Environmental organisations call on government to tighten requirements for reporting on emissions of greenhouse gases

August 10, 2016 - Environmental justice organisations groundWork, Earthlife Africa Johannesburg, the South Durban Community Environmental Alliance, the Vaal Environmental Justice Alliance and the Highveld Environmental Justice Network, with the support of the Centre for Environmental Rights, have called on government to tighten proposed requirements for reporting of greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) by industry.

The Centre, on behalf of the above organisations, submitted comments to the Department of Environmental Affairs in July 2016 on the Draft National Greenhouse Gas Reporting Regulations, 2016.

The draft Regulations are intended to regulate the reporting of GHG emissions by mainly industrial facilities for purposes of, among other things, establishing and maintaining a national GHG inventory.

This is already the second draft of these Regulations published for comment, with a previous draft published in June 2015, on which CER and a number of the above environmental organisations also commented. While some of the recommendations were incorporated into this new draft, there is still significant room for improvement.

In South Africa’s Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC), which sets out South Africa’s climate change commitments under the Paris Agreement, the government has undertaken to introduce mandatory GHG reporting domestically, no later than 2016, with regular reporting to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, as multilaterally agreed.  Now that South Africa is a signatory to the Paris Agreement, with accompanying reporting obligations under the Agreement, it is important that a functional and effective GHG reporting regime is enacted as soon as possible.

However, the draft regulations propose a reporting system that is both ambiguous and complex, and that gives too much freedom to industry to determine how they plan to calculate and report on their GHG emissions. The organisations are concerned that this will create loopholes  for inaccurate and inconsistent reporting of GHG emissions.

The organisations have always maintained that any GHG reporting system for South Africa must:

  1. require detailed reporting by data providers of their activity data, namely the data relating to the processes conducted at each facility;
  2. require reporting per each individual facility;
  3. require certain categories of data providers (these being the larger emitters who make up the largest contribution to South Africa’s GHG emissions) to have more stringent reporting obligations, requiring them to submit more detailed activity data than others; and
  4. be transparent, verifiable, and allow for public access to all data and information submitted.

Alarmingly, the draft Regulations restrict the publication of GHG emission data, and render it a criminal offence for a competent authority to allow any person to disclose “confidential information” obtained in terms of the draft Regulations. The regulation of GHGs in South Africa is a matter of public interest and both national and international importance.  If the GHG data under these Regulations are not readily available to all, it will severely limit the public’s ability to ascertain the major sources of South Africa’s GHG emissions and to gauge South Africa’s progress in reducing GHG emissions and mitigating our contribution to catastrophic climate change.

The NDC acknowledges that South Africa is especially vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, particularly in respect of water and food security.  Failure to take steps to ensure that these impacts are adequately addressed amounts to an infringement of the right to an environment not harmful to health or well-being and the right to have the environment protected for the benefit of present and future generations. In light of the increasing evidence of the impacts that climate change is having on our environment and human health, the monitoring and mitigation of GHG emissions is no longer a future “nice to have”, but a real and urgent obligation that must be taken seriously and addressed appropriately.

The CER and its clients call upon the Minister of Environmental Affairs and the DEA to amend the draft Regulations to achieve this goal.