South Africa has a new Climate Change Bill – here’s what you need to know

Minister of Environmental Affairs, Dr Edna Molewa, has published the National Climate Change Bill for public comment.

The bill acknowledges that anthropogenic climate change represents an urgent threat to human societies and the environment, and requires an effective, progressive and well-coordinated response.

It further highlights that anticipated domestic climate change impacts have the potential to undermine the country’s development goals, and that responses to climate change raise unique challenges require a legislative framework for the implementation of the country’s national climate change response.

“The purpose of the bill is to build an effective climate change response and ensure the long-term, just transition to a climate resilient and lower carbon economy and society,” the department said.

“This will be done within the context of sustainable development for South Africa, and will provide for all matters related to climate change.”

In an analysis of the bill, Legalbrief expert Pam Saxby noted that it is “replete with catch phrases commonly associated with framework legislation”, including the ‘effective management’ of an ‘integrated and co-ordinated approach’ to addressing the challenges concerned.

However, the bill does provide for the appointment of a ministerial committee on climate change to be tasked with overseeing the necessary activities across ‘all sector departments and spheres of government’, in liaison with provincial committees, she said.

“Against that backdrop, the draft bill proposes that – within one year of the proposed new statute coming into operation – each provincial committee should have conducted a climate change needs and response assessment,” said Saxby.

“Issues to be dealt with in each plan are expected, among other things, to: address all priority sectors; be aligned with national sectoral emission targets; and identify and map risks and ‘vulnerabilities’ across the areas, ecosystems, communities and households likely to be affected,” she said.

Other provisions included in the bill include setting out and achieving national adaptation objectives, determining a national greenhouse gas emissions trajectory, prescribing sectoral emissions targets, and determining a greenhouse gas emissions threshold to inform the allocation of carbon budgets, said Saxby.

The Department of Environmental Affairs will now hold a series of provincial stakeholder engagement workshops at which all stakeholders and interested parties will be able to comment.


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