South Africa is adamant that it wants to leave the Paris climate change talks with an agreement of legal force, Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa said today.
She said she had faith in the teams at the negotiations to deal with outstanding issues at the critical talks, which will likely give birth to an agreement that will curb future carbon emissions.
Molewa was optimistic that talks so far had laid the necessary foundation.
“There are difficult issues that we have to address, but at least we have a text now,” she said.
The minister arrived in Paris last night and would now lead the South African delegation during the high-level segment of the talks after South Africa’s negotiators spent last week negotiating the text of a future agreement.
“Any treaty has to have legal status. It must be applicable to all,” she said. “And there can be no stepping backward.”
The draft accord was produced in record time this year, despite clashes between countries over finance and when targets in the deal should be revised. The latest draft raised expectations that a full week of minister-led talks could now clinch a deal despite the significant disagreements.
A lead African negotiator labelled the text as a strong foundation that could lead to a strong Paris agreement if the necessary buy-in was received. But a mountain still remained for both ministers and their negotiators to climb before securing the expected deal on Saturday.
This morning, when the ministers arrived, there were two options on the table. Delegates branded the first option the “no regrets deal”, saying that this deal would allow the world to have a fighting chance to keep global warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius. Science dictates that global warming be kept under at least two degrees Celsius in order to keep the planet from ruin.
The second deal has gained the nickname “the minimalist deal”, but climate activists at the conference said a more accurate name was the dreaded “three degrees option”. This deal would see nations only reviewing their ambition to curb greenhouse gasses in 2024.
Under this pact, the world would accept the different countries’ pledges they submitted this year as the maximum they could commit to at this point, and only pressure countries to start ramping up their efforts in 2030. For most delegates, this kind of deal would be disastrous.
The South African delegation said yesterday that it was aiming to negotiate a Paris agreement that was ambitious, durable, fair and effective, and which kept temperatures below two degrees Celsius.
“Paris presents a golden opportunity to build an agreement that is effective, durable and strengthens the global approach,” the delegation said in a statement.
The agreement that was on the South Africans’ wishlist balanced environmental and development imperatives, and ensured that global emission reduction efforts were adequate to keep global temperatures well below two degrees Celsius.
Financing, which would help developing countries cope with the effects of locked-in climate change, had been a key sticking point at the conference. South Africa had been quite vocal about financing, starting with president Jacob Zuma urging delegates last week to scale up climate mitigation finance to beyond the $100 billion mark for the post-2020 period.
As chair of the strong G77 plus China group, South Africa also took on a feisty attitude in the closed session, particular over developed nations’ failure to commit to a finance deal.
Molewa said that there must be at least a financing road map that extended beyond 2020.
South Africa’s ideal agreement would have adaptation at its core, but have an ambitious outcome on finance, technology and capacity building to support the adaptation and mitigation efforts of developing countries.
South Africa’s vision was very much part of the African group, the delegation said. The African group believed that adaption was the responsibility of every nation.
“It is important to note that climate change effects are being driven by global inaction on mitigation; the adaptation burden on developing countries is growing heavier,” the South Africans said.
“A global goal for adaptation must be part of the Paris Agreement.”
Loss and Damage
South Africa played a leading part in the negotiations leading to the establishment of the warsaw international mechanism for loss and damage two years ago.
Loss and damage was a growing trend at the negotiations, determining what developed nations should pay developing countries for the damage they would suffer as a result of climate change. This fund was in addition to the funds needed for adaptation.
South Africa strongly supported loss and damage funding, insisting that the Warsaw mechanism should continue and flourish beyond 2017.
The Paris deal, likely to be concluded only on Saturday, was predicted to be a trade-off between developing countries’ demands for financing, and wealthier nations’ determination that over time all countries properly account for the progress they have made towards emission reduction goals.