We are glad to see Government preparing this policy, however there are a few concerns from our side. Public comments on the Green Paper closed last Friday (11 Feb 2011); below is our submission.
Response to National Climate Change Response Green Paper
From Nelson Mandela Bay Transition Network
11 February 2011
As a network of civil society organisations and individuals concerned with responding to climate change in the Nelson Mandela Bay metropolitan area, we are committed to strategies, policies and behaviours which will result in a transition to a real low-carbon future. We are grateful to have had the opportunity to respond to the National Climate Change Response Green Paper, and to participate in the workshop organised by the Department of Environmental Affairs in East London on 19 January this year. We would like to raise the following issues:
1. Too little ambition
While we are heartened by many of the positive strategies outlined in the Green Paper, we are dismayed by the objectives set out on page 7 of the Green Paper document. In particular, the objective set out in bullet four, which reads as follows:
The prioritisation of mitigation interventions that significantly contribute to a peak, plateau and decline emission trajectory where greenhouse gas emissions peak in 2020 to 2025 at 34% and 42% respectively below a business as usual baseline, plateau to 2035 and begin declining in absolute terms from 2036 onwards, in particular interventions within the energy, transport and industrial sectors (p 7)
In relation to the reliable research that we have at our disposal, it is absolutely indisputable that the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions according to the above objective is TOO LITTLE, TOO LATE. To repeat what has been stated above in different terms, the Green Paper envisages an absolute reduction in greenhouse gas emissions ONLY FROM 2036. In other words, it will be 25 years before South Africa begins to reduce carbon emissions significantly, and that from way above current emission levels. There are many well-informed researchers who argue that the absolute reduction in carbon emissions has to begin right now and be much ambitious in order to have a significant impact within the next decade to avoid the most severe effects of climate change.
This will require drastic changes of behaviour as well as drastic changes in the way our economy is conducted, as the latter is especially energy-intensive and fossil-fuel dependant. A strong political will to make a decisive shift from the ‘Business as Usual’ paradigm to a post-carbon development paradigm will therefore be a prerequisite for adequately planning our response to climate change.
2. Cross cutting issue
It is apparent that from page 9 of the Green Paper that the energy sector alone is responsible for 78% of greenhouse gas emissions. Of this, fuel itself makes up 88%, and of this, the energy industry itself accounts for 70% of emissions, while residential homes only account for 2%. From the Green Paper’s own charts, it should be obvious that the primary focus of the Climate Change Response strategy should be fundamental restructuring of the energy sector itself. While private citizens and private sector business should certainly be encouraged to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in various ways, there will be little impact unless the energy sector is transformed. Hence, one of the most critical aspects of the climate change response strategy will be to ensure that the energy sector is brought into line with the climate change response goals. Rather than the goals being set by the energy sector and adopted by the climate change response policy, the Green Paper should reflect the necessary goals to achieve a rapid transition to a low-carbon future, and inter-governmental cooperation will then be needed to ensure that the energy sector adopts these goals. In addition, all other departments will have to be directly involved in decreasing the GHG emissions produced by their sector, in enabling the new post carbon market, and in mobilising and educating civil society and students to understand and accept the required changes.
3. Long term vision and political will
It is believed that due to both the need for a much more ambitious response and for broader involvement of all departments, a vision of a post carbon future should be articulated at the National Planning Commission (NPC) level and integrated in all departments. Indeed, it must go further and into business, academia and civil society, where the issue seems hardly to have changed current practise, thinking and planning, when the crisis is already upon us and rapid and significant change is needed at every level.
It is our concern that if this does not happen, the Department of Environmental Affairs will not have the power to coordinate and enforce across sectors the necessary changes at the required speed.
It is also our concern that without that vision and determined drive, it will be hard to align all stakeholders, from civil society, public and private institutions, with a massive change in understanding, explanation and meaningful action for a common post carbon goal.
Finally, reflection on a long-term post-carbon vision would also help to put things into a new perspective where business interests would not be at the expense of human and environment welfare.
4. COP17 responsibility
The COP17 that will happen this year in Durban is the ‘11th hour’ conference for getting the Kyoto protocol back on sound track before it ends next year. South Africa has a huge responsibility to articulate the change that is required and demonstrate a positive example to the world.
We thank again DoE for giving us this opportunity to comment on the Climate Change Response Green Paper. We hope that the Government will soon find a way to mobilize and involve everybody in this life-threatening issue, climate change.