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Cabinet approves low emissions development strategy

South Africa has finally begun embracing the threat of climate change judging by the outcomes of Cabinet Lekgotla held on 9 September.

The Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries (DEFF) confirmed that a Presidential Climate Change Coordinating Commissions (PCCC) was appointed to align South Africa’s commitment to “contribute to the ambitious global goals on emissions reduction, adaptation and finance outlined in the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.”

The Commission will be established through the Climate Change Bill which has yet to be finalised. The Bill is poised to lay legislative foundation for South Africa’s climate change adaption and mitigation response.

“Among its first tasks will be to focus on understanding the impact of climate change on jobs, both positive and negative, and climate change responses by sector and location” said DEFF.

Agriculture contributed to carbon emissions through fuel consumption of farm vehicles, wastage to soils (N2O) and increasing usage of fertilisers. Livestock farming (cattle belching – CH4) was identified as the largest contributor to Agriculture, Forestry and Land Use (AFOLU) GHG emissions.

In 2015, the National Terrestrial Carbon Sinks Assessment (NTCSA) indicated that transformation of land through land uses including crop agriculture “could reduce soil carbon by 40 to 60% from what existed in a natural grassland and savannah”

Ranging from this, the former department of agriculture, forestry and fisheries (DAFF) followed up with a Draft Conservation Agriculture Policy in 2017 to provide a basis for national and sector policy support on conservation agriculture (CA).

Treasury up the umpteen by introducing the Carbon Tax Act in 2019 as a way to curtail businesses from gas emissions. The Act gave effect to the “polluter pays principle” and aimed to price carbon by internalising the negative costs of emitting GHGs.

Currently, the tax rate was set at R120 per tonne of CO2-eq produced. The low emissions development strategy (LEDS) did not consider the role of smallholder farmers how the Carbon Act could affect and impair their livelihoods.

The LEDS was unambiguous in its design; “Post-2020, the carbon tax and the carbon budgeting system will be aligned. This may include the option of imposing a higher tax rate as a penalty for emissions exceeding the carbon budget.”

DEFF said LEDS provided a splendid chance to communicate the country needs and priorities to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Secretariat.

“Depositing the LEDS with the UNFCCC will allow developed countries who want to support implementation efforts through finance, technology or capacity building are assured that South Africa has a plan to reduce its emissions” said DEFF.

The South African government was unable to quantify the adaption costs but it estimated that it could cost anything between the region of more than US$ 30 billion per annum to adapt to climate change for the period 2021-2030.

Mitigation action was also estimated at more than US$ 1,350 billion in total over the period 2020-2050.

The PCCCC will have a 24-member board to cover the scope of work with a preliminary budget of R50 million being recommended for the five-year term of the Commission. 

“The PCCCC will be chaired by a Presidential nominee and will align South Africa’s commitment in its Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC)” said DEFF.

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