The pressure is on us to act

2009-12-05 12:21

 By Buyelwa Sonjica

WITH the Copen­hagen climate change conference

starting ­tomorrow the world waits with trepidation to see what progressive

outcome emerges from the gathering.

The conference, which ends on December 18, is crucial as its

outcome will determine whether or not the imminent devastating effects of

climate change can be minimised in the near future.

It is clear to us all that we have to act now to reduce the levels

of carbon dioxide emissions that cause global warming. It is no longer a

question of when but of how much speed we move with.

It is imperative that a deal is reached in Copenhagen to address

climate change, more so as the first commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol,

which was agreed to in 1996, expires at the end of 2012.

The South African position is very clear on the outcome we want to

see in Copenhagen. We are looking for an outcome that balances adaptation and

mitigation and development imperatives with climate change imperatives.

To achieve this we must continue to grow so we address our

development challenges. However, we must do this ­using clean, low-carbon

technologies. The developed nations have an obligation to support the developing

world in achieving this and should help with finance, technology and capacity

building.

The climate challenges the world faces are a consequence of a

legacy of emissions that have happened over centuries?– those most responsible

being the industrialised nations. However, we live in a global village and all

countries have to work towards the common goal of reducing greenhouse gas

emissions.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change indicates that if

emissions continue to rise at their current pace and atmospheric temperatures

allowed to reach more than 2°C above pre-industrial levels there will be

dangerous and irreversible climate change. The consequences of this include

include sea-level rise, shifts in growing seasons and an increasing frequency

and intensity of extreme weather events such as storms, floods and droughts. The

threat to agricultural output hits at the core of our commitment to ensuring

food security and eradicating poverty.

But reaching our climate change goals does not come cheaply.

Developing nations will require about $400 billion (about R2.9 trillion) every

year from 2020 for mitigation and adaptation to climate change.

According to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate

Change secretariat, the investment and financial flows that will be needed to

address climate change will amount to 0.3% to 0.5% of global domestic product by

2030. Current levels of funding will be insufficient to address the future

financial flows needed after 2012.

South Africa is committed to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions

and also addressing its vulnerability to the effects of climate change.

We acknowledge our historical dependence on coal as a primary

energy source. We also acknowledge that many developed countries are also

dependent on coal. The issue for us is how we move forward to introduce

low-carbon initiatives that reduce this dependence over time.

South Africa has been clear that our emissions should peak in

around 2020 to 2025, stabilise for a decade and then decline. Achieving this is

a ­major challenge. Support from the international community and from a

Copenhagen deal is critical to the successful achievement of this goal.

We share the common view that all of us have to take­

responsibility. The pressure is on all partners throughout the world to find a

common outcome on climate change.

We owe it to our children and future generations.
  •  Sonjica is the Minister

    of ­Water and Environmental ­Affairs



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