State of the Nation Address debate by Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs, B Sonjica
15 February 2010
Theme: Social Transformation
Topic: Enhancing individual and collective efforts of South Africans and the world in an appropriate response to climate change and global warming
Speaker of the National Assembly
Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly
President of the republic
Deputy President of the republic
Members of the National Assembly
I derive great pleasure and feel honoured at the opportunity of participating at the State of the Nation Address debate which not only draws inspiration but also marks the 20th anniversary of Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela’s release from 27 years of imprisonment. The release of political prisoners, the unbanning of previously prohibited political formations and the unstoppable mass protests and heroic resistance to apartheid that paved the way to Mandela’s giant strides out of Victor Verster Prison marked the beginning of the end of apartheid.
As we march further in our long journey to freedom inspired by President Mandela’s courageous and exemplary leadership, we are mindful that the struggle for a better life is not over and that the conditions of struggle confronting us have since changed. Climate change is arguably the biggest challenge facing humanity in the 21st century that may undermine the realisation of the millennium development goals. It poses a serious threat to humanity and life on earth as we know it as it is fuelled by the global carbon intensive economy. Over and above the natural cycles of climate, science tells us that the 150 years of historic industrialisation have led to an additional burden on the climate system, a burden which does not exempt the developing world but makes them more vulnerable to the vagaries of climate change.
Actions to address climate change and sustainable development paths are linked. South Africa takes a green economic growth strategic approach that supports developing countries to identify actions which allow for sustainable development and climate mitigation co-benefits. In the context of strong emphasis on mitigation actions, it is essential for adaptation to be given at least the same priority as mitigation. Adaptation to climate change is a concern for the most vulnerable who happen to be the least able to deal with climate change and also the least culpable for the current climate change situation.
As we all know, the nations of the world met in December 2009 in Copenhagen, Denmark, to finalise two years of negotiations aimed at strengthening the international climate regime beyond 2012. Specifically, our aim was to reach an international agreement that would prioritise both mitigation of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and the adaptation to climate change impacts equally; as well as balance both climate and development imperatives. In this regard it would equitably share the limited remaining carbon space in order to give developing countries a fair chance to develop based on the convention principles of equity and common but differentiated responsibilities.
In Copenhagen the international community was unable to reach a legally binding agreement on a future international climate change regime. Formally, the conclusion reached in Copenhagen was to continue negotiations this year (2010) on the basis of the work of the past two years work under the Kyoto Protocol and the Convention.
However, with the active participation and leadership of the Honourable President Jacob Zuma together with the leaders from 28 other countries a political agreement was reached. This agreement is known as the Copenhagen Accord and it captures political agreement on some of the major and difficult issues that have divided the international community since negotiations began two years ago. The particularly difficult questions addressed in this agreement relate to “how to share and reflect responsibility, commitment and action among developed and developing countries”; “how to verify and ensure compliance with respective commitments” and linked to this, the question of “who pays”.
The Copenhagen Accord, notwithstanding its deficiencies, outlines political agreement among leaders on many of the major issues. In particular, these political agreements were related to the following issues that also present opportunities:
* How to record economy-wide binding emission reduction targets for developed countries, including the United States of America (USA)
* While simultaneously, for the first time, creating a mechanism to record, at international level, the emission reduction actions by developing countries (and developing countries, such as China, India, Brazil, South Africa, Indonesia, Mexico, South Korea, as well as some small countries such as Philippines and the Maldives submitted information on their commitment to act at the meeting)
* How to internationally measure, report and verify this action; which will be
* supported by and transparently accounted for finance ($10 billion per year up to 2012) and $100 billion per year by 2020
* A technology development and transfer mechanism.
The Honourable President, Jacob Zuma in his State of the Nation Address reaffirmed the commitment of this administration to the global and national effort to combat climate change. In line with our commitment to the global effort, South Africa committed to potential mitigation actions of a 34 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions relative to business as usual by 2020, and 42 percent by 2025. This commitment is neither additional nor extraneous to our Long Term Mitigation Scenario (LTMS) and is however conditional to a legally binding international regime and support with regards to means of implementation.
Our commitment and contributions in addressing climate change has already been reflected in President Zuma’s announcement made on 6 December 2009. South Africa has conducted an internationally reviewed study of its mitigation potential in the context of long-term mitigation scenarios, which has informed the nationally appropriate mitigation action that may be taken. Accordingly, South Africa has offered to take nationally appropriate mitigation action to enable a 34 percent deviation below the ‘business as usual’ emissions growth trajectory by 2020 and a 42 percent deviation below the ‘business as usual’ emissions growth trajectory by 2025.
The extent to which this action will be implemented depends on the provision of financial resources, the transfer of technology and capacity building support by developed countries. Therefore, the above action requires the finalisation of an ambitious, fair, effective and binding multilateral agreement under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and its’ Kyoto Protocol at COP 16 and CMP 6 in Mexico to enable the delivery of this support. With financial, technology and capacity building support from the international community, this level of effort will enable South Africa’s green house gas emissions to peak between 2020 and 2025, plateau for approximately a decade and decline in absolute terms thereafter.
We must note that in order to achieve this we are already taking action in line with our development priorities. For example we are developing a 100 mega watt solar concentrated power plant, rolling out solar water heaters to a million households, supporting the commercialisation of South Africa’s electric car.
In conclusion, we are undertaking a policy development process that seeks to achieve the objectives green growth, which will be informed by the long term mitigation scenarios study to guide the actions we need to take to follow a low carbon development path. As a focal point on climate change, our department is already engaged with sector departments in developing climate change sector plans, which require a concerted effort from government departments to ensure a meaningful climate change response that focuses on people.
South Africa is a diverse country in terms of culture, religion and languages. The public at large is crucial to addressing the challenge of climate change. It is therefore important that we demystify climate change into a common language that is understood by all; a language that simplifies scientific and business jargon and traverses language barriers so that every individual and institution in society understands the significance of climate change and their respective roles in responding to it. This will expedite processes by either government or business to mobilise the public at large towards mitigation and adaptation to climate change
The government of South Africa and all sectors of our society agreed to pursue the required by science scenario of the Long term mitigation scenarios study in a bid to curb greenhouse gas emissions. It is also important to stress the need for adaptation since the world is committed to a certain level of climate change that will require new coping mechanisms. In addition to adaptation and mitigation, the business sector will need to discuss technology needs for a low carbon economy as well as the possible mechanisms to finance these at local level.
President Mandela’s rich legacy behoves us to strike a balance between the imperatives of environmental preservation and social and economic development of our people as duly exhorted to by our internationally acclaimed Constitution, the supreme law of the land. This rich legacy therefore demands that we be alive to the impacts of the biggest challenge facing mankind in the twenty-first century, which is climate change and do more to counter them.
I thank you.
Issued by: Ministry of Water and Environmental Affairs
15 February 2010