21 November 2011
South African President Jacob Zuma has called on world leaders to “rise to the occasion and meet the expectations of millions around the world whose livelihoods depend on there being progress” at the UN Climate Change Conference starting in Durban on 28 November.
As thousands of delegates from all over the world prepare to make their way to the 17th Conference of the Parties (COP17) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), taking place at Durban’s International Convention Centre from 28 November to 9 December, Zuma said South Africa was ready to welcome them.
Speaking at a breakfast business briefing in Durban on Monday, Zuma said he was confident, following months of planning, that all was in place to ensure that the delegates were able to go about their business smoothly and efficiently during the conference.
‘Can’t just be business as usual’
He stressed, however, said the talks could not be a case of “business as usual”.
“We trust that the state parties will rise to the occasion and meet the expectations of millions around the world whose livelihoods depend on there being progress in the climate change negotiations,” Zuma said.
Global warming was already having a negative impact on Africa and the world at large, with changing weather patterns affecting the environment, health, natural resources, agriculture and food production, shelter as well as infrastructure worldwide.
Zuma said it was for these reasons that the parties meeting in Durban had to take a step forward to solving these challenges.
“In the African context, they must help to strike a balance between ensuring that climate change does not reach dangerous levels on the one hand, and the need to grow our economies to eradicate poverty on the other.”
Five-point vision for COP 17
Outlining South Africa’s five-point vision for the conference, Zuma said that, firstly, the outcome should be balanced, fair and credible. To achieve this outcome, the conference approach had to be informed by the basic principles that underpinned the UN climate change negotiations.
These principles, he said include multilateralism, environmental integrity, fairness, and the honouring of all international commitments and undertakings made in the climate change process.
The next step, he said, was to ensure that the 2010 Cancun Agreements, which included the establishment of a Green Climate Fund, were operationalised. The President said developing countries demanded a prompt start for the Fund through its early and initial capitalisation.
Thirdly, for Durban to be successful, the parties had to deal with the outstanding political issues remaining from the Bali Roadmap of 2007.
This, according to Zuma, meant finding a resolution to the issue of the 2nd Commitment Period under the Kyoto Protocol, and agreeing on the legal nature of a future climate change system.
Fourthly, adaptation was an essential element of the outcome of COP 17, as it is a key priority for many developing countries, particularly Small Island Developing States, Least Developed Countries and Africa.
Lastly, any outcome in Durban had to be adequate enough to adhere to the principle of environmental integrity.
‘Low level of ambition cause for concern’
“The low level of ambition in this regard is cause for concern,” Zuma said. “Parties must come to Durban expecting a credible, sustainable and implementable outcome.”
South Africa’s position during the conference will be led by Water and Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa, while International Relations and Cooperation Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane is the incoming COP president, taking over from Mexico.
Zuma said South Africa would approach the talks “in a spirit of open consultation with all parties and stakeholders, and ensure that the discussions stay on track”.
The country was already playing its part to mitigate the impacts of climate change, he added. Among the plans put in place by the government were the development of the “green” economy, as stipulated in the New Growth Path.
Others included a social accord on “green” jobs signed last week by business, government and labour, and the integration of “green” industries in the country’s Industrial Policy Action Plan.