COP21: SA needs help to reduce emissions

2015-12-13 15:00

One of the central issues throughout COP21 negotiations in Paris has been the provision of climate finance to enable developing countries to enhance their ambitions of reducing carbon emissions pre-2020.

Developing countries such as South Africa are particularly vulnerable to the effect of climate change. Extreme weather, rising sea levels, coastal erosion and ocean acidification threaten food, water and energy security, and, overall, negatively affect government efforts to eradicate poverty and achieve sustainable development.

As a responsible global citizen, South Africa has implemented a raft of measures to facilitate our transition to a low-carbon, climate-resilient, inclusive economy and society.

Our approach balances the country’s contribution to the international effort with our need to address economic growth, job creation and poverty alleviation.

As a relatively young democracy, South Africa has embarked on extensive processes to develop policies and legislation to guide the country to a better future over the past 21 years. We have not been resting on our laurels as we wait for an outcome at COP21.

Central to our climate change effort is South Africa’s National Climate Change Response Policy, which was launched in December 2011 when we hosted COP17 in Durban.

To inform key decisions in future development and planning to build climate resilience, South Africa has developed a set of national and subnational adaptation scenarios. The sectors requiring immediate attention include water, agriculture and forestry, health, biodiversity and human settlements.

We have also conducted climate risk assessments for sectors key to adaptation at national, provincial and local level.

Currently available analyses indicate that without rapid mitigation intervention, South Africa’s emissions could reach 1 692 tons of carbon dioxide equivalent by 2050 – more than three times that of the country’s 2010 emissions.

To achieve our emission-reduction goals, an analysis of our greenhouse gas mitigation potential has been conducted for key sectors, including energy, transport, waste and agriculture. The objective of this study was to present a set of viable options for reducing greenhouse gas in key economic sectors.

Once again, this was done in close consultation with a range of stakeholders, including industry, government and civil society.

Two other important elements of our mitigation system are Desired Emission Reduction Outcomes and the carbon budget system. The former comprises a set of emission reduction goals for the short, medium and long term for key sectors and/or subsectors of the economy, while the carbon budgets are set for companies.

From 2016, we will be implementing a carbon tax. It seeks to price carbon by obliging the polluter to take on board the costs of emitting carbon and contribute towards addressing the harm caused by such pollution.

The department of environmental affairs and Treasury have embarked on a process to ensure that the carbon tax is aligned with the proposed carbon budget system.

During the first phase of the carbon tax (up to 2020), companies participating in the carbon budgeting process will qualify for an additional tax-free allowance of 5%.

Our national efforts notwithstanding, scaling up efforts by developing countries such as ours requires financial investment, the deployment of new and innovative technologies and enhanced capacity for effective implementation.

In this regard, our call for global solidarity and support in the context of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) has been justifiable.

Although we have done our bit to contribute to the global climate change effort, developed countries have an obligation to provide sufficient means of implementation to support both adaptation and mitigation actions by developing countries.

In addition, adaptation should, of necessity, receive equal priority with mitigation.

This is why we have stressed throughout the international climate change negotiation process that the agreement must reaffirm this obligation of developed countries to provide climate finance that is additional, predictable and sustainable.

This provision of the necessary means of implementation (notably finance, technology and capacity building for low-carbon and climate-resilient development) should build on existing institutions established within and outside the UNFCCC, especially the Green Climate Fund.

In line with our responsibilities as a developmental state, we have a duty as government to advance socioeconomic development and transformation to better the lives of all our people.

Equally, we recognise the crucial role we have to play in contributing to the global climate change effort by developing and implementing policies, measures, mechanisms and infrastructure that both reduce the carbon intensity of our economy and protect the most vulnerable.

Molewa is minister of environmental affairs

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March 17 2019