We have the green light to curb emissions

2011-01-22 13:36

Twelve months ago I reflected on the climate change negotiations that had just taken place in Copenhagen, Denmark.

I was honest about the disappointment both the United Kingdom (UK) and South Africa felt about its outcome.

Now a new year has dawned and it is good to be able to write much more positively about the recent meeting in Cancun, Mexico.

Even more South Africans should be interested in the outcome in Cancun than they were in Copenhagen: a sufficiently ambitious global deal is essential for sustainable development in South Africa, as in many other countries.

And South Africa will be right at the centre of things as all eyes turn to the 17th Conference of the Parties in Durban in December.

When delegates assembled in Cancun in November for the 16th conference, expectations were not high.

Fresh in everyone’s mind was the memory of disappointed hopes in Copenhagen.

However, the Cancun Agreement was adopted – to the delight and relief of more than 190 countries that believe in the UN process and the importance of a global deal to tackle climate change.

The Cancun Agreement covers progress on a wide range of measures.

Decisions were reached on reducing deforestation; bringing into the UN system details of ­actions taken by developed and ­developing countries to reduce emissions; and working out systems for measuring, reporting and verifying emission reductions and actions taken in line with countries’ commitments.

These decisions provide a solid foundation for further work in the years ahead.

For the first time there is an international commitment to “deep cuts in global greenhouse gas emissions” to keep the increase in the earth’s average global temperature below 2° Celsius.

The most important aspect of the Cancun Agreement is that it sends a very clear and positive message – that the UN process is back on track and with renewed momentum.

While we all work towards Durban, and the ultimate goal of a legally binding global agreement on climate change, the UK’s coalition government will continue to take action at home.

We intend to demonstrate how a successful and prosperous low-carbon economy can be developed in the UK and European Union, providing employment, exports and energy security – while reducing emissions.

Our efforts are not focused only domestically.

In the southern African region the British government, through its department for international development, is already spending £7.5 million (about R84 million) for adaptation.

South Africa has also accessed $500 million (about R3.5 billion) from the World Bank’s Clean Technology Fund – to which the UK is a major contributor – to support low-carbon initiatives.

We are looking at what more we can do bilaterally to support South Africa and the region.

Cancun was a triumph for the spirit of international cooperation in tackling an international threat.

There is a lot more to do in the run-up to the 2011 climate conference in Durban and beyond; but Cancun has given us renewed ­confidence to approach it.

The Soccer World Cup last year showed the world there is no doubt that South Africa is up to the ­challenge of hosting complex and important international events.

I am looking forward to continuing to work closely with our South African counterparts to make sure we get a global deal that is proudly South African and that the whole world can be proud of.

»  Brewer is the British High Commissioner to South Africa

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