Most Read Contributor in South Africa, September 2016
The irony of many reactions to national and international
responses to climate change is that such reactions are very often
deeply misinformed and, likely for this reason, tend to emphasise
the negatives and the risks associated with the climate change
response. The fact is that the climate change response offers as
many opportunities as it does risks and it is the balance of risk
and opportunity that must be achieved, both to provide a response
that is in accordance with current science and which will serve
national and international economic interest into the future.
In December 2013 the City of Johannesburg hosted a Business
Dialogue to Reduce the Impact of Climate Change and, in his
keynote address, the (then) City of Joburg Mayor, Mr. Parks Tau,
indicated that, "In order to mitigate carbon dioxide emissions
and drive sustainable green innovation within economies and
industries, more collaboration and new methods of business need to
be implemented between public and private sectors." There are
at least important truths implicit in this statement. The first is
that the anthropogenic carbon footprint must be urgently curtailed;
and, the second is that in limiting human-induced carbon emissions
lies the potential for new business and collaboration across and
The context for these truths is the recent confirmation, by the
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that human activities are
accelerating natural cycles of climate change to a degree that,
unless action is taken to limit this acceleration, will seriously
endanger the economic, environmental and social bases upon which
human society is founded (www.ipcc.ch). In its National Climate Change
Response Policy (November 2011), the national Department of
Environmental Affairs (DEA) makes the point that responding to
climate change is a long-term exercise and one which seeks to
protect the viability of the economy beyond 2030. This timeframe is
illustrative of the tension between how we respond to climate
change and how we organise our economic and political lives. The
planning and institutional periods associated with the latter tend
to limit decisions on how to respond to the former. In short, it is
a brave political administration that will implement the measures
necessary to respond to climate change when such measures might
jeopardise the outcome of the next general election. It is to the
DEA's credit that it continues to work on the national climate
change response, while focussing on the risks and opportunities
As one might expect, responses to climate change currently
occupying political decision-makers across the globe, while the
information at their disposal becomes increasing detailed. For
example, on 27 March 2014 a report was released entitled
Climate Change Resilience in Europe which reports that major
companies across Europe are already experiencing climate change
impacts on their business and are taking the issue seriously,
including implementing forward planning and budgeting. This is
unsurprising as it was the Association of British Insurers that
comprehensively recognized international environmental change as
the major risk to their business, as early as 2005.
In order to identify risks and opportunities that climate change
poses to the private sector, the report analyses adaptation data
disclosed by 270 of the largest listed European companies from 20
countries and considers:
which sectors are already feeling the effects of climate
which companies are taking action;
which companies have the most to lose and across what
how different sectors will be impacted; and,
how regional differences may manifest in planning and responses
to climate change.
The report concludes as follows:
Businesses identify two climate change risks for every one
climate change opportunity.
The most often cited risk is a reduction or disruption in
Two in five companies anticipate increased demand for existing
goods and services.
One in five companies expect new products or services to be
profitable in a changing climate.
Risks are perceived differently across sectors, with financial
companies accounting for nearly one third of all critical risks
mentioned in the survey.
The importance of the message that while climate change poses
unprecedented risk to the economy, a correctly modulated response
to the challenge will result in a more resilient private and public
sector and it is in the cooperation between these sectors, in
agreeing upon and implementing the response that the foundation for
the future will lie.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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In terms of section 29 of the National Environmental Management: Air Quality Act 39 of 2004 ("NEMAQA"), which provides for pollution prevention plans: "(1) the Minister of Environmental Affairs (the "Minister") may by notice in the Gazette
Two important principles of South African law collided head
on, with unsatisfactory consequences, when Chief Bareki (a
traditional leader acting on behalf of his tribe) and an
environmental concern group sued Gencor and certain
subsidiaries for the environmental clean up following
discontinued asbestos mining activities.
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