Chairperson; hon Ministers, of whom I see Minister Pandor and I hear her voice; hon colleagues; MECs present here, of whom I have seen the Western Cape MEC for Local Government, Environmental Affairs and Development Planning, Mr Bredell; the chair and members of the portfolio committee; chief executives of public entities; distinguished guests; and ladies and gentlemen, although it is rainy, it is a very good day. Today we consider the budget of the Department of Environmental Affairs as well as its programmes and priorities. This budget reflects the clear mandate given to us by South Africans to implement the ruling party's policies.
As humanity continues to consume the earth's resources at ever increasing and unsustainable rates, we are experiencing rapidly accelerating trends of environmental degradation and climate change globally.
The international responses to these threats are driven by a changing world order characterised by the rise of emerging economies, rapidly changing patterns of international economic competitiveness, and a widespread shift towards green, climate-resilient and low-carbon development policies and strategies.
In response, environmental considerations are being mainstreamed in development policies across the economy, which demands that Environmental Affairs radically transform its approach. We do so in the following manner.
We firstly co-ordinate, support and lead the environmental dimensions of South Africa's broader green and blue economy and sustainable development effort. Secondly, we ensure the sustainable use and conservation of our biodiversity, natural heritage and ecosystem resources and services. Thirdly, we protect the country from and manage environmental degradation, environmental impacts and environmental health threats and risks for the benefit of current and future generations. Lastly, we optimise job creation, skills development, livelihood security and environmental sector socioeconomic development co-benefits.
As far as sustainable development and the green economy are concerned, in response to our need for a long-term solution to the challenges we as South Africa face, this is actually contained in the National Development Plan. As we continue, we are implementing the NDP. The NDP outlines the urgent need to make a transition in our economy in order to place it on an internationally competitive, job-creating, sustainable, climate-resilient and low-carbon development path. All this we are doing whilst recognising that South Africa's natural capital, in the form of ecosystems, biodiversity, and other natural resources, is a critical foundation for unlocking and boosting socioeconomic growth and ensuring the long-term well- being of our society. This requires a coherent and conducive policy, fiscal, regulatory and governance system to facilitate innovation and incentives to enable and support the following: investment in the development of new green and blue economic industries; growth of existing green and blue sectors; investment in the green and blue transition of existing sectors or industries; and the promotion of consumer and societal behaviour change to more sustainable patterns of consumption and production.
In order to facilitate and support accelerated implementation of sustainable development initiatives, amendments to the National Environmental Management Act have been effected so as to develop an integrated environmental regulatory system that now includes environmental authorisations for mining developments. Accordingly, the Minister of Mineral Resources will now issue mining-related environmental impact assessment and waste licence authorisations, with the Minister of Environmental Affairs being the appeals authority on mining as well.
The co-operative governance arrangement also aligns the simultaneous processing of air emission and water use licences for mining activities. This has necessitated amendments to the National Environmental Management: Waste Act, the National Environmental Management: Air Quality Act and the Water Services Act. Further regulations to this effect are being developed and will be published in the next financial year. Our strategy on the green economy, guided by the NDP vision, is comprised of eight key pillars, as we may all know by now, namely green buildings and built environment; sustainable transport and infrastructure; clean energy and energy efficiency; resource conservation and management; sustainable waste management; water management; sustainable consumption and production; and agricultural food production and forestry. We have to do something about these eight pillars.
The key challenge to implementation on an economy-wide scale is financing. The national Green Fund, which has come in very handy thanks to Treasury and the national government, is one example of our innovative approach to catalysing this financing and investment. We have made great strides in this regard, with the implementation of 22 multiyear green economy projects, and 16 research and technology-related projects, valued at R572 million.
These investments are bolstered by international efforts, such as the Global Environment Facility, an international financing mechanism to support developing countries. We are also pushing very hard for the final operationalisation of the Green Climate Fund, which is intended to mobilise and provide significant financial investment support for low-carbon and climate-resilient development in developing countries.
I must acknowledge with appreciation the bilateral co-operation and partnership programmes in environmental and sustainable development that are being implemented by South Africa with her partners, particularly those from Germany, Norway and the USA.
We are also working at growing existing green sectors or industries that are maximising job creation co-benefits at the same time. Through the cultural and environmental programmes of the Expanded Public Works Programme we are working on expanding job creation in the medium term. The Deputy Minister will speak on this in detail.
I would now like to address our efforts towards realising the constitutional mandate to protect us from and manage environmental degradation, environmental impacts and environmental health threats and risks.
Here I would like to start with air quality and climate change. We all know that air pollution is recognised as a very serious health hazard. Every effort must be made to protect people's right to air quality. Industry must reduce its emissions. Government must enforce minimum emission standards and monitor air quality. Activist organisations must continue to raise the alarm when necessary.
In 2010 the National Environmental Management: Air Quality Act came into full force. Instead of controlling only what comes out of individual stacks, the Act represents a paradigm shift. It provides for an integrated and outcomes-based approach to reduce the impact of multiple-source pollution. We achieve this by setting minimum emission standards to control the amount of industrial pollution that enters the atmosphere.
Priority areas have been declared, including the Vaal Triangle, the Highveld, and the Waterberg, where ambient air quality standards are currently compromised and may be exceeded in future.
We are continuously measuring the quality of the air through 102 government- owned air quality monitoring stations that measure compliance with the ambient air quality standards countrywide. The South African Weather Service is involved in this. These stations continuously send data to the South African Air Quality Information System, managed by the South African Weather Service.
We are cognisant of the fact that we are part of a global community and that greenhouse gas emissions are severely impacting the climate system. Our continent is among the most vulnerable to these impacts, with future temperature increases of 4?C or more predicted in some countries.
The report of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released recently confirms that global emissions of greenhouse gases have risen to unprecedented levels, with negative effects on agriculture, human health, ecosystems, water supplies and people's livelihoods worldwide.
South Africa is actively participating in the international climate change negotiations towards reaching a new multilateral legal agreement targeted for finalisation at the 21st Conference of the Parties of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, Cop 21, which is to be held in Paris in December 2015. This global agreement must be a legal, multilateral rules- based system that is inclusive, fair and effective, and is based on science and adequate levels of ambitious climate action to keep the temperature increase below 2?C.
Our National Climate Change Response Strategy, which was launched in South Africa just before Cop 17, is aimed at building social, economic and environmental resilience to the impacts of climate change and making a fair contribution to the global effort to stabilise greenhouse gas concentrations.
South Africa's emission-reduction approach is guided by a comprehensive analysis of the potential emission reduction opportunities in key economic sectors, including energy, industry, transport, agriculture and waste. We have found that almost 40% of the total emission reduction estimated for 2020 can be achieved through implementing mitigation measures that provide big cost savings and energy efficiency. We must just act in those areas, because there is not much cost involved. The next step is to define desired emission reduction objectives per sector, what we call the DEROs, in order to meet our commitment to implementing mitigation actions that will collectively result in a 34% deviation below the "business as usual" emissions growth trajectory by 2020, and a 42% deviation by 2025. This is a commitment that we made through our President at a world climate change discussion. Therefore, we must continue to implement it.
South Africa is really hard at work, increasing renewable energy, increasing energy efficiency, and growing our public transport system. We are very aware of all the programmes taking place, and we are proud of that.
In order to ensure that South Africa's food, water, energy and infrastructure security is not negatively impacted by climate change, we have developed long-term adaptation scenarios, over and above the long-term mitigation scenarios, to inform adaptation planning and implementation, because we have to plan within the context of what we know. These interventions involving all stakeholders will ensure water, food and health security, and that infrastructure in coastal areas is protected from potential sea-level rise.
The National Environmental Management: Waste Act and the National Waste Management Strategy entrench the universal waste management principles of the reduction, reusing, recycling, and recovery of waste.
Among the identified goals of our waste management strategy is the contribution of the waste sector to the green economy. I am pleased to announce that the National Environmental Management: Waste Amendment Act, Act 26 of 2014 has been in effect since 2 June 2014. It establishes an economic base for viable recycling. It apportions sufficient value to waste to facilitate demand for recyclables, thereby producing more jobs and enterprise development from the waste sector. Recycling has been valued at a contribution of as much as R50 billion to the South African economy. In effect, waste will now be a renewable resource and not something to throw away.
In regard to prioritising waste streams, we began with plastic bags in 2002, and initiated a national waste tyre plan last year. Going forward, we will prioritise electronic waste, paper and packaging. The tyre plan alone will create more than 10 000 jobs in the next two years.
The Act now also provides for a pricing strategy for waste management charges as well as for the establishment of a waste management bureau to oversee the disbursement of revenue collected from waste management charges.
We will also consult on the proposed development of regulations for the separation of waste at source; the banning of plastic waste at landfill sites; a moratorium on new landfill sites; a prohibition on the burning of waste; a regional approach to waste management and disposal, meaning that we should consider regional landfill sites; a deposit-return charge on plastic bottles; and how the revenue will fund industry and community initiatives to recycle and recover waste streams.
We have seen a fundamental improvement in the provision of, and access to, waste collection services over the past 20 years - because nothing was done previously - and particularly in the last five years. This positive trend will be sustained, with more households being provided with waste collection services in order to achieve 80% access to basic waste collection services for all households.
We continue our commitment to licensing all unlicensed landfill sites, and I am happy to announce that all 341 identified unlicensed sites will finally be regularised by the end of September this year.
I urge all South Africans across the country to heed the call for action made by our President in his state of the nation address to play our part in cleaning up the environment by committing just 67 minutes to this on 18 July, Mandela Day, in the true legacy of Madiba. I call on all citizens to demonstrate their commitment. The effects of mercury on the environment and human health have been widely documented. It accumulates globally in our food, water and environment, is hazardous, and can be fatal. The international community has finalised a legally binding treaty on mercury, known as the Minamata Convention, which South Africa signed in October 2013. The department has already begun the work of processing this in Parliament and ensuring that we accede to the convention and bring it into force.
I have published the national regulations on ozone-depleting substances and polychlorinated biphenyls, which are aimed at phasing out these harmful chemicals. We have also developed a public education and awareness strategy that, amongst other things, promotes the safe use of chemicals as well as access to information on the sound management of chemicals. We will also commence this year with the training of customs officials on the importing and exporting of chemicals. I am pleased to announce that we will host an annual World Ozone Day event in the Eastern Cape on 16 September.
I would now like to address the programmes on the sustainable use and conservation of our biodiversity, natural heritage, and ecosystem resources and services. South Africa's national botanical gardens, as windows and ambassadors for our biodiversity, have been visited by more than 22,7 million visitors and produced over R400 million in self-generated income, largely from admissions, rentals and sales, to supplement government grants and support garden-based operations.
The South African National Biodiversity Institute drives important, policy- relevant biodiversity and ecosystems research programmes through an extensive international academic research network, and also through working with our Department of Science and Technology, as a leader in the science field. Thank you, Minister Pandor, for being here and for all the support you give at all times.
Poaching remains the biggest threat to South Africa's rhino. There has been an alarming increase in rhino poaching countrywide. Because it is part of a multimillion dollar illicit wildlife trade, addressing this scourge is not simple. That is why we will continue to strengthen a holistic and integrated intervention and explore new innovative options to ensure the long-term survival of the species.
However, our conservation efforts have been successful. Over the first six months of 2014, 136 suspects were arrested and charged for rhino poaching and related crimes. This represents an increase on the 134 arrests over the same period last year. An amount of R8 million from the Asset Forfeiture Unit was handed over to SANParks as part of criminal proceedings against members of poaching syndicates who have been arrested during the course of the year. An amount of R103 million for the period 2014-15 to 2016-17 has been allocated to SANParks for the purpose of combating rhino poaching. This is in addition to other financial assistance that SANParks has received and continues to receive from private sector organisations through its fundraising initiatives.
Our priority engagements with key African countries such as Mozambique will continue to receive high attention. An international agreement with the Mozambican authorities has been signed to strengthen the fight against rhino poaching. An implementation plan for the next five years is currently being jointly negotiated.
Further afield, our engagements with Far Eastern countries, including Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Hong Kong - which is part of the People's Republic of China - and the People's Republic of China itself, to address the demand for illegal trade in wildlife and wildlife products are beginning to bear fruit.
South Africa will host the 17th Conference of the Parties to Cites, Cop 17, and the process to prepare for this Cop has been initiated. The hosting of Cop 17 will provide South Africa with an opportunity to demonstrate its conservation successes, which are enormous, and to promote sustainable utilisation as an integral part of conservation and economic growth.
Considering the importance of some forms of legal international trade in wildlife products and the challenges posed by illegal wildlife trade, the Cop will present an opportunity to open rational discussions on potential solutions that will enable countries, communities and species to benefit from a sustainable use approach, including possible well-regulated trade regimes, while ensuring illegal activities are dealt with effectively and punitively.
The billion dollar illegal trade in fauna and flora, other than fisheries and timber, involves a wide range of species, including insects, reptiles, amphibians, fish and mammals, all of which are of high value to our national economy.
Last year Cabinet directed that we investigate the desirability and feasibility of making a particular proposal at the 17th Conference of Parties to Cites in 2016. This proposal would be on the legalising of trade in rhino horn as a potential intervention to reduce the incidence of poaching.
The interministerial committee that has been appointed will first consider a report from the panel of experts appointed in January 2014. The panel will also engage with various stakeholders during the process. No decision has as yet been made on this issue, as work is ongoing. We are investigating. Let all South Africans participate. We would like to urge all stakeholders to work with us in ensuring that whatever position we adopt at Cites in 2016 is well researched, and that it adheres to sustainable utilisation principles. And, Minister Pandor, we once again call on you to help in regard to the research. We also welcome the decision of the World Heritage Committee of Unesco to approve a reduced buffer zone for the Mapungubwe World Heritage Site. Our department will now move to the next stage of consultations, with a view to beginning to implement this buffer zone through national legislation.
The critical issue of mining, which has in the past led to a conflict between conservation and development, will now be addressed through the implementation of the Mining and Biodiversity Guideline which was published by our department and the Department of Mineral Resources last year.
This guideline also introduces an extremely important concept called biodiversity offsetting, aimed at restoring the environment and development balance. This tool is specifically designed to ensure that we leave subsequent generations with a biodiversity endowment of at least equal value.
However, biodiversity is not the only area where offsetting can happen. There are many areas, such as air quality, water quality and carbon, and we will be investigating all these areas. To this end, the department will be exploring the exciting concept of environmental offsetting, and we are looking forward to working with academia and nongovernmental organisations.
Invasive alien species are now recognised worldwide as among the greatest threats: to biological diversity and the ecological functioning of natural systems; to the productive potential of land and water; to the economy; and in terms of diseases.
Environmental biosecurity will complement the internationally commended Working for Water programme in preventing the introduction of potentially invasive species and managing those already in the country. This will prevent impacts and losses that can amount to hundreds of billions of rands, apart from the fact that Working for Water is the single biggest programme to create jobs for unemployed people in South Africa.
Last year we published the Green Paper on National Environmental Management of the Ocean, which has since been developed into a White Paper and approved by Cabinet. This policy identified the fact that South Africa has not fully exploited the economic, commercial, industrial and large-scale livelihood opportunities presented by the sustainable use and management of the oceans surrounding our country. Therefore, we are co-ordinating a discussion among all relevant departments, public entities and stakeholders to examine and assess the socioeconomic opportunities of sustainable ocean use and management for South Africa as a basis for developing a vibrant oceans economy. Accordingly, the number of jobs linked to the ocean economy could rise to between 800 000 and 1 million, and possibly treble the current contribution of 316 000 jobs. We are developing a 5- to 10-year strategic plan to unlock growth in these sectors, and adapting a methodology used by Malaysia which is called Big Fast Results. South Africa has now coined the name, Operation Phakisa, to emphasise its critical role in fast-tracking delivery on the priorities included in the NDP. For those who do not know, "phakisa" means "hurry up." President Zuma will launch this programme in Durban this Saturday.
Let me conclude. We are working on national environmental interests through global sustainable development and, indeed, at an international level. We are working with the SADC. This coming August heads of state will sign a protocol at the SADC level, but at all other levels of the environment, be it climate change or something else, we continue to represent our national interests.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank all esteemed members. We look forward to working with the portfolio committee and its chair. I would like to thank all members of the portfolio committee and everyone in the legislature. Thank you very much. [Applause.]