Name change for Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment Department

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

The formation of the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment is complete now that all the relevant officials have been transferred to the newly amalgamated department.

This follows the announcement of the sixth administration in 2019, were the forestry and fisheries functions were amalgamated into the Department of Environmental Affairs, which became know the Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries.

The department said in a statement on Wednesday that the name of the Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries (DEFF) will change on 1 April 2021.

The DEFF will in future be known as the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment (DFFE).

The substitution and designation of names for National Department and Office of the Premiers and heads thereof was published in Government Gazette 44229 (Notice No. 172) in terms of the Public Service Act on 5 March 2021.

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Minister Barbara Creecy launches South Africa’s Nationally Determined Contribution

30 Mar 2021

The Minister of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment, Barbara Creecy, has launched the updated draft NDC for public consultation

The updated draft NDC, the cornerstone of South Africa’s climate change response, was approved by Cabinet on 24 March 2021 to be released for public comment. It is South Africa’s commitment in terms of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and its Paris Agreement to contribute to the global climate change effort. All Parties to the UNFCCC are updating their NDC’s in the run-up to the 26th international climate change conference to be held in Glasgow, Scotland, in November 2021. 

Under the Paris Agreement, all parties are required to deposit NDCs every five years.  South Africa deposited its first NDC with the UNFCCC in October 2015, committing to keeping national greenhouse gas emissions within a range from 389 Mt CO2-eq for 2025 and 2050. 

South Africa remains committed to addressing climate change based on science, equity and sustainable development. Similarly, the present updated NDC draft seeks to balance the three structural components of mitigation, adaptation and means of implementation/support requirements. 

The latest science from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change indicates that more urgent and rapid reductions in emissions are required by all countries.

The UNFCCC has found that the current global effort is not sufficient to avoid dangerous climate change, and all countries are in agreement that more needs to be done, faster. 

The updated mitigation NDC proposes a significant reduction in greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) emissions target ranges up to 2030, with the 2025 target range allowing time to fully implement the national mitigation system, including those elements contained in the Climate Change Bill. It will also allow space for the implementation of IRP 2019 and other key policies and measures, as well as the national recovery from Covid_19.

The 2030 target range (398-440 Mt CO2 e q) is consistent with South Africa’s fair share, and also an ambitious improvement on our current NDC target. The upper range of the proposed 2030 target range represents a 28% reduction in GHG emissions from the 2015 NDC targets. 

Eskom recently released a call for proposals to repurpose Komati Power Station in Mpumalanga with photovoltaic panels and battery storage. Currently, the utility is conducting feasibility studies on repurposing other power stations scheduled for decommissioning including Hendrina, Grootvlei and Camden Coal Power Stations 

In February this year, the Presidential Climate Change Commission representing government, business, civil society and organised labour met for the first time to discuss how the country develops a just transition from our current high emission economy to a low carbon climate resilient economy and society. To do this we must ensure those who are currently dependent on the coal value chain do not carry the transition burden.

Accordingly, the Commission will advise government on ways to unlock new technology, new investment and above all new jobs as we meet our commitments in terms of the Paris Agreement.

The first South African adaptation communication in line with the Paris Agreement outlines five adaptation goals, articulates efforts to be implemented and associated costs for a time period of 2021 to 2030. The adaptation communication will enable support for key sectors that are affected by the impacts of climate change, including human settlements, agriculture, water and energy. It will also affirm the leadership role which South Africa has played in the international climate regime on adaptation.

The updated draft NDC also contains a section on South Africa’s support requirements as a developing country. This includes the costs of both mitigation and adaptation measures and defining the country’s goal for accessing international support.  

With regard to the support requirements for a developing country such as South Africa, the draft updated NDC addresses not only the cost of mitigation and adaptation measures but also outlines the international finance accessed thus far for climate change programmes. While South Africa has accessed about USD2 billion a year in 2018 and 2019, the draft updated NDC proposes access to four times the amount annually by 2030 to meet adaptation and mitigation needs.

South Africa’s updated NDC targets are aligned with planned policies and measures to provide opportunities for accessing large-scale international climate finance to fund low-carbon infrastructure, and also to fund the just transition.

The launch of the updated NDC is the start of a consultation process that will consist of a number of virtual consultations until the end of May 2021 with other government departments through the inter-governmental committee on climate change (IGCCC), broader stakeholders through the National Committee on Climate Change (NCCC) and a number of targeted virtual consultations with interest groups and representative formations including business, labor, civil society, the agricultural and energy sectors.

Direct consultation will be held with the provinces, while written inputs can be submitted to the Department by 30 April 2021.  

Following the integration of inputs from stakeholders, the updated NDC will be tabled with Cabinet for approval before being deposited with the UNFCCC ahead of COP26.

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Municipal Energy Resilience Project launched for a more energy secure future

24 November 2020

We are pleased to announce the official launch of the three-year Municipal Energy Resilience (MER) Project to assist municipalities to take advantage of the new energy regulations, which may include purchasing of energy directly from Independent Power Producers (IPPs), so that we can create a more energy secure future in the Western Cape.  

The MER Project will help municipalities across the Western Cape to understand the requirements of the new national energy regulations, and mitigate related risks as well as provide for network and operational capacity requirements for energy project development and procurement in municipalities. 

The MER Project is spearheaded by our Green Economy unit at the Department of Economic Development and Tourism, who are working in collaboration with the Department of Local Government and Provincial Treasury to enable the development of energy projects and engage with municipalities on multiple fronts.

The procurement of energy at utility and municipal distribution scale, such as bulk energy purchases from IPPs, under conditions of developing and evolving policies and regulations is a complex and challenging task. Municipalities may not have the policies, plans, resources, funding, or procurement expertise to procure wholesale electricity from sources other than Eskom, specifically IPPs. Neither have all municipalities’ electricity distribution systems been technically evaluated to clarify their readiness to support new electricity generation and energy trading.  

And so, the MER Project is structured in the following three phases: 

  • Phase 1 involves the identification of potential candidate municipalities and pioneering projects and the development of a roadmap for rolling these out. The work will explore multiple pioneering renewable energy technologies and scales, cost options, scale of investment required, location issues, risks, municipal readiness needs, infrastructure needs, timelines to get capacity onto the grid, transaction and procurement mechanisms and regulatory issues.   
  • Phase 2 will focus on starting the implementation of the pioneering energy projects in the identified candidate municipalities along with working with municipalities to help fill gaps to enable future energy project implementation.  
  • Phase 3 will see the development of a master plan for energy projects to be rolled out in municipalities along with the commencement of energy projects in further municipalities as budget allows.

While we recognise that only a few municipalities are likely to be able to procure utility scale energy from IPPs in the near term, there are other energy generation and storage opportunities that may serve to improve municipal energy resilience and future economic growth in the Western Cape.   

To support the MER Project, two bids have been advertised in the Government Tender Bulletin on 20 November 2020 and all applicable parties are invited to apply:

Energy resilience-related work that is already being undertaken by our Green Economy unit and that will continue, includes support to municipalities to develop and revise SSEG feed-in tariff frameworks and feed-in tariffs, engagement with businesses to drive take-up of rooftop solar PV, support to municipalities to enable wheeling on their grid, support to energy sector businesses and the provision of energy technology and cost options to businesses and municipalities, and support to green economy investors in the Western Cape.  

Cumulative load shedding in 2020 was 23% worse than in 2019 despite a 9% decrease in real GDP. This is estimated to have cost the country’s economy R500 million per stage per day and the Western Cape’s economy R75 million per stage per day. Recent regulatory changes in the energy sector which we called for, have started to open the door for new renewable energy generation which will allow for an increasingly decentralised system of energy generation and distribution to mitigate the risk of load shedding in South Africa. 

And so, we will continue to do everything we can to support municipalities and businesses to participate in the growing green energy sector and to become more energy resilient so that together we can create a more energy resilient future in the Western Cape.  

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Report shows that SA leads the way in public sector gender diversity

Kearney’s recent ‘Gender Equality Report’ provides insight into the progress of diversity in private and public sectors across nine key regions globally – South Africa, the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, India, France, Spain, Germany, and Singapore.

While South Africa has the most gender diverse parliament with a gender representation of 44% female MPs, the private sector sees South Africa fall to seventh position with only 28.5% of women represented at board level in the JSE 40.

The gap between private and public sectors is attributable to national campaigns for women’s representation in the public life at the national and provincial levels as well as voluntary party quotas, increasingly since 2006.
The gender quota system, in place in its early form since 1994, undoubtedly helped by a forward-thinking attitude towards gender diversity explains why South Africa takes the lead in the public sector.

“Seeing South Africa take the lead against other nations in the public sector with an increasing number of women elected as MPs, is a positive sign of what can be done with the right policies. However, whilst encouraging, there is still a deep parity that remains within the private sector,” says Theo Sibiya, Partner and Managing Director for Kearney Africa.

% Female government representation by country

South Africa44.0%

Sibiya added that despite ranking seventh out of the nine regions analysed for overall board diversity, South Africa has the highest percentage of the very top-level female board representation with 14% of its total female board members occupying senior positions e.g., Chairperson and member of the C-Suite.
The report also analysed the sectors which showed the most promising levels of gender parity in South Africa. Of the 140 female board members across the JSE 40, 35% are in the Non-Energy Materials sector. Finance is the second most representative sector in South Africa and holds 25% of the total female board members, whereas in Australia, the UK, Spain, the US, and Singapore it is the most gender diverse sector.

% Female board level representation by country

South Africa28.5%

This year’s annual report demonstrates modest progress compared with 2020. Female representation in the private sector has increased marginally in the United States (1.2%), United Kingdom (3%) and Australia (0.6%), as well as in the public sector in Australia (1%) and the United States (3.5%), which had a record year for female representatives elected. India remains the least gender diverse country studied with female representation under 20% across both public (14%) and private sectors (17%).

Sibiya ended by saying “Over the coming years, it’ll be important that companies are held to the same standard and encouraged to bring more women to decision making roles.”

“Research has shown time and time again the impact women have on boards, it’s not only important to be inclusive but it ultimately leads to better financial performance.”

Theo Sibiya, Partner and Managing Director for Kearney Africa

About the research: Kearney’s Gender Equality Report 2021 was based on research using publicly available data across nine markets – UK, US, France, Germany, Spain, Australia, India and Singapore – regarding female representation at board level and in their respective governments. Board information was gathered using the support of Factset. 

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Beware of Covid fatigue and complacency in the workplace

South Africans were all relieved when President Cyril Ramaphosa announced recently that the first two batches of Covid-19 vaccines had safely arrived in the country, followed by Health Minister Zwheli Mkhize’s announced that the vaccination programme is rapidly gaining momentum.

“After months of suffering through lockdowns, social distancing, isolation and sanitising, it is easy to suffer from Covid-fatigue. The temptation exists to become lax when it comes to implementing health and safety protocols in the workplace. However, it is vital to remain vigilant. Until the majority of South Africans have been vaccinated, we cannot afford to think that life and business can resume to the way it was before the virus,” warns Robert Palmer, Head of the Occupational Health Department at Afroteq Advisory – a multi-disciplinary integrated company providing advisory and training services to the built environment sector since 2000.

According to Palmer, typical short-cuts taken in the corporate environment include only sanitising or disinfecting obvious “high traffic” areas such as boardroom tables and chairs, but neglecting door handles, lift buttons, staircase bannisters, telephones etc. The improper wearing of masks, forgetting to sanitise hands, the absence of visible sanitisers and failure to enforce adequate social distancing are also frequently encountered when the company conducts their workplace audits.

Even though we have moved through the second wave, South Africa still records on average 1500 new cases more than 200 deaths per day, with almost fifty thousand people who have already succumbed to the virus.

Health experts have warned that we could see the third wave at the end of April and predict that a fourth wave could hit the country when Winter arrives.

“Finally seeing a light at the end of the tunnel makes companies believe that we are out of danger. Decision-makers think they can save money by appointing unaccredited, uncertified service providers to deep-clean and sanitise the building or by purchasing inferior quality cleaning materials and other PPE. There should be zero-tolerance for this kind of behaviour that puts profit over the well-being of people. The reality is that Covid-19 is still with us and that it will take several months for the vaccine programme to be rolled out and until the majority of our workforce can be considered safe,” he says.

A specific area concern to facility managers working in the built environment is the health and safety of construction workers. OHS officers agree that labourers not wearing their masks on-site, working in too close proximity to each other or being transported in large numbers are cause for grave concern. 

“Construction companies face harsh penalties and high fines when their projects run late. They put pressure on their teams and workers fear that they might lose their jobs should they call in ill.  By failing to disclose their symptoms to their supervisors and adhering to safety protocols, everybody on-site is put at risk,” Palmer says.

Confirming this warning, the World Health Organisation (WHO) listed occupations where workers performing mostly routine tasks, such as construction workers and cleaners that have to contend with low wages, job insecurity and a rushed return to work, as medium risk.

“As health and safety experts, we urge employers to ensure that they continue implementing the correct protocols and pay attention to potential problem areas.

Paradoxically, it tends to be the companies that have until now been largely unaffected by Covid-19 that are at the greatest risk of succumbing to complacency.

We all want to rebuild our economy, but we cannot ignore the fact that many employees are dealing with emotional battles after having lost family, friends or loved ones due to the pandemic. The world has paid a high price already, and we owe it to each other to be responsible and make the right decisions to the end. That is what true leadership is all about,” Palmer concludes.

For more information, visit

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Eskom testimony at Zondo Commission points to key issues for directors

Testimony at the Zondo Commission relating to the prepayment of R1.68 billion to Tegeta, a company owned by the Gupta family, provoked strong words from Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo.[1] Dr Simo Lushaba, Facilitator of Director Development Programmes at the Institute of Directors in South Africa (IoDSA), says the whole incident illustrates how seriously directors should approach their duties.

“Justice Zondo suggested that the directors were negligent at best. If we take that line of thought to its logical conclusion, they could be at risk of being sued for damages in their personal capacities,” he says. “Directors need to accept that theirs is a very serious job and that the stakes are high. Their only protection against decisions that are proved to be wrong is that they did discharge their duty of care, and made decisions based on a thorough examination of the facts and in the best interests of the company.”

Dr Lushaba pinpoints the lessons for directors as follows:

Understand your primary duty as a director. When individuals accept a board appointment, they are assuming a duty of care towards the entity, not to whoever appointed them or themselves. Their actions and decisions have to be guided by the interests of the company and its stakeholders.

Apply your mind and ask the right questions. In this case, the trigger phrase was “proposed owners”, which should have prompted directors to question why money for a commodity was not being paid to the existing owners. “In any event, you don’t buy something from the owner of the store, you buy it from the store itself,” he comments. “The most basic question was never asked – who owns the coal and why aren’t we paying them?”

Dr Lushaba emphasises that one of the primary duties of a board member is to ask questions and that there is no such thing as a stupid question. Directors are under an obligation to apply their minds to whatever is before them and to adopt a stance one might call “professional scepticism”.

Be courageous in discharging your duty of care. The fact that no directors dissented when approving this prepayment to “proposed owners” indicates that the board dynamics were out of tune. Directors must have the courage not only to ask tough questions but to dissent when a decision they believe to be wrong is adopted—a good director is an independent thinker.

An important corollary is the importance of diversity. Boards will not generate the necessary quality of questioning if they do not contain individuals with different backgrounds, experience and skills.  

A board is a collection of individuals, not a group and, crucially, directors are held individually responsible for the board’s actions.

Understand the interplay between risk and opportunity. One of the then-directors attempted to portray the board’s action as an effort to secure the supply of a necessary raw material. However, what seemed to be an opportunity hid considerable risk. The same point could be made about risks. “One of a board’s key jobs is to understand the risks the organisation faces and protect it from them,” Dr Lushaba concludes. “Directors cannot just look at opportunities.”

[1] News24Wire, “Zondo blasts ‘negligent’ former Eskom board over R1.68bn prepayment to Gupta entity”, Engineering News (11 February 2021), available at

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AECOM launches 2020/21 Africa Property & Construction Cost Guide

AECOM has launched the 2020/21 edition of their highly-respected Africa Property & Construction Cost Guide. This is the 31st edition of the guide, published in conjunction with strategic partner, the Bureau of Economic Research (BER) at the University of Stellenbosch. The guide shares invaluable knowledge of Africa’s economy that can be leveraged to unlock investment opportunities across the continent in terms of construction and infrastructure development.

The guide notes that, although Africa remains one of the fastest-growing continents, growth is expected to be moderate. The implementation of sound macroeconomic policies has meant that Africa’s economies have generally remained resilient. Countries such as Ethiopia, Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire are three of the fastest-growing economies globally in terms of increased GDP. Africa’s growth is further bolstered by several East African countries contributing collectively through increased exports and cross-border trade to boost regional growth.

There is an ever-growing need to finance infrastructure on the continent. Several countries are now prioritising this after realising the importance of industrialisation to maintain growth in their economies but also recognising the need to diversify through the exportation of goods and services. This has consequently created the jobs needed for a burgeoning younger population. A developing industrial sector on the continent requires more infrastructure investment, particularly in power, water and transportation services, which are already over-stretched.

An increased oil price and the stabilisation of commodity prices have helped strengthen the forecast for GDP growth on the continent. Predictions of collective growth are around 3% to 4% for 2020/21, with individual countries increasing by as much as 7% to 8%. Sub-Saharan Africa is seeing steady growth in the infrastructure and construction sectors, as well as in East and West Africa. Important here is the signing of mega gas deals in Mozambique following favourable environmental impact studies and subsequent government approval for parts of Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) development contracts.

This is expected to create thousands of job opportunities, impact significantly on Mozambique’s GDP and create collaborative opportunities for neighbouring countries.

“Despite the initial direct feedback from Eastern Africa indicating that the impact of the coronavirus pandemic slowed down all planning, construction and other related activity, there are grassroot signs that prioritising infrastructure and construction creates the opportunity for economies to recover,” reports Dean Narainsamy, Director – PCC, Africa at AECOM.

Recovery after the easing of lockdown levels has also been slow. However, productivity is anticipated to return to normal levels as the industry acclimatises to a ‘new normal’. In this regard, AECOM has reprioritised how they work as a business, how they interact with their teams and clients and how they strive to retain business agility. “This is all in order for us to survive what has undoubtedly been one of the toughest years we have endured in the last decade,” concludes Narainsamy.

For further information about AECOM’s 2020/21 Africa Property & Construction Cost Guide and to download a copy, visit:

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Global leaders can create sustainability with meaningful transparency

Bt Suzanne DiBianca, Chief Impact Officer & EVP, Corporate Relations, Salesforce

The global community is facing many crises, including an ongoing pandemic, the tragic consequences of centuries of racial inequality, and a climate emergency. But this year will also bring new opportunities for companies to work with governments and individuals to rebuild and create a fairer, more sustainable future for all.

With nearly 90% of customers expecting corporations to live up to a set of values higher than shareholder return alone, global leaders need to weave environmental, social and governance (ESG) impact deep into their culture, strategy and mission. In 2021, this is a business imperative.

The impact revolution has even outgrown its own name, as 90% of the S&P 500 now produce ESG reports, and Morgan Stanley has declared that ESG will define the next decade of investing. Countries including the United Kingdom are passing mandatory private-sector climate disclosure rules, while Japan is leading a wave of nations striving to reach net zero emissions by 2050. In the EU, the Non-Financial Reporting Directive is driving additional corporate ESG transparency.

At the same time, business decision makers are seeing how impact strategies create positive flywheel effects. This pivot is a surefire growth strategy, builds positive brand reputation, increases customer engagement and builds trust with stakeholders. It is even a smart tool for employee recruitment and retention, with 70% of employees wanting to work for purpose-driven companies.

Innovation and transparency must go hand in hand

Now more than ever, CEOs no longer have to choose between doing well and doing good. ESG should be treated as a comparative advantage in a competitive marketplace, and the private sector must stay committed to innovation as well as transparency in this space. There must be accountability and standardised metrics, otherwise the rally cry for ESG will become a critique of greenwashing.

To keep impact on a growth trajectory, ESG-committed leaders first need to develop their impact strategies with intersectionality in mind. According to Accenture research, 78% of C-Suite executives say they plan to align their business strategies with sustainability challenges such as the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).


There’s a reason the UN articulated all 17 SDGs together. We can’t solve poverty without combating hunger; gender equality is part and parcel of education reform. The fact is companies cannot silo their concerns either, and we are not fulfilling our responsibility if we think about addressing carbon neutrality or racial justice alone.

But intersectionality is only possible when we all work with one another. As the UN Foundation states, “When we act together, change happens.” Take the initiative – a multi-stakeholder project with the goal to grow, restore and conserve one trillion trees around the world by 2030. Only a public-private partnership of scores of organisations with overlapping and complementary resources and skill sets can accomplish this ambitious target. It’s actions like these that are urgently needed across all sectors to solve the UN SDGs.

Valuing purpose and measuring impact

For corporate enterprises, putting intersectionality into practice is all in the design and strategy. It starts with an accounting and reconfiguration of every asset a company can bring to bear to create impact. That means adapting the themes and goals of company events; greening financial instruments like bonds; and reimagining philanthropic efforts.

Launching venture funds focused on impact is one clear opportunity. Corporations including Citi, JPMorgan, Amazon, and Salesforce have created funds that help advance the growth of companies driving impact across education and workforce development, sustainability, diversity, equity, and inclusion. In June 2020, the Global Impact Investing Network (GIIN) estimated that this sector had ballooned to $715 billion, up more than 40% from 2019.

Diversity in a traditional portfolio helps reduce risk, and it helps optimise reward in the impact context. Perhaps the most important plank of this venture platform is a commitment to investing in women and underrepresented founders, who historically lack access to capital.

Ultimately, these efforts will not create sustainability without meaningful transparency. An ESG reporting framework convergence will give all stakeholders visibility into the actual impact of a company. For too long, impact has lacked an accessible measurement for stakeholder value. Many voluntary frameworks exist, yet no single, accepted global ESG standard for corporate disclosure is yet in place. However, on January 26th, corporate members of the World Economic Forum and its International Business Council voiced their public support for stakeholder capitalism and called for ESG convergence, a promising step towards standardised reporting.

A growing corporate coalition is putting its best foot forward to redirect and redesign the machinery of the private sector by focusing on stakeholder capitalism. Capitalism as it is currently designed doesn’t work for everyone. We need a more equal, fair and sustainable way of doing business that values purpose alongside profit. If we remain committed to reform and innovation, impact has the opportunity to prove that the challenges we face can accelerate progress, not inhibit it. This is our promise — a promise we call on others to make alongside us.

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Address by Minister Barbara Creecy during debate on the State of the Nation Address (SONA)

National Assembly, Parliament, Cape Town, 17 February 2021

I would like at the outset to acknowledge and applaud the role our President has played in these extremely challenging times and compliment him on the SONA address, which highlights the urgent need to defeat this coronavirus pandemic and build an economy for all sixty million South Africans.

Our Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan prioritises the need to overcome abiding constraints and provide sustainable solutions to intractable problems of poverty, inequality and unemployment! Central to the plan’s objectives, in the words of our President: “to forge a new economy in a new global reality.”

Climate change is one of those new global realities. The 2021 Global Risks Report published in January this year under the auspices of the World Economic Forum, identified infectious diseases, livelihood crises and extreme weather events as the risks most likely to become critical threats to the world in the coming two years.

Zurich Insurance Group chief risk officer, Peter Giger quipped “there is no vaccine against climate risks, so post-pandemic recovery plans must focus on growth aligned with sustainable agendas”.

Climate change poses both risks and opportunities to our society and economy.  On the risk side extreme weather events including storms, droughts, and rising sea levels, are already part of our lived reality.

In the last week of January, more than 20 people died in Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Eswatini and South Africa, as a result of the destruction caused by tropical cyclone Eloise. We were reminded once again how vulnerable the developing world is to extreme weather events.

Nevertheless, due to the advanced early warning systems of our SA Weather Service, and the impressive coordinated response of our Disaster Management capability, at national, provincial and local government level, we were able to take advance measures to manage some of the worst impacts of the storm on both people and infrastructure.

This process was assisted by the implementation by all levels of government of adaptation strategies arising from the National Climate Change Adaptation Strategy that was approved by Cabinet last year.

What we now need is a better and more mainstream understanding of the climate transition risk our historical growth trajectory poses to the long-term sustainability of our economy and society.

Over the last year, in response to investor and societal pressure, nine of the world’s twelve largest economies, and many of our major trading partners, have already made net-zero carbon commitments.

These countries include China, the EU bloc, Japan, and Korea. Similar pronouncements are expected from the Biden Administration now that it has announced it will re-join the Paris Agreement.

Because our energy and production processes are highly carbon-intensive, our major trading partners, who have made net zero commitments, are likely to prioritise trade with other low carbon economies. This poses a risk of non -tariff trade barriers going forward.

Already there is increasing pressure from financial institutions who refuse to fund the development of new carbon-intensive assets.

In his address last week President Ramaphosa did not shy away from these challenges nor did he fail to indicate how we must address them.

In noting that Eskom, our largest greenhouse gas emitter has committed in principle to net-zero carbon emission by 2050, the President stressed the importance of the work of the Presidential Climate Change Commission that will meet for the first time this month.

This Commission must develop a clear plan to take us from an aspirational commitment to a low carbon, climate-resilient economy and society to the reality of new technology, new investment and above all new jobs. 

The Commission will provide the much-needed institutional mechanism to bring together government, civil society, business and labour to advise government on the just transition.

It will further leverage partnerships and collaboration across all relevant sectors to implement programmes that encapsulate the just transition in a coherent and coordinated manner.

In this regard, it is important to note, Honourable members, that yesterday Eskom announced it will shortly release a call for proposals to repower and repurpose Komati power station in Mpumalanga. Studies to facilitate similar initiatives are underway for Hendrina, Grootvlei and Camden.

Investment in the green economy and green technologies provides strategic advantages for our country: it opens access to new green financing opportunities; it offers the possibility of significant proven job creation; it has potential to localise production and services which will build small and medium enterprises and of course it enhances our long-term competitiveness while mitigating our transition risks.

The green industries component included in our own Reconstruction and Recovery Plan highlights the diversification of South Africa’s energy sources; retrofitting public and private buildings to improve energy and water efficiency; revitalisation of eco-tourism, hard hit by travel bans; research and development in the agricultural space of drought-resistant crops and cultivation methods; support for small farmers in the forestry space; and building the circular economy in the waste management space.

Honourable members allow me to report to this house some of the significant achievements in the green economy space to date:

2018 research, conducted by the SA Biodiversity Institute, indicated that the biodiversity economy currently creates over 418 thousand jobs across the tourism, wildlife, biotrade, bioprospecting, and the fisheries and forestry sectors. 

To support rural communities adversely affected by the decline of tourism we have through the support of the Presidential Employment Stimulus created 50 000 work opportunities, almost ten thousand of which are in our national parks and involve infrastructure repairs and upgrades so that our facilities are in good shape when international tourism returns.

This year we will, through the Forestry Master Plan begin the re-capitalisation of our somewhat neglected state-owned forests. Our Department will partner with the private sector and communities in KZN, Eastern Cape, Limpopo and Mpumalanga. This initiative will result in the development of Owner Growers and co-operatives, a major transformation initiative in the forestry sector.

We are currently finalising consultation around our Section 18 Extended Producer Responsibility Schemes for the packaging, electronics and lighting sectors.

We estimate that once fully implemented these schemes will assist us to divert a hundred thousand tons of waste a year from landfills; provide secure employment to more than twenty thousand people and ensure more than seven billion rand in new investment.

Change too is coming in the manufacturing space, in July last year, Toyota announced it will start production on Africa’s first hybrid petrol-electric car at its prospection plant in Durban, as part of an R2.5-billion investment in a new production line.

The Renewable Energy Independent Power Producers Procurement Programme (REIPPPP) has by the end of June 2020, delivered capacity to produce 4200 MW of power. This capacity has already offset 50-million tonnes of carbon dioxide and saved us almost 60-million kilo-litres of water.

This programme has created 52 600 jobs, attracted R 210 billion in investment, pumped R1.2 billion in socio-economic development initiatives in local communities and promoted 33% ownership by historically disadvantaged South Africans. 

Electricity prices have dropped significantly over the four bid windows and are now below one rand per kilowatt hour. Allow me to take this opportunity to welcome the President’s announcement of two further Bid windows later this year.

As emphasised by President Ramaphosa, in his SONA address, South Africa remains committed to multilateralism and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Paris Agreement.

To this end, we will be undertaking a series of public consultations on revising our Nationally Determined Contribution to reducing greenhouse gas emissions before submitting the final document to the UNFCCC ahead of the 26th Conference of Parties scheduled to take place in Glasgow in November this year.

South Africa will continue to work with African countries, and other partners under the UNFCCC to ensure COP26 focuses on enhancing ambition on the three goals of the Paris Agreement, namely, mitigation, adaptation and finance.

I thank you

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Forestry stakeholders, employees, alarmed at demise of local economy as humanitarian disaster lingers

Around 150 employees at the Boskor Sawmill in Tsitsikamma despair at the prospect of losing their jobs as MTO Forestry trucks logs to George, 150km away. MTO Forestry is partly owned by the Global Environment Fund, a US-based investment fund and its products are certified by the Forestry Stewardship Council (FSC).

The sawmill and the forestry operations in the area were originally set up by the State specifically to generate sustainable socio-economic activity in the Tsitsikamma area. That effort and investment is now in jeopardy, says Hans Hanekom, CEO of Swartland Investments, one of South Africa’s major manufacturers of windows, doors, garage doors and related products, and a locally owned business that has taken up the cudgels on behalf of the workers and other sawmills in the Tsitsikamma area.

Hanekom says, “It’s shocking to us – and to the hundreds of workers affected, and their families – that MTO is risking the economic viability of an entire community at a time when unemployment is soaring and everyone should be made to avert job losses.

“This will quite simply be a humanitarian disaster for the area. MTO has not responded to any of the pertinent concerns raised about its actions. One: trucking logs out of Tsitsikamma sabotages the State’s efforts to create and sustain jobs and socio-economic development in the area, a crucial intervention in the light of Covid-19.

“Two: Doing so contravenes its FSC accreditation. As it stands, the current total area that hasn’t been planted with trees is very high. What is worse is that MTO intends to have this percentage of unplanted area increase in the future. This will certainly lead to a total destruction of the sawmilling industry in the Tsitsikamma in the near future if not rectified. 

“Surely, MTO should be utilising the insurance pay-out received after the fire to replant the burnt area as soon as possible, and not use this capital as a short-term payout for their foreign investors, as it appears to be doing?  

“Three: apart from creating untold humanitarian hardship, MTO is causing environmental damage, including carbon emissions, all of which are avoidable.”

Hanekom says that MTO’s plan to remove logs from the area for processing, “Will force its sawmill to start the retrenchment process in 2021 and also force Swartland to lay off about 200 employees at its manufacturing plants in Cape Town.”

The removal of logs from the Tsitsikamma will also result in other sawmills having to reduce staff in 2021. This could result in around 300 more people being workless in the Tsitsikamma area. 

“It’s been suggested by players in the forestry fraternity that MTO is intentionally creating a shortage of logs in order to drive up prices. Doing so at the expense of the livelihoods of hardworking breadwinners would be callous. Higher log prices and fewer logs available will halt any emerging equity businesses from being able to enter the industry which contradicts MTOs past statements about transformation and development.

Hanekom’s concerns are echoed by a number of long-time personnel at the Boskor mill, many of whom are second- or third-generation workers there.

Mpumleli Ndyindila started working at the sawmill as a labourer 15 years ago and through diligence and training has been promoted to senior operator. He says, “Through mentoring from senior personnel, I grew from a youngster into a responsible family man. About 80% of Tsitsikamma’s people are employed at the sawmill and in forestry. A few years ago, it was green all over the Tsitsikamma and it was full of pine-trees.

“But at this moment I cannot see a bright future for any of us living here. Without trees, there will be no logs and with no logs, there will be no sawmills, and that means that there will be no work or jobs for anyone in the Tsitsikamma area. Most families will struggle to survive. My community is very unhappy about the situation we have with MTO Forestry. Some of their workers were retrenched during the lockdown and if MTO continues with this, we will also be jobless soon.”

Randal Kettledas has worked at the Boskor sawmill for more than 26 years. At age 21 he was the plant’s youngest foreman and since 2017 has headed his department. His father worked at the mill for 30 years until his retirement in 2006. “After being a soldier in the Second World War, my grandfather worked in the forestry in Tsitsikamma area until he retired in 1980. Some of the trees he planted are now being harvested.

“It will be tragic and devastating if myself and 140 of my colleagues would lose our jobs because MTO is harvesting and transporting the logs from our area to their George sawmill.

“The people of Tsitsikamma rely heavily on the forest and sawmill for work. The only other source of jobs, tourism, has totally crumbled due to Covid-19. This has already caused big job-losses. My wife was retrenched recently, making me the sole provider for our family.

“MTO preaches social and economic redress for previously disadvantaged groups, especially in the Tsitsikamma region. I would like to ask them how the harvesting of logs for the George sawmill, and then postponing the planting of new trees benefit the poor of the poorest in The Tsitsikamma?”

  • MTO is part-owned by the Global Environmental Fund, a fund that aims to promote sustainability;
  • MTO’s actions are in breach of its FSC (Forestry Stewardship Council) certification;
  • Its actions imperil hundreds of jobs in the Tsitsikamma, a threat that could not come at a worse time for the workers, communities and the economy in the area, especially in the context of efforts by President Cyril Ramaphosa and the business community to drive economic recovery and investment, and SA’s downgrade by rating agencies. The area has suffered two hammer-blows: devastating fires and the collapse of its tourism economy due to the Covid-19 shutdown. This is apart from the environmental implications such as carbon emissions.

Venicia Danster has worked at the Boskor sawmill for 29 years and is an HR and admin clerk. She worked her way up the position from starting as a packer in 1990. “Each promotion gave the me opportunity to learn more in the company, and I’ve enjoyed every moment. But if the sawmill closes, I will have to sit at home, without an income. I support my daughter who is 20 and is studying HR in Port Elizabeth. I also have an adopted daughter, aged 10, who I support. I am very unhappy about the situation, as we all need an income to survive and support our families.

Althea Kivett was born and raised in Tsitsikamma and has worked at Boskor for 14 years. Her great-grandfather worked for many years planting trees and most of her descendants have too. She says, “Our lives have revolved around forestry as a sustainable, renewable resource, which MTO has now jeopordised.”

Allton Kamineth has worked at Boskor for 24 years and is a foreman in the plant’s kilns. She says, “Closing the mill would be catastrophic for the people of Tsitsikamma and what MTO is doing is terribly unfair. Our fathers and grandfathers planted these trees so that this community would have a livelihood, but what will become of our children and their children? How will we survive if MTO cuts down all the trees without replanting any?” 

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