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Keynote address by the Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs

04 December 2013

Programme Director
Representative(s) of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD)
Representatives of Provincial and Local Governments
Representatives from other Government Entities
Officials from the Department of Environmental Affairs and other Government Departments
Representatives of the Academia
Representatives of the Media
Distinguished Guests
Ladies and gentlemen

I welcome you to the launch of the report on South Africa’s Environmental Performance Review compiled by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). 

We as South Africa, very much appreciate the fact that even though we are at the moment still non members of the OECD, the OECD as an international cooperation organisation, which, among other things, provides technical expertise on development and economic growth issues to member countries, this support is extended to us as a non-member partner.  One of the OECD's focus areas for the last few years has been the green growth.

The OECD kindly offered to conduct an Environmental Performance Review for our country, which is a service they provide to their member states periodically.  The objective of the Review is to provide an independent perspective of South Africa’s performance in the environmental sector, from an economic angle and provides a view on what is working or not and whether improvements can be made.

In fact, South Africa is one of five the developing nations, along with China, Indonesia, India and Brazil, who as non members of the OECD but forming part of its Enhanced Engagement Countries, who have been invited to participate in the Review.  This allows the OECD, as a body that comprises of developed countries such as Germany, Sweden and Canada, with highly advanced social, economic and environmental management practices, to understand the national circumstances, priorities and the dynamics underpinning efforts to transition towards a green economy in these developing countries.  

At the same time, as participating developing countries, we receive an invaluable resource in terms of access to global best practice, peer learning and technical expertise from the lessons, experiences and strides that developed countries have made in their efforts to transition towards a Green Economy.  We are therefore provided with an opportunity to benchmark for planning and prioritising our development plans.

Where appropriate, the OECD Review also aims to provide suggestions to the reviewed country in order to assist in improving implementation of existing legislation, mechanisms and systems, as well as, recommendations on policy measures that could be adjusted or reviewed where difficulties are still being experienced.

Ladies and gentlemen, South Africa's environmental performance has recently been reviewed by the OECD. It is as a result of that review that we are here today, to receive a report from the OECD. South Africa will be using the review to provide important baseline data towards our own critical assessment of our integrated environmental management systems and policies. It will also help with coherence with our national, provincial and municipal state of the environment monitoring and evaluation reports.  It offers us invaluable information for reflection and reference when aligning our integrated environmental management system with the vision and priorities set out in our National Development Plan.

Following a successful review process, incorporating input from members of the private, academic, NGO and public sectors, the draft report was presented at the Working Party on Environmental Performance meeting in Paris in June this year, which I was privileged to attend.  The final document was published in September and is launched here today.  We find the report to be balanced and accurate in its reflection on South Africa’s environmental performance.  

The report is divided into the following chapters: 
Policy-Making Environment, 
Towards Green Growth, 
International Cooperation, 
Biodiversity and Economics of Ecosystems management and, 
Multi-Level Environmental Governance.

Each chapter provides a set of recommendations totaling 36 recommendations that have been put forward to South Africa.   These recommendations are extremely useful. Some of them reinforce existing efforts to improve our system; some are being followed up for implementation as we speak; while others warrant further research.

In general, the challenges identified in this Performance Review for South Africa, call for increasing our efficiencies and capacities, particularly in respect of environmental monitoring and compliance, in all three spheres of government. 

In building capacity to address compliance and monitoring, my Department of Environmental Affairs, in collaboration with a number of universities, is providing a programme for training environmental inspectors, which are critically needed to efficiently and effectively implement South Africa’s environmental laws and remedial or sanction measures in case of non-compliance.  

South Africa’s new growth path and the National Development Plan stress the importance of transitioning to a low-carbon Green Economy and creating green jobs. Given the impact of climate-change that we already experience on our ecosystem services, agriculture, water and other sectors, transitioning towards a low-carbon economy is essential. To this end, we have formulated the Green Economy Strategy, with eight pillars of focus. we have also established a National Green Fund to catalyse large scale investment in the green economy and provide innovative financing for this transition. 

Just recently, we have witnessed among many others, the creation of 800 green jobs (in the biodiversity sector) through Groen Sebenza programme, which is implemented by the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI). It is through Climate Change adaptation initiatives such as these and others such as Working-For-Water, Working-For-Wetlands, and Working-On-Fire, that begin to accelerate the transition to a sustainable development and the Green Economy while also making a contribution to creating the 11 million jobs as envisaged in the National Development Plan. 

It is worth mentioning that since the review, the Green Economy Modelling Report for South Africa was completed and released; the 5th National Environmental Compliance and Enforcement Lekgotla as well as Biodiversity Economy Indaba were held and we have launched a Green Cars Pilot initiative with a view to an extensive roll-out across the government fleet.  

As we evolve our responses to the environmental challenges we face as a country, I would like to acknowledge the extraordinary contributions that have been made by many OECD member states since 1994 to support South Africa’s effort to build our integrated environmental management programmes and systems. You contribution has enabled us to address both our immediate and long term sustainable development needs and priorities. 

I would like to appeal to these member states to continue with our cooperation, especially in the areas of sustainable development and mitigating greenhouse gas emissions, as well as building resilience to and addressing the impacts of Climate Change.  It is hoped that this report that we are launching today will go a long way in promoting continuous policy dialogue and enhancing accountability to the public on our journey of a just transition to a green, inclusive and low carbon economy.

I take this opportunity to thank our stakeholders and partners for their efforts and participation in ensuring that the environmental review process was a success and to everyone for attending this Launch today.

I thank you.

To access the OECD review and OECD documents, click on the link below


For media enquiries contact:
Albi Modise at 083 490 2871 

Issued by:
The Department of Environmental Affairs