Paris deal: right of reply

2016-06-05 15:00

SA continues to be a leader in efforts to address climate change, writes Judy Beaumont

I refer to the article by Aldi Schoeman, “Paris climate deal: Good for the environment, bad for jobs” (City Press, May 15 2016).

I am very concerned about the manner in which the journalist has misinterpreted key messages from the interview. I therefore would like this opportunity to set the record straight.

In particular, I want to respond to the slant presented in the article that South Africa signed the Paris agreement on climate change for the “sake of the country’s international image”, that our country would otherwise have been “subject to penalties” and that taking action to respond to climate change would result in job losses.

South Africa, along with most African and developing countries, is already experiencing the effects of climate change.

Our country faces potentially severe impacts on our water and food security, health, biodiversity, and on human settlements and infrastructure.

South Africa is also a contributor to climate change, with greenhouse gas emissions resulting mainly from energy production and consumption.

In this context, South Africa has been actively involved, and continues to be a leader, in the multilateral effort to address this global challenge.

In Durban, three years ago, under South Africa’s leadership, world leaders launched a negotiation process to develop a fair, ambitious and legally binding multilateral climate change system that ensures the fair participation of all countries.

On December 12 2015, in Paris, the parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change unanimously adopted the Paris Agreement and a package of supporting decisions covering climate action in the pre- and post-2020 periods.

This marks the beginning of a new era of international cooperation to address climate change.

At the Paris COP21, South Africa once again played a leadership role, leading the Developing Country Group – the Group of 77 plus China – and playing a key role in the African Group.

Contrary to the journalist’s conclusion that South Africa signed the agreement for the sake of image and to avoid penalties, South Africa is an active and internationally respected leader in the multilateral and national effort to respond to climate change. Further, there is no such thing as a “penalty” for not signing the agreement.

On April 22 2016, Minister of Environmental Affairs Edna Molewa signed the Paris Agreement on behalf of South Africa, joining 175 world leaders on this historic day at the UN in New York.

It will enter into force 30 days after at least 55 countries, accounting for at least 55% of global greenhouse gas emissions, deposit their instruments of ratification.

South Africa has commenced domestic ratification procedures to enable entry into force for implementation of the agreement in 2020.

Guided by Vision 2030 in the National Development Plan and the National Climate Change Response Policy, among other plans, South Africa is already taking climate action.

This work is designed to achieve significant economic growth, job creation, public health, risk management and poverty alleviation benefits.

There are job creation opportunities associated with a transition to low carbon emissions. For example, the renewable energy independent power producers programme has already created 23 000 job year opportunities.

Beaumont is the deputy director-general of climate change and air quality at the department of environmental affairs

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