Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment Minister Barbara Creecy today delivered the Department’s budget for 2021/22 to the National Assembly highlighting the need to protect natural resources while growing a post-Covid-19 economy.
Key to the recovery is the Green Stimulus Recovery Programme, which forms part of the post Covid-19 economic reconstruction and recovery programme for South Africa. It will contribute to equitable economic growth, provide employment to marginalised communities and grow economic sectors reliant on the environment without destroying it.
Among the steps being taken to ensure the country contributes its fair share to the global climate change effort is the newly-established Presidential Climate Change Coordinating Commission, which will advise government on an ambitious and just transition to a low-carbon economy and climate resilient society.
The revised Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) recently released for public comment ahead of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change COP 26 in November. The final draft will be approved by Cabinet before submission to the UNFCCC.
The enhanced NDC significantly boosts both mitigation and adaptation ambition.
Minister Creecy said the regulatory architecture to guide the country’s transition processes advanced over the last year. The Low Emissions Development Strategy was communicated to the UNFCCC and the National Climate Change Adaptation Strategy, which co-ordinates adaptation actions at all levels of government, was finalised in 2019.
The long-awaited Climate Bill has been certified by the state law advisor and is on its way through the Cabinet system in preparation for tabling in this house later this year.
A key area for attention in the coming weeks and months will be the implementation of the recommendations of the High Level Panel, which reviewed policies, legislation and practices related to the management, breeding, hunting, trade and handling of elephant, lion, leopard and rhinoceros.
“The expected outcomes once we implement the recommendations include better balancing our economic, social, cultural and natural heritage needs. The report re-imagines the role of protected areas, both state and others, in contributing to ecologically sustainable rural development,” said Minister Creecy.
“It places communities living with wildlife at the centre of our thinking so we focus on enhancing human-wildlife co-existence, and transformative approaches to access and benefit sharing for communities living on the edges of conservation areas. Thus creating a new deal for the people and wildlife”
There is great interest in the Panel’s outcomes, in particular from private rhino owners who feel that the substantial contribution they make to rhino conservation has been ignored.
“Nothing could be further from the truth,” the Minister said, adding that she will be meeting the Private Rhino Owners Association next week to discuss the details of the panel’s recommendations.
Work has already begun setting up a programme of stakeholder feedback sessions and on a draft Policy Position that covers the key policy implications and recommendations which will shortly be published for public participation. The Department is also initiating a process to develop a draft White Paper on Biodiversity Conservation and Sustainable use for consultation.
The Minister said South Africa has been assigned responsibility by the Africa Group of Negotiators to lead the negotiation on the Global Biodiversity Framework on behalf of the African Region for the 15th Convention on Conservation and Biodiversity in China in October.
In so doing, South Africa will advocate that the scope of the Global Biodiversity Framework should adequately and equitably cover the three objectives of the Convention, namely, the conservation of biological diversity, the sustainable use of its components and the fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising out of the utilization of genetic resources.
Minister Creecy emphasized that a healthy environment must be one free from waste pollution. Therefore, implementation of the National Waste Management Strategy 2020 is a top priority.
“First and foremost we must change citizen behavior and encourage everyone to dispose of waste in a responsible manner! We must stop dumping household waste and fast food packaging in the environment! We must refuse single use plastics buying our favourite take away!”
Plastic is the key focus area in terms of managing pollution. The new requirements for plastic carrier bags were published in April 2021 requiring all to contain 50% recycled content from 2023, increasing to 100% by 2027. This will not only ensure circularity, but will see product design taking the environment into consideration.
Marine litter remains a national concern. As part of the Presidency’s Employment Stimulus Initiative the Department has obtained approval to expand the Source-to-Sea Programme into 16 coastal districts with the target of creating a minimum of 1 600 work opportunities. To ensure all municipalities increase the number of households that have regular access to weekly refuse removal National Treasury has agreed that cash strapped municipalities can now use a portion of the MIG funding to address shortages in the waste management fleet and landfill operation equipment.
The Department is supporting municipalities to develop Integrated Waste Management Plans and ensure that these are integrated for funding into the IDP processes of local government.
Norms and standards for organic waste treatment that will enable biogas generation and assist with organic waste diversion from municipal landfills are also being finalised, while Extended Producer Responsibility plans will be broadened in the 2021/22 financial year to include pesticides, lubricant oils and batteries.
The Minister said stabilising the fishing sector through the allocation of longer-term fishing rights is critical to attracting investment into the industry.
“The transformation of the South African fishing industry is a constitutional and legislative imperative. The fishing rights allocation process (FRAP) and the management of commercial fishing rights are an important site for industry transformation,” said the Minister.
Twelve sectors are due for re-allocation of fishing rights this year. The Department of Trade, Industry and Competition is helping address issues around market diversification for the aquaculture and fishing sector affected by Covid-19 related market restrictions.
As part of the FRAP 2020/21 process, the Department will review the General Policy on the Allocation of Commercial Fishing rights; the 12 sector-specific policies; the Policy on the Transfer of Commercial Fishing Rights, and the Policy on Fish Processing Establishments (FPEs). The department will also review all fees for applications, licences and permits.
The FRAP 2021 implementation process aims to be clean, transparent, accountable, transformative and legally defensible. For the first time in an allocation process, Socio-Economic Impact Assessments (SEIAS) are being conducted and will be published for stakeholder comment this month.
To support regulatory certainty, consultations on the Aquaculture Development Bill are being finalised and we hope to table this Bill in Parliament in 2021. We are also developing a National Freshwater (inland) Wild Capture Fisheries Policy
With regard to environmental crimes, the Minister said because of the organised nature of these crimes, the various law enforcement role players and intelligence structures will continue to work together to build on the success of the integrated compliance and enforcement programme of Operation Phakisa – Initiative 5. The programme will be scaled up this year. An administrative penalty system will be introduced across the environmental regulatory regime, and an integrated information management system will be rolled out through the newly-established Environmental Enforcement Fusion Centre.
Minister Creecy announced that 1 211 tonnes of the 4 200 tonnes of mercury containing waste stockpiled at Cato Ridge in KwaZulu-Natal has already been exported. An intergovernmental expert team is working together to resolve the pollution-related issues surrounding this matter. It is anticipated that the repackaging and removal of this material will be finalised by mid-2022 with final remediation completed 2023.
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