Critical new climate change laws for South Africa get the green light

 ·25 Oct 2023

The National Assembly has passed two key bills, including the Climate Change Bill and the Railway Safety Bill.

Of the two bills, the Climate Change Bill is the most notable, being the first piece of legislation in South Africa specifically aimed at addressing the effects of climate change.

The bill was first introduced in Parliament in 2022 and focuses on establishing a strategy for addressing climate change and implementing a fair, long-term energy transition plan, and ultimately fostering a low-carbon, climate-resilient economy in South Africa.

The bill also seeks to manage climate change adaptation to impacts such as flooding, drought, wildfires, excessive heat, and water and food insecurity.

More broadly and realistically, the bill specifies that a key goal is to “protect and preserve the planet for the benefit of present and future generations of humankind”.

The proposed laws provide that the government, at provincial and national levels, must assess all the risks and expected impacts and create response plans.

The bill also defines responsibilities for different national, provincial, and local governments, ensuring that all relevant role-players are mandated to do their part in responding to climate change and work together effectively.

In this regard, both provincial and municipal governments will have to establish climate change forums which will work with the presidential climate commission to address, coordinate and report back on the impact of climate change within their spheres.

Parliament noted that the bill is intended to ensure that the country is empowered to respond adequately and safely to climate change and its risks and impact.

It mainly seeks to regulate climate change mitigation through the reduction of greenhouse gas carbon emissions. However, it also tasks the minister in charge to monitor and set out plans to mitigate climate change annually, including a host of measures to help the country adapt to the ever-changing landscape.

According to the bill, the minister responsible for the environment must assign carbon budgets to companies to limit their carbon emissions. Ministers in each sector or sub-sector must then work to meet these targets.

The full bill can be read here.

Railway safety

The second bill to be passed by the National Assembly is the Railway Safety Bill.

These proposed laws aim to amend the National Railway Safety Regulator Act, looking to improve general safety within the railway environment.

It seeks to ensure that rail becomes an attractive mode of transport and contributes towards economic growth, which is a platform to effectively fight inequality, poverty, and unemployment.

Additionally, to align legislation with the White Paper on National Rail Policy and government’s plan to move passengers and freight from road to rail, the bill proposes and promotes the use of rail as an efficient mode of transport.

Broadly the bill makes room for the railway safety regulator to issue safety permits and to grade railway safety across the country. It will also set safety guidelines and build systems to monitor them.

It also sets out the fines and punishments for permit holders who violate the regulations, among other administrative aspects.

The full bill can be read here.

Both bills will now be sent to the National Council of Provinces for concurrence. If they pass without further amendments, they will be sent to the president to be signed into law.

Read: Big divide over South Africa’s new smoking laws

Show comments
Subscribe to our daily newsletter