Copenhagen – President Jacob Zuma has been commended for attending the United Nations Climate Change Summit in Copenhagen and taking with him South Africa’s contribution towards the global effort to reduce emissions.
The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) said that the President, by outlining a timeline for the country’s emissions to peak and decline, had made the first such commitment by a major developing nation.
“The current position from our State President is indeed bold and we are hopeful that leaders from the industrialised nations will comply with his conditions and play ball,” said the Chief Executive Office (CEO) of WWF South Africa, Dr Morne du Plessis.
He said that South Africa was the largest emitter of greenhouse gases in Africa and therefore it was key that the South African government deliver such a bold statement.
“President Zuma has thrown down the gauntlet for others and it is up to world leaders to show the political will necessary to secure a positive outcome in Copenhagen. The science is clear, the urgency even clearer,” said du Plessis.
Zuma accepted the invitation from the Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Denmark, Lars Lokke Rasmussen, to attend the Heads of State and Government Segment of summit.
A statement issued by the Presidency said that South Africa would advocate for a successful outcome that would be inclusive, fair and effective; that had a balance between adaptation and mitigation and a balance between development and climate imperatives.
It said that for developing country’s it was not only about addressing green house gas emissions, but energy security and energy access while moving towards a path of low carbon growth.
“South Africa will undertake mitigation actions which will result in a deviation below the current emissions baseline of around 34 percent by 2020 and by around 42 percent by 2025. This level of effort enables South Africa’s emissions to peak between 2020 and 2025, plateau for approximately a decade and decline in absolute terms thereafter.”
The undertaking was conditional, however, on a fair, ambitious and effective agreement in the international climate change negotiations and the provision of support and finance from the international community.
The Presidency further said that an ambitious and long term financing package for both adaptation and mitigation was a central element of the Copenhagen negotiations and one that will have significant impact on the extent to which developing countries can take mitigation action.
Tasneem Essop, WWF senior policy advisor based in South Africa said South Africa’s pledge was another example of emerging economies contributing in a meaningful way to secure a successful outcome in Copenhagen.
“We hope that these commitments will spark a race to the top by pushing industrialised countries to raise their ambition level and put forward more ambitious emission reduction targets as well as the type of international support needed to capture all of the efforts currently being offered by developing countries.”
Essop added that the Presidency’s statement showed that South Africa recognized that it can grow and develop its economy, alleviate poverty while at the same time stabilising and reducing emissions.
“This represents strong leadership for developing and developed nations alike,” she said.