New environment minister Barbara Creecy turns up the heat on climate change

12 July 2019 - 09:59 By CLAIRE KEETON
Barbara Creecy, the new national minister of environment, forestry and fisheries, is a former Gauteng finance MEC.
Barbara Creecy, the new national minister of environment, forestry and fisheries, is a former Gauteng finance MEC.
Image: Gallo Images / Daily Sun / Jabu Kumalo

Climate change, environmental degradation and the loss of biodiversity threaten SA’s natural resources, yet more than two million people depend on them for their income, says new environment, forestry and fisheries minister Barbara Creecy.

“When we take into account that each of these breadwinners supports eight to 10 others, we start to understand the true significance of our natural resources,” she said in parliament, presenting a budget of R7.5bn for 2019/2020.

The debate around the Climate Change Bill must focus on “appropriate implementation mechanisms” to achieve a just transition towards a lower carbon economy, while preventing further job losses and power outages, Creecy told a media briefing.

I always prefer to start with carrots and see if we will need sticks later
Barbara Creecy

The second draft of the bill, under debate at the National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac), aims to move SA towards clean energy and climate resilience.

Asked about declaring a “climate emergency”, the minister replied: “How would declaring a climate crisis help to improve the implementation of solutions? What we want is solutions.

“All spheres of government have signed commitments in terms of the Paris Accord (the international agreement to combat climate change),” said Creecy, adding she had great respect for young people mobilising around this.

On air pollution, particularly in the priority areas of Highveld, the Vaal Triangle and the Waterberg, there would be an immediate review of planning and management.

Invasive alien clearing supervisor Thandiwe Adam is working to protect the Riviersonderend River
Invasive alien clearing supervisor Thandiwe Adam is working to protect the Riviersonderend River
Image: Claire Keeton

She said she had contacted mineral resources and energy minister Gwede Mantashe and public enterprises minister Pravin Gordhan about this problem. “We need to discuss how we keep the lights on, but reduce the … [harmful] gases going into the air.”

Single-use plastics, such as carrier bags, straws, earbuds, crockery and cutlery, also required urgent attention.

“We are not talking about an outright ban on plastic, but how to change consumer and producer behaviour,” Creecy said.

“I always prefer to start with carrots and see if we will need sticks later.”

Programmes such as Working on Fire and Working for Water account for roughly R3m of the budget. These support national goals like water security.

Creecy said the department would be reviewing the 2020 fishing rights allocation process, "which will see the re-issuing of licenses for 12 of the 22 fisheries”.


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