Category Archives: DEA

Department of Environmental Affairs

SA’s first climate change suit to set important precedent

LegalBrief, 7 March, 2017.

Ironically, as SA’s first climate change lawsuit kicked off last week, the defendants were forced into taking a position they do not support, mostly because they lack the capacity to enforce legislation, writes Legalbrief.  The case began last week in the Gauteng High Court (Pretoria), with Earthlife Africa asking the court to revoke the environmental impact assessment for the proposed privately run Thabametsi power station near Lephalale in Limpopo, notes a Pretoria News report. The issue before court is whether it is necessary to properly assess the climate change impacts of a proposed coal-fired power station, before environmental authorisation is granted in terms of the National Environmental Management Act (Nema). Advocate Steven Budlender, acting for Earthlife Africa, told Judge John Murphy that if the answer is yes, this case must succeed ‘because environmental authorisation was granted without any proper climate change assessment having been done’. The report notes the case concerns the proposed 1200 MW coal-fired power station, which will be in operation until at least 2061. Budlender argued that a climate change impact assessment required, at the very least, an assessment of the extent to which a proposed coal-fired power station will contribute to climate change over its lifetime, by quantifying its greenhouse gas emissions during construction, operation and decommissioning. Environment Minister Edna Molewa subsequently agreed that the climate change impact of the power station had not been properly addressed and found that it was necessary for Thabametsi to conduct a full climate change impact assessment regarding the power station. Molewa, however, proceeded to uphold the environmental authorisation and merely required Thabametsi to complete a climate change impact assessment. Budlender said in doing this, the Minister acted unlawfully and undermined the purpose of the climate change impact assessment and the environmental authorisation process.

Full Pretoria News report


Opposing the application for the Minister and her department, Advocate Gilbert Marcus SC argued there was no provision in domestic legislation expressly stipulating a climate change impact assessment must be conducted before the granting of an environmental authorisation. He pointed out that the government was in any event taking extensive steps to address the issue of climate change. Earthlife lawyer Nicole Loser highlighted SA’s vulnerability to climate change, according to an SABC News report. ‘We have a national climate change response policy, which acknowledges that SA is a country extremely vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. Some of the examples of this kind of impact are water scarcity. The policy acknowledges that we will be suffering from increased drought, increase flooding, extreme weather patterns. We will also be seeing increased temperature. These are some of the things that we are already seeing and climate change is going to make this worse,’ she is quoted as saying.

Full SABC News report

SA ratifies Paris Agreement

Harald Winkler, ACDI News Digest, 2 November, 2016.

South Africa has ratified the Paris Agreement on climate change. In doing so, it has joined the growing momentum to take climate action.

87 countries had ratified already, exceeding the requirement of 55 Parties – and on 5 October, the second ‘trigger’ of representing 55% of global greenhouse gas emissions was also met. Thirty days after these two triggers were met, the Agreement formally ‘enters into force’ – on 4 November 2016.   SA snuck in with its instrument of ratification three days before, with another four countries also ratifying  (see status of ratification, so total now at 92).

Domestic ratification is required, so that South Africa’s domestic legal system supports what has been internationally negotiated. Under section 231 of our Constitution, international agreements are negotiated and signed by the Executive (231.1), but an international agreement binds the Republic only after it has been approved by resolution in both the National Assembly and the National Council of Provinces (231.2).

Here is a link to the full article

Molewa, come clean on emissions

Business Day, 3 October, 2016.

MINISTER Edna Molewa’s public rebuttal of a civil society complaint to the public protector regarding the elaboration of desired reductions in greenhouse gas emissions denies any shortcoming. This simply affirms the need for intervention by a Chapter 9 institution.

The minister’s generalities side-step the issue: ongoing failure to elaborate climate-change mitigation objectives for the medium and long term, the pressing need for which is clearly recognised in the policy framework the minister champions. It stipulates that 2030 and 2050 desired emission reduction outcomes be set within two years of its adoption, in 2011.

The complaint is not uninformed or generic, as described by the minister, and we are not “… attempting to ‘sanction’ the government”, but seeking remedial action, as stated in the opening: “This complaint to the public protector seeks an urgent instruction to government to elaborate national climate-change mitigation objectives, as required in the 2011 white paper….”

Recourse to the public protector follows many years of concerted effort including civil society participation in all available stakeholder processes and the proactive pursuit of documentation.

The latest “consultation” of stakeholders — a briefing by consultants commissioned to work on methodology proposals for a “phase two” to 2025 — confirmed persistent avoidance of big strategic issues or anything beyond incremental change.

The minister does note one pertinent development: “The Department of Environmental Affairs has engaged with the Department of Energy in its integrated energy planning process, setting an emissions constraint….”

We’d like to see that.

The question put to Molewa in an open letter in May still stands: “When and how will stakeholders have the opportunity to deliberate … the question of the most desirable emissions trajectory or appropriate mitigation ambition for South Africa — the aspiration that will guide our planning and underpin our pursuit of international climate finance?”

Brian Ashley


Here is the Business Day link

Open letter to the Chair and members of the Inter-Ministerial Committee on Climate Change

Richard Worthington, AIDC, Business Day,10 May, 2016.

Here is the link to this article in the Business Day

Attention: Minister Edna Molewa

Department of Environmental Affairs

c/o Ms Z Mngadi & Mr CX Nadasen (Chief of Staff and PA) &


Open letter to the Chair and members of the Inter-Ministerial Committee on Climate Change


Dear Ministers

We note South Africa’s signing of the Paris Agreement in New York on 22 April, as a culmination of work to which South Africa has made a positive and leading contribution, and are most anxious to learn how our national development planning and particularly energy planning and investment strategy will be aligned with this bold commitment.

The greenhouse gasses emissions pathways – the ‘peak, plateau and decline’ or PPD Range – described in the National Climate Change Response Policy (NCCRP) of 2011 are not consistent with the objectives of the Paris Agreement and thus should be revised downwards. In light of on-going work by your Department, as well as Integrated Energy Planning, there is an urgent need to assess the scale of mitigation that is required in South Africa in coming decades for the world to achieve the mitigation required by the Paris Agreement. National emissions should not and do not have to be above 350 Mt per annum in 2030 for achieving sustainable and inclusive development.

We need to do this not only to honour the agreement that came out of the Durban Platform of Action, but to be able to quantify and attract the support that South Africa has consistently argued must be available for us to achieve an acceptable long-term emissions outcome. Understanding the scale of the mitigation challenge and opportunities for low-carbon development is also essential to avoid making financial commitments to projects that will become stranded assets if the Paris Agreement is implemented.

We are aware that some influential stakeholders are convinced that an emissions pathway lower than that described in the NCCRP is not a realistic or credible objective and we have considered the basis for such views and the assumptions upon which they rest. Such assumptions and their full implications need to be publicly interrogated before South Africa commits to any of the energy development pathways so far contemplated in official planning processes; most urgently before making decisions on a number of investments currently being promoted (including ‘Coal 3’ as another Eskom mega-plant) that cannot be reconciled with avoiding catastrophic climate change.

Prospects for reducing poverty and inequality globally and within South Africa, as well as the viability of adapting to climate change impacts, will rapidly diminish if average global warming reaches 2 degrees, which would result in twice as much warming for the Southern Africa interior. Thus the question of national ‘fair shares’ of the global carbon budget, or how much of the necessary mitigation should be supported by the most industrialised countries, should not blind us to the full extent of the challenge we have taken on. Mitigation opportunities globally are located where emissions are high and South Africa is among the top 12 emitters. Even if technologies for carbon sequestration were to fulfil the hopes of their proponents, we will have to phase out coal a lot more rapidly than has been considered in any energy or development planning to date, including the erroneously names ‘low-carbon world’ scenario of the SA Coal Road Map.

The longer we delay assessing the scale of the challenge, the greater the challenge becomes, and the more costly and disruptive the necessary transformation will be. Whether neoliberal market reforms or radical economic transformation are chosen to drive our climate change response, we urgently need to understand what we have agreed to and how it might be done. Bottom-up analysis of mitigation potential and the likely socio-economic impacts of change, such as in the Mitigation Potential Analysis (2014), are welcome but not sufficient and on their own they too may blind us to the full extent of what is possible and desirable, beyond incremental change.

We respectfully ask for responses from the Inter-Ministerial Committee on Climate Change to the following specific questions, at the earliest opportunity that clarification may be available:

  • When and how will stakeholders have the opportunity to democratically deliberate the key issue arising from our signing of the Paris Agreement, i.e. the question of the most desirable emissions trajectory or appropriate mitigation ambition for South Africa – the aspiration that will guide our planning and underpin our pursuit of international climate finance?
  • What assumptions will be applied to the Update of the Mitigation Potential Analysis, scheduled for 2016-17, inter alia assumptions constraining the electricity supply energy mix options in the medium and long term and the potential penetration rates of electric vehicles?
  • Will the on-going Integrated Energy Planning process be required to include a test case that is consistent with the Paris Agreement? For example, a scenario in which South Africa’s per capita emissions are approaching, and no more than 1.5 times, the required global average for 2050 (roughly half the level considered at the bottom of the current policy range).

We submit that the infrastructure implications and the fiscal significance of this issue merits a formal public statement initiating such democratic deliberation and alignment of development planning as a matter of urgency and no more than two months after our signing on 22 April.


Richard Worthington

Research Associate,

Alternative Information & Development Centre (AIDC)

Nuclear site near Jeffrey’s Bay to get green light (maybe?)

News24 Wire, 21 December,2015.

(Note: Don’t read this if you are anti-nuclear and have suffer from high blood pressure or depression! And don’t feel you have to believe it all either.))
The 6-year long environmental impact assessment for a new nuclear plant to be built at Thyspunt near Oyster Bay, a few kilometres South of Jeffrey’s Bay, has just been completed.
With cabinet having allegedly approved the nuclear procurement programme this month, the next step will be to give the green light to the environmental impact assessment of the Thyspunt site near Jeffreys Bay.

Dr Kelvin Kemm, who serves on the ministerial Advisory Council on Energy, says this process has been completed and the next step is government approval, which could come quite soon.

Kemm gave this update in his opinion piece below, which touches on the local economic benefits for Port Elizabeth, why South Africa needs nuclear energy and the safety issues around the programme. – Fin24.

Here is the rest of this blatant pro-nuclear spin…–