Reaffirm Kyoto Protocol, Zuma urges

Durban - President Jacob Zuma urged delegates at the UN climate summit on Monday to work for an outcome that was "balanced, fair and credible" and reaffirm the Kyoto Protocol.

"You have before you the responsibility to reaffirm the multilateral rules-based system undercut by the Kyoto Protocol," he said, speaking at the event’s opening ceremony in Durban.

He called on delegates to provide the funding needed by developing countries to address the impacts of climate change.

This could be achieved by activating the so-called Green Fund, the $100bn a year that developed counties have promised to provide by 2020.

Zuma said a key issue facing delegates had to do with a second commitment period for the Kyoto Protocol, and "reaching agreement on the legal nature of a future climate change system".

Late opening

The summit opened late in Durban on Monday morning to the sound of drums.

A group of bare-chested men in red kikois entertained delegates with some high-kicking, hard-stomping Zulu dance moves as they waited patiently for the opening ceremony to commence.

Ten minutes after the scheduled 10:00 start time and with many delegates still streaming into the venue, an official called on them to rise for the entry of Zuma. Then he told them to sit down.

"I’ve just been informed the president is arriving later. Please be seated."

A little later, he announced: "I hope they’re not stuck in a holding room and no-one can find the locksmith!"

Delegates, officials and journalists waited a further half hour before Zuma arrived and the opening finally got underway at 10:41.

One of its first decisions was confirming the election of South African International Relations and Co-operation Minister, Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, as COP 17 president.

'Mammoth task'

Nkoana-Mashabane told delegates that a "mammoth task" lay ahead of them.

"We are in Durban with one purpose - that is to secure a future for generations to come."

Referring to a second commitment period for the Kyoto Protocol, she warned that if this question was not resolved, "the outcome of other matters in the negotiations will become extremely difficult".

The summit, which ends on December 9, is aimed at cutting greenhouse gas emissions enough to keep any rise in global average temperature to below two degrees Celsius to prevent catastrophic climate change later this century.

Zuma warned that Africa was especially vulnerable to climate change. This was not just because of extreme events such as droughts and floods, but also due to poverty, "which limits the ability of countries to cope with climate change".

There was also the threat of food shortages, he said.

- What do you think are the most important issues that should be tackled at COP 17? Are you in Durban? Publish YOUR thoughts
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