South Africa: Growing a Post Covid-19 Economy

Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment Minister Barbara Creecy has emphasised the importance of protecting natural resources while growing a post-COVID-19 economy.

Delivering her department's budget for 2021/22 to the National Assembly on Friday, the Minister said the Green Stimulus Recovery Programme will contribute to equitable economic growth, provide employment to marginalised communities, and grow economic sectors reliant on the environment without destroying it.

The programme forms part of the post COVID-19 Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Programme for South Africa.

"Among the steps being taken to ensure the country contributes, its fair share to the global climate change effort is the newly-established Presidential Climate Change Coordinating Commission, which will advise government on an ambitious and just transition to a low-carbon economy and climate resilient society.

"The revised Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) was recently released for public comment ahead of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change COP 26 in November. The final draft will be approved by Cabinet before submission to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)," the Minister said.

The enhanced NDC significantly boosts both the mitigation and adaptation ambition.

Creecy said the regulatory architecture to guide the country's transition processes advanced over the last year.

"The Low Emissions Development Strategy was communicated to the UNFCCC and the National Climate Change Adaptation Strategy, which co-ordinates adaptation actions at all levels of government, was finalised in 2019.

"The long-awaited Climate Bill has been certified by the state law advisor and is on its way through the Cabinet system in preparation for tabling in this house later this year," she said.

A key area for attention in the coming weeks and months, will be the implementation of the recommendations of the High Level Panel, which reviewed policies, legislation and practices related to the management, breeding, hunting, trade and handling of elephant, lion, leopard and rhinoceros.

"The expected outcomes once we implement the recommendations include better balancing our economic, social, cultural and natural heritage needs. The report re-imagines the role of protected areas, both state and others, in contributing to ecologically sustainable rural development," she said.

Responsible citizen behaviour

Creecy highlighted that a healthy environment must be one free from waste pollution.

Therefore, implementation of the National Waste Management Strategy 2020 is a top priority.

"First and foremost we must change citizen behaviour and encourage everyone to dispose of waste in a responsible manner. We must stop dumping household waste and fast food packaging in the environment. We must refuse single use plastics buying our favourite take away," the Minister said.

Plastic is the key focus area in terms of managing pollution. The new requirements for plastic carrier bags were published in April 2021 requiring all to contain 50% recycled content from 2023, increasing to 100% by 2027.

The Minister said this will not only ensure circularity, but will see product design taking the environment into consideration.

She expressed concern at marine litter.

As part of the Presidency's Employment Stimulus Initiative, the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment has obtained approval to expand the Source-to-Sea Programme into 16 coastal districts with the target of creating a minimum of 1 600 work opportunities.

To ensure all municipalities increase the number of households that have regular access to weekly refuse removal, the National Treasury has agreed that cash strapped municipalities, can now use a portion of the Municipal Infrastructure Grant (MIG) funding to address shortages in the waste management fleet and landfill operation equipment.

She said the department is supporting municipalities to develop Integrated Waste Management Plans and ensure that these are integrated for funding into the integrated development planning processes of local government.

"Norms and standards for organic waste treatment that will enable biogas generation and assist with organic waste diversion from municipal landfills are also being finalised, while Extended Producer Responsibility plans will be broadened in the 2021/22 financial year to include pesticides, lubricant oils and batteries," the Minister said.

Allocation of fishing rights

The Minister said stabilising the fishing sector through the allocation of longer-term fishing rights is critical to attracting investment into the industry.

"The transformation of the South African fishing industry is a constitutional and legislative imperative. The fishing rights allocation process (FRAP) and the management of commercial fishing rights are an important site for industry transformation," the Minister said.

Twelve sectors are due for re-allocation of fishing rights this year.

The Department of Trade, Industry and Competition is helping address issues around market diversification for the aquaculture and fishing sector affected by COVID-19 related market restrictions.

As part of the FRAP 2020/21 process, the department will review the General Policy on the Allocation of Commercial Fishing rights; the 12 sector-specific policies; the Policy on the Transfer of Commercial Fishing Rights, and the Policy on Fish Processing Establishments (FPEs).

The department will also review all fees for applications, licences and permits.

The FRAP 2021 implementation process aims to be clean, transparent, accountable, transformative and legally defensible.

"For the first time in an allocation process, Socio-Economic Impact Assessments (SEIAS) are being conducted and will be published for stakeholder comment this month.

"To support regulatory certainty, consultations on the Aquaculture Development Bill are being finalised and we hope to table this Bill in Parliament in 2021. We are also developing a National Freshwater (inland) Wild Capture Fisheries Policy," said Creecy.

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