengthening environmental governance and civic participation, in order to advance decarbonised sustainable and inclusive development in South Africa.

The project namesake, inspired by Section 24 of the Bill of Rights that enshrines the rights of all citizens to a clean and safe environment, intends to achieve this by building the capacity of civil society, media, youth and women groups to more effectively participate in public consultation and legislative oversight, with the anticipated outcome of the realisation of civic rights in respect of a healthy and safe environment and resilience against negative climate change effects.

Action 24 is being implemented by a consortium of partners led by Food and Trees for Africa (FTFA) that hosts the African Climate Reality Project (ACRP), Ekurhuleni Environmental Organisation (EEO), South African Institute of International Affairs (SAIIA) and South Durban Community Environmental Alliance (SDCEA) in four provinces, Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo and the Western Cape.

Issued by Nicole Rodel – Communications Coordinator.

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