Address by H E Jacob Gedleyihlekisa Zuma, President of the Republic of South Africa, Socialist International Commission for a Sustainable World Society - Priorities and targets for COP17, Johannesburg
31 Oct 2011
George A. Papandreou, President of the Socialist International
Luis Ayala, Secretary General of the Socialist International
Ministers and Deputy Ministers,
Members of the Presidium and of the Socialist International, Commission for a Sustainable World Society,
Comrades and friends,
We extend a warm welcome to South Africa to all our special guests attending the Socialist International Commission for a Sustainable World Society.
You are meeting at an opportune time. In four weeks, the world will gather in Durban at the 17th Conference of Parties (COP17) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the 7th meeting of Parties to the Kyoto Protocol to negotiate how we collectively deal with the challenge of climate change.
Delegates will carrying a heavy responsibility requiring urgency and determination, in addressing the global threat of climate change.
There is an expectation that Durban should be an important step in our collective quest as the international community for a global deal and multilateral compact to address the impacts and causes of climate change.
I am therefore pleased that this important Commission of the Socialist International on Sustainable World Society could convene one of its sessions in our country, to help us think about the road to Durban and what should come out of that Conference.
The Socialist International has established itself as one of the leading voices for progressive ideas globally, in and outside of governments.
We are fully aware of the invaluable contribution that this Commission made towards the success of Cancun in Mexico. We followed your work in Mexico and its outcomes that were shared with us.
I have no doubt in my mind that like Mexico, we will benefit from the collective brainpower of distinguished personalities that are members of this Commission.
Your world-view as progressives is closer to ours.
Your ideas on sustainable development are informed by the need for a delicate balance between, on the one hand, growing our economies and addressing the plight of our people, and on the other hand, protecting the environment of our planet. It is from this stand-point that we approach the challenge of climate change.
We have acknowledged climate change as a serious threat to sustainable development. It has effects on our environment, human health, food security, economic activity and investment, natural resources and physical infrastructure. It therefore presents a clear and present danger to global development.
It is this clear and present danger that requires us to call for urgent and decisive international and local action to achieve a real reduction of greenhouse gases, and equally take steps to improve the resilience of countries to the adverse effects of climate change.
Comrades and friends,
Over the years, together we have actively engaged in international climate change negotiations, specifically through the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), in order to secure a binding, multi-lateral agreement.
As mandated by the Cancun Agreements, South Africa as incoming COP17/CMP7 President undertook a number of informal consultations in order to further prepare Parties for Durban. In this regard the following events took place:
- An Informal Ministerial Meeting in Pretoria from 5 to 9 September 2011;
- A Leaders' Dialogue took place in New York on 20 September 2011;
- The Inter-Sessional Meeting in Panama from 1 to 7 October 2011; and
- The Pre-COP meeting in Stellenbosch on 20 and 21 October 2011.
Parallel to these meetings are targeted, sectoral outreach activities that we are undertaking to listen to communities on the ground about their understanding of climate change and their expectations of what should come out of Durban.
Of these events, I would like to single out the most recent - namely the Inter-Sessional meeting in Panama and the Pre-Cop in Stellenbosch.
The Panama City meeting was the last inter-Sessional meeting of the UNFCCC. This was the result of a decision in Bonn in June 2011 to have a resumed session prior to Durban in order to compile a text, as far as possible, to form the basis of negotiations in Durban.
As the in-coming Presidency of COP17/CMP7, we utilised the Panama Session to address all the various negotiating groups, as well as the Bureau Meeting.
We conveyed to Parties what the Presidency regards as key to achieving a successful outcome in Durban and the importance of beginning the process of drafting texts.
Similarly, we hosted the traditional Pre-COP informal Ministerial a few weeks ago in Stellenbosch to discuss issues in the climate change negotiations that require political guidance.
The meeting was attended by representatives of 42 States Parties, including 24 Cabinet Ministers, the Chairs of the two Ad-Hoc Working Groups, the Subsidiary Body on Implementation, and the Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC.
Sessions were held on key issues in the negotiations, including adaptation, the balances that need to be struck between and within the different tracks, mitigation, and for moving the process forward.
Comrades and Excellencies,
Our message for what we expect in Durban, which we derived to a large extent from the informal consultations, is the following:
Firstly, the outcome in Durban should be balanced, fair and credible, and be one that preserves and strengthens the multilateral rules-based response to climate change. The approach to reach a balanced, fair and credible outcome in Durban must be informed by the principles that form the basis of UNFCCC climate change negotiations.
These principles include multilateralism, environmental integrity, fairness (based on the principle of common but differentiated responsibility and respective capabilities, equity,) and the honouring of all international commitments and undertakings made in the climate change process.
Secondly, the Cancun Agreements must be operationalised, including the establishment of the key mechanisms and institutional arrangements agreed to in Cancun.
The Green Climate Fund represents a centre piece for a broader set of outcomes for Durban. Developing countries demand a prompt start for the Fund through its early and initial capitalisation.
Thirdly, for Durban to be successful we have to do more than making the Cancun Agreements operational. We have no option but to deal with the outstanding political issues remaining from the Bali Roadmap.
This means finding a resolution to the issue of the second commitment period under the Kyoto Protocol and agreeing on the legal nature of a future climate change system.
Fourthly, adaptation is an essential element of the outcome in Durban as it is a key priority for many developing countries, particularly small island developing states and least developed countries and Africa. The current fragmented approach to adaptation must be addressed in a more coherent manner and give equal priority to adaptation and mitigation.
Finally, any outcome in Durban has to be adequate enough to adhere to the principle of environmental integrity. In this context the low level of ambition is a serious concern.
A lot of work still needs to be done in the preparation for Durban and Parties must be continuously encouraged to rise to the challenge and use the limited time they will have in Durban economically.
However, the positive spirit for compromise, as demonstrated during the Panama session, bodes well for the COP17/CMP7 in Durban.
We have no doubt that COP17/CMP7 will not be an easy COP and it will require a special effort in negotiations to reach consensus on all the outstanding issues.
It is clear however, that all Parties are willing to assist South Africa and to work together to ensure a credible outcome in Durban. This is encouraging, and this we appreciate.
In Durban, together we will have the difficult task of ensuring that the international negotiations stay on track, and that we continue pursuing a global solution to the climate change challenge that nations of the world face.
We also have to ensure that we continue working towards the clarification of the legal form of the envisaged binding legal outcomes, recognising that a global regime depends on making progress on aspects we reached agreement on already.
If we appreciate that climate change unfairly affects the poor more, as they do not have the means to respond to shocks from natural disasters, it is imperative that we build resilience and ability of our communities to deal with changes in climate.
In summary, South Africa seeks a global regime that ensures that climate change does not reach dangerous levels, whilst recognising that priority for developing countries is to address poverty and socio-economic development.
We also need action by our social partners and development agencies, to effectively manage the inevitable impacts through interventions that build and sustain social, economic and environmental resilience and emergency response capacity.
We go to Durban with no illusion at all that it will be a walk in the park. On the contrary, we are fully aware that in some areas the national interest of Parties will make consensus a challenge.
But we count on the positive signals that Parties have sent out in the various consultations that we have participated in.
This is where the importance of this Commission comes in. As progressives, we share a common interest in seeing to it that Durban succeeds. Its failure would be a great setback given the achievements that the international community has made in the domain of sustainable development since the first Rio conference some 20 years ago.
Failure in Durban will spill-over into the Rio de Janeiro conference and to the 11th Conference of Parties on Biodiversity that India will host next year.
I am hopeful that as members of this important Commission of the Socialist International, you will work with us.
We need from you not only your very rich ideas.
We need you to reach out to as many Parties as possible now and in Durban for a successful outcome there. Members of this Commission - individually and collectively - enjoy respect and have access to constituencies that we need on our side for Durban.
As an organisation, the Socialist International is a home to political parties many of whom will participate in the negotiations in Durban as governing parties.
Therefore it is proper that you ask the question; How can we leverage our members as the Socialist International to ensure that a progressive view of climate and what should be done prevail in Durban?
Ladies and gentlemen, Excellencies, friends and comrades,
We must also think long-term. Durban is just a step in a long journey because this planet was loaned to us by our fore bearers for safe-keeping for our children.
We must work together to safe tomorrow today! This is our slogan for COP17/CMP. It will take all of us to win the battle against climate change.
I wish you successful deliberations.
I thank you.
Issued by: The Presidency
31 Oct 2011
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