Climate Change Bill: Greenhouse Gases to be Curbed: Just Another Government 'Windbag' Bill

On 20 April 2022, the Portfolio Committee on Environment, Forestry and Fisheries called for public comment on the Climate Change Bill (‘the Bill’).

What never ceases to amaze, is the Government’s endless ability to concoct a plethora of policies, master plans, bills, rules, regulations and legislation, with no capacity to enforce, to any meaningful extent, the very same. In order to oblige by the countless promises, both locally and internationally, which they so effortlessly make, they hold meeting after meeting, caucus after caucus, filled with political jargon and the addressing of all the impotent excellencies in the room – without ever taking one practical step in bettering the business environment of their citizens.

According to the Government, the main objective of the Bill is to ‘build an effective climate change response that will ensure a long-term and just transition to a climate-resilient economy and society that is less dependent on fossil fuels’.

This Bill was drafted in order to give effect to the responsibility of South Africa, as a party to the legally binding international treaty on climate change, titled The Paris Agreement, of undertaking ‘ambitious efforts to combat climate change and its effects’.

There are certain provisions within the Bill, which may potentially have the effect of spanning additional red tape and placing supplementary compliance burdens upon certain sectors and industries. These include the following:

  1. the Minister will have the power to, by notice in the Gazette:
  • list the greenhouse gas emitting sectors and sub-sectors that will be subject to sectoral emissions targets;
  • publish a list of greenhouse gases which cause or exacerbate climate change, as well as a list of activities which emit these gases;
  • declare certain greenhouse gases to be synthetic;
  • prescribe thresholds for the use of synthetic greenhouse gases;
  • indicate the time frames for the phasing out or phasing down of the synthetic gases
  • specify whether such synthetic gases are required to be phased out or phased down;
  • determine quantitative greenhouse emission thresholds, in order to identify persons, whose activities emit carbon dioxide equivalent or in excess of the determined threshold, with the purpose of assigning these people carbon budgets.

‘carbon budget’ – means an amount of greenhouse gas emissions allocated to a person in terms of section 25 of the Bill, for direct emissions arising from the operations of that person over a defined period.

  1. a person to whom a carbon budget has been allocated, must prepare and submit to the Minister for approval a ‘greenhouse gas mitigation plan’:
    • this plan must:
      • describe the mitigation measures which will be taken in order to remain within the allocated budget; and
      • comply with the content requirements as prescribed by the Minister.
    • should a person fail to comply with its allocated carbon budget, it must provide a description of measures the person will implement in order to remain within the allocated carbon budget.
  2. should a person so identified, fail to submit to the Minister the required ‘greenhouse gas mitigation plan’, they are committing an offence, and if convicted, may be liable to a fine not exceeding R5 million or imprisonment for not more than 5 years, as contemplated in section 49B(2) of the National Environmental Management Act of 1998.

Apart from the usual pie-in-the-sky lip service to be expected from this Bill, the true cost-of-compliance consequences for business, remains to be seen, but in all likelihood, will be damning. The majority of ‘thresholds’ and ‘measures’ will only be determined by the Minister after the proclamation of this Bill and its enactment as the Climate Change Act.

NEASA will keep employers abreast with regards to the development and progress of this Bill.

Rona Bekker is a Senior Policy Advisor at the National Employers' Association of South Africa (NEASA).