Opening remarks by the Minister of Science and Technology, Naledi Pandor MP, at the reception after the Oceans Day Event, Rio Pavilion, COP 17, Durban
3 Dec 2011Ministers,
We are meeting here in Durban about the sustainability of the earth.
We all know how important it is to work together to achieve sustainability, to reduce GHG, and to protect ecosystems and natural resources.
Deputy Minister Mabudafhasi, Dr Biliana Cicin-Sain and Dr Wendy Wright have, I am sure, led your discussions today enthusiastically and insightfully, focussing attention on oceans, marine life and coastal environments.
I am sure you will have discussed what to do to save our marine environment.
It is is far less sustainable than we thought, as a report earlier this year from the Independent Panel on the State of our Oceans (IPSO) revealed.
Our understanding of some of these issues of sustainability has been shaped by biologists and paleontologists who have spent the past 150 years documenting the crucial role of climate in determining the geographical distribution of species and ecological communities.
As living organisms are intimately connected to their physical surroundings, even small changes in the temperature of the air, the moisture in the soil, or the salinity of the water can have significant effects. Each species is affected by such changes individually, but those individual impacts can quickly reverberate through the intricate web of life that makes up an ecosystem.
South Africa’s unique geographic position at the bottom tip of Africa and surrounded by the Southern Oceans as well as our long-standing research efforts in Antarctica and Marion Islands has allowed us to make an important contribution to the scientific understanding of the science of climate change and its biological effects.
South Africa has identified the importance of adopting a broader Earth Systems approach in order to better understand the impacts of human and natural changes and includes areas of research that go beyond climate change.
Notwithstanding our research efforts, the important impact of the Southern Oceans and its associated land mass remains under-researched.
Very little work has been done to monitor ocean temperatures, trends or changes.
Africa is particularly dependent on fishing. I think one in five Africans (200 million) is dependent on fishing for his or her diet.
But what our fishermen and women know is that the seas are rougher than they were twenty years ago and the water is warmer. And that means, simply put, eco disaster.
In South Africa we have accepted our responsibility in regard to the sustainable management of oceans and coastal environments.
We are currently implementing the South African Integrated Coastal Management Act.
We are also joining many other countries in developing our oceans management policy and I hope that today’s discussion will have helped fit-and-turn our policy.
In closing, let me make a comment about scientific research.
The promotion of science and technology for climate actions in an integrated, coordinated and balanced manner within the proper context of sustainable development is vital.
One of the most encouraging aspects I have encountered during my many visits to research institutions and projects is the passion of scientists for making an impact – for making a difference.
It is this passion, combined with a supportive science system, that drives exciting research outcomes.
Issued by: Department of Science and Technology
3 Dec 2011
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