The Climate Change Bill, which will implement South Africa’s effective climate change response, has been introduced in Parliament.
On 18 February 2022, the much-anticipated Climate Change Bill (Bill), which was published for comment on 8 June 2018, was introduced in Parliament. The publication and introduction of the Bill to Parliament for consideration is in accordance with South Africa's implementation of an effective climate change response as set out in the National Climate Change Response White Paper, together with the commitments under the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.
The Minister of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment (the Minister), at the most recent United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26), indicated the progress South Africa has made towards its climate change goals, which are aligned with the Bill. The Minister also indicated that "true to the letter and spirit of the Paris Agreement, the lower end of our 2030 updated target emission range is consistent with a 1.5-degree pathway, while the upper end of the range is consistent with a 2-degree pathway".
On 2 November 2021, in preparation for COP26, President Cyril Ramaphosa indicated that South Africa submitted a revised Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) to reduce domestic carbon emissions to within a target range for emissions of between 420 CO2-eq and 350 CO2-eq by 2030. This revised target is compatible with the ambitious goals of the Paris Agreement and represents the country’s best effort to confront climate change, which will have a devastating impact on sub-Saharan Africa without large-scale mitigation and adaptation efforts. This Bill, together with the commitments made by South Africa coincides with the global framework for climate change. Following the 26th global COP26 that took place in 2021, South Africa agreed to the following adjusted climate change targets and to join the fight against climate change:
The Bill aims to achieve an effective climate change response and a long term, just transition to a climate resilient and low carbon economy and society for South Africa in the context of sustainable development. The Bill also recognises that South Africa has a role to play in the global effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions identified by the international community as the primary drivers of anthropogenic climate change, which requires urgent mitigation and adaptation responses.
Once in force. the Bill will, among other things:
- Establish provincial and municipal forums on climate change which will be responsible for co-ordinating climate change response actions in each province.
- Cement the establishment of the Presidential Climate Change Coordinating Commission (4PC). The 4PC has already been established and has been working for the Government since 17 December 2020. However, its establishment only carries legal force once the Bill becomes an Act.
- Put in place, within one year of the coming into force of the Act, a National Adaptation Strategy. This strategy will guide South Africa's adaptation to the impacts of climate change and develop adaptation scenarios which anticipate the likely impacts over the short, medium, and long term.
- Determine a national greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions trajectory which indicates a GHG emissions reduction objective, which trajectory must be reviewed every five years.
- Put in place a 5-yearly Sectoral Emission Target (SET) for identified sectors and sub-sectors. The SET's must be aligned with the national GHG emissions trajectory and include quantitative and qualitative GHG emission reduction goals.
- Bring into force the carbon budget allocation mechanism, which will replace the current National Pollution Prevention Plan mechanism which is enforced under the National Environmental Management: Air Quality Act (NEMAQA). The carbon budget will be linked to the Carbon Tax Act, in relation to carbon tax rates which will be charged on emissions above the carbon budget. Read more about this here.
The next step of the Parliamentary process is for the Bill to be debated by the National Assembly and we expect a series of Portfolio Select Committee meetings to be set up for this purpose in the months to come. We will track the Bill's progress through Parliament.
In a related development, the NEMLAA 4 Bill is now (finally) nearing the end of its Parliamentary process. It was passed by the National Council of Provinces on 14 December 2021 and has been returned to National Assembly (Portfolio Committee on Environment, Forestry and Fisheries) for concurrence. However, meetings have not yet been scheduled. Once concurrence has been obtained, this Bill can finally move to Presidential consideration.