The effectiveness of co-operative governance agreements when dealing with multiple environmental authorisations in South Africa
One of the solutions to many environmental challenges associated with loss of biodiversity, water, and air pollution lies in compliance with legislative requirements (Parker, 2000). One such legislative requirement is effective co-operative environmental governance agreements (Parker, 2000). The effectiveness of co-operative environmental governance agreements has been questioned by several authors since their establishment (Lehman, 2009; Blackman et al., 2009; Khan, 2016; Du Plessis, 2008). This questioning has created two schools of thought on the effectiveness of these agreements. Literature provides an argument whereby some authors believe that there are legislative provisions and mechanisms in place and that adoption and implementation of the agreements by stakeholders can lead to positive integrated environmental governance practices (Du Plessis, 2008). However, an opposing view is from critics of the agreements who argue that an integrated systems approach is required to improve the performance of the current environmental co-operative government agreements. The argument of the critics presents that they are not convinced that without addressing the fragmented environmental management systems, capacity constraints in South African environmental fraternity, it may result in significant environmental benefits (Kotzé, 2012). In light of these differing views concerning the effectiveness of the current environmental co-operative governance, the objective of this study was to evaluate the effectiveness of co-operative governance agreements when dealing with multiple environmental authorisations in South Africa. The effectiveness of co-operative governance agreements was assessed in the context of Memorandum of Agreements (MoAs) regarding Disposal Site Authorisation using Eskom's Ash Disposal Facilities (ADF). This was executed by analysing the legal provisions created, motivations provided to support, mechanisms to influence, and challenges associated with the implementation of the MoA. The study also evaluated the environmental governance structures and the extent to which the MoA's objectives are met. Based on qualitative interviews with a sample including Government Officials1, Eskom Environmental Advisors and Environmental Consultants who worked on Eskom's ADFs' environmental authorisation processes, and analysis of relevant archival documents, the study suggested limited effectiveness of the agreement in achieving the expected goal in terms of the MoA objectives. The results did indicate that there are legislative provisions for co-operative governance agreements in South Africa. The main reasons for the limited achievement and the main challenges on the effectiveness of the agreements associated with lack/inadequacy of resources in numbers, the capacity of officials on technical skills, and lacking commitments and responsibility from Senior government officials to implement the MoA. Additional challenges were related to the symbolic implementation and enforced implementation by government departments (i.e., its lack of substantive implementation). Even though this research study was restricted to Eskom's Ash Disposal Facilities, which suggests that there is limited effectiveness of a MoA as a co-operative governance agreement tool in achieving expected MoA objectives, it should not be inferred that this inadequacy of co-operative governance implementation is as inadequate to other waste applications and applicants, as it is observed in the case of Eskom. This study recommends an extension of the investigation of the effectiveness of this governance tool to other waste applications as a follow-up study. Following this study, it is anticipated that a collective presentation can conclude, and a proper decision might be made to influence this tool.