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Parliament Seeks Comment on Forest Fire Amendment Bill

February 28, 2022

Parliament

Parliament seeks comment on the National Veld and Forest Fire Amendment Bill.

The bill was tabled in parliament in December 2021.

The forestry, fisheries and the environment department published the bill’s explanatory summary in Government Gazette 45449 in November 2021.

The explanatory summary indicated that uncontrolled veldfires are responsible for environmental degradation, loss of jobs, displacement of communities, and general destruction of infrastructure, livestock, habitat and biodiversity.

Cabinet approved the proposed legislation at the end of September 2021 for tabling in parliament.

According to the cabinet statement, the bill was first submitted to parliament in 2017 but was sent back for further consultation with the public.

Cabinet highlighted that, among other provisions, the bill establishes structures in the public sector and at community level that will work together to mitigate veldfire risks and promote effective compliance and law enforcement.

The bill aims to amend the National Veld and Forest Fire Act, 1998, so as to:

• amend and insert certain definitions;
• provide for the facilitation of the formation of fire protection associations by a municipality or a traditional council;
• compel a municipality, state-owned enterprise, public entity or other organ of state which owns land to join the fire protection associations;
• extend the powers of entry, search, seizure and arrest to peace officers and traditional leaders;
• amend the title of the Act to the National Veldfire Act; and
• provide for matter connected therewith.

In January 2022, the bill was referred to the National House of Traditional and Khoi-San Leaders for input.

The portfolio committee on environment, forestry and fisheries invites comment on the bill until 18 March 2022.

Meanwhile, the forestry, fisheries and the environment minister, Barbara Creecy, during an address at the launch of a research publication entitled a “Just Transition to a Low Carbon Future in South Africa”, highlighted the need for South Africa to embrace the transition to a low carbon environment.

“Unless we join the technological transition taking place across the globe, our economy risks of being left behind, and in due course facing redundancy and/or non-competitiveness of our exports in a trade environment that favours goods and services produced in a low carbon environment”, she said.

The minister pointed out that work is underway with seven sectors in the local economy to “set sectoral emission targets and the mechanisms to monitor compliance once low emission pathways are defined”.

In terms of the offer made to South Africa of $8.5 billion from a number of developed countries on the side lines of Cop26, the minister indicated that a joint negotiations team will be set up between South Africa and the partner group of countries to discuss an investment plan and financing modalities as reflected in the Political Declaration that accompanied the offer.

The negotiations process is expected to be finalised in six months.