2 December 2011
The mood at the UN climate change talks in Durban so far indicate optimism around achieving a successful outcome, South African President Jacob Zuma said at the opening of a Local Governments from the Global South meeting aimed at developing adaptation strategies for developing countries.
COP 17 was “proceeding well,” Zuma said at the opening of the three-day meeting in Durban on Friday. “The discussions are continuing as planned in an environment that is conducive to constructive engagement”.
The 17th Conference of the Parties (COP 17) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) kicked off on Monday and runs through to 9 December.
Green Climate Fund ‘must be operationalized’
For COP 17 to be regarded as a success, especially for developing countries, the Green Climate Fund that was agreed to at COP 16 in Cancun, Mexico last year must be operationalized, Zuma said.
“Many developing countries are hopeful that the early launch of the fund will allow for both their adaptation and mitigation needs to be met.”
Zuma said South Africa was looking to local governments to help shape the outcome of Durban, as it was this sphere of government that had to respond first to the impact of climate change.
“Local government is the sphere of government that is the closest to the people. It is directly responsible for the implementation of climate change response programmes.”
Climate debate ‘must not lose touch with poverty’
Zuma said it was of concern that some local authorities in Africa and the developing South felt that the dominant features of the current climate change response debate were not relevant to their context.
“This means that the climate change regime must be visibly in touch with the general conditions of poverty that most local authorities in the developing world operate under, for it to be relevant to the people of the South.”
Zuma said there needed to be more action at local government level to address climate change.
South Africa had experienced “unprecedented heavy rains and flooding during December 2010 and January 2011,” Zuma said, adding: “Science tells us that we are bound to experience more of these severe occurrences.
“Thirty-four municipalities that are located in eight of the country’s nine provinces were the worst affected. We also suffered massive damage to 27 461 settlements. The impact on education, transport, agriculture, and health infrastructure was estimated at almost R4-billion.”
South Africa’s 278 municipalities were all mainstreaming climate change responses in their local planning processes and plans, and Zuma said he hoped the convention would enable municipalities to compare best practices regarding their response mechanisms.