Remarks by Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, President of COP17/CMP7 and Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Republic of South Africa, opening press conference of COP17/CMP7 Inkosi Albert Luthuli International Convention Centre, Durban,  28 November 2011

Ladies and Gentlemen of the media,

Welcome to the official opening press conference for COP17/CMP7. I trust that this briefing will provide valuable information on the Conference and the expectations thereof.
We are under no illusion that this Conference will be an easy process. However, we are optimistic that it will be the place where the international climate change negotiators will arrive at some agreement on the pressing issues that need resolution within the next two weeks.

As we have mentioned before, Durban is the end of the line for many pressing issues, like the second Commitment Period of the Kyoto Protocol, as well as those outstanding issues of the Bali Action Plan and the Cancun Agreements that require operationalisation.

The trust that was rekindled in Cancun is still fragile, and this Conference is the ideal opportunity for Parties to strengthen this trust. Within the Party-driven process and the procedures of the UNFCCC, we intend to ensure that this Conference is balanced, fair and credible and that it preserves and strengthens the multilateral rules-based response to climate change.

In this regard, the approach to reach a balanced, fair and credible outcome must be directed by the principles that form the basis of UNFCCC climate change negotiations. These principles include multilateralism, environmental integrity, fairness (common but differentiated responsibility and respective capabilities, equity) and honouring of all international commitments and undertakings made in the climate change process.

This brings me to the major impression that I have formed over the past year, during the formal and informal discussions, which is that the Durban Conference needs to be the place where the international climate change family faces its own demons and heals the wounds of mistrust and misunderstandings.

At this point I wish to share with you my assessment of what we need to do to create the environment from where Parties would be able to work together.

Here in Durban, we need to show the world that we are ready to tackle and solve our very real problems in a practical manner. It has been suggested that we approach Durban in a problem-solving mode and find ways to provide the required re-assurances to one another.

Durban will be a decisive moment for the future of the multilateral rules-based regime which has evolved over many years under the Convention and its Kyoto Protocol. The first Commitment Period of the Kyoto Protocol is about to come to an end. 

In the negotiations, the fate of a second Commitment Period is made dependent on the decision on the legal nature of the outcome of the negotiations under the Convention, as it is a question that has been left unanswered from Bali. It is also clear that if this question is not resolved, the outcome on other matters in the negotiations will become extremely difficult. A solution must therefore be found.

The multilateral rules-based system must prevail for the world to effectively address the global problem of climate change. The system must also give the required re-assurances that our response to climate change cannot depend on the domestic measures alone, as there will then be no assurances that all Parties will do what needs to be done.  Re-assurances are required that all Parties will work in a manner that will not jeopardise the gains made over the past decades; that adequate and sustainable long-term funding will be delivered, that implementation of all agreements will continue without an implementation gap occurring and finally the re-assurance that there is a shared vision that all Parties need to do more and do so urgently. 
In addition, it is important that the Cancun Agreements must be operationalised, including the establishment of the key mechanisms and institutional arrangements agreed to in Cancun last year. Adaptation is an essential element for any outcome as it is a key priority for many developing countries, particularly Small Island Developing States, Least Developed Countries and Africa. The current fragmented approach to adaptation must be addressed in a more coherent manner and there should be equal priority given to adaptation and mitigation.

It is important that any process has to be adequate enough to adhere to the principle of environmental integrity. It is in this respect that the low level of ambition continues to remain a serious concern.  The Green Climate Fund represents a center piece of a broader set of outcomes for Durban, especially since the developing countries clearly demand a prompt start for funding as it would unlock many other pressing issues and would allow them to reach their objectives in this regard.

The climate change negotiation process is still recovering from the serious setbacks it has suffered over the years and a trust deficit needs to be overcome. 

Therefore, in Durban, Parties from across the spectrum are asking from each other specific re-assurances that would enable all to move forward:  Developing countries want to be re-assured that developed countries will honor their emission reduction obligations, as well as to provide the necessary means of implementation that would assist them to also do their part.

Developed countries want to be re-assured that all of them would take up their fair share of actions and not walk away from commitments, while they also wish to be assured that bigger developing countries, who are also major emitters, would indeed also take up the responsibility to reduce emissions for the greater good of all.  Durban needs to be the place where these re-assurances are provided to each other and from where the fragile trust building process amongst all Parties can continue.
We need to show the world that Parties are ready to address the problems in a practical manner. My approach will be to focus on solving problems and, therefore, I will need the assistance of all Parties to work together to find solutions for the problems caused by climate change. The issue therefore at stake is what we will do now or immediately and what we need to do in the future.

I am confident that all Parties will make a special effort and show the required leadership to creatively provide these assurances that can lead to consensus on all the outstanding issues.  It is only by Working Together that we will be able to Save Tomorrow Today.

Thank you.
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