The recent floods that hit parts of KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape have prompted the ANC to propose that a parliamentary ad hoc committee on building climate change resilience be established.The party’s drafting committee for policy and national conference will be ensuring that the issue is integrated into its discussion papers.
This is according to a 10-page report from the party’s special national executive committee (NEC) meeting, which took place last week.
The forestry, fisheries and environment parliamentary portfolio committee currently deals with nine different branches. A separate committee focusing solely on climate change would therefore lessen the burden on the department and allow for greater focus on the matter, with over 43 bridges and access roads now having been affected, compounding the existing backlogs.
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The floods, which swept away homes and infrastructure in the two provinces, is said to have been caused by climate change, which means greater steps need to be taken to deal with the issue.
“The real cost of the current disaster is still being calculated, coming so soon after another flood disaster in 2019. It is clear that these extreme weather conditions are affecting our country more frequently, highlighting the need for urgent attention to building climate change resilience and mitigation as central to our strategy of a better life for all,” the report reads.
It also explored other ways of easing the situation, stating that there were “humanitarian challenges” in assisting communities who had been devastated by the floods.
“The floods destroyed homes and infrastructure (especially) roads, disrupted services (water, electricity, communication) and economic activities in the province. The impact on logistics and the Durban port will be felt throughout the country, given its strategic importance for imports and exports.
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“In addition to regular reports from KwaZulu-Natal, once attention was drawn to the floods also affecting Port St Johns, the Eastern Cape was asked to brief the committee, along with the mayor of Port St Johns. Humanitarian donations collected in the Eastern Cape have been redirected to Port St Johns and the provincial government is engaging with the cooperative governance department on support,” according to the report.
The document also reflected on the Western Cape fires that destroyed over 300 shacks in Langa, displacing over 1 300 people.
The governing party noted that it would be sending NEC deployees to the area, while district development model champions had been engaged to work with the province in coping with the situation.
“The city [Cape Town] is adamant that it will not seek a disaster declaration, presumably because it can manage.
The report read:
Minister of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment Barbara Creecy said there were many other ways in which government was seeking to mitigate climate change and made particular mention of the way it was affecting poor communities in the country.
“All research shows that people living in poverty will be most affected by climate change. What we need to do is make sure that people have knowledge of what it’s about,” she said.
Minister of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment Barbara Creecy cites the introduction of carbon tax.
This week the Climate Change Bill was opened for comments.
The bill seeks to enable the development of an effective climate change response and a long-term, just transition to a low-carbon and climate-resilient economy and society.
It also provides for the establishment of the Presidential Climate Commission, where different sectors of society – organised labour, civil society, business and government ministers – will advise on the country’s climate change response.
The function of this commission includes offering advice on the country’s implementation of the proposed bill.
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The commission may also carry out research on reducing the emission of greenhouse gases and adapting to the effects of climate change.
While all these initiatives are aimed at the greater good of society, Creecy said the real challenge was ensuring that a budget was allocated so that the proposed plans and strategies could be successfully implemented.
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This, she said, might not be easy, since South Africa was a developing country and the money was needed by other departments.
South Africa was offered $8.5 billion (R134 billion) from the US and European powers at the UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, Scotland, last year, which Creecy said government was still considering.
“The president has appointed Daniel Mminele [head of the newly established presidential climate finance task team] to investigate what they’re offering, the terms and conditions and how we could utilise [the money] without making our sovereign debt crisis worse.
“And then Treasury has introduced a carbon tax, saying that it would increase in the next few years,” she added.