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Last updated: 11 Oct, 2017  

Climate generic THMB South Africa working on climate change legislation

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IANS | 11 Oct, 2017

South Africa will introduce a climate change legislation by 2018, as part of its commitments to the Paris Agreement, the Parliament has said.

The Parliament has been informed of this development by the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA), Parliament's Portfolio Committee on Environmental Affairs (PCEA) said on Tuesday, Xinhua news agency reported.

"The Committee is happy to note that there is such a commitment which will ensure that South Africa as a country lives up to its commitments to the Paris Agreement and begins to implement climate change mitigation and adaptation strategies as part of the peak, plateau and decline trajectory," spokesperson Philemon Mapulane said.

The legislation, once adopted, will oblige the DEA to make a climate change impact assessment as a prerequisite for opening any coal-powered stations.

The PCEA believes that a climate change legislation will assist in avoiding litigation cases and judgments, Mapulane said.

He was referring to South Africa's first climate change court case against the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA).

Early this year, Earthlife Africa (ELA), represented by the Center for Environmental Rights, filed a lawsuit against the DEA, arguing that the department had granted the Thabametsi power station in Mpumalanga Province an environmental authorization without adequate information about its potential climate change impacts.

But lawyers for the DEA argue that, while climate change is a relevant factor to consider, the regulatory regime does not currently require a climate change impact assessment as a prerequisite for granting an environmental authorization.

In March, the Pretoria High Court reserved judgment on the case.

If ELA is successful, the authorization for Thabametsi Station will be set aside and referred back to the DEA. The department will then need to consider the full and final climate change impact assessment, along with public comment thereon, before making a decision whether to re-issue the authorization.

Such an order by the court would also have wider implications for the consideration of climate impacts in the authorization of future coal-fired power stations.

A climate change legislation has been under consideration for long.

South Africa has presented its White Paper on environment which envisions an effective climate change response and long-term goals towards a lower-carbon economy and climate resilient society. It includes proposal to set emissions reduction outcomes for each significant sector in the economy.

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