South Africa is one of the few countries around the globe where environmental rights are constitutionally protected – thanks to the policy instruments put in place by this government, led by the African National Congress (ANC).
To this end, policy instruments put in place by the ANC government address developmental challenges in a way that at the same time ensures sustainability, and builds resilience.
The ANC has in all its National Conference resolutions, repeatedly underscored the need for the country to contribute towards the global shift to a low-carbon development path. As a result, we have in place a National Climate Change Response Policy that charts the course for actions that are both developmental and transformational.
Last month South Africa became a proud signatory to the historic Paris Agreement on Climate Change in New York. The signing of the Paris Agreement marks a new era of optimism and international cooperation as we strive to address one of the most pressing issues of our time.
A hundred and seventy five countries signed the agreement that in itself is historic: as it is the highest number of countries to sign an international accord in a single day.
It is further evidence of the political will of Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and their demonstrable commitment to work together to tackle this problem that affects all our countries, but developing countries like South Africa in particular.
Owing to low levels of development, developing countries are disproportionately affected by climate change, whose effects are being felt around the country. We have seen large-scale crop failure due to persistent and stubborn droughts, and declining agricultural output. We have seen once abundant water sources drying up, and heard people being forced to share water with animals.
South Africa has signed the Paris Agreement in recognition of the urgency to act, and address climate change in the face of exacerbated conditions that threaten economies, lives and livelihoods.
The Paris Agreement is the legal framework for guiding international efforts to limit greenhouse gas emissions, and to enable the transition to climate resilient societies.
The National Development Plan (NDP) and the Nine-Point Plan speaks to the need to develop the South African economy along a low-carbon, inclusive, climate change resilient development pathway.
Bolstered by the Paris Agreement, South Africa is well on its in the implementation of this agreement, aided by a progressive climate change regime that includes our National Climate Change Response Policy, National Strategy for Sustainable Development, New Growth Path and Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) – which outlines our country’s energy mix, our Industrial Policy and Action Plan which recognizes that energy efficiency and less-carbon intensive production are central tenets of a green economy as well as Agenda 2063 of the African Union
As we know by now, the Renewable Energy Independent Power Producers Procurement Programme (REIPPP) is held up as international best practice in the field of reducing the carbon intensity of the energy sector. To date, an investment of about R200b has been realised, creating economic opportunities and creating jobs.
A further innovation to transition South Africa along a low-carbon inclusive growth path has been the move towards adopting the Draft Carbon Tax Bill in November 2015.
Government (DEA) is currently working on assessing the socio-economic impacts of Carbon Budgets on companies and the economy. The Carbon Tax aims to price carbon by obliging the polluter to internalise the external costs of emitting carbon, and contribute towards addressing the harm caused by such pollution. “It aims to change the behaviour of companies, incentivising them to shift towards cleaner technology when replacing/renewing machinery, technology or processes.
In the draft Carbon Tax Bill, the Government noted that this forms an integral part of the system for implementing our policy on Climate Change Response Policy.
We are also implementing energy efficiency Programmes, green transport, sustainable housing, sustainable infrastructure as pat of Adaptation and Green Cities Programmes and Climate Smart Agriculture. We are also implementing Public investment in new agricultural technologies that includes support services for small-scale and farmers, thus ensuring sustainable livelihoods and the development of resilient and environmentally sustainable strategies sustaining South Africa as an exporter of food products.
The Paris Agreement established includes a global goal for adaptation that is qualitative and will assist in framing global actions on Adaptation.. We are ever mindful that the lower the ambition on reducing global greenhouse gas emissions, the greater the need for, and urgency of adaptation.
South Africa is currently developing its National Adaptation Plan, with emphasis on reducing vulnerability to drought, floods and slow onset climate impacts. We are also taking action to enhance adaptive capacity and strengthening resilience.
It should be a source of pride for all South Africans that in addition to doing our part for the global effort to reduce emissions, we have sound policies and systems in place at a national level to transition to a low-carbon economy, recognising that our contribution to the global effort to stabilise greenhouse gas concentrations (GhG) should be balanced with consideration of our status as a developing country.
Signing the Paris Agreement requires that countries will later need to ratify this agreement within their own legal systems. South Africa has commenced domestic ratification processes to enable the entry into force for implementation of the Paris Agreement in 2020. We will continue to implement the pre-2020 actions, with the necessary Means of Implementation
As we enter the implementation phase, the Paris Agreement will be an important tool for mobilising finance, technological support and capacity building for countries such as ours.
With the necessary support, all countries will be able to achieve their desired objectives and meet their targets. In the spirit of collaboration, we look forward to working with our Partners in the private sector, the Civil Society and all other Partners at large in order to scale up our national efforts to build climate resilience.
CDE. EDNA MOLEWA IS A MEMBER OF THE ANC NEC & MINISTER OF ENVIRONMENTAL AFFAIRS