Introductory remarks by the Minister of Science and Technology, Naledi Pandor (MPP at the Inaugural high-level dialogue on biodiversity, climate change and sustainable development, COP 17’s Climate Change Response Expo
7 Dec 2011
It’s my pleasure to host this inaugural high-level dialogue on biodiversity, climate change and sustainable development.
Biodiversity is very important to South Africa given that we are the 3rd most diverse environment in the world.
The purpose of this dialogue is to learn from a suite of African projects that have shown what is possible in addressing the big issues of biodiversity, climate change and sustainable development. These successful solutions are of great significance in their own right, but our dialogue also seeks to understand why these solutions are not applied at scale in more countries.
At the global multi-lateral level, these themes are usually addressed separately, but the reality is that on the ground, where our constituencies are, they are not experienced as unrelated and discrete life experiences.
In the South African context the integration of biodiversity, climate change and sustainable development is demonstrated by several interventions, for example, the Working for Water project.
This Working for Water programme began in 1995 and since then, the people working in the project have cleared more than one million hectares of invasive alien plants. The primary purpose of the programme is to reduce the impact of "water- guzzling" invasive species and protect indigenous biodiversity
The project has been remarkably effective and has seen the steady recovery of indigenous biodiversity in cleared areas and wetlands. It has seen the rebirth of flowing streams where river beds had been perennially dry.
In the process, it has provided jobs and training to approximately 20 000 people from among the most marginalised sectors of society per annum. Of these, 52% are women.
The project has been supported by on-going research that is focused on the three strands of our conversation today. Our scientists and field workers have had to integrate the research outcomes into the on-going development of a range of mechanical, chemical, biological methods to control invasive alien plants and to support the development of indigenous species.
The project clearly demonstrates our interpretation of sustainability which includes conservation of biodiversity; community development; creation of sustainable jobs; and working with our research and development institutions to support innovation and responsiveness.
Just as important in moving this project to scale has been the integrated participation of government through the Departments of Water and Environmental Affairs, Agriculture Forestry and Fisheries, Trade and Industry, Science and Technology. The national provincial and local spheres of Government have also been drawn into the partnership.
The inaugural focus on Africa at this event is the first of three such dialogues over the coming year. This dialogue will feed into the next one in Rio de Janeiro at the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (RIO+20) led by Brazil, and the third and final dialogue at Hyderabad, at the 11th meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP 11) to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) led by India.
In Brazil, the event will focus on the Latin American experience, while in India the event will focus on showcasing the Asian experience.
The three conventions (on biodiversity, climate change, and desertification) that are a focus of the Rio Pavilion have given rise to the development of robust co-operation and coordination as part of the process of policy, technical and institutional development. This illustrates the value of global conventions for cooperation.
I am pleased that today we will be presented with a report that highlights the value of biodiversity and ecosystems in helping people adapt to the adverse impacts of climate change.
With so much focus on the extremely challenging task of achieving a fair and balanced mitigation outcome under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the positive messages that are emerging from the adaptation disciplines can easily be overlooked.
The report clearly indicates that it is possible for us to take decisive action. Science, in all disciplines, has lessons that we can draw upon. Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO s), Community-based organisations (CBOs), Government, multilateral bodies and business have experiences and programmes that can be compiled into taxonomy of sustainable responses to climate change and protection of biodiversity.
We need to devise a means of sharing this knowledge and supporting use of what works in all communities. In a time when we know that our actions are causing climate change, this message is doubly important.
Rich biodiversity and healthy ecosystems provide services that help us both to adapt to and to mitigate against climate change.
Ecosystem-based adaptation will surely become one of the key pillars in the adaptation strategies of all nations of the world, and we are proud that the African continent is able to provide some of the early examples of the successes that can be achieved.
Through this high-level dialogue, and its accompanying technical paper, the Department of Water and Environmental Affairs hopes to initiate an important process that will not only advance global understanding and implementation of ecosystem-based adaptation, but also highlight the value of ecological infrastructure and natural solutions to environmental challenges that are of our own making.
I would like to thank our colleagues from Brazil and India for joining us in this important discussion for developing countries and the entire world.
I look forward to hearing the perspectives that will be presented during Rio+20 and the culmination of our engagement during the Convention on Biological Diversity’s eleventh meeting in India next year.
Issued by: Department of Science and Technology
7 Dec 2011
[ Top ]