SA joins storm over US quit­ting Paris cli­mate ac­cord

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - FRONT PAGE - SHEREE BEGA

THE South African govern­ment has is­sued a strongly worded re­buke to the US over its with­drawal from the land­mark Paris cli­mate ac­cord, de­scrib­ing the de­ci­sion as “not only an ab­di­ca­tion of global re­spon­si­bil­ity we all have to hu­mankind” but “dam­ag­ing to mul­ti­lat­er­al­ism, the rule of law and trust be­tween na­tions”.

“Cli­mate change is the sin­gle big­gest threat to hu­man well-be­ing, health and so­cio-eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment this cen­tury and its im­pacts are wide­spread, un­prece­dented and dis­pro­por­tion­ately bur­dens to the poor­est and most vul­ner­a­ble,” said the De­part­ment of En­vi­ron­men­tal Af­fairs yes­ter­day.

The Paris cli­mate agree­ment, the first global plan to ad­dress cli­mate change, “re­flects the mul­ti­lat­eral agree­ment” to limit global tem­per­a­ture in­crease to 1.5°C. Its adop­tion, 15 years af­ter the with­drawal of the US from the Ky­oto Pro­to­col, was a vic­tory for mul­ti­lat­eral ef­forts to curb the im­pacts of a warm­ing planet and “re­flects the sci­en­tific con­sen­sus on the sever­ity of the cri­sis”. It rep­re­sented the most flex­i­ble and dy­namic ap­proach to ad­dress­ing cli­mate change.

“His­tor­i­cally, the US has contributed sig­nif­i­cantly to global emis­sions, and there­fore has a moral obli­ga­tion not only to lead in re­duc­ing emis­sions but to sup­port poorer economies in con­tribut­ing to the global ef­fort… There is an ur­gent need for ac­tion, and as such there is no space for rene­go­ti­a­tion.”

It recog­nised the “out­stand­ing con­tri­bu­tion” made to the fight against cli­mate change in the US by past ad­min­is­tra­tions, states, cities, sci­en­tific or­gan­i­sa­tions, civil so­ci­ety, busi­ness and in­di­vid­ual cit­i­zens.

“South Africa there­fore calls on the US to re­con­sider its po­si­tion and to re-com­mit to the mul­ti­lat­eral process.”

Green­peace Africa ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor Njeri Kabeberi said: “The mil­lions of peo­ple liv­ing on the African con­ti­nent are on the front­lines of cli­mate change, and it is crit­i­cal that pol­luters are held ac­count­able for the suf­fer­ing and in­jus­tice global warm­ing is al­ready in­flict­ing.

“Cli­mate change im­pacts are al­ready a daily re­al­ity, and ac­tion to stop cat­a­strophic cli­mate change can­not be de­layed.

“Our global com­mu­nity will take ac­tion, and is al­ready tak­ing ac­tion, with or with­out the US govern­ment, and it is crit­i­cal that ma­jor emit­ters like South Africa step up and take a lead­er­ship role.”

WWF-SA said that “even in a de­vel­op­ing coun­try like South Africa it is be­com­ing clear that the tran­si­tion to a low-car­bon so­ci­ety is in­evitable”.

“The US with­draw­ing from the Paris agree­ment will de­lay the tran­si­tion and could lead to tem­per­a­tures peak­ing at higher lev­els, with con­cur­rent cli­mate change im­pacts on mil­lions of peo­ple, but it can­not stop the eco­nomic trans­for­ma­tion that is al­ready un­der way.”

The US joins Nicaragua, which has not signed be­cause it does not be­lieve the Paris ac­cord is am­bi­tious enough, and wartorn Syria, as the only coun­tries out­side the ac­cord.

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