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Apr 20, 2011

Extending Kyoto Protocol critical – Molewa

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South Africa does not want the next UN Climate Change Conference, which it will host in Durban in November, to be the "death" of the Kyoto Protocol, says Environment Minister Edna Molewa.

Briefing the media at Parliament on Wednesday, ahead of debate on her department's Budget vote, she said government viewed continuation of the protocol as critical.

The first commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol – an international agreement, reached in 1997, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions – expires late next year.

The Durban conference, more formally, the 17th Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, aims to build on agreements reached during last year's conference – held in Cancun, Mexico – and establish a new global climate change regime.

Molewa said South Africa's role as conference host was to "facilitate a programme that will make us reach... a desirable outcome that continues to take forward the issues of climate change and not take them backwards".

Since Cancun, government had been listening carefully to what was being said by other countries.

"We've now got more or less an idea of what other countries are saying, and where are they likely to want to settle, or even the direction they want to go."

One of these was concern over extending the Kyoto Protocol with a so-called second commitment period.

"That period is quite critical for all of us, because in the Kyoto Protocol we carry the rules of operations, the rules of agreement, and none of us would like to lose those rules of operation.

"There are very serious ongoing discussions with other countries."

Some developed countries were saying they did not want to get into the second commitment of the Kyoto Protocol.

"We are negotiating, we are pushing hard. We believe that this is an area that we can't leave unattended, and something's got to come out of Durban, without having Durban being the death of the Kyoto Protocol, because that we wouldn't want to happen."

Molewa said South Africa would push harder to increase action by countries on controlling their carbon emissions, a major greenhouse gas.

There were also other issues that had "fallen through the cracks", including carbon "equity" and the two-track commitment to actions.

"We are saying this must be one track for developing countries, and the other for developed. There has to be a distinction between developed and emerging economies. The latter must be given the space and time to develop.

"This needs to be dealt with quite thoroughly. We don't think we should come out of Durban not actually having resolved this matter," she said.

Molewa also said a failure to implement some of the decisions that came out of Cancun could pose a "very big threat" to the Durban discussions.

This included the establishment of a $100-billion Green Climate Fund by 2020, and the transfer of technology to combat climate change to developing countries.

"These issues are very, very critical, in that the commitments made in supporting capacity and the transfer of technology in these funds is very important for developing countries.

"If the support doesn't come forth, this is actually a very big threat to the discussions in Durban. We think this is one area we've really got to focus on," she said.

Edited by: Sapa
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