#TipsForBarbara: A Letter to the South African Minister of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries

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#TipsForBarbara
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Ahead of the Department’s budget policy statement set to take place on July 11 at the Parliament of the Republic of South Africa, newly-appointed Minister of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries, Minister Barbara Creecy called for input from civil society about what we think should be top priorities.
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Here is what we had to say:
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Letter to Hon. Minister Creecy,

#TipsforBarbara

Dear Min. Creecy,

Congratulations on your appointment to the most important Department in South Africa. We acknowledge that you have many challenges ahead of you and look forward to the improvements you will bring to South Africa’s environment and consequently, to the lives of all South Africans.

We would like you to prioritise strengthening and improving the legislation in these areas:

  1. Table a stricter Climate Change Bill during the second quarter of 2019 that aligns us to the Paris Agreement
  2. Strengthen SA ambient air quality standards, to at the very least, WHO standards
  3. Ban all plastic bags by 2020 and phase out all single-use plastics in SA by 2021. The Strategic Plan only speaks of banning plastic straws and better management of single use plastics. We need DEA to have much more stringent regulations to ban single use plastics and packaging across the board for pollution and carbon footprint reasons
  4. Ban the sale and use of pesticides by 2020 to ensure these no longer impact on our insect populations and they stop polluting our water resources and soil.

Using the Yale Environmental Performance Index (2018), particularly ecosystem vitality, we would recommend that you focus on the following areas for your first year in office. The potential for job creation is significant for many of these recommendations, especially through Expanded Public Works Programmes.  Furthermore, a higher budget should be allocated towards the enforcement of laws to stop illegal activities taking place.

  1. Biodiversity & Habitat
  • Biodiversity is the major drawcard for tourism in South Africa. For this reason, it is important to offer more protection to our biodiversity and not allow mining and development operations to take place in areas which hold significant biodiversity for SA such as alongside National Parks, biospheres etc and which will reduce biodiversity and our tourism and job-creation potential.
  • Rehabilitation of mines should be shifted to DEFF.
  • Increased removal of alien species to protect habitats and biodiversity.
  • Review land use plans for each Province to ensure protection of habitats and biodiversity.

2. Forests

  • Urban forests all over South Africa are under threat due to the shothole borer and to insufficient protection of our urban trees. This needs to be declared a national emergency and a disaster management plan must be developed to stop our trees dying.
  • We need to protect and rehabilitate our indigenous forests, including removal of alien species, in order to improve the capacity for carbon sinks in South Africa.

3. Fisheries

  • The Oceans Economy/ Blue Economy is a contradictory term and Operation Phakisa must be aligned to both take climate change and the Sustainable Development Goals into account. We ask Min. Creecy to stop the exploration for all oil and gas in order to protect our oceans and fisheries.
  • The rehabilitation of mangrove forests, which serve crucial roles as carbon sinks; assist fish stocks and serve as important protection from cyclones; must be prioritised.

4. Climate & Energy

  • Revise and increase our commitment to the Paris Agreement to a 1.5C – i.e. increasing our mitigation commitments to ensure there is a future for humanity.
  • The GHG Emissions Inventory must be a priority for delivery in 2019 and must be regularly updated to ensure we know what our GHG emissions are.
  • Compliance monitoring should be increased substantially as it seems DEA only plans for 15 inspections over the course of 5 years from 2018/19; organisations and communities on the ground say it’s clearly lacking (e.g. Lephalale, Vanderbijlpark, Newcastle, South Durban).
  • Take the Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy, Hon. Mantashe; to the UN Climate Summit in New York in September; to ensure he is hearing the challenges we face as humanity so that he can take appropriate steps in the Mining and Energy sectors.
  • Use our strategic role in the forthcoming AU Climate Change portfolio to ensure all African Countries increase their commitment and ambition and that future developments within the energy sectors are aligned to a low-carbon future. Furthermore, prioritise the protection and rehabilitation of carbon sinks all over Africa.
  • Compile a report on the impact of gas on carbon emissions to dispel the myth of gas as a ‘bridging fuel’.

5. Air Pollution

  • Fix the air quality monitoring stations that are not maintained (e.g. in Kwa-Thema), or installed in such a way that they don’t capture reliable data (e.g. Bluff, KZN).
  • Increase the number of air quality monitoring stations all over South Africa during 2019 and NOT as late as 2021/22.
  • Enforce air quality measures and shut those exceeding the pollution levels down.
  • Work with the Department of Transport to ensure the Green Transport strategy is strengthened and implemented.
  • Work with the Department of Human Settlements, Water and Sanitation and Public Works and Infrastructure to ensure the prioritisation of energy efficiency measures through all buildings and infrastructure in SA.

6. Water Resources

  • Prioritise the protection and rehabilitation of water sources and wetlands.
  • Enforce legislation to stop the pollution of SA rivers.
  • To protect and conserve our water resources, stop all shale gas fracking in South Africa, and stop all new developments related to nuclear and coal.

7. Weather Services

  • Early warning systems need to be strengthened, working with organisations like the UK Met Department to prevent disasters and unnecessary loss of lives in SA as the number of extreme weather events arise.

Please continue to dispel the myth that development has to impact negatively on the environment. The Sustainable Development Goals provide an excellent framework as to how the environment and ecosystem services support the economy and allow for us to develop as a country.

Kind regards,

The African Climate Reality Project team
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