Outlawing plastic bags within the next five years, boosting renewable energy, declaring sensitive areas off-limits to mining and penalising municipalities who discharge untreated wastewater. These are some of the environmental pledges made by political parties in their 2019 election manifestos. Sheree Bega took a look at their environmental policies.
Checks on industry essential for the environment
The protection and care of the environment “is not only the duty of the government, but also that of every political party and every person in South Africa,” says the ACDP.
The ACDP believes that human beings were created to live in harmony with nature, and that we destroy the earth and our natural resources at our peril.
“We would encourage balanced increases in the budget for environmental matters. We consider that a focus on the phenomenon of ecotourism can achieve the needed balance between man and nature, while contributing to job creation.
“We are in agreement with efforts to ensure that our natural assets are efficiently protected, managed and successfully promoted,” says the party.
The ACDP emphasises the need to introduce proper assessment and to obtain proper information as to the potential cost of policies, plans and projects that impact on the environment before developments are undertaken.
“The people require that the government shoulders the overreaching responsibility to monitor, manage and protect the environment as well as the health of our people.
“We have to embark on a national strategic programme to combat pollution damage. With this need for control comes the realisation that South Africa is a developing country and so we need to protect our interests and restrict other nations from using our shores as their dumping ground.
“We also need to protect ourselves from those who would despoil our environment in a manner that is prohibited in their home countries. We also support strict monitoring of factories that pose health and environmental risks.
“We need to focus on the effects of mining and industry on our environment and the health of communities in their vicinity. In most instances, the communities that live closest to mining are some of our poorer citizens.
“Large industries are known to produce large volumes of pollution with impunity.
“Members of these communities depend on the mines and industries for employment and cannot bite the hand that feeds them by voicing their concerns.
“The result is that the issues of health and wellbeing are generally not given the required degree of importance. The communities are then effectively denied their right to a healthy environment.
“Our Constitution states that everyone should have the right to a healthy ecological system; however, the question still remains to what extent the rights of our communities are protected. Can they effectively participate in the making of decisions that impact on their environmental rights?
“Although legislation in South Africa places heavy emphasis on environmental protection, not enough is being done to clamp down on the contribution by mining and industry toward the ecological degradation of some parts of our country.
“Provinces and municipalities are often intimidated by the threats of mines and industries to move out if reasonable but expensive controls are applied. Bribery is a factor in some of these cases.”
Moving towards sustainable farming and clean energy
The ANC says it will develop a policy framework to support “the distinct and vibrant social and solidarity economy based on addressing social and environmental needs rather than profit maximisation”.
The party will develop a sustainable agriculture strategy to mitigate the impacts of climate change and promote the sustainable use of water resources, including smart agriculture.
The party will continue to support the use of renewable technologies in the country’s energy mix to reduce the cost of energy, decrease greenhouse emissions, build the local industry through increased localisation and job creation, “while recognising that we have large coal reserves that can provide cheap energy that can also assist with affordable prices”.
“We will ensure that workers are treated fairly and reskilled and that the needs of people and the environment are at the centre of a just transition to a sustainable and low-carbon energy future.”
This will include the development and implementation of a dedicated education and training programme on renewable energy, targeting young people.
The ANC will contribute to investment to boost greater demand in the renewable sector - particularly solar, municipal waste, biomass, biogas and wind “to support rural development, localisation, research and development, small enterprises and co-operatives.
“The universities in Mpumalanga and Northern Cape will offer academic programmes in renewable energy.”
Eskom will be repositioned to play an active role in the renewable energy sector and promote public ownership in renewable energy infrastructure.
“The cost-benefit of introducing solar panels in state buildings will be probed and new commercial and residential developments will be mandated in the medium term to use renewable energy technologies to reduce utility costs.
“These should include deploying clean energy solutions to provide lighting and small power needs in the informal settlements.”
An integrated governance framework for the sustainable growth of the ocean economy that maximises socio-economic benefits while ensuring adequate ocean environmental protection will be established.
Fishing quotas will be finalised “and ensure this is given effect to support aquaculture and sustainable livelihoods”.
“We will continue to maintain water infrastructure and expand access to water for all, while enhancing quality control and management for the sustainable use of our water resources.”
Creating jobs for the poor while saving the environment
A UDM government will implement a “Marshall Plan” to save South Africa’s natural heritage that will identify, build and reward individuals, institutions and community-based organisations to “rescue and conserve the environment”.
“Many South Africans do not concern themselves with the environment because of the notion that ‘it’s someone else’s problem’ and therefore do not take responsibility for their own actions. High levels of poverty also contribute to the damage of our environment.”
It’s imperative that the poor “be uplifted to rescue our environment from permanent damage.
“The potential conflict between the imperatives of conservation and those of resource-poor communities must be defused. Under a UDM government, conservation and socio-economic development shall be linked by allowing communities to have sustainable access to the life-supporting and income-earning potential of nature reserves and conservation areas.”
Biodiversity programmes can create thousands of jobs “because we believe that it is possible to generate jobs and business opportunities while being environmentally responsible”.
“We will implement tax incentives to encourage the private sector to invest in the development of technologies for conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity programmes.
“We will also introduce ‘green battalions’ to counter, among others, soil erosion, over-grazing and deforestation, and to protect biodiversity, especially in rural South Africa.”
It will consolidate the massive number of environmental laws and regulations into one concise and effective law, and “will be active in the enforcement of environmental law with individuals or organisations that contravene it to suffer severe penalties”.
Party vows to throw the book at poachers and polluters
Should it win enough hearts and minds, the DA will scale up the installation of renewable energy projects, bolster efforts to fight wildlife poaching and criminally act against polluting mining companies and municipalities.
The DA will compile a national registry of mitigation actions to tackle climate change and compile a detailed resilience plan to respond to its most urgent impacts to minimise the “shocks and stressors” experienced by the agricultural sector and rural communities.
It will invest in water infrastructure, including large dams and bulk water reticulation, to “ensure communities suffering from protracted drought have the resources they need to continue agricultural production”.
To roll out nationwide renewable energy projects, an enabled environment for investment will be created for independent power producers, while incentives will be introduced for private households to install solar panels and solar water geysers.
It also pledges to improve public transport.
To fight wildlife crime, the DA will improve the training of magistrates and prosecutors, increase the deployment of SANDF personnel in areas where protected areas border neighbouring countries and increase the deployment of vetted, well-equipped rangers in protected areas.
Small-scale fishers must be allocated quotas in the vicinity where they live “to encourage responsible fishing and to reduce poaching”.
The party will ensure a competent professional is appointed as the director-general of the Department of Water and Sanitation and that all other senior management positions are filled with qualified people “to turn water governance around in South Africa”.
Assistance will be provided to municipalities to ensure that they attain and maintain Green and Blue Drop certification.
Stricter enforcement protocols, including criminal charges, will be used against municipalities that discharge untreated waste water in watercourses.
The number of Blue Scorpions will be urgently increased and stricter enforcement protocols, including criminal charges, will be laid against mines that discharge untreated mine water into water courses.
It too, will work to create a sustainable solution to the “historic acid mine drainage problem” and ensure that existing mines that “wish to close are properly rehabilitated” before final closure is permitted.
Areas of significant biodiversity importance and under significant water stress will be declared off-limits to mining
“Hydraulic fracturing (fracking) and marine offshore seismic exploration must be subject to responsible and appropriate control measures.”
All landfills will be properly licensed and regularly inspected and public awareness campaigns about the importance of recycling in particular, but good waste management practices in general, will be run. Support will be given to small and informal businesses that focus on recycling.
Party declares its green and clean-up goals for country
If it wins the upcoming election, the EFF will phase out plastic bags and clean polluted rivers within the next five years, force mining firms to rehabilitate abandoned mines and introduce mandatory monthly community clean-ups for all citizens.
It would nationalise all game reserves, particularly those in the Waterberg and uMkhanyakude regions, and “bring them under the management of SANParks”.
It would also rapidly increase the country’s protected-area network to “ensure that all representative ecosystems” unique to the country were preserved and protected.
“People living in and around protected areas will be empowered and employed as the first line of defence against marauding poachers.”
An EFF government would streamline environmental authorisation procedures to ensure the Department of Environmental Affairs became the only authority able to grant authorisation for mining, property development and other forms of development.
It would strengthen legislation to ensure that companies that had abandoned mines “are forced to come back and rehabilitate denuded mining landscapes... As such, the EFF government will force Anglo to rehabilitate the entire Namaqualand Coast and create sustainable jobs from mining rehabilitation”.
An EFF government, too, would improve the monitoring capacity of the state to “ensure there is zero acid mine water drainage”.
It “will listen to the people of Xolobeni and take direction from them on any development that must happen in the area, including their views on mining development”.
It would commission research towards ensuring a sustainable method of extracting shale gas to diversify the country’s energy sources and “build up Eskom’s capacity” to reduce its dependence on coal.
To counter climate change, an EFF government would “reduce carbon emissions by 10%” by 2024 and officially adopt the civil society-driven “one million climate jobs” initiative to transition from coal-based energy sources to renewable energy.
It would, too, progressively introduce carbon taxes as “one additional tool” in the fight for sustainable development.
An EFF government would phase out the use of plastic bags, “So that by 2024 they are no longer being distributed”, and it would build a new recycling plant in each municipality by 2023.
Levels of pollution “in all South Africa’s rivers” would be reduced by 60% by 2024 and a new water treatment facility would be constructed in each province by 2021.
“The EFF government will employ 10000 artisans to repair all leaks in water infrastructure with the aim of reducing the amount of water lost by leaks to 10% of the current rate by 2022.”
It would build storm water drains in every street in South Africa by 2022.
It would ensure water sustainability for daily and industrial usage “by building dams and large-scale water projects with the capacity to sustainably supply South Africa”.
In the fishing sector, an EFF government would increase the allocation of fishing quotas to small-scale fishers and decrease the allocation of fishing quotas to multinational corporations.
All children, it says, would be required to clean their schools and school grounds once a week while all citizens would be required to clean up their community once a month.