South Africa

Environmental Performance Review: South Africa 2013


Highlights  | Assessment & Recommendations How to obtain this publication


This is the first review of South Africa's environmental performance. It analyses progress in achieving a range of national objectives and international commitments, and presents 36 recommendations on how performance could be improved. Progress towards a green, low carbon economy is part of the assessment.

The OECD Environmental Performance Reviews provide independent assessments of countries’ progress in achieving their environmental policy objectives in order to help improve individual and collective environmental performance.

The Highlights present the main OECD findings. Click here for the full Assessment & Recommendations, as endorsed by OECD countries.


Key environmental trends

South Africa has made progress in reducing the carbon, energy and material intensities of its economy; in managing its natural asset base, including water, biodiversity and mineral resources; and in improving the environmental quality of life. Briefly described is South Africa’s progress in:

  • The transition to a low-carbon, energy- and resource-efficient economy.
  • Managing the natural asset base.
  • Improving the environmental quality of life.


Policy-making environment

Examined is South Africa’s regulatory framework for environmental protection and the instruments used to systematically monitor and evaluate the environmental impacts of economic and sectoral policies, programmes and projects. Issues discussed include:

  • The policy and regulatory framework for environment and sustainable development.
  • The evaluation of plans and policies.
  • The institutional framework for environmental management.
  • Environmental authorisations, compliance and enforcement.
  • Environmental information, reporting and outlooks.
  • Promoting environmental democracy.


Towards green growth

There have been solid efforts to mainstream environment into South Africa’s economic policy and promote greening of the economy. It examines the use of tax policy to pursue environmental objectives and progress in removing fiscal incentives that can encourage environmentally harmful activities. Opportunities for “green” tax reform are also assessed. This section discusses:

  • Economic policy and the environment.
  • Greening the tax system.
  • Removing environmentally harmful subsidies.
  • Environmental and low-carbon investment to promote green growth.
  • Promoting environmental technologies and eco-innovation.
  • Environmental policy and employment.


International co-operation

South Africa’s environmental engagement with the rest of Africa and like-minded countries of the South is commendable. It also reviews the country’s participation in international forums, notably on climate change and sustainable development, as well as on chemical, biodiversity and marine issues. Assessed are:

  • Foreign policy and environmental diplomacy.
  • Regional and bilateral co‑operation.
  • Marine Issues.
  • Global environmental co‑operation: Sustainable development and the three Rio Conventions.
  • The biodiversity and chemical clusters of MEAs.
  • Trade, investment and environment.
  • Official development assistance.


Biodiversity and economics of ecosystem services

This chapter reviews current status and trends of South Africa’s biodiversity and natural heritage along with pressures stemming from the legacy of apartheid and more recent economic development. It examines policy initiatives implemented since 1994 to better manage South Africa’s biodiversity. This chapter reviews:

  • The status and trends of South Africa’s biodiversity.
  • Pressures on South Africa’s biodiversity.
  • The policy and institutional frameworks.
  • Economic and financial aspects of ecosystem services.
  • Integrating biodiversity into other sectors.


Multi-level environmental governance

This chapter examines South Africa’s management of the environment from a multi-level governance perspective. It presents the key reform of local governance and decentralisation of environmental management since 1994. It provides insights into institutional and management challenges in selected environmental sectors, including land use and water resources. Discussed are:

  • The reform of local governance and decentralisation of environmental management.
  • Institutional issues of multi-level governance in selected environmental sectors.
  • Mechanisms to promote effective multi-level environmental governance.


For more information please contact Krzysztof Michalak



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