South African Climate Change Bill 2023

On October 24, 2023, a significant milestone was achieved in South Africa's environmental policy when the National Assembly approved the Climate Change Bill. The version adopted will now be presented to the National Council of Provinces for further review and for signing into law thereafter.

Initially proposed by the Minister of Forestry, Fisheries, and the Environment in February 2022, the groundbreaking decision by the National Assembly has spurred discussions about the scope and efficacy of the Bill


A Quick Overview


The Bill is South Africa’s first attempt at a comprehensive piece of legislation intending to encourage the development of an effective climate change response for South Africa. The Bill is expected to catalyse South Africa's transition towards a greener and more resilient economy and, as echoed globally, the Bill aligns South Africa’s position with ongoing global efforts to reduce greenhouse gas (“GHG”) emissions and to adapt the economy to the impacts of climate change. Accordingly, the Bill serves as the roadmap for South Africa’s transition to a low-carbon and climate-resilient economy.


As of now, the Bill is nearing the completion of its parliamentary processes. Its journey through legislative channels has been closely watched by environmental groups, industries, and the public as it sets out to revolutionise how South Africa responds to the climate crisis.


Processing Amendments

Provided how integrated climate change challenges are in the South African economy, the Bill seeks to adapt institutions in facing the climate change crisis. For government, the Bill proposes an alignment of policies across national, provincial and municipal spheres and makes provision for various fora to ensure adequate institutional arrangements and alignment.

In transitioning the economy, the Bill aims to phase down synthetic GHGs and set sector-specific targets to achieve reduction goals. The Forestry, Fisheries, and Environment minister is tasked under the Bill with establishing a national GHG emissions trajectory and developing a National Adaptation Strategy and Plan.


Following the submission of the Bill to the National Assembly, the Portfolio Committee proposed the following amendments:


- Specific offenses, including fines and imprisonment, if convicted for providing false data or failing to provide any data concerning the Bill's reporting requirements
- Adopting a financing strategy to support the response to the climate crisis which needs to be provided to parliament prior to being published in the Government Gazette
- Improvements to the Bill's coherence with clear definitions of some of the key concepts regarding the climate change crisis

Presently, the Bill is being tabled as an ordinary bill in terms of the national legislative process. As per the Constitution's section 76, the NCOP must pass the Bill as received, order necessary amendments, or reject the Bill altogether.

Should the Bill be passed as it is provided to the NCOP, the Bill would be submitted to the President for assent and signing into law. If an amended version of the Bill is passed by the NCOP, it will be returned to the National Assembly for further consideration and then to the President to approve an amended version of the bill.


Balancing Expectations

The climate change crisis is not only a health crisis, but is instead a complex and integrated global challenge which spans across sectors and industries. Fundamentally, the climate crisis makes the world more uncertain and volatile, and presents an often unpredictable changing economic landscape. South Africa, in particular, is vulnerable to climate change issues due to food and water insecurity.

Provided its complexity, the implementation of climate change mitigation generates tensions which must be proactively addressed to respond to developing changes. While the Bill is a step in the right direction, it will require collaborative efforts across various sectors and industries and must be supported by a shift in public and corporate consciousness towards the sustainability of the planet and its people.



The implementation of the Bill comes with its own set of challenges flowing from competing demands and interests of the planet, people, and profitability. Balancing economic growth with green consciousness is imperative in a just transition. However, the Bill’s positive potential for the environment, coupled with the drive towards sustainable development and growth, makes it a critical step for a better future.


The Final Say!

The Bill is a landmark initiative on the continent. It represents a commitment to a more sustainable future and South Africa’s alignment with global climate goals. It also clearly reflects a national alignment with growing global environmental, social, and governance (“ESG”) goals and pressures. Regulating and legislating the climate-related responses and expectancies will undoubtedly ease and facilitate engagements and investments made in response to ESG.

As the Bill progresses through the legislative process, we hope it paves the way for significant environmental changes, setting an example for other nations in their commitments to mitigating, or adapting to, climate change.

We have our eyes on the progress of the Bill and will keep you updated on future developments.




Read the original publication at Dentons

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