Speech by Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Ms Maite Nkoana Mashabane, on the occasion of the “South African mayors conference on Climate Change in preparation for COP17/CMP7”, Emperors Palace, Kempton Park.

Programme Director,
Honourable Ministers
Honourable MECs
Your Worships, Mayors
Honourable MMC’s,
Members of SALGA,
Distinguished Guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

It gives me great pleasure and privilege to participate in this “South African Mayors Conference on Climate Change in Preparation for COP17/CMP7”.  My participation in this event is more apt, given the fact that you (Mayors and other stakeholders) are the primary link between Government and the various communities it serves.  Equally, my engagement with you here today is important primarily because the role of local government was officially recognized at the UN climate talks in Cancun (COP16) for the first time in the history of UN climate talks. Most if not all cities and local governments are now being recognized by states as 'governmental stakeholders'.

Programme Director;

The successful deliverance of COP17/CMP7 in Durban from 28 November to 09 December 2011 is one of the key issues that is at the centre of our Government’s key deliverables for the period 2011/2012. This is, in part, influenced by our hosting of COP17/CMP7 in the magnificent City of Durban, but also by the centrality that climate change has acquired as an urgent and immediate threat to our way of life as we know it. 

We have all witnessed the acute changes in weather patterns all over the globe.  Internationally, we have witnessed devastating floods in Pakistan, and the devastating power of the Tsunami in Japan.  Here in Africa we have all seen the helplessness of humanity when confronted by nature’s destructive power as evidenced in Somalia, where our Government in partnership with the Gift of the Givers continues to play an instrumental role in alleviating the challenges facing that country. We have also seen the changing weather patterns affecting Nigeria and Benin, where floods have wrecked havoc within those countries.  Here at home, we have experienced some of the coldest winters on record throughout the country, including changing rainfall patterns in the Eastern Cape.  These climatic challenges certainly have an impact on both our way of life as well as on our ability to feed our societies.

Your Worships

As the Incoming COP President, my role is to lead the world in forging a common consensus in terms of reversing these adverse effects of climate change. By hosting COP17/CMP7, South Africa hopes to uphold rules-based multilateralism as one of our fundamental interests which we aspire to globally.  Accordingly, South Africa will endeavor to uphold the consensus nature of decision-making that has characterized the UNFCCC and its Conference/s of the Parties, since 1995.

In this regard, South Africa, in cooperation with the Parties to the UNFCCC, will seek to facilitate an outcome which is fair, transparent, inclusive and upholds the Convention principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and capabilities. The negotiations in Durban will be a Party-driven process with South Africa playing an enabling role for Parties to find agreement on the salient issues of climate change.  South Africa will not seek to impose a solution of its own, as the UNFCCC is governed by its own processes and Rules of Procedure, which we think is important to observe since this strengthens multilateralism and the legitimacy of the whole process.

In this juncture, it is important to note that one of our critical immediate responsibilities is to ensure that the trust which was restored in Cancun does not suffer a second disconnect amongst Parties as evidenced in the Copenhagen negotiations. As the Parties prepare to meet in Durban, there is an urgent need for all Parties to approach the Durban negotiations with an element of maturity as the outcomes of the Cancun negotiations, although laudable, unfortunately did not address all the issues.

Programme Director

In order to generate the requisite momentum towards an acceptable outcome in Durban, in my capacity as the incoming COP President, I have since the beginning of this year begun high-level consultations with stakeholders both locally and internationally, including at recent meetings of the AWG/s in Panama City, Panama.  We continue to welcome to our shores various climate change envoys from all over the world who visit our country in order to share their views and possible outcomes of COP17/CMP7. 

I must, however, state that I was heartened by the attitude of the Parties and various climate change groupings in Panama.  They have indicated in unequivocal terms their overarching interest of making Durban a success. As we approach COP17/CMP7, I am confident that we will be able to deliver  a fair, credible, and balanced outcome, which is the overall interest of all Parties.

As we move beyond the 50 Day Countdown to COP17/CMP7, local government structures, in particular the City of Durban, has proven to be a worthy partner in our hosting of COP17/CMP7.  The host City of Durban has worked hand in hand with our logistical team and has been instrumental in terms of pioneering some of the projects that seek to minimize the carbon footprint of the COP, the greening projects within the City, and the creation and mobilization of communities on issues of climate change.

However, it is my strong view that the reduction of the carbon footprint, the implementation of greening projects, and the creation and mobilization of  communities on issues of climate change should not be limited to Durban, but should concern all of us, especially Your Worships who are present here today. There is a compelling need for all of us to harness the knowledge garnered in our hosting of COP17/CMP7 and share it with our various communities. Most importantly, we need to impress to all our communities the threat climate change poses to our world and articulate the need to adapt and mitigate the ill-effects of climate change in our country.

Programme Director

The success of Durban will be measured in terms of the following:

  • One: There is consensus on the position that the Cancun Agreements must be operationalised, including the establishment of the key mechanisms and institutional arrangements agreed to in Cancun. Here the Green Climate Fund  represents a center piece of a broader set of outcomes for Durban. Developing countries demand a prompt start for the Fund through its early and initial capitalization.
  • Two: For Durban to be successful we have to do more than making the Cancun Agreements operational. 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.
  • Third: Adaptation is an essential element of the outcome in Durban 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 give equal priority to adaptation and mitigation.

Your Worships

To conclude, early June this year, (in Bonn, Germany), the Chair of the World Mayors Council on Climate Change, and the Mexico City’s Mayor Marcelo Ebrard posited that the climate change architecture that is available now is not working – but Why? This is so because it is not designed to help the cities; it is designed to work with the national governments. He contended that communities should be involved in the decision making and delivery of local adaptation action as well.

I agree with him, and this is precisely why I believe that Mayors represented here should form the bulwark of our country’s efforts against climate change.  It is my firm belief that the legacy of our hosting of COP17/CMP7, should be judged by the extent to which we as a country have sensitized our citizens about the very urgent challenges of climate change and what we as a country are doing to confront this challenge.  This requires, Your Worships, bold action by municipalities including undertaking sensitization workshops on behalf of our communities, sensitizing our communities about the urgent need of taking greater care for our environment, and passing and adopting of climate friendly by-laws within our cities. I am pleased to note that the Mayor of EThekwini, Mr James Nxumalo is taking the lead on this aspect, as he recently became the 76th Member of the World Mayors Council on Climate Change.

I wish you a very successful conference, and also hope that you will come out of this event re-energised and fully charged to take up the challenges of ensuring that, through our hosting of COP17/CMP7, we will be truthful to our commitment to “Working Together: Saving Tomorrow Today”

I thank you!


OR Tambo Building

460 Soutpansberg Road

09 October 2011

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