New Climate Change Bill a ‘silent vuvuzela’

The green lobby, particularly the socialists, will applaud the new Climate Change Bill, but in truth it furthers the agenda of those seeking to cling to power. It’s a silent vuvuzela. Lots of huffing, puffing and posturing, but very little to inspire Team SA. As former Financial Mail editor and Institute for Race Relations CEO, John Kane-Berman argues, it’s an exercise in virtue signalling, giving the climate change industry and activists a long-fantasized legislative environment to make money and to raise their profiles. They say propogandists thrive on long periods of scientific debate when it’s easier to influence policy using lots of small, underpowered studies with equivocal results. “If you torture the data long enough, it will confess,” is a popular saying among researchers. This bill will spawn a cottage industry and take us to new heights of absurdity. Essential reading if you ever find yourself in a debate on this topic. Story courtesy of the Daily Friend. – Chris Bateman

The Climate Change Bill is a monstrous absurdity

By John Kane-Berman*

Even by the standards of the African National Congress (ANC), the 2022 Climate Change Bill is an absurdity.

John Kane-Berman. Image: The Daily Friend

For starters, it subverts the efforts of Sipho Nkosi, announced earlier this year by Cyril Ramaphosa, to “cut red tape across government”. It will spawn an industry of ‘climate consultants’ to be financed by taxpayers, ratepayers and consumers. New cadre-filled, racially preferenced, and well-paid bureaucracies will be set up. And, of course, the environment minister will be given extensive regulatory powers.

The memorandum attached to the bill states that the main object thereof is “to enable the development of an effective climate change response and the long-term, just transition to a climate resilient and lower-carbon economy”. The bill itself says that the “limits of current knowledge about causes and effects of climate change must be taken into account”. Also, decisions on mitigation and adaptation strategies must be based on the “best available science evidence, and information”.

Although the bill thus pays lip service to the limits of current knowledge and the need to base strategies on the best available science and evidence, its preamble makes clear its opinion that anthropogenic climate change represents an urgent threat to human societies and the planet, inter alia via the “increased frequency and intensity of extreme weather events”. These, it says, will affect, among other things, human health, access to food and water, biodiversity, habitats and ecosystems, the coast and coastal infrastructure, and human settlements.     

The minister is accordingly empowered to gazette a national greenhouse strategy, along with a list of such gases as the minister believes are likely to cause or exacerbate climate change. She must then publish a list of activities which emit one or more of the said gases, after which she must allocate a carbon budget to every person undertaking a listed activity. She is also empowered to determine emissions targets for sectors and subsectors that she chooses to list.  

Carbon budgets

The bill further requires the minister to identify synthetic greenhouse gases which must either be phased out or phased down. Carbon budgets may be allocated here, too. A national greenhouse inventory report must be published each year.    

So much for mitigation, which essentially refers to combating climate change via human interventions against greenhouse gases via such things as carbon taxes. All this for a country responsible for but 1.3% of global emissions of carbon dioxide.

As for ‘adaptation’, which means anticipating the likely impacts of climate change and adjusting to potential damage, the minister is required to publish a national adaptation strategy and plan. She is further required to determine the dates by which adaptation objectives must be incorporated into national planning instruments, policies and programmes.

Provincial environment executives and metropolitan and district mayors must undertake climate change needs and assessments within a year of the adoption of the national plan.    

Various other ministers must then undertake assessments of their functions’ vulnerabilities to climate change, following which they must develop and implement sector adaptation strategies and plans. Two dozen functions are specified as relevant to the development of sectoral emissions targets.       

Risks and vulnerabilities                      

The bill also places a legal obligation on every organ of state to co-ordinate their various policies, plans, programmes, decisions, and decision-making processes relating to climate change so as to ensure that risks and vulnerabilities are taken into consideration.

Existing premier intergovernmental forums will serve as provincial forums on climate change, these to be charged with co-ordinating climate change actions in the relevant province. So also, ‘municipal forums on climate change’ will co-ordinate things at that level and report to the relevant provincial forum.         

Although we now have a bill to make provision for it, there is nothing new about adaptation. Irrespective of whether extreme weather events are caused by carbon emissions or occur as natural phenomena, governments around the world have taken steps to protect communities against droughts, floods, wildfires and other damage. They have been doing so since long before the alarm was raised against greenhouse gases. As countries have got richer, the cost of providing such protection as a proportion of GDP has fallen dramatically. Moreover, according to Bjorn Lomborg, the “overall risk of climate-related disaster death has dropped over the last century … by an astonishing 99%”.

Provision of public infrastructure, including adequate and reliable supplies of water, has long been seen as a governmental responsibility. The tragedy of South Africa, to take water as just one example, is that millions of people do not have access to clean water. This has got nothing to do with extreme weather events, and everything with governmental failure.

Lethal consequences

There can be very few people in this country who have not been affected by governmental failure in one form or another, sometimes with lethal consequences.      

What makes this bill a monstrous absurdity is that a government, which gets almost none of the basics right at national, provincial or local level, now proposes to put in place a vast new planning structure.

We are going to have forums galore in provinces and towns, national strategies for greenhouse gases, annual greenhouse gas inventory reports, carbon budgets for listed activities and sectors, adaptation strategies and objectives, sector plans, implementation plans, and assessments of needs and ‘vulnerabilities’ wherever you look, all laced with plenty of co-ordination and actions, not to mention government gazettes full of regulations. All this is to be done in the name of making South Africa’s fair contribution to the global climate response, while ensuring a ‘just transition’.

Listing sectors and allocating carbon budgets will no doubt be easy for a government so addicted to regulation and decree. How much capacity exists at any level of government to determine adaptation needs is doubtful. And even if realistic adaptation plans for the necessary infrastructure can be drawn up, successful implementation thereof is beyond the capacity of most levels of government and organs of state.

The absurdity of all this is that the more the ANC fails, the more absurdly grandiose its plans become.   

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