On the Road to Durban: Promoting Sustainable Energy Access in Africa, Speech for Deputy Minister Ebrahim, 15 September 2011

Honourable Ministers
Ladies and gentlemen

It is a great honour and pleasure for me to participate in this African Ministerial Conference on sustainable energy access with the objective to facilitate dialogue and to reach consensus on Africa’s energy vision for the future. The theme of the Conference: “On the Road to Durban: Promoting Sustainable Energy Access in Africa”, relates well to South Africa’s incoming COP17/CMP7 Presidency especially since we are at an interesting and potentially transformational point in the climate change narrative. We stand at a decisive moment in history where there are major opportunities emerging, yet huge risks and challenges need to be overcome to fully realise these opportunities.

Humanity has never been so profoundly aware of climate change, of its impacts and of the fact that emissions must be radically reduced to secure a relatively safe future. Africa is the continent hardest-hit by climate change. Its vulnerability stems not only from climate change impacts such as sea-level rise, severe droughts and floods, but also from the current levels of poverty, which limit Africa’s ability to cope with these impacts. It is in this regard where we have all agreed before that a global response is the only effective and sustainable answer to this global challenge.

The COP17/CMP7 Conference in Durban at the end of the year presents us with an opportunity to shape the future global response to climate change. I have found the number of principles that have formed the basis of climate change negotiations over the years instructive to guide a credible response to this challenge. Although countries have different positions on the elements on which agreement might be possible in Durban, any outcome in Durban must remain true to these principles. These include the principle of multilateralism, of environmental integrity, of common but differentiated responsibility and respective capabilities, of equity, and the honouring of all international commitments and undertakings made in the climate change process.

The strengthening and preservation of the multilateral response to climate change is paramount. Climate change is a global problem that needs a global solution and the concerns of all Parties must be heard and addressed. Parties have always maintained that the multilateral rules-based system must prevail as without it there can be no guarantee that countries will do what they have committed to do and all the gains made over decades will be lost. It is only through the preservation of the multilateral rules-based system that markets can be secured. Funding is essential to developing countries and without multilateral commitments to provide adequate and sustainable funding, developing countries could be even more seriously affected.

Furthermore, any outcome in Durban has to adequately respond to the principle of environmental integrity. A less ambitious outcome that would not address the urgent needs of those seriously affected by climate change and that fall short of allowing future generations the opportunity to grow and to live in a secure environment in which to pursue their own destinies, would simply not be acceptable. More so as the Durban Conference is taking place on the African continent, which as mentioned already is particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. In this context the low level of ambition is a serious concern. There is a growing realisation among developed and developing counties alike that there is already a gap between the current level of emission reduction targets and the levels required by science. It therefore remains important for all of us to be able to produce creative ideas in our respective energy policies to raise our levels of ambition.

The principle of equity, currently expressed through the Convention principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities, is especially pertinent for a fair and credible response. Climate change is the most pressing sustainable development challenge of our time. The principle of equity must be addressed in the context of sustainable development. Similarly, an agreement that does not address the necessary means of implementation – finance, technology and capacity-building – will not be equitable. All Parties based on common but differentiated responsibility and respective capabilities, will have to do more to reach the agreed long-term global goal of limiting average temperature increase to below 2 degrees Celsius.

For a credible outcome in Durban a solution needs to be found that would preserve the balance between the continuation of the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol, the continuation of the work under the AWG-LCA as it relates to mitigation, adaptation and means of implementation and the operationalisation of the institutions created by the Cancun decisions. As the incoming COP17/CMP7 President, South Africa will go all the way to assist in finding creative solutions that can preserve the balances and at the same time will adhere to the principles of the UNFCCC and the Kyoto Protocol in order to produce a credible outcome in Durban.

It is our understanding that in some areas, such as the operationalisation of the institutional arrangements established in Cancun at COP16/CMP6, Parties are not far from agreeing with each other. As we consolidate progress already made in these areas, we must also apply our collective will to address the bigger outstanding political issues that cannot be postponed beyond Durban.

Although a solution for the mitigation question is critical we will need to balance this solution with a credible outcome on adaptation that avoids the current fragmented approach and deals with adaptation in a coherent and effective manner. Adapting to climate change is a key priority for many developing countries, particularly small island developing states, least developed countries and Africa.

Within these developments finance remains an issue of critical importance, not only for a comprehensive climate deal, but also to place the global community on a path that will allow us to build resilient societies. In Cancun a package that included a collective commitment by developed countries to provide new and additional Fast Start Financing through international institutions in the amount of US$ 30 billion between 2010 and 2012, as well as setting a goal of mobilising jointly US$ 100 billion by 2020, was agreed. It has become equally important to seriously address the scaling up of the delivery of climate finance between 2013 and 2020 and initiate a formal process that will assess the sources and scale of long term finance and to ensure the capitalisation of the Green Climate Fund.

Moving forward is not merely an option in Durban, but essential. All the participating countries need to think creatively to accommodate each other and create the space to decide how to address problems for which possible solutions at present are perhaps not matured enough. In this regard, we cannot avoid addressing the end of the first commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol in 2012. The international community will therefore be once again at a crossroads in Durban. Any decision on the future of the Kyoto Protocol will inevitably be part of the broader question of the future and nature of the climate change regime. In order to address this issue in Durban a wide variety of interests and positions will have to be balanced. A meaningful balance will clearly honour the principles of multilateralism, environmental integrity, equity, common but differentiated responsibility and respective capabilities, and honouring international commitments and undertaking – principles that have underpinned the process since the beginning.

What remains critical is the fact that this process is a party driven process in which transparency and inclusivity are paramount. We are all accountable to the global citizenry – ordinary people that suffer daily from the impacts of climate change and who have high expectations from their leaders to be responsible and to find effective solutions to the threat that climate change presents to their livelihood, quality of life, dignity, and in many cases, their very survival.

I trust that you will have fruitful discussions regarding Africa’s energy vision for the future in the promotion of sustainable energy access in Africa within the overall objective of preserving our environment for generations to come.

I thank you.

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