Climate Change Bill: Here’s what you need to know

By Siya Mkhize, Partner and Ayanda Msimang Candidate Attorney in the Environmental & Clean Energy Law Department

The Minister of Environmental Affairs recently published the Climate Change Bill for public comment.

With increasing and frequent extreme weather events caused by anthropogenic climate change, the Bill could not have been introduced at a better time.

The Bill is intended to –
• deliver a coordinated and integrated response to climate change;
• enhance the nations adaptive capacity, strengthen resilience and reduce vulnerability to climate change;
• contribute to the global efforts to stabilise greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere to levels that avoid dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system.

In terms of the Bill the Minister must by notice in the Government Gazette, establish a national environmentally sustainable development framework to ensure that the objects and purports of the proposed Act are achieved.

The Bill proposes that every organ of state must coordinate and harmonise policies, plans, programmes and decisions of the national, provincial and local spheres of government that exercise functions that affect climate change or which are entrusted with powers and duties aimed at achieving, promoting, and protecting a sustainable environment.

According to the Bill, a Ministerial Committee on Climate Change comprising of the Minister in the Presidency, the Minister of Environmental Affairs and other Ministers responsible for certain Functional Areas must be established. The Ministerial Committee will be responsible for coordinating the transition to a climate resilient and lower carbon economy and society, across all sector departments and spheres of government.

In terms of the Bill, an MEC responsible for the environment or a Mayor of a municipality as the case may be must –
• Within one year from the coming into effect of the proposed Act, undertake a climate change needs and response assessment for that particular province or municipality; and
• Within two years, implement a climate change implementation plan formulated in terms of the needs and response assessment.

The Bill provides that the Minister of Environmental Affairs may, in consultation with the relevant state departments:
• set national adaptation objectives;
• develop a National Adaptation Strategy; and
• develop adaptation scenarios.

On promulgation of the Bill into law, the Minister of Environmental Affairs must, in consultation with the Ministerial Committee, by a notice in the government gazette, determine a national greenhouse gas emissions trajectory. The trajectory must–
• specify a national greenhouse gas emissions reduction objective;
• be informed by relevant and up to date information regarding the total current and projected volumes of greenhouse gases emitted in the Republic; and
• be consistent with the objectives of the proposed Act and the Republic’s international obligations.

The Minister responsible for each greenhouse gas emitting sector and sub-sector which Sectorial Emission Targets (SETs) have been set or determined by the Minister of Environmental Affairs, must prepare a Sector Emission Reduction Plan (SERP) that prescribes how each sector will meet the SETs within five years from the publication of the SETs by the relevant Minister.

The Minister of Environmental Affairs must by notice in the Government Gazette, determine a greenhouse gas emission threshold for purposes of identifying or determining persons whom carbon budgets will be allocated to. The carbon budget will be applicable to a specific person for not less than three successive five year periods.  A person who has been allocated with a carbon budget must prepare and submit to the Minister for approval a greenhouse gas mitigation plan and implement such plan if it is approved by the Minister. The Bill provides that, the plan must describe mitigation actions to be implement by the person, to ensure compliance with the allocated carbon budget.
The Bill also provides for the Minister of Environmental Affairs, in consultation with the Minister responsible for energy, the Minister responsible for trade and industry and any affected parties to develop a plan to phase down or phase out the use of synthetic greenhouse gases which are man-made greenhouse gases such as hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), perfluorocarbons (PFCs) and sulphur hexafluorides (SF6)

While the Bill provides a framework for addressing climate change, once promulgated into law, the Minister may put more teeth to the current framework by publishing more subordinate legislation in the form of regulations which can provide the details and specifics on how to tackle the challenges presented by climate change.

For any queries please contact:
Ian Sampson (Head of Environmental & Clean Energy Law)
+27 31 575 7202
sampson@wylie.co.za
Or
Siya Mkhize (Partner)
+27 31 575 7224
smkhize@wylie.co.za