Minister Barbara Creecy delivers the Environmental Affairs’ 2019/20 Budget Vote in the National Assembly

11 July 2019

 

Today newly appointed Minister of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries, Ms Barbara Creecy delivered the Department’s budget vote policy statement in the National Assembly. Minister Creecy said that more than two million South Africans are directly dependent on natural resources and the natural environment for their income. When we take into account that each of these breadwinners supports eight to ten others, we start to understand the true significance of our natural resources to our economic and social well-being.

“The underpinnings of our economy and our social fabric are facing unprecedented threats from climate change, environmental degradation and the loss of our biodiversity,” the Minister explained.

“Because the National Development Plan requires us to leave future generations an environmental endowment of at least equal value to the one we have now.  No single government department, entity, or municipality can do this alone. The work of building a sustainable and environmentally sound growth path is the work of the nation as a whole” said Ms Creecy

She went on to explain that it will require all spheres of government, business, organised labour and civil society to come together in a programme of joint action to combat climate change, environmental degradation and loss of biodiversity.

The Minister explained that in line with our understanding that our climate change response has to involve all sectors of our society, the second draft of our Climate Change Bill is currently being discussed and debated at NEDLAC.

“Society at large is worried about immediate issues of energy security, job losses and retrenchments. This means that while we debate the Climate Change Bill, we must of necessity also discuss the objectives and the process of the just transition itself and ensure that it takes place in an orderly manner.  We must tread this, our future path towards 2050, while maintaining energy security and creating employment.” said Minister Creecy.

She went on to explain that we must start now to invest in essential research and development to create the new industries and skills needed. This will enable existing industries and their workforces to proactively manage necessary changes in ways that create new jobs and economic growth.

The Minister also noted increased public concern around air quality in the Priority Areas of the Highveld, Vaal Triangle and Waterberg. The Minister committed to an immediate review our Priority Area Air Quality Management Plan and its implementation. She noted that it was of utmost importance to urgently set up a multi-stakeholder implementation partnership, including at the highest levels of government.

The management of waste and in particular single use plastic waste, is a matter that also requires urgent and pressing attention. The department is currently assessing single-use plastic products – plastic carrier bags, straws, earbuds, crockery and cutlery – and will be conducting various stakeholder engagements in this regard with a view to finding effective ways to prevent, divert and recycle plastic products.

The Minister noted that the Chemicals and Waste Economy Phakisa is the key ‘circular-economy’ component of a just transition to fully sustainable development. The plan includes increasing the volume of waste diverted from landfill to beneficiation processes. As agreed at the Jobs Summit in October 2018, the department is studying 49 applications for the beneficiation of: waste slag from the ferrochrome sector; ash from combustion plants; and pulp and gypsum from the pulp, paper and cardboard sector.

The Minister noted widespread condemnation of the level of littering in our communities. She called for a united national effort to clean up our country under the banner of the Good Green Deeds by all spheres of government and civil society.

A critical programme aimed at improving water security is the control of invasive plants in priority catchments and wetlands. Recent research estimates that protection and clearing of river catchments can increase water supply by up to one sixth. 

The Working for Water programme has cleared and maintained almost 3.5 million hectares of land. This year work is being intensified in both key catchment and wetland areas with 190 wetlands scheduled for repair. This year our Environmental Programmes will create 67 953 Work Opportunities targeted particularly at young people.

The Deputy Minister Ms Makhotso Sotyu noted that Plantation Forestry is another programme that seeks to enhance our existing natural forests and woodlands.

South Africa also presently has about 1.2million hectares of plantations. Some of these plantations are leased by Government to private companies, and 3.7% of these hectares are owned by small growers. Forests contribution is around 10% of the agricultural GDP.

“The Forestry Stewardship Council and the implementation of its guidelines will thus go a long way to bring sustainability to the Plantation Forestry sector by helping us to balance protection of indigenous forests with sustainable use by plantations,” said Ms Sotyu.

The Deputy Minister also congratulated the significant work that the Working on Fire Programme has done on an ongoing basis to protect both plantation and indigenous forests. In particular Ms Sotyu commended the branch for their role in the devastating fires one the Garden route over the past two years.

Turning to the issue of Fisheries the Minister said: “It is important to re-state today the decision to review the FRAPP 2020 process which will see the re-issuing of licenses for 12 of the 22 fisheries”. 

The Minister emphasised that this decision has been taken following consultation with the sector and is aimed at ensuring the Department follow all regulatory and legislative requirements.

“It is essential that the process is seen to be fair, open transparent. It must promote the transformation of the sector, and create sustainable livelihoods for the many coastal communities that have no other means of support,” said the Minister.

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