Author: Sandile Innocent Nhlengetwa
LLB candidate, University of the Western Cape
Climate change is the greatest threat to mankind as it poses a major threat to the survival of humans on earth. It has a negative impact on the prospects of economic and social prosperity of any nation. South Africa has over the years witnessed a number of her citizens; particularly poor susceptible groups being severely affected by the impacts of climate change. Most recently, the Kwazulu-Natal floods did not only displace indigent people it also led to the loss of lives. The South African government turned a blind eye to this and has been the slowest to react. Two months after the floods occurred, the government is yet to allocate satisfactory financial and human resources to redress the situation. This can be partly linked to the absence of a legislative regulatory framework which provides for an effective, clear and comprehensive response to climate change in order to minimise its impact. Currently, climate change is regulated in a piecemeal manner. Since the Constitution was adopted, an overwhelming number of statutes of environmental nature were enacted including the National Environmental Management Act 107 of 1998 and the National Environment Management: Air Quality Act 39 of 2004. Though both these statutes do not refer to climate change in explicit terms they require the environment to be utilised in a sustainable manner that is not harmful to human beings and regulate the emission of greenhouse gases respectively. Worth mentioning, however, is the Carbon Tax Act 15 of 2019 as well as the Disaster Management Act 57 of 2002 both of which have a direct bearing on climate change. The latter Act is the legislative framework within which the government responds to the impacts of climate change. The former makes explicit reference to climate change in its efforts to avoid dangerous anthropogenic climate change by stabilising greenhouse gas emissions while also ensuring sustainable socio economic development.