A climate change response policy approved by the Cabinet last Wednesday would effectively manage inevitable climate change impacts, she told reporters in Pretoria.
The policy would also help stabilise greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level avoiding dangerous interference with the climate system.
“The policy notes that among a range of environmental constraints that are of necessity playing an increasing role in social and economic development planning, climate change represents the most urgent and far reaching challenge of our time,” Molewa said.
“This policy will guide government’s approach to climate change impacts and our transition to a climate resilient and low carbon economy.”
Molewa said the policy included a risk-based process that would identify and prioritise interventions that priority sectors such as water, agriculture, forestry and health could use to adapt to climate change.
Resilience to climate variability and climate change extreme weather events would be the basis for South Africa’s approach to disaster management, Molewa said.
The policy would aim to limit jobs contraction in areas of the economy where excessive carbon intensity was unsustainable, while promoting and expanding the green economy sectors.
All government departments and state-owned enterprises would have to review their policies, strategies, legislation, regulations and plans to ensure full alignment with the National Climate Change Response within two years of the publication of the policy.
DA MP Gareth Morgan welcomed the release of the climate change white paper.
“It provides guidance on the broad framework that government intends pursuing,” he said.
“Anthropogenic climate change is one of the greatest challenges that our country and the rest of the world have to deal with.
Morgan said the white paper introduced a radical new approach of carbon budgets for individual economic sectors.
However, a two year period proposed for drawing up budgets for these sectors including energy, mining industry and transport would inevitability be a programme that would be fraught with conflict.
It was important to understand what the emissions were from each sector, and how changes in emissions were going to be monitored and verified.
“Government needs to be very conscious about not rushing policy and financial instruments into operation without understanding the full consequences of these measures,” Morgan said.