Opening and welcome address by Speaker of the Parliament of South Africa Max Sisulu (MP) for the National Consultative Seminar on Climate Change
28 Oct 2011
Honourable Minister Edna Molewa
Deputy Minister Marius Fransman
Honourable Speakers of Legislatures
Chairpersons of Committees
Members of Parliament and Legislatures
Excellencies of the Diplomatic Corpse
Ladies and gentlemen
It gives me great pleasure to welcome you all to this Consultative Seminar on Climate Change.
This seminal event provides us with an opportunity to share ideas and discuss the importance of tackling the challenges of climate change. We must act boldly, and decisively, in the face of this common threat. That is why all of us are here today.
In the lead up to the Durban Climate Change Conference, an enormous amount of energy and resources has gone into preparing for the work of the 17th Conference of the Parties (COP17).
We are impressed with the progress that has been made by our government, the business sector and organised civil society. We call upon governments to further intensify their efforts to finalise decisions on the large number of elements that will make up a comprehensive and balanced post 2012 international climate change regime.
The Climate Change Conference in Durban provides a renewed opportunity to advance international climate change action beyond the improvements witnessed in Cancun.
Parliament has embarked on an extensive programme of action which has included training for members, advocacy and awareness, and today’s stakeholder consultative seminar.
In addition, the South African Parliament is hosting an Inter Parliamentary Union (IPU) meeting in Durban on climate change on 5 December.
This meeting will endorse a draft declaration from the South African Parliament which will be presented to the Conference of Parties on behalf of the IPU. We will also be hosting the Globe International Legislators Forum in Parliament from 3 to 4 December.
The main objective of this meeting is to gain a clearer understanding among legislators on global environmental and sustainable development issues, including climate change.
Climate change is a defining challenge of our time. It is one of the most- if not the most significant economic, environmental and strategic challenge confronting the world.
Indeed, climate change risks becoming the main restraint on development, reversing the significant progress being made towards achieving our developmental goals such as the Millennium Development Goals.
Africa’s common position at international Climate Change negotiations has remained unified, coherent and strong. To consolidate the African agenda for a just and equitable solution to climate change, the region continues to be led and represented by one delegation.
In September this year, at a special session of the African Ministerial Conference in Bamako, Mali, African Ministers of Environment, agreed to a Declaration on Climate Change which states that increased support to Africa should be based on the continents priorities, which include adaptation, mitigation, capacity building, transparent financing, technology development and transfer.
The Declaration stresses the need for African countries to implement climate change adaptation and mitigation programmes in a manner that will help achieve sustainable development, and the Millennium Development Goals.
Ministers reaffirmed that the key political message from Africa to inform the global climate change debate and negotiation process is based on the established principles of equity and common but differentiated responsibilities, and respective capabilities.
The Declaration also calls for developed countries to show leadership by raising their level of ambition to a scale required by science and equity and to finalise the Adaptation Framework and Plans.
Ministers have also expressed concern at the slow disbursement of the financial resources pledged by Parties as “fast start” finance. Strong emphasis has also been placed on a need for enhanced transparency, a common reporting format and agreement in Durban on the scale of public resources which are to be provided by Governments.
Commitments that Africa seeks from the international community, and also the actions that countries can take themselves, is based on the principles of equity and responsibility for global warming and climate change.
Africa, in the context of environmental justice, seeks to be equitably compensated for environmental, social and economic losses. Therefore, increased support to Africa under the climate change regime must be based on the priorities determined by the continent, including food security, poverty alleviation and climate risk management.
It is a tragic irony that countries which have done the least to cause climate change are those suffering most from its impact. The overwhelming majority of those most threatened by climate change live in Africa and Asia. Yet, the world’s least developed countries have contributed less than four per cent of the greenhouse gas emissions.
Unless we act, there will be more serious consequences. Daily we are witnessing and feeling the impact of climate change, from the heart-breaking famine in Somalia to the devastating floods in Pakistan, Thailand, including South Africa.
The world has an ethical obligation to right this injustice.
South Africa’s international climate change negotiation position reflects the principle of “common but differentiated responsibilities” for climate change, as stipulated in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.
This position argues for more ambitious, quantified and legally binding emission reduction commitments for developed countries, without imposing similar obligations on developing countries.
South Africa is arguing for a climate regime based on the recognition that solving the problem of climate change will only be possible if it is undertaken within the context of developing countries’ priorities of achieving poverty eradication and promoting sustainable development.
Our government has rightly insisted that the framework for mitigation action by developing countries should be supported and enabled by predictable finance, technology and capacity building flows to enable developing countries to build more resilient economies and to progress to low carbon growth and development.
South Africa’s participation at the Conference of the Parties has been guided by our desire to reach an ambitious and comprehensive outcome at the Durban negotiations.
Our government has therefore taken bold action by making historic and voluntary commitments in reducing our greenhouse gas emissions, investing in green energy and green jobs and by introducing comprehensive legislation to transform to a clean energy economy.
The Portfolio on Water and Environmental Affairs has begun public hearings on the National Climate Change Response White Paper, 2011, which presents our Government’s vision for an effective climate change response and the long term, just transition to a climate resilient and lower carbon energy economy and society.
These actions are ambitious, and our government is taking them not simply to meet our global responsibilities. We are convinced that changing the way we produce and use energy is essential to South Africa’s economic future- that it will create millions of new jobs, power new industry, keep us competitive, and spark new innovation.
The success of COP17 will require that a balance be struck along three areas of work in the negotiation:
- A balance between operationalising decisions made thus far in the negotiation and pending issues.
- A balance between the outcomes under both the Convention and the Kyoto Protocol.
- A comprehensive and balanced advancement of all elements that will make up the future climate change regime.
With COP17, the Kyoto Protocol first commitment period will come to an end. It is therefore disturbing to note that a number of developed countries have expressed a reluctance to honour their mitigation commitments for a second and subsequent commitment periods.
The world cannot however, be held hostage, by a handful of countries. As Parliament, we therefore stress the urgency for a second commitment period in Durban to avoid a gap between commitment periods.
Time is running out, leadership has never been more needed than it will be in the coming weeks and months. As parliamentarians we must ensure, as we are doing today, that we are at the centre of the dialogue on sustainable development, and climate change in the national, regional and global forums in which we serve.
Our oversight function is the most important power that the legislatures have to ensure and assist government to meet the commitment to implement strategies aimed at mitigating and adapting to climate change.
We as Members of Parliament must ensure that all commitments made by our government are kept. We must ensure that there is investment in clean and green energy.
Parliament has an important role to play in enacting sound legislation that will protect the environment, lead to sustainable food security and poverty alleviation and eradication.
We are expected to oversee and monitor our government’s commitments in the forums in which they participate. We dare not lose sight of the need to address the fundamental flaws evident in global governance structures.
Our failure to reach an agreement on climate change or to conclude the Doha Round to ensure food security will continue to haunt us with images of our world that not one of us wants to continue to see.
Let us also mobilise the entire society to help propel the work on climate change forward. Leadership should not be confined to politicians alone, business leaders, academics, civil society and individuals must not only demand action, but also do their part – as we are all in this together.
The road from Cancun to Durban is of fundamental importance to our future and goes to the very heart of the challenges faced by the world and developing countries in particular.
Let us therefore use this seminar to develop processes that will enhance our respective roles in this important task of mitigating and adapting to climate change.
I wish to conclude with the words of our President, Jacob Zuma who recently stated at an Inter- Ministerial meeting in Johannesburg: “Ordinary people that suffer daily from the impact of climate change hold high expectations from their leaders. They want leaders to be responsible and to find effective solutions to the threat that climate change presents to their livelihood, quality of life, dignity, and in many cases, their very survival.
We have a massive responsibility and working together we will have a successful session which will contribute to making the world much better and safer for all, especially the poor.”
Let us turn the climate crisis into a climate compact.
I thank you
Issued by: Parliament of South Africa
28 Oct 2011
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