Cynicism surrounds COP17 progress
Francois Williams & Ingé Lamprecht
Cape Town – High expectations are intentionally not being
raised for a fair global climate accord for better progress at the COP17
climate change conference starting in Durban on Monday.
Although cynics believe that the gathering of the 20 000
participants in Durban, with all the hot air of their discussions, will only
further contribute to climate change, Neil Morris of the KPMG audit group
nevertheless expects progress in implementing decisions taken at COP16 in
These include the introduction of mechanisms such as the
Green Climate Fund and rapprochement on solutions in pursuance of the Kyoto
Protocol, which expires at the end of next year.
Morris, the director of climate change and sustainability
services at KPMG, also expects greater emphasis on initiatives for adaptation
to inevitable climate change.
It has become clear that Africa already needs to start
adapting. African people are among the poorest and most exposed victims of
Morris admits to the many agendas at COP17, with developed
countries believing that developing countries also have to make a contribution
to restricting greenhouse gas emissions, and developing countries arguing that
they need the opportunity to grow further and adapt with increased funding from
Island states are very concerned that they may cease to
exist in the coming decades, and
countries like Saudi Arabia fear damage to their entire economies -
which are based on fossil fuel - if strict limitations are placed on the use of
Morris reckons countries will, against the background of
almost irreconcilable differences, have to do their best to reach consensus on
responding to climate challenges in a fair and balanced manner.
According to Morris, a recent KPMG analysis of South African
companies' targets for greenhouse gas restrictions shows that the private
sector can play a significant role in resolving the problem.
Based on the targets of participants in the 2010 Carbon
Disclosure Project for the JSE's top hundred companies, the private sector can
help reduce by about half the gap between South Africa's set target and
“business as usual”.
Apart from the private sector, government, state
institutions and each individual will need to make a contribution.
Every year South Africa releases around 500m tonnes of
carbon dioxide, but a single institution, Eskom, with its coal-fired power
stations, emits almost half of that.
A change in the energy mix and greater energy efficiency by
all are therefore crucial for achieving South Africa's target of releasing 34%
less carbon dioxide by 2020 and 40% less by 2025.
Morris stresses that the business sector requires certainty
and predictability, and policies like government’s national climate strategy
and the proposed carbon tax therefore
need to be transparent and predictable.
The carbon tax has the potential of harming the economy,
although it can be an outstanding tool if properly put together and
Meanwhile, the Greenpeace environmental group in a recent
report has alleged that corporate giants like Eskom, Shell, BHP Billiton
[JSE:BIL] and ArcelorMittal SA [JSE:ACL] are publicly making positive
statements about the fight against climate change, but that through pressure
groups are actively opposing policies such as the carbon tax.
While Eskom on the one hand champions cleaner electricity,
it continues building coal-fired power stations.
The Nissan Leaf electric car
A total of 11 Nissan Leafs will be used during the COP17
conference to transport delegates.
The Leaf, a 100%-electric vehicle, could be available
locally from 2013 with government's support.
Since the vehicle is battery-driven, passengers enjoy a
silent journey. The only indication that the motor has been switched on, is an
electronic icon on the instrument panel.
As in the case of automatic vehicles, the driver does not
need to change gears and simply chooses to go forward or backwards.
An information panel allows the driver to monitor his carbon
footprint. Controls are also available to reduce energy consumption and during
a journey a small tree grows in size on the instrument panel, depending on how
economically the vehicle is being operated.
The Leaf's top speed is 145km/h and it can cover 175km with
a fully charged battery. The South African selling price is estimated to be
around R350 000.
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