South Africa ushers in a new era of environmental management as the majority of provisions contained in the National Environmental Management Laws Amendment Act, 2022 (NEMLAA 2022) were proclaimed and came into effect on June 30, 2023. This milestone follows the act’s publication on June 24, 2022, and signifies a significant step towards enhancing environmental protection and sustainability in the country.
The NEMLAA 2022 introduces amendments to the National Environmental Management Act, 1998 (NEMA), as well as several other specific environmental management Acts. The affected acts include the National Environmental Management: Protected Areas Act, 2003 (NEMPAA), the National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act, 2004 (NEMBA), the National Environmental Management: Air Quality Act, 2004 (NEMAQA), the National Environmental Management: Integrated Coastal Management Act, 2008 (NEMICMA), and the National Environmental Management: Waste Act, 2008 (NEMWA). Additionally, amendments are made to the National Environmental Management Amendment Act, 2008, and the National Environmental Management Laws Amendment Act, 2014.
One of the primary objectives of the NEMLAA 2022 is to refine and clarify definitions and measures pertaining to the creation and adoption of environmental management instruments, appeal processes, and financial provisioning requirements. It also introduces new requirements regarding NEMA section 24G applications for environmental authorizations and waste management licenses.
Key amendments under the NEMLAA 2022
National Environmental Management: Protected Areas Act, 2003 (NEMPAA):
Empowering the prohibition of certain activities in marine protected areas, enhancing conservation efforts.
National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act, 2004 (NEMBA):
Granting the Minister the authority to prohibit activities that may negatively impact animal well-being.
Clarifying measures for eradicating listed invasive species, promoting biodiversity preservation.
National Environmental Management: Air Quality Act, 2004 (NEMAQA):
Providing discretionary powers to the Minister to establish the National Air Quality Advisory Committee, promoting cleaner air initiatives.
National Environmental Management: Integrated Coastal Management Act, 2008 (NEMICMA):
Allowing for the removal of structures erected prior to the commencement of the Act, facilitating improved coastal management practices.
National Environmental Management: Waste Act, 2008 (NEMWA):
Clarifying that no exemptions will be granted from the requirement to obtain a waste management license, reinforcing responsible waste management practices.
National Environmental Management Amendment Act, 2008:
Providing clarity on instances before December 8, 2014, where NEMA requirements are deemed fulfilled, ensuring regulatory compliance.
While the majority of the NEMLAA 2022 provisions have come into effect, it is important to note that certain provisions are still undergoing finalization to ensure a smooth implementation. The government is working diligently to bring these provisions into effect as soon as practically possible.
However, in a recent judgment dated June 26, 2023, the Constitutional Court declared sections 61(c), (j), and (k) of the NEMLAA 2022 unconstitutional and invalid. The court ruled that Parliament had failed to fulfill its constitutional obligation to facilitate sufficient public involvement during the consideration of these provisions. The invalidated sections contained an amended definition of the term “waste,” along with new definitions for “commercial value” and “trade-in.”