Address by Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane to Parliament on COP17/CMP7, 09 November 2011

Honourable Memebers;

In three weeks’ time South Africa will once again be the focus of the world when we host in Durban about 20 000 people from all over the world for the 17th Conference of Parties to the UN Climate Change Convention (UNFCCC) and the 7th Conference of Parties serving as the Meeting of the Parties  (CMP7) to the Kyoto Protocol.

You will be aware, Honourable Members, that South Africa is participating in this event as a party in the negotiations as well as host and President of the conference.  Minister Edna Molewa has been leading us in executing the former role; and the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) is playing the latter role. 

We have, however, established an Inter-Ministerial Committee (IMC) at the level of Cabinet to ensure coordination and synergy of the two roles, as well as that of Minister Trevor Manuel who is representing Africa on the Transitional Committee for the envisaged Green Climate Fund. 

The global awareness of the threat posed by human-induced climate change to our planet and civilisation began in the late 1970s, culminating in the adoption of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) which entered into force in 1994 (the year of our freedom).  This convention established a secretariat (based in Bonn), and provided for an annual meeting of parties known as the COP (that is, the Conference of Parties).

The Kyoto Protocol (established in terms of the UNFCCC) which was adopted in 1997 and entered into force in 2005 commits some developed countries (known as Annex 1 countries) to emission reduction obligations.  In terms of this protocol, the first commitment period for these countries expires in 2012.  A new commitment period must be negotiated and agreed to if the Kyoto Protocol is to have any relevance in the future – and this is what is at stake in Durban.  The Kyoto Protocol also provides for an annual conference of parties.  So, what will take place in Durban is the 17th Conference of Parties to the UNFCCC and the 7th Conference of the Parties serving as the Meeting of Parties to the Kyoto Protocol.

We have said that COP17/CMP7 must be an Africa COP.  By this we mean three things: that the conference should be leveraged to advance African issues on sustainable development in general, and climate change in particular; showcase Africa’s successes on sustainable development, including our green projects; and harvest international partnerships for Africa’s green initiatives, especially with respect to mobilising necessary means of implementation in the form of finance, technology, and capacity-building.

As we prepare for this important global event, we have concentrated our efforts in the main in the following three areas: namely: logistics; substance; and, in the build-up, communication and outreach.

On logistics, we have an interdepartmental team, including the KZN province and eThekwini, leading us in this area.  We continue to monitor risks in this area, but in the main we are happy with our state of readiness.  You will be aware, Honourable Members, of our website as well as the logo and slogan of the conference: “Working Together; Saving Tomorrow Today!”.  The 2010 FIFA World Cup experience has prepared our cities for the hosting of events of this nature.

Substance is where risk to the success of the conference lies.  The COP is a party-led process; parties negotiate from the stand point of their sovereignty and national interest which are not always in sync with each other.    The disarticulation of the North-South and developed-developing countries divide comes out sharply in this respect.  Within each of these “developing” and “developed” countries categories are other groupings each participating in the negotiations to extract concessions that will further what is sometimes conflicting interests.  South Africa is participating in this configuration of forces through Minister Molewa in the BASIC, G77 plus China, AMCEN, the African Union’s CAHOSC’s process and the Africa Group.

Our approach as the COP Presidency comprises three phases.  Early this year we went on a listening campaign, meeting and talking to parties without pronouncing a specific view.  After listening to the parties, we started, in the second phase, to pronounce on what we hear the parties to be saying about what should come out of Durban.  At the last inter-sessional meeting in Panama in September (the third phase), we started calling on parties to develop a text on which negotiations in Durban will be based.  We are happy to report that our plea did not fall on deaf ears.  We are going to Durban with text in most of the negotiation tracks, including a report (with recommendations) of the Transition Committee on the Green Climate Fund.  

Our three-phased approach has paid off – our credibility as incoming COP Presidency is still intact.  This is important because the success of Durban will in many respects depend on the confidence and trust that parties have in the COP Presidency.

There are two competing visions of what should come out of Durban (even though this gap is now beginning to narrow down).  One vision wants to limit Durban’s focus to the operationalisation of what came out of COP16/CMP6 (the Cancun Agreements) of last year.  Another wants Durban to focus on both the Cancun Agreements and the finalisation of matters still outstanding from the Bali Roadmap.

In this context, there are a number of messages we are hearing from the parties, and topping the list is the 2nd Commitment of the Kyoto Protocol, and indeed the operationalisation of what came out of the Cancun Agreements, and the conclusion of issues still outstanding from the Bali Roadmap. Africa has singled out Adaptation as a key highlight of what should come out of Durban. Therefore, in Durban, we will have to work hard to close gaps among the parties on these key issues.

Honourable Members,

As mandated by the Cancun Agreements South Africa as incoming COP17/CMP7 President undertook a number of informal consultations in order to further prepare Parties for the meeting in Durban at the end of the year. In this regard the following events are worth singling out:
  • The Informal Ministerial Meeting in Pretoria from 5 to 9 September 2011
  • The Leaders’ Dialogue that took place in New York on 20 September 2011
  • The Inter-Sessional Meeting in Panama from 1 to 7 October 2011; and the
  • The Pre-COP in Stellenbosch on 20 and 21 October 2011.

We will give a more detailed account of these meetings in our statement to Parliament tomorrow.

In our interaction with parties, we tried our best to manage expectations.  We emphasise in our message the centrality of country parties and transparency.  What we say, is what we hear the parties say – instead of imposing an outcome on the parties.

Honourable Members,

On build-up and outreach, we have been on a road-show in the country to speak about the Durban Conference. We are using the countdown to Durban as a mobilisation tool.  Our engagement with civil society bodies across the country is continuing.

In a word, Honourable Members, we are happy with the progress; but we know that in terms of substance, Durban is not going to be easy.  It is here that we need the support of all.

We must do our best to get the parties to find each other on the future of the Kyoto Protocol as agreement on this point or lack of it will affect progress in other negotiations tracks.  Here, we must work on parties that are key to the deal.  Our work must be at all levels.  Reaching a consensus among the 194 country parties is not going to be easy.

A lot of work still needs to be done in the preparations for COP17/CMP7 in Durban.  We must be continuously encouraged to rise to the challenge, particularly moving beyond narrow national positions and use limited time in Durban economically. However, the positive spirit for compromise, as demonstrated during the Panama meeting in September, prevailed which bodes well for the COP17/CMP7 in Durban. COP17/CMP7 will not be an easy COP and it will require a special effort in negotiations to reach consensus on all the outstanding issues. Fortunately, Parties are willing to assist South Africa and to work together to ensure a credible outcome in Durban.

Durban’s outcomes should provide a platform from where the strengthening of the full, effective and sustained implementation of the Convention, through a comprehensive multilateral rules based system on climate change, enforceable and equally binding on all beyond 2020, can be achieved.  A decision in Durban should focus on how stronger implementation can happen NOW, as well as to decide on the FUTURE direction of the climate change negotiations and how it should unlock many other difficulties in the negotiations that are integral parts of the Durban outcome.

For the NOW part of the suggested outcome, a 2nd commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol for developed countries is essential.  No gap between the first and the second commitment period must occur.   At the same time, it might be necessary to strengthen existing mechanisms to assist Parties undertaking a 2nd commitment period to achieve their commitments.  For those developed countries that are not Party to the Kyoto Protocol, or for those that reject a 2nd commitment period, comparable and measurable mitigation commitments must be implemented and must be equally enforceable.

Developing countries on the other hand have to implement their declared mitigation actions assisted through the necessary support in a measurable and transparent manner.  Rules for accounting and for transparency are essential and should be given effect to as provided for in the Cancun agreements.  Making the Cancun mechanisms and institutions fully operational and honoring the financial undertakings already made is again part of this delicate balance.

For the FUTURE part of the outcome, all Parties will collectively have to do more, with developed countries taking the lead.  An increase in the current inadequate level of ambition is urgently required. It is only by working together that we can save tomorrow today.

Honourable Members,

Even though the UNFCCC process is of states, the role of civil society is a factor that we have not ignored.  We have established a capacity dedicated to interaction with this sector of our people. Civil society shares our concern about the threat posed by human-caused climate change.  Like us, they want to see from states bold and ambition action, urgently.  They want Durban to succeed.

Media is another constituency whose role is critical now and will be in Durban.  We are running workshops for the media to ensure that they play a role that will help deliver a positive outcome in Durban.

Parliament as an institution, and yourselves Honourable Members as distinguished leaders in our communities, continue to make an invaluable contribution in the area of climate change.  We are aware of the good work being done by this Parliament in this respect.  However, I believe that working together we can do more in the fight against climate change.  As Parliament, you can leverage your global reach to reinforce the message of what should come out of Durban. You have good and active relations with countries whose role in Durban will be critical to the deal there.

Honourable Members

I do not need to emphasise the importance of climate change to our national interests including our quest for a better life here at home, in Africa, and abroad.  This issue is about development.  Common but differentiated responsibility and respective capabilities is central to the principles of the UNFCCC. 

Climate change is a component of sustainable development.  It is about finding a balance between the imperatives of socio-economic development and meeting the needs of our people (on the one hand), and protecting our environment (on the other). Our sister department, DEA, has just released our White Paper detailing our national response to this challenge.

We are clear in our mind about the link between COP17/CMP7 and Rio+20 on sustainable development which will be held in Brazil next year, and the biodiversity meeting that India will host in the same year. It was at the historic Earth Summit that took place in Brazil’s Rio de Janeiro in 1992 that 154 countries signed the UNFCCC.  It was at the same Summit that the Biodiversity Convention was opened for signature by countries.

I thank you.
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