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Presidency Affirms Climate Change as Top Government Priority

March 4, 2009

The Presidency

The presidency has pointed out that Africa would be the continent most affected by climate change while having contributed the least to the escalating problem. President Kgalema Motlanthe made this pronouncement while delivering an opening address at the Climate Change Summit in Midrand.

The president referred to the ‘ongoing struggle” between human beings and nature in order to bring about development and ensure survival. This struggle had lead to an imbalance that threatened the planet’s natural resources.

The president declared that the issue of climate change was a top priority issue for the government.

The summit was tasked with developing the National Climate Change Response Policy. The policy would serve as a foundation for future action going forward and allocate duties and responsibilities to public and private role-players.

South Africa also had to play an important role in the international negotiations to tackle global warming. The negotiations would be concluded in Copenhagen at the end of the year. The president asserted that the outcome of the negotiations would have to find a “delicate balance of interests that accommodates the concerns and aspirations of developing and developed countries alike”.

The president stated that the Copenhagen agreement would need to contain four key pillars to drive an adequate response to climate change, namely, adaptation to a changing climate, reduction of green house gas emissions, the sharing of climate friendly technology and suitable levels of finance.

The president regarded the climate change dilemma as presenting an opportunity to deal with the global economic crisis. “Acting now on climate change presents the best possibility to overcome the challenges of the global economic crisis through investment in pro-poor, job creating and sustainable green growth”, he said.

The current consensus within climate change negotiations was that the poor would suffer the most from the adverse consequences of climate change.

The president called for co-ordinated action between both developed and developing countries “under the leadership of the United Nations”. The Cabinet remained committed to facilitating the transformation of the South African economy into one producing low carbon emissions.

The government planned to allow emissions to peak between 2020 and 2025, stabilise for ten years and then start to decline until 2050. The key lay in combining technology, investment and policy. An escalating price on carbon would be imposed.

The president announced that all new coal fired power stations and coal to liquid plants in South Africa would have to have carbon capture mechanisms in place. Government would seek to support alternative energy research endeavours and put viable economic incentives in place to encourage green technologies.

South Africa would host the 17th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in 2011.