Opening address by Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane at the High-Level Segment of COP17/CMP7, ICC, Durban, 06 December 2011

Your Excellency, President of the Republic of South Africa, Mr Jacob Zuma;
Your Excellency, Secretary General of the United Nations, Mr Ban Ki Moon;
Your Excellencies Heads of State and Government;
Honorable Ministers;
Members of the UNFCCC Secretariat;
Distinguished Delegates;
Ladies and gentlemen.

I am pleased to welcome Your Excellencies, Heads of State and Government, as well as our Ministers and other members of delegations to the official opening of the High-Level Segment of the COP17/CMP7 Conference in Durban. I am honored to preside over COP17/CMP7 on behalf of my country, South Africa, and its people. 

I must also recognize the President of South Africa, Mr. Jacob Zuma, and thank him for honouring us with his presence.

To the Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC, Ms Christiana Figueres, we have been working together for the past months and since the beginning of this Conference last week.  Thank you for putting your team at my disposal to support us in discharging our role and responsibility as the COP Presidency.

We have already had two Bureau meetings, as well as regular meetings with the Chairs of the Working Groups and Subsidiary Bodies of the Convention and its Protocol. The constructive working relationship that has been established bodes well for the process ahead of us as we now enter the High-Level Segment of COP17/CMP7.

For the past week, the negotiators have been hard at work to prepare for the High-Level Segment to ensure that the Ministers would not be overloaded with a magnitude of outstanding issues. The ministers will have to take leadership so that pressing issues that need to be resolved receive their guidance and leadership.

Since the conference started last week, I have been encouraging the negotiators to be flexible and to give the assurances required amongst them to work in a transparent and inclusive way with the view to ensuring that all the positions are heard and accommodated. I wish to make the same appeal to you, Ministers, to show leadership in action by being willing to reach beyond national interests in finding a global solution for the common good of all.

To enhance this process, we have embarked on informal Indaba consultations during the week on the various outstanding issues. “Indaba” is a South African word of Zulu origin, meaning a gathering where people are free to air their views towards a common goal. We have chosen this word for these informal consultations not only because we are in the province of the Zulu-speaking people, but also because we hope Parties will use the Indaba to talk to each other, not pass each other.

I am pleased that indeed these informal Indaba meetings have given Parties the opportunity to work within the transparent and inclusive process required; and thanks to them, we have been able to advance the process substantially. Therefore, I will continue with this Indaba process during the High-Level Segment.

Excellencies, Colleagues

Three days ago, the UNFCCC Executive Secretary and I were standing on an open van under the blessings of the rain to receive a Memorandum from concerned citizens of the world, who had marched through the streets of the city of Durban.  This Memorandum was not the first to be presented to us – we had received similar petitions from various constituencies ranging from the youth movements and rural women to religious organizations.  These constituencies who constitute an important segment of the world citizenry are expecting leadership from us to find solutions that will give them hope and secure their future. We have a responsibility not to disappoint them.  I believe that as a collective, we can rise to the challenge that comes with the slogan we have chosen for this COP that: “Working Together; Saving Tomorrow Today”.
We are in Durban with one purpose only and that is to find common solutions for climate change challenges that affect us all. 

In my role as your facilitator to help you reach a balanced, fair and credible outcome, I have been following the UNFCCC Party-driven process, which is transparent and inclusive. This approach is informed by UNFCCC principles such as multilateralism, environmental integrity, fairness (common but differentiated responsibility and respective capabilities), equity and the honouring of all international commitments and undertakings made in the climate change process.

Throughout my role as the in-coming and now as the COP President, I have been making an appeal that Durban is a decisive moment for the future of the multilateral rules-based climate change system. As we are all aware, the 1st Commitment Period of the Kyoto Protocol will come to an end in 2012. We have no option but to deal with the outstanding political issues remaining from the Bali Roadmap. This means finding a resolution to the issue of the 2nd Commitment Period under the Kyoto Protocol and agreeing on the legal nature of a future climate change system.

In addition, it is important that we also operationalise the Cancun Agreements, including the establishment of the key mechanisms and institutional arrangements agreed to in Cancun such as the Green Climate Fund. When we focus on the Cancun Agreements, Adaptation has to be an essential element for any outcome as it is a key priority for many countries who demand that adaptation received the same attention as mitigation.
The bottom line is that we need to create an environment from where we will be able to work together. In this regard, I am hopeful that in the final week we will consider what we need to do now or immediately and what we need to do in the future.  I believe this approach will guide us on the way forward. 
To our distinguished Excellencies and ministers who have graced this occasion, we are looking forward to your guidance, wisdom and support for movement on difficult political issues. 

Let Durban be the place that will be remembered, as the place, where Parties were able to work together, giving each other the necessary re-assurances, to secure a platform of trust.

Let the High-Level Segment of COP17/CMP7 leave a legacy in the climate change negotiations in our endeavour to save tomorrow today, working together!

I thank you.
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