Parliament briefed on new climate response policy

climatechange2DEA outlines its climate response plans…..

Ms Judy Beaumont, deputy director-general for climate change in the department of environmental affairs (DEA), has told parliamentarians that the objectives of the national climate response policy were to manage inevitable climate change impacts through interventions that built resilience and emergency response capacity and to make a fair contribution to the global effort to stabilize green house gas (GHG) concentrations.

The department has made a number of presentations to parliamentary portfolio committees in recent weeks updating members on a six-month basis following the public hearings in June of this year resulting from the introduction of the White Paper on National Climate Change.

What can be done, says DEA

Ms Beaumont set out DEA’s current position, resulting in a National Climate Change Response Policy.  She said that her department has developed and detailed what the department calls “deliverables”.

She gave details of the plans to implement the programmes being run currently and the process being used to effect the general response policy which she described as “mitigation, adaptation and monitoring”. She also described DEA’s relationships with other government departments regarding their climate mitigation programmes and with national treasury regarding finance.

All in the same direction

Beaumont said that what had come out of the hearings was the need for a common set of climate scenarios and likely impact scenarios and it was necessary to build in a system of monitoring the situation as it developed so that all knew exactly on an ongoing basis what the picture was and how climate change was affecting the country, both economically and from a disaster aspect.

The major mitigation programmes to reduce carbon emissions needed to have a common set of desired outcomes so all knew what the target was, she said, and all the “flagship” climate change programmes being run in various parts of the country had to be in harmony with common criteria established under the response document, she noted.

Carbon budgets to follow

She said once the desired emission reduction outcomes (DEROs) had been defined then  carbon budgets were to be drawn up for relevant economic sectors.

Various departmental officials detailed some of the current issues under focus, one being a draft of South Africa’s monitoring and evaluation system framework by October 2013, followed by the report on the same subject to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change by December 2014.

Some of the adaptation programmes on climate change were the dept. of agriculture’s land care plans; sectoral agro and agro industry programmes; an atlas on climate change and much research.  From the department of water affairs there was water conservation and demand management and from the South African weather service came a flow of forecasting, early warning and research, coupled with work through the national disaster management sector.

All headed towards agreed responses actions

She added that an important contributor with programmes linked to others was the department of cooperative governance where there was “mainstreaming of disaster risk reduction planning in progress with response toolkits”.  DEA had established, Ms Beaumont said, “that there should be a common set of climate scenarios, impact scenarios in key sectors and a need to assess costs and agree adaptation responses per sector.”

Into the entire process. DEA said, account had to be taken of the energy efficiency strategy being prepared by the department of energy, its integrated energy plan and the renewable energy independent power producer programme.

Scenario planning in three stages

On scenario planning, parliamentarians were told that the intention was to “project and evaluate the socio-economic and environmental implications of potential impacts of anticipated climate change and climate variability and the adaptation responses options available” for identified sectors in South Africa over the next decade and until 2025; in the medium for the next two to three decades until 2050 and with long term scenario visualisation to the end of the century.

The shorter term scenarios were already in progress and due for completion and funding had come from the German development organisation, GIZ, to conduct phase one of the long-term scenarios, where initial work had been undertaken.

Links with the national committee on climate change and all such scenario planning was in place, the committee was told.

Carbon Tax still  an imponderable

In answer to questions, DEA said that on carbon tax and a “carbon budget interface” an analysis of the different policy approaches and interfaces between the carbon budget and carbon tax instruments was currently underway. In funding much of the climate change response work in South Africa, parliamentarians were told, national treasury were leading the debate on this, if indeed there was to be a carbon tax, and were to finalise any carbon tax policy for national debate to counter the rise in GHGs.

A tax rate of R75 per tonne of CO2, rising to approximately R200 per tonne over time had been suggested “to save South Africa from potential catastrophic changes in its climate”  but as one parliamentarian told DEA, with global recession hitting business and industry to the extent it has, now and into the same scenario future, it has become doubtful who is the most threatened party.

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