Cli­mate change speaker ready to turn up heat

Saturday Star - - NEWS - SHEREE BEGA

MAESELA Kekana doesn’t like cof­fee. But as South Africa’s chief ne­go­tia­tor at the Bonn cli­mate change talks, he knows he’s go­ing to be drink­ing a lot of it.

“Man, we work long hours,” he said, speak­ing by phone from Ger­many yes­ter­day. “Some­times, you work three days non-stop. There are no week­ends, it’s just work. And lots of cof­fee. I don’t like cof­fee but I have to drink it.”

Still, Kekana would not be any­where else. “I love my job, rep­re­sent­ing my coun­try and my peo­ple and making sure we have a fair out­come at the talks.

“What I don’t like is peo­ple who say some­thing, but mean some­thing dif­fer­ent.”

As South Africa’s lead ne­go­tia­tor at the 23rd UN Frame­work Con­ven­tion on Cli­mate Change Con­fer­ence of Par­ties (COP23), which kicked off this week, Kekana and his col­leagues know they have their work cut out.

“We’ve had five days of in­tense prepa­ra­tions in Bonn be­fore (this week’s) ses­sions started. We have to tran­si­tion now to text-based ne­go­ti­a­tions and we’re hop­ing by the end we’ll have ac­tual text.”

Last week, the UN stated that coun­tries “were not do­ing enough to save hun­dreds of mil­lions from a mis­er­able fu­ture” with a tem­per­a­ture in­crease of 3ºC look­ing “very likely” by 2100.

Na­tional pledges, it said, only brought a third of the re­duc­tion in emis­sions re­quired by 2030 to meet cli­mate tar­gets, with pri­vate sec­tor and sub-na­tional ac­tion “not in­creas­ing at a rate that would help close this wor­ry­ing gap”, and pledges needed to be stronger when re­vised in 2020.

Kekana ex­plained that the an­nual talks were ex­pected to ad­vance work on the im­ple­men­ta­tion guide­lines for the Paris Agree­ment.

“The real dif­fer­ence with this COP is, hav­ing agreed on the po­lit­i­cal con­sen­sus in Paris in 2015, we now have to move to­wards im­ple­men­ta­tion, and this COP is tasked with these im­ple­men­ta­tion guide­lines – what should be done, when and by whom, and who will be sup­ported by whom, so this is the real stuff. It will frame what our next set of con­tri­bu­tions will look like.”

The talks are ex­pected to dis­cuss loss and dam­age from cli­mate change, fi­nance, tech­nol­ogy and ca­pac­ity-build­ing for de­vel­op­ing coun­tries.

“It’s dif­fi­cult for de­vel­op­ing coun­tries to do mean­ing­ful im­ple­men­ta­tion of cli­mate change ac­tions with­out sup­port,” says Kekana.

“As South Africa, we still have some room to de­velop and we want to de­velop in a cleaner way. That’s where we’re try­ing to find each other, so we don’t re­peat the mis­takes that have been made.

“We want to se­cure sup­port so we can do more, and that’s in essence what these talks are about.”

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