SA com­mits to lower emis­sions

CityPress - - News - YOLANDI GROE­NEWALD news@city­press.co.za

The new cli­mate treaty, which was ex­pected to be signed in Paris late last night, may trans­form the global econ­omy.

As a sig­na­tory to the deal, which still had to be fi­nalised by the time City Press went to print, South Africa will have to start rid­ding it­self of its coal ad­dic­tion. Big ques­tions re­main on how the coun­try will be able to im­ple­ment the Paris agree­ment back home.

Del­e­gates at the talks have strug­gled to con­struct the his­toric Paris agree­ment. Ne­go­ti­a­tions headed into the fi­nal hours of Satur­day night, with min­is­ters ex­pected to sign the deal at about mid­night.

In the South African del­e­ga­tion room, bets were on about the time when the deal would be con­cluded. The prize? A ticket back home.

Bleary-eyed ne­go­tia­tors wan­dered the halls of Le Bour­get, the con­fer­ence cen­tre in north­east Paris where the ne­go­ti­a­tions were held. Most had last seen a bed on Tues­day night.

The fi­nal text of a draft agree­ment was agreed on at 6.45am yes­ter­day af­ter ne­go­tia­tors and min­is­ters worked vir­tu­ally non­stop through Wed­nes­day, Thurs­day and Fri­day.

But over­time is not some­thing par­tic­u­lar to the Paris con­fer­ence – it has hap­pened at vir­tu­ally ev­ery cli­mate change meet­ing in the past 20 years.

UN sec­re­tary-gen­eral Ban Ki-moon ad­mit­ted that this year’s talks had been the most com­pli­cated and dif­fi­cult ne­go­ti­a­tions he had been in­volved in. Sam Bar­ratt of ad­vo­cacy group Avaaz said get­ting 200 coun­tries to agree on any­thing was tough.

“Get­ting them to agree on the fu­ture of the planet ... is prob­a­bly one of the tough­est pieces of ne­go­ti­a­tions they’ll ever get in­volved in,” said Bar­ratt.

Economist and cli­mate ex­pert Lord Ni­cholas Stern said ne­go­ti­at­ing a low-car­bon fu­ture was im­por­tant for the busi­ness world and de­served care­ful con­sid­er­a­tion.

The stakes are high. Ma­jor de­vel­op­ing economies China and In­dia, with whom South Africa is closely aligned, ac­cused rich coun­tries of try­ing to rail­road them into a deal that would dam­age their economies.

Along with South Africa, these coun­tries in­sisted that no deal could be signed with­out rich coun­tries com­mit­ting to help fi­nance de­vel­op­ing coun­tries to switch to low-car­bon economies. They in­sisted rich na­tions should shoul­der the blame for his­toric warm­ing and use their al­lo­ca­tion of the world’s car­bon bud­get to help de­vel­op­ing na­tions.

Jack­son Mthembu, chair­per­son of the par­lia­men­tary port­fo­lio com­mit­tee on en­vi­ron­men­tal af­fairs, said South Africa had to be re­silient in the face of cli­mate change and ca­pac­ity could only come from get­ting the nec­es­sary tech­nolo­gies and funds.

South Africa has com­mit­ted to re­duc­ing its emis­sions by 34% by 2020 and 42% by 2025, on con­di­tion it re­ceives the fi­nanc­ing to do so.

Mthembu said Par­lia­ment would play a crit­i­cal role in en­forc­ing the Paris agree­ment.

“It will be a very painful process; we need strong leg­is­la­tion to do this. We must le­galise South Africa’s pledges at the con­fer­ence into a strong le­gal frame­work at home. We will en­gage with in­dus­try to make this hap­pen.”

He said South Africa had al­ready be­gun work on this with its suc­cess­ful re­new­able en­ergy pro­gramme; he in­sisted the po­lit­i­cal will ex­isted to put South Africa on a low-car­bon path.

“We see the big emit­ters, but we’ve got a stronger in­stru­ment at our dis­posal – the Con­sti­tu­tion. Keep­ing in mind that we are a de­vel­op­ing na­tion, we must find the spirit to do this.”

Green­peace’s head, South African Kumi Naidoo, praised the na­tion’s ef­forts to keep de­vel­op­ing coun­tries to­gether as a strong ne­go­ti­at­ing bloc. But he said there was a dis­con­nect in the role South Africa played on the world stage and its do­mes­tic en­ergy pol­icy.

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