Possibility of Ratification by 2018: High
In December 2015, 195 countries each made a national pledge to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions in a United Nations sponsored meeting in Paris. In committing to their pledges, each country signed the Paris Agreement and have agreed to work towards ratification. Signature of the Agreement serves as a commitment to refrain from acts that would defeat the objective and purpose of the Agreement, but signature does not automatically mean that a country becomes party to the Agreement.
Not yet a formal party to the Paris Agreement, South Africa signed the Agreement on April 22 nd 2016, whilst on its way in the implementation thereof. Nevertheless, in addressing the General Assembly in South Africa, Environment Minister Edna Molewa stated that domestic ratification procedures are already underway, in hope that implementation of the Agreement will be initiated in 2020. South Africa is already acting on Climate Change with significant investments in renewable energy, public transport, energy efficiency, waste management and land restoration initiatives. Other initiatives such as the Working for Water, Wetlands and Fire, illustrates South Africa’s efforts in adapting to the impacts of climate change. A further Climate Change Response Policy (1) with clear greenhouse gas mitigation and adaptation framework has been implemented which includes a range of measures aimed at achieving national goals reflected in the National Development Plan (2).
As far as the procedures for concluding of international agreements are concerned, there are two types of processes involved, namely where the agreement is to be signed and/or where it is to be ratified. Agreements which require ratification or accession falls within the ambit of section 231(2) of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa of 1996. It is for the South African Parliament to approve ratification before implementation of said Agreement, and thereafter be communicated through various channels concluding with the Cabinet, whilst once again returning to Parliament for approval. With this being said, to date, there is no definite or scheduled action plan for the domestication of the Paris Agreement. South Africa has yet to inform both the public and international audiences of their steps in achieving ratification. Legislation, procedures or talk of ratification remains scarce within the media and policy forums, with only the assumption that South Africa’s current mitigation efforts are to continue until further notice.
Concerns for implementation surround South Africa’s administrative and procedural structures. As a start, South Africa requires an analysis of its climate change legal regime, keeping in mind that some domestic legislation and regulations may or may not necessitate adjustment or supplementation in order to be consistent with the procedural requirements of the Paris Agreement. Concerns over the Country’s legislative and regulatory house, in relations to its financial and policy chaos of corruption, inflation and political party tensions needs attention. The need for South Africa to get a handle on this is imperative if it wishes to move forward not only as a country, but also with its Paris Pledge.
Submitted by Climate Scorecard Country Manager Monique Classen