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Cablegate: South African Environment, Science, and Technology Monthly

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TAGS: SENV SOCI ETRD SF
SUBJECT: SOUTH AFRICAN ENVIRONMENT, SCIENCE, AND TECHNOLOGY MONTHLY
BRIEFINGS, MAY 2007

PRETORIA 00002222 001.2 OF 002


1. (U) Summary: This is the South African Environment, Science and
Technology Monthly Briefings newsletter, May 2007, Volume 2, Number
2, prepared by the U.S. Embassy Pretoria, South Africa.

Topics of the newsletter:

-- South Africa's Top CO2 Emitters in Carbon Disclosure Program

-- Department of Minerals and Energy Challenged Over Mining
Licenses

-- Canned Lion Hunting Law Reform Postponed

-- SA Changes Name of World Heritage Site

-- DME Proposes Green Tax on Heavy Polluting Sports Vehicles

-- South Africans Encouraged to Embrace Greening Campaign

-- SA Celebrates National Science Week

End Summary.

SOUTH AFRICA'S TOP CO2 EMITTERS IN CARBON DISCLOSURE PROGRAM

2. (U) Leading South African companies will participate in a carbon
disclosure program (CDP). CDP, launched by the UK in 2000, is
designed to determine the impact of business on the environment.
According to findings already submitted, business contributes to
climate change through greenhouse gases emitted during different
working processes. South African coal companies are beginning to
find it more difficult to penetrate European coal markets. Some
European authorities argue that coal imported from South Africa,
relative to other import sources, tends to be higher in oxide and
carbon dioxide emissions when burned. The EU's Large Combustion
Plant Directive, which limits nitrogen oxides and sulphur dioxide
emissions, could also pose significant problems for South African
coal exports. Some studies report that South African carbon dioxide
(CO2) production has increased significantly from 1980 to 2004, with
South Africa now ranking higher than Brazil which has four times
South Africa's production. The World Resource Institute estimated
South Africa's CO2 production at 417 million tons for 2000, making
South Africa the world's 19th largest emitter of the gas.

DEPARTMENT OF MINERALS AND ENERGY CHALLENGED OVER MINING LICENSES

3. (U) The Mpumalanga Lake District Protection Group (MLDPG) has
instituted legal proceedings to stop proposed open-pit coal mining
in the Lake District of Mpumalanga, even though the Department of
Minerals and Energy (DME) previously issued mining licenses to the
prospective investors. Local communities and the MLDPG fear that an
open-pit coal mine jeopardizes the indigenous species and the
ecosystem in the area. MLDPG argues that no proper environmental
impact assessment (EIA) was conducted, and that an EIA would have
clearly indicated the environmental and social impacts of coal
mining. University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) geoscientist
Terrence McCarthy noted that mine areas normally become permanently
"sterilized" and that the ground water becomes contaminated,
destroying the cave, lake and pan habitats of indigenous birds,
frogs and other living organisms in the area. The Department of
Environmental Affairs and Tourism (DEAT) stated that it could not
get involved because DME owns the mining rights, has the power to
issue mining licenses, and has the authority to regulate its own
EIA. The court case will determine whether DME prevails.

CANNED LION HUNTING LAW REFORM POSTPONED

4. (U) Minister of Environmental Affairs and Tourism Marthinus Van
Schalkwyk announced that the effective date for the Protected
Species Regulations (which will govern canned lion hunting) has been
postponed from June 1, 2007 to February 1, 2008. Van Schalkwyk's
decision was prompted by concerns raised by Provincial Environment
Ministers who had complained that they could not enforce the
regulations without more time to prepare. The proposed regulations
would regulate canned predator hunting and would prohibit hunting
captive-bred predators within two years of their release into a game
farm for the purpose of hunting. North West Agriculture,
Conservation and Environment Minister Mandlinkosi Mayisela welcomed
Van Schalkwyk's postponement of the implementation date. He said
the delay gave the provincial authorities time to "engage further in
discussions with the National Minister, with the hope of striking a
favorable compromise." Mayisela noted that over 350 lions are
hunted each year in North West province alone. In the intervening
months before the effective date, DEAT will hold countrywide
information sessions to ensure that the public and all other
stakeholders are informed about the new regulations and prepared to

PRETORIA 00002222 002.2 OF 002


implement them on February 1, 2008. DEAT encouraged interested
parties to apply for licenses or permits to avoid an unnecessary
backlog on the effective date. The new regulations were developed
in terms of the National Environmental Management Biodiversity Act
10 of 2004.

SA CHANGES NAME OF WORLD HERITAGE SITE

5. (U) Minister of Environmental Affairs and Tourism (DEAT)
Marthinus Van Schalkwyk announced in May the change of the name of
one of South Africa's World Heritage Sites, from the Greater St.
Lucia Wetlands Park to iSimangaliso Wetlands Park. iSimangaliso, a
Zulu word meaning amazement or miracle, was chosen from 60 other
proposed names. The cabinet approved the name change. Selection of
a new name involved an extensive consultation process, including
public meetings, advertisements in the newspapers, radio and TV, and
circulation of 10,000 briefing documents to the community at large.
According to the Minister, the consultations took about two years,
and there was an overwhelming consensus from the majority of the
participants for a more descriptive name in one of the indigenous
languages.

DME PROPOSES GREEN TAX ON HEAVY POLLUTING SPORTS VEHICLES

6. (U) Department of Minerals and Energy (DME) Director of Energy
Efficiency Dr. Elsa Du Toit reported that the DME is considering the
introduction of a 33 percent tax on the selling price for SUVs, and
a doubling of the their annual license fees. Du Toit said the funds
from these taxes and fees would be used to mitigate the
environmental degradation caused by SUVs. She also hoped the higher
selling price and fees would reduce the purchases of SUVs to 12
percent of the market by 2015. Thus far, higher fuel prices and
escalating bank interest rates have not discouraged the South
African market for SUVs. Du Toit said that since market forces are
not working to reduce SUV purchases, South Africa must now follow
the world trend of imposing punitive measures to enforce behavioral
change in people. DME official reports indicate that SUVs consume
double the amount of fuel of an ordinary sedan, and emit 9,000kg of
carbon dioxide compared to the 4,500kg of the lighter cars. If DME
endorses the "energy efficiency levy", a vehicle that costs $119,700
could have an additional tax of $39,400, plus a 100 percent levy on
the annual license fees. Environmental activist groups welcome
DME's proposal to establish the green tax, while automotive industry
economists argue that the levy is too steep and could put some jobs
at risk.

SOUTH AFRICANS ENCOURAGED TO EMBRACE GREENING CAMPAIGN

7. (U) Minister of Environmental Affairs and Tourism (DEAT)
Marthinus Van Schalkwyk urged individual South Africans, businesses
and industries to adopt and embrace environmental activism during
the launch of South Africa's national environmental campaign known
as "Indalo Yethu" (Our Environment). Indalo Yethu CEO JP Louw said
that the campaign's primary purpose was to arouse "eco-activism" and
to advocate greening big projects such as housing, transportation
and the 2010 World Cup Soccer tournament. The campaign encourages
project developers to introduce energy and water saving technologies
as well as to reduce pollution and waste. Louw said that the Indalo
Yethu campaign logo (a butterfly draped in the colors of the SA
national flag) would be awarded to complying companies, while a
"green tax" may be imposed on non-compliers. According to Louw, the
campaign will involve a series of education and awareness projects,
including a nationwide tour of former U.S. Vice President Al Gore's
documentary film on climate change, "An Inconvenient Truth."

8. (U) The Department of Science and Technology (DST) celebrated the
National Science Week (NSW) May 12-19, 2007. NSW was designed to
help make science accessible and attractive to youth, educators,
women, and previously disadvantaged communities. Few South African
students currently enroll in math, science and technology in schools
and tertiary institutions. NWS attempted to encourage students to
pursue careers in science engineering and technology, and to
highlight the important roles those professions play in daily life.
NSW included interactive exhibitions, science shows, workshops and
broad education and entertainment. DST official Lebs Mphahlele said
this year's event, entitled, "Tomorrow's Science and Technology are
in Our Youths' Hands," was planned to ensure that activities were
relevant to the areas where people lived. NSW had two sub-themes:
Indigenous Knowledge Systems and promoting science activities in
areas where South Africa clearly has knowledge and geographic
advantage. NSW activities will be celebrated in all nine provinces
at 43 centers. The NSW program is on the third leg of a five-year
program designed to run until 2009.

BOST

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