Closing remarks by President Jacob Zuma to the Heads of State and Government Dialogue at the UNFCC climate change conference, Cancun, Mexico, 9 DECEMBER 2010.


Excellency President Felipe Calderon,
Excellencies Heads of State and Government,
Honourable Ministers,

We congratulate our colleague and friend, President Calderon for the successful organization of this important conference, and also the outstanding hospitality extended to our delegations.

As the hosts of the next round of talks, the 17th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, in Durban next year, we have learned a lot from Mexico.
Our participation here is valuable indeed and we appreciate the offers of support from the Mexicans and other nations.

The theme of this Leader's Dialogue places a heavy responsibility on us as leaders to look to the future.
It enjoins us to think now about how future generations will judge us, based on our response to the challenge of climate change.

The world is waiting for good news and progress to emerge from these negotiations. They look up to us to come up with meaningful solutions.

The Bali Roadmap set the two track framework for negotiations under the Convention and its Kyoto Protocol, in accordance with the principles of equity and common but differentiated responsibility and respective capability.

We dare not delay.

The climate is changing and regions such as Africa and small island states are becoming more vulnerable as we spend hours, months and years deliberating.

Drought in Africa, flooding in the Phillipines, Pakistan and China, wild fires in Russia and other parts of the world are warnings of what lies ahead if we do not act sooner.

It is estimated that in some African countries yields from rain-fed agriculture could be reduced by up to 50% in the next 20 years.

In addition, between seventy five and two hundred and fifty million people are projected to be exposed to increased water stress by 2020.

Health impacts will also magnify the challenges of food and water insecurity. Increasing strain on the resilience of many ecosystems will affect the livelihoods of people living in rural areas.

Considering that the effect of climate change is already felt by most developing countries, it is important that urgent steps be taken to help them adapt to as well as mitigate the impact of climate change.

The Copenhagen Accord provides political direction in this respect by encouraging developed countries to provide adequate, predictable and sustainable financial resources, technology and capacity building for adaptation action in developing countries.
The Cancun negotiations must help us move forward.

The talks have to produce a multilateral climate change regime that is fair, inclusive and effective, keeping temperature to well below two degrees celcius above pre-industrial levels.

In fact more recent science indicates that one point five degrees celsius is the safe limit.

We also urge that the multilateral climate change regime must strike a balance between climate and development imperatives.

It must also not jeopardize economic growth and poverty eradication priorities of developing countries.

Through our actions, we also need to respond to the notion that there is a trade-off to be made between faster economic growth and the preservation of our environment.

We must prove that faster economic growth can be achieved alongside the sustainable management of our natural resources.

That is the route we are following in South Africa.
We are exploring further the concept of 'green jobs', including scaling up labour-intensive natural resource management practices which contribute to decent work and livelihood opportunities.

We are in particular, amongst others, pursuing investments in projects and industries in the fields of renewable energy, marine aquaculture development, wildlife management, waste services as well as ecosystems rehabilitation programmes.

There are many other initiatives that industrialized nations can pursue and which some are pursuing already to protect the future, while not destroying industries and jobs.
We emphasise the view that the multilateral climate change regime must proactively support sustainable development by enabling a transition to a low carbon economy, and an equal balance of emphasis on adaptation and mitigation.

This can be achieved by ensuring that adaptation is recognized as an international responsibility requiring an international legal framework, to enable and support the implementation of large scale adaption programmes at international, regional and national levels.

As agreed in Bali, the most effective and politically acceptable way to urgently deliver on these requirements is through an amendment to the Kyoto Protocol to establish a second commitment period, with a comparable legally binding outcome under the Convention.


We strongly believe that we must leave Cancun having agreed on the over-arching decisions on the legal form of the eventual outcome of negotiations under the Convention and the continued negotiation of a 2nd Commitment Period under the Kyoto Protocol.

There must also be decisions on a roadmap and timelines for further negotiations as well as decisions to support implementation in the short term.

This will enable Durban to build on what has been achieved in Cancun, and to ensure that future generations inherit a world that is sustainable and climate resilient.

Working together we can do more.

Acting now costs far less than acting later.

I thank you.

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