The much-anticipated COP17 climate change conference, regarded as one of the world’s most significant events, got underway in Durban in KwaZulu-Natal province.
The 17th Conference of the Parties (COP17) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) started yesterday and ends on 9 December.
The conference has gathered together industry professionals from all over the world to debate strategies to the growing threat of global climate change.
Roughly 20 000 individuals are expected to assemble in Durban to participate in the climate talks, among them heads of state, government representatives, international organisations, entrepreneurs, businessmen, academics, activists and NGOs.
The primary goal of the discussions is to move forward the implementation of the UNFCCC and the Kyoto Protocol, in addition to the Bali Action Plan, agreed upon at COP13 in 2007, as well as the Cancun Agreements, reached at COP16 last year.
“We have come a considerable ways since Copenhagen and Cancun. Durban must take us many steps forward towards a resolution that saves tomorrow today,” said President Jacob Zuma, welcoming the delegates to COP17.
A great many anticipate that the Kyoto Protocol is probably going to dominate the talks, as 2012 marks the conclusion of the first commitment period for the agreement which had been signed in 1997.
The Kyoto Protocol at present places legal commitments on nations, except for the US, China, India and Brazil who happen to be non signatories to the treaty, to cut back on greenhouse emissions by 5.2%.
Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of the UNFCCC, is positive that governments have arrived in Durban with the understanding of the incredible importance of the Kyoto Protocol.
“For this reason, I strongly believe that there will be an attempt to move into a second commitment period,” Figueres said, talking at a media gathering in Durban in advance of COP17’s opening day.
Minister of Environmental Affairs Edna Molewa stated that the necessity to renew and revise the Kyoto Protocol has grown to be vital.
Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe, who concluded a three-kilometre walk along Durban’s beachfront over the past weekend to boost consciousness with regards to rising sea levels, pointed out that South Africa was hoping to secure a legally binding agreement during the COP17 negotiations.
In a statement, Motlanthe asserted that strategies to climate change will need global input.
“The Kyoto Protocol can come to an end and that is certainly a very good reason why there ought to be another endorsement. No single nation can tackle climate change, we require a coordinated effort,” he explained.
President Jacob Zuma stated it was vital for COP17 to make sure that the Cancun Agreements, which included the establishment of a Green Climate Fund, started to be operational.
Essential for Africa
Molewa pointed out that despite the fact that Africa has added the least to the build up of greenhouse gases globally, the negative effects of climate change might possibly be felt most significantly on the continent.
As outlined by Molewa, the average African generates roughly 13 times less greenhouse gases when compared with his equal in North America. In 2007, the continent made up less than 4% of the globe’s total greenhouse gas emissions.
Having said that, without mitigation and adaptation measures these statistics could quite possibly increase.
She asserted that Africa requires more sustainable development with new, clean technologies in order to avoid the environmental blunders of the developed world.
“Taking into account that 550-million people in Africa do not have access to electricity, there exists tremendous scope for Africa to become a world leader in alternative energy sources,” she explained.
These types of developments can aid in eliminating the vulnerability of African societies, and in many cases make certain that Africa becomes climate resilient.
Global cooperation and accountability
Molewa declared that a response to climate change demands global cooperation and accountability.
“The South African government acknowledges its position as the leading contributor to greenhouse gas emissions on the continent. We are to blame for 38% of Africa’s total emissions,” she mentioned.
South Africa promises to change this.
The National Climate Change Response White Paper sets out government’s commitment to decrease carbon dioxide emissions by 34% below a business as usual trajectory in 2020, and also by 40% in 2025 prior to stabilising emissions in absolute terms, and in the long run reducing them.
The African Union has partnered with South Africa to make certain that the African Pavilion at COP17 effectively presents the issues of climate change that Africa is having difficulties with.
“The effects of climate change know no border, and it has been a motivator for cooperation amongst African governments,” said Molewa.
More climate change consciousness
The UN’s Figueres explained to reporters that there is increasing momentum amongst rich and developing nations to do something to protect against global warming.
Developed countries have passed a lot more legislation and governments as well as businesses are at the same time boosting awareness on the subject of climate change.
Figueres stated it is encouraging to see governments and civil society taking action.
“Durban should mark the next milestone in the climate talks. We anticipate that a great many of the issues that leaders agreed upon in Mexico will find a way of being carried through here,” she said, “and included in this are the Green Climate Fund in addition to other matters.”