Key note address by Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane on the occasion of the African Ministers meeting on Climate-Smart Agriculture

Honourable Ministers
Members of the Executive Council
Mayor of Johannesburg Metro
Your Excellencies
Distinguished Delegates
Ladies and Gentlemen

Climate change is no more a speculation as there is overwhelming evidence that anthropo-genically induced greenhouse gases emissions are increasing and with that global temperature and rainfall patterns are changing. No one knows exactly how the future global climate will develop and what the resultant consequences will be to all of us particularly the developing and poor countries, but impacts could be considerable. Climate change will have a variety of impacts and it is likely to lead to a rise in sea level, more droughts, floods, heat waves, water shortages, and increased threats to human health.

The number, frequency and intensity of weather and climate related natural hazards and extreme events are significantly increasing as a direct consequence of global climate change. Climate change is likely to harm economies and the lives and health of millions of people particularly in the poor regions such as Africa; but no country will be spared. It is critical that governments and nations should assess the range of risks and plan to reduce vulnerability accordingly.     

Agriculture is among the most important areas in climate change.   Agriculture also provides a living for more than half of the world’s poorest people, and its activities around are responsible for about 14% of the global annual greenhouse gas emissions.  It is a critical sector for our region where 80% of the Sub-Saharan population lives in rural areas. It contributes 30% of Gross Domestic Product in Sub-Saharan Africa, and employs 70% of the labour force.  African countries, despite contributing only about 3.8% to the global Green House Gas (GHG) emissions, are most vulnerable to the effects of global warming, climate variability and climate change.

Therefore, it is our hope that the ongoing negotiations to address climate change provide a unique opportunity to combine low-cost mitigation and essential adaptation outcomes with our goal of combating poverty.

Africa’s climate is highly variable, particularly to climate change, as farming depends to a great extent on geography and the quality of the rainy seasons. We are already witnessing increasing frequencies of natural hazards and disasters as well as extreme weather events. Increased droughts and temperatures have a serious impact on agricultural production and food availability. Drought negatively affects national economies and reduces the countries’ ability to export crops and generate foreign currency.

Any changes in climate as one of the drivers of the agricultural sector in Africa could therefore have wide-ranging repercussions, not only in the production of food, fibre and fuel, but also in Gross Domestic Product, employment and foreign exchange earnings. Climate change will have dramatic consequences for agriculture. Water resources will become more variable, droughts and floods will stress agricultural systems, some coastal food-producing areas will be inundated by the rising sea levels, and food production will fall in some places. Developing economies and the poorest of the poor are likely to be hardest hit. Overall, however, substantial uncertainty remains about where the effects will be greatest.
Food security, especially in Africa, is linked to the prevailing climate. Any long or short term changes thereof are paramount to our ability to feed our nations with high quality, affordable and accessible staple foods. Food security is important to Africa's economy as it impacts heavily on the country's poverty eradication and sustainable development plans.

Agriculture has a huge potential to cost-effectively mitigate Green House Gases through changes in agricultural technologies and management practices. Improvements in water conservation and demand management and its spatial distribution, will exacerbate the need for better water harvesting, storage, and management. Equally important is supporting innovative institutional mechanisms that give agricultural water users incentives to conserve. Investments in rural infrastructure, both physical (such as roads, market buildings, and storage facilities) and institutional (such as extension programs, credit and input markets, and reduced barriers to internal trade) are needed to enhance the resilience of agriculture in the face of the uncertainties of climate change.

As we prepare ourselves for the upcoming high level climate event on the 17th Conference of Parties under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Durban later this year, it is critical that we have to start looking beyond this highly anticipated event. We need to link climate change, food security and poverty;  we  need to engage on emerging issues including finance and technological support and approaches such as Climate-Smart Agriculture that are geared towards addressing food security, adaptation and mitigation.

Research must help us to identify early actions and best practices to build capacity and increase resilience and carbon sequestration, while enhancing and ensuring food security. Current and on-going awareness programmes should assist the farming communities to put into place best farming practices which will promote sustainable agriculture and thereby contributing towards the green economy.

It is clear that climate change poses a serious threat not only to agricultural production but the economy as a whole. By tackling climate change in a coordinated effort we will increase the positive spin-offs and benefits to the agricultural communities and economy.

This conference should align itself with the African Union in ensuring that Africa takes a united stand in global negotiations and evolving mechanisms; the outcomes of this conference should assist our countries and the sector to be able to ensure that the 17th Conference of Parties under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Durban later this year does become a truly African Conference of the Parties. Together with the rest of the global community we owe it to future generation to deliver a balanced package of decisions which will satisfy all the interests of Parties within UNFCCC.

In order to achieve a balanced outcome in Durban, Parties will need to not only operationalize the Cancun Agreements adopted in December 2010, but also commit to make progress on aspects of the Bali Action Plan and Bali Roadmap that were not resolved in Cancun. A successful outcome will also need to achieve balance between the Kyoto Protocol and the Convention, and between the thematic areas under negotiations.

The Durban outcome must also be comprehensive, ambitious and balanced.  The question that we need to focus on therefore is how to deal with the issue of the 2nd Commitment Period of the Kyoto Protocol. The outcome needs to ensure progress and to get a sense of the legal form under both Kyoto Protocol and the Convention. This is the most pressing issue. However, substantive progress on the means of implementation, especially on the set of finance related issues namely; the design of the Green Climate Fund; the functions of the Standing Committee, as well as sources of funding and the scale of finance needed. To achieve this, progress must be made on the key mechanisms and institutional arrangements agreed to in Cancun, namely; the Adaptation Committee, the Technology Executive Committee, the Technology Centre and Network, the mitigation registry and the Finance Standing Committee of the Green Climate Fund. 

In addition to the above, progress on issues such as long term sources of finance, and the building of greater confidence in the delivery of Fast Start Financing needs to be made

It is clear that mitigation remains a central issue to the climate negotiations both in the context of the Convention and its Kyoto Protocol.  In Cancun, both the COP and the CMP took note of information by countries on their mitigation objectives or pledges. However, these pledges need to be transformed into economy wide emission reduction targets and you will agree with me that the level of ambition of these pledges needs to be raised as we need to keep the temperature below 2 degrees Celsius and the current level of ambition will not achieve this objective.

We are under no illusion that Durban will be an easy COP. In Cancun some trust was restored in the multilateral system. However, some difficult political issues did not get any attention and it is now left to solve them in Durban, or at least set mechanisms in motion to address these. We therefore count on all of you to assist us to get the credible outcome in Durban that we all aspire to.

I count on all of you to ensure that working Together we can Save Tomorrow Today!!

I thank you.      

Issued by the Department of International Relations and Cooperation

OR Tambo Building
460 Soutpansberg Road

13 September 2011


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