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United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change

As many of us are aware, between the 28th November 2011 and 9th December 2011, South Africa will host the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change seventeenth Conference of Parties and the 7th Conference of the Parties, serving as the Meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto protocol(CMP 7) in Durban.
COP17/CMP7 is a United Nations meeting between more than 190 countries to find a solution to the global threat of human-made climate change. The aim is to stop the amount of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere getting to a level which would cause dangerous changes to the world’s climate system.

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One of the most critical issues is the future of the Kyoto Protocol and the need to reach a legally-binding agreement to prevent the average temperature of the earth from going up by more than 2°C. Some countries (especially small islands which are at risk of major flooding from rising sea levels) think that it is better to make sure that the temperature does not increase by more than 1.5°C. The big problem is that the United Nations’ Expert Group on climate change says that if nothing is done to reduce carbon levels, the average temperature of the earth is very likely to increase by between 2°C and 4.5°C (and possibly a lot more)before 2100.


Although this is a conference about saving the earth from severe changes to the climate, many of the negotiations will actually be about money and politics, as well as technical and legal issues.

The developing countries argue that developed countries have caused most of the problems over the last 200 years and therefore have to reduce their carbon emission levels more than the developing countries which are still building up their economies. The developed nations argue that every country needs to reduce greenhouse gas levels to avoid climate changes which will affect the entire world.

To avoid a temperature rise above 2°C, scientists say greenhouse gas levels must be reduced by at least 50% before 2030, yet the International Energy Agency says that emission levels will actually increase by 55% over the next 20 years. Scientists also think that some level of climate change cannot be avoided because of the amount of extra greenhouse gases which have been building up for nearly

200 years. Ladies and Gentlemen this is where some of the money talk comes in. Developing countries want the developed countries to pay for the cost of adapting to climate change. Some of the negotiations will be about the new Green Climate Fund, to decide who will pay how much into this fund and who will be able to get money from it.

The Kyoto Protocol is a legally-binding agreement to reduce the level of greenhouse gases in the Earth’s atmosphere. The protocol was set up in 1997 in Kyoto, Japan, but it took another eight years before the treaty came into force in 2005. The main feature of the Protocol is that it sets legally-binding targets for nearly 40 of the developed countries to reduce their joint greenhouse gas emissions by about 5% before

the end of 2012 (compared to 1990 levels). The treaty recognises that these developed countries are mainly responsible for the high level of industrial greenhouse gas emitted over the last 200 years whereas developing countries have not produced as much emissions over this time period.


Next year is a crucial deadline date because it marks the end of the Kyoto “first commitment period” of emission reductions which runs from 2008 to 2012. The original idea of the treaty was to steadily reduce the level of greenhouse gases in the air, and next year should mark the start of the “second commitment period” (2012 - 2016). However, one of the world’s single biggest greenhouse gas emitters (the United States of America) has not yet signed the protocol, and now there are signs that some of the other rich nations are thinking of pulling out of a second period of reductions unless some of the bigger developing nations like China, India, Brazil and South Africa also agree to make legally-binding emission reductions.

Over the past few years, developed and developing nations have not been able to agree on who should be included in this second period of reductions, or about how big these reductions should be.

During the COP 15 meeting in Copenhagen two years ago, several governments announced plans to reduce emissions on a voluntary basis which is different to the compulsory reductions needed by the Kyoto Protocol. However, time has almost run out now, because the treaty will expire in December 2012 unless it is renewed. This is why the Durban meeting is so important – to find an agreement before the deadline. Unless an agreement is reached at the Durban conference there is a strong possibility that the Kyoto Protocol could collapse entirely or that there will be a time gap in reducing greenhouse gas levels from 2012 onwards.

Ladies and Gentlemen, the question that we must ask is:

“What is Climate Change?”, and I will attempt to answer it as follows:

* Climate change is the alteration of the earth’s general weather conditions.
* Climate change is different to weather changes in that weather can change continuously from day to day and even from hour to hour.
* Apart from increasing average temperature, climate change also includes changes in rainfall patterns and changes in extreme weather patterns that lead to floods and droughts.
* Climate change is real and is already with us. In South Africa, surface air temperature has warmed significantly over much of the country since the 1950s.

A further question that we should ask is:

“What is causing Climate change?” and I will respond as follows:

* Increases in the atmospheric concentrations of gases known as greenhouse gases are largely to blame for a steady increase in average global temperatures and this, in turn, is the change of our climate.
* Greenhouse gases are emitted when fossil fuels like coal, oil, petrol, diesel and natural gases are burnt; and
* Human activities such as chopping down of forests are also reducing the earth’s natural ability to absorb greenhouse gases.

Ladies and Gentlemen Climate change is considered to be one of the most serious threats to sustainable development with adverse impacts expected on the environment, human health, food security, economic activity, investment, natural resources, physical infrastructure and on the insurance industry .

We know that if nothing is done to respond to the challenge of climate change, the effects on agriculture, health services and the economy in general will dent our development prospects and further worsen the problem of poverty.

We also believe Ladies and Gentlemen that climate change , if unmitigated, has the potential to undo or undermine many of the positive advances made in meeting South Africa’s own development goals .

Climate Change adaptation is at the forefront of our national climate change response strategy, as a means to ensure food and water security, reduce the incidence and vulnerability of communities to natural disasters, protect the integrity of ecosystems and ensure livelihoods continue to flourish in the face of increasing climate uncertainty. The youth, pensioners and the women in rural areas face the stark reality of diminishing water, desertification, crop failure, disease and natural disasters that escalate annually, as the world shows steady increases in temperature.

However, urban South Africa must accept that will be affected by spiraling costs in food, water and energy as climate change is everyone’s responsibility. We have accepted the responsibility to build strong partnerships with business, civil society , academic institutions and communities in general to confront the challenge of climate change.

South Africa’s hosting of COP 17 provides a unique opportunity to raise awareness of climate change and mobilize our society around the objectives of the national response.

One of the activities to mobilize communities Ladies and Gentlemen, is the implementation of the climate change train which is to travel through all nine provinces educating communities on what is climate change and what is being done to address climate change. However, the most important purpose of this train is to ensure that the concerns you have and that your specific individual questions are taken to the conference in Durban where world leaders and negotiators can see what the peoples concerns are. This is a unique once in a life time opportunity for your voices to be heard at an international conference of this magnitude and that is why this conference has been referred to as the “Peoples Conference of Parties “

The four key points to be discussed at the up coming conference are as follows;

* The conference needs to resolve the status of mitigation pledges , the political question over the Kyoto Protocol , as well as the nature of the global regime going forward.
* It needs to establish the contours and methodologies for the adequacy review for the global temperature limit, which will be carried out from 2013 to 2015.
* The Green Climate Change Fund and identified options on how to ramp up the agreed climate finance of 100 billion dollars per year by 2020 for adaptation and mitigation must be launched; and

* It needs to deliver clear implementation plans towards operationalizing in 2012 the new technology and adaptation institutions that were agreed in Cancun. The newly created Standing Committee also needs to be launched in Durban.

Ladies and Gentlemen, what can we do about Climate Change ?

Each one of us can play a one part by:

* Planting indigenous trees - trees absorb carbon dioxide from the air and use it as their energy source, producing oxygen for us to breath;
* Recycling - recycling paper also saves trees and reduces the energy used in paper manufacturing.
* Saving water - do not let water run while shaving, brushing teeth or washing vegetables.
* Saving electricity - turn off lights when you don’t need them, fit a solar water heater, use gas for cooking, insulate your house- reduce your greenhouse gas emissions and save on your electricity bill.
* Transport - reduce the amount of journeys you make by car by using public transport, joining a car-sharing club and/or walking; and
* Switch to energy saving light bulbs - replace the lights that you use most with compact fluorescent light bulbs. This can save up to 80% on your next electricity bill and lasts up to 8 times longer.

Ladies and Gentlemen, the Northern Cape Province was the first to host a provincial climate change summit which was attended by 300 hundred people. Six district workshops were presented on the provincial climate change response strategies and are currently being drafted and will be circulated for comment in the near future to all stakeholders. Moreover, the Province has also been identified as the province for renewable energy projects and is also developing its Green house gases inventory for all sectors. Recycling projects have already been funded by the Department of Environment and Nature Conservation to address climate change and the creation of green jobs.

Ladies and Gentlemen in conclusion, we are all collectively obliged to engage in the following course of action to mitigate the effects of Climate Change:

* Undertaking Projects concerning sustainable utilization of natural resources. for example game and fishing stocks;
* Becoming involved in water saving projects;
* Agricultural adaptation and mitigation programs;
* Promote and conserve indigenous knowledge with regard to living in harmony with nature;
* Mitigation and adaptation projects to be undertaken by various stakeholders to strengthen resilience of vulnerable communities;
* Implementation of green economy principles and promote the development of green jobs; and
* Retro fitting all government buildings

I am certain that we all care about our Planet and that we will do our utmost to preserve Mother Earth for the benefit of future generations.




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