Economic, political and social challenges across the globe have exacerbated concerns about reaching a conclusive agreement at the United Nations (UN) Framework Convention on Climate Change Conference of the Parties, or COP 17, in Durban, later this year.
Water and Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa on Friday acknowledged the difficult global conditions and said African heads of State and government adopted a view that COP 17 would be a step towards a fair global regime on climate, rather than the conclusion of a comprehensive agreement.
She stressed that it was not indicative of African governments shying away from a resolution. South Africa believes that COP 17 should establish a mechanism to address a solution to the Kyoto Protocol's coming to an end next year.
“Maintaining the integrity of the multilateral process by making progress on the unresolved issues agreed to in Bali, in 2007, regarding a post-2012 global climate change regime is important, while also ensuring that the decisions made in Cancun are operationalised.”
This belief by heads of State was premised on observations of some major economies, particularly the US and France, which were getting into an election mode, and as such were constrained in making significant political decisions in the international arena.
Further, economies globally were still recovering from the financial crisis, coupled with the debt problems in the Euro-zone and the US being at risk of losing its AAA credit rating. “Significant pledges cannot be made on the support of developing country response to climate change,” Molewa said.
The earthquake in Japan, in March, also spurred concerns over nuclear technologies. “The subsequent delay in nuclear orders by some major economies are such that not much progress will be reached in increasing the level of ambition by developed countries,” she explained.
Molewa further advocated for “adaptation” as the center of the deal by ensuring that there was a process for concrete implementation of adaptation activities, and recognising that adaptation needs and costs depended on emission reduction ambitions of all parties, with developed countries providing the lead and support.
The Minister stressed the importance of Africa’s role in COP 17 and the need for uniformity among states.
The Africa Group Negotiators would be meeting in Durban in August to prepare for an African common position. In September, the African Ministerial Conference on the Environment would meet in Mali, to consider this position and the preparation for Rio+20, the UN Conference on Sustainable Development, in Bamako, in 2012.
Meanwhile, Molewa said South Africa’s Climate Change White Paper, which would inform the country’s climate change policy, could possibly be processed by year-end.
“Later this year, we hope to have the paper processed, and even if there is a delay, it is key to remember that such a paper is still considered to be a ‘live paper’,” she told Engineering News Online at a United Nations Development Programme climate change press briefing in Johannesburg.