UNDP Press briefing on COP 17 – 29 July 2011

By | 29 July 2011

Speech by Dr. Agostinho Zacarias, United Nations Resident Coordinator

UNDP and the UN family at large are providing support to the Government of South Africa to host a successful Cop17 in Durban. We hope that the CoP in Durban will build on the positive foundation and momentum on negotiations laid by CoP16 in Cancun, Mexico.

The UNDP CoP17 strategy of support focuses on four pillars, that is, advocacy, capacity building, legacy and side-events. Advocacy activities aim to build multi-stakeholder dialogue on issues of climate change and ensure that issues of various sectors feed into the CoP17 negotiations in Durban. Capacity building aims at developing skills in critical sectors of government and key stakeholders to drive policy and implementation on climate change issues. Legacy activities focus on identifying long-term multi-stakeholder projects and programmes that are likely to have a lasting impact on climate change. The side events will help bring high level experts and influential people to discuss pertinent issues on climate change.

The target stakeholders for these activities include civil society, media, Africa ambassadors, academia, parliamentarians, women, business sector and others. UNDP has local and global expertise to work with the government to address climate change issues. UNDP has carved a niche as leaders on climate change issues that include finance, adaptation, capacity building, REDD, sustainable transport and others. CoP17 provides the platform to put African experiences and expertise on climate change on the map.

In this process, UNDP acknowledges that climate change journalism can help to protect people and promote sustainable development, hence the importance of them reporting  accurately and, timely on relevant topics that affect communities, people’s lives and human development.. Therefore, strengthening partnerships with media and contributing to the strengthening of their capacity to cover climate change can help a developing country like South Africa to plan and implement domestic policies that work on the ground, while also meeting our international obligations.

It is in this regard, that we are launching a series of press breakfast meetings in order to engage the media reinforce their ability to report on the key issues on climate change and those that are related to CoP17 and sustainable development in general. Next year we wiil go to the Rio Summit where important decisions on development will be taken  and this is why we see this exercise also helping us to prepare for Rio.

This inaugural breakfast meeting is part of UNDP/UN’s programme of support to the Government of South Africa in the lead up to CoP17. We are honoured by the presence of the Minister of Environmental Affairs Edna Molewa. The breakfast meetings will be held once a month focusing on key themes, and they are as follows:

August: Finance and climate change

September: Transport and energy

October: Biodiversity and ecosystems

November: CoP processes and Adaptation

  • Climate change threatens to undo decades of progress toward poverty reduction and poses grave risks to attaining the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).  Sustainable energy, clean water and productive lands are essential to reducing poverty and, unless current trends of greenhouse gas emissions are reversed, the impacts of climate change will irrevocably deny food, potable water and livelihoods to billions of people. Climate change is already affecting the poorest and most vulnerable communities around the world, as the poor are the least able to recover from climate stresses, and their economic growth is highly dependent on climate-sensitive sectors.
  • The world must act now. It is critical that development is done better and differently – development efforts must account for climate change and aim at transforming economies to less carbon-intensive production and consumption processes while supporting the achievement of the MDGs.  Concerted global action can provide an important opportunity for countries to invest in low-emission, climate resilient development and leapfrog to improved living conditions.
  • COP17/CMP7 in Durban will be a critical milestone in the UN negotiations to spur this concerted action.  Durban is a critical moment for the Kyoto Protocol and carbon markets.  However, in addition, following the adoption of the Cancun Agreements in 2010, Durban is a major opportunity to begin to turn the outcomes of the negotiations into realities on the ground.  In particular, across the various mechanisms—such as Adaptation Framework, Technology Mechanism, the Green Climate Fund, and mitigation actions–capacity development activities are needed to help developing countries develop the necessary policies, mechanisms, and institutional strengthening to drive development that is pro-poor and pro-MDGs.
  • UNDP is a major supporter of the South African presidency of COP17/CMP7.  UNDP provides advisory and technical support services that help developing countries put in place the policies and finance that can help them meet the climate challenge.  By addressing the climate challenge through a development lens – and applying corporate best practices that incorporate governance, poverty reduction, capacity development, and gender perspectives – UNDP can bring a unique range of support to countries.
  • In preparation for Durban, UNDP is supporting the Government of South Africa with outreach to make COP17 the “peoples’ COP” with a particular focus on Africa.  The media are a critical part of this.  By spreading awareness and stories about the relevance of climate change for Africa, journalists can play a major part in the fight against climate change.  This is why UNDP’s African Adaptation Programme has launched a media capacity building initiative. Indeed, this week in Nairobi the Programme is holding a workshop for journalists from across Africa to share knowledge and stories among this constituency.

We will keep you informed of these meetings and we hope they will provide a platform to discuss key issues on climate change and ensure the message is conveyed to sectors of society in South Africa.

Speech by Melita Steele,  Civil society engagement for COP 17 

Good morning honourable Minister Edna Molewa and distinguished guests. I’ve been asked to talk to you today about civil society engagement for COP 17.

Climate change is a terrifying reality, which reinforces inequality and injustice by increasing the intensity and frequency of floods, droughts, food insecurity and community displacement. Indeed, Africa is projected to be one of the continents that will be hardest hit by climate change.

So what are South African civil society organisations doing around climate change, and specifically COP 17?

South African civil society organisations recognise the importance of COP 17, both for the role that the meeting will play in the international negotiations, but also for how South Africa deals with the issue of climate change domestically – taking responsibility for being the highest emitter on the African continent.

Several processes started in 2010 as civil society organisations searched for a way to work together and unite in our work on climate change. These processes culminated in a national meeting held in Durban in January this year, where over 80 organisations were represented. At this meeting it was agreed that civil society in South Africa wants to work together towards and during COP 17. As a result of this, a COP 17 Civil Society Steering Committee (otherwise known as the ‘C17’) was elected. The C17 consists of 16 people from a wide range of NGOs, CBOs and social justice movements – with a mandate to co-ordinate and facilitate joint action by civil society. The C17 has created a number of sub-committees to help us fulfil our mandate, and these include education and mobilisation, the global day of action itself, a government liaison subcommittee, logistics and media and communications. The formation of the C17 was a conscious decision to create and maintain unity when it comes to joint activities (for example, one march on the global day of action) and to place maximum pressure on world governments to find a solution to climate change.

Planned activities at the COP 17

Various organisations will have side-events and activities during the COP, and the C17 is not meant to duplicate what individual organisations are doing, neither does the committee endorse specific projects or organisations. However, the C17 itself will be organising three major things during COP 17: a climate refugee camp, the global day of action and the programme for the alternative space for civil society. This is of course combined with ongoing education and mobilisation efforts across the country.

The climate refugee camp will be situated in Durban during the COP, and the focus of this camp will be on highlighting the impact of climate change on people, and calling on the UN for a protocol and recognition of climate refugees. This project is currently being proposed with the UNDP as a partner.

The Global Day of Action occurs every year during the COP, and this year it will be held on the 3rd of December, the first Saturday of the negotiations. The C17 will take responsibility for organising this march, and ensuring that a repetition of Cancun last year (where there were 3 separate marches) does not occur. The Global Day of Action will thus be a broad civil society march to highlight community concerns and demand climate justice.

In addition, the C17 is organising an alternative space for civil society during the COP, to be situated on the Durban University of Technology campus (venue to be finalised and confirmed). This will be a space that will host debates, discussions, educational workshops, music and theatre. The focus of this space will be on networking and building solidarity between organisations – local and international – on climate justice struggles in communities.

In terms of what the C17 is doing that the media may not be aware of, we have been actively arranging the logistics for the members of civil society that will be going to Durban at the end of the year, the C17 has been engaged in discussions with government at different levels, is working on linking South African civil society with Africa and the world, and has also engaged in discussions around safety and security (i.e. SAPS). In addition, a huge problem in South Africa (as pointed out by the honourable Minister) is that most people do not know what climate change or the COP 17 actually is. As a result, the C17 and civil society organisations have been and will continue to work steadily on grassroots education.

So, what will the contribution of CSOs be to COP 17?

CSOs aim to expand the understanding, awareness and activism on climate change, and South African civil society will also host global civil society and facilitate broader activism.

I was also asked to comment on what a successful COP 17 would be according to civil society organisations. This is a difficult one to answer, because the only honest answer is a meeting that results in a binding deal through the UNFCCC that limits global warming to as close to 1.5 degrees as possible. In essence, we are looking for South Africa and the other major emerging economies to take responsibility for substantially reducing their emissions, together with the substantive actions of developed countries in an effort to act effectively on climate change. Major steps forward towards the goal of preventing catastrophic climate change must be taken in Durban, and the difficult political issues must be addressed.

In addition, we are calling on the South African government to create an enabling environment for civil society during the COP, which respects freedom of expression, association and assembly. Furthermore, we are asking the South African government to provide its full support for the right to peaceful protest and to promote civil and respectful policing. Civil society organisations are currently in the process of building a strong environmental movement in this country to ensure that in the face of the threats posed by climate change, words are matched by action. For in the end, it is action that we need, and only action that counts.

Speech by the Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs, Ms Edna Molewa at the UNDP Press Breakfast on Climate Change and COP 17 

Good morning Ladies and Gentlemen,

I thank you for this opportunity to be here to engage with you as on the issue of climate change and the work of South Africa as a party to the 17th Conference of the Parties (COP 17) to be held in Durban from 28 November to 9 December 2011.

With agricultural yields in many African countries expected to decrease by as much as 50% by 2050, the time to act should be now to save humanity. If we cannot do that for ourselves, at least let us do that for our children’s sake.

Against such predictions, the time is now for all of us to work together as the African continent to ensure that we address the issue of climate change within the multilateral institution of the United Nations. Once again, it is an indication of the confidence the world has shown in our leadership as a continent that COP 17 to be held in Durban an African CoP, and once again the continent is tasked with leadership responsibilities to bring the world to convergence on current climate change issues, since the 2006 Conference in Kenya.

For Africa the success of the climate change talks is central since it is projected that by 2080, about 70 million people and up to 30% of Africa’s coastal infrastructure could face the risk of coastal flooding because of sea level rise.

In harmony with the African Union anthem, ‘let us all unite and celebrate together’, Africa has an opportunity to unite the world and celebrate a heritage we can bestow on future generations by making the right decisions today.

In July 2010, in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea the Conference of African Heads of State and Government – CAHOSCC – analyzed the environment leading to the Conference at the end of the year. Some of the observations were that some major economies such as the USA and France are getting into an election mode, as such constrained in making significant political decisions in the international arena. This is the reality of the situation we are dealing with Ladies and Gentlemen.

Secondly, the world has not entirely emerged from the 2009 financial crisis, with debt problems in the Euro-zone in countries such as Greece, Portugal, Ireland; the USA also at risk of losing its AAA credit rating, hence not significant pledges can be made on the support of developing country response to climate change.

Thirdly, the earthquake in Japan and the concerns over nuclear technologies, and the subsequent delay in nuclear orders by some major economies are such that not much progress will be reached in increasing the level of ambition by developed countries.

Ladies and Gentlemen, it is from that premise that our Heads of State and Government agreed that the Durban conference will be a step towards a fair global regime on climate, rather than conclude a comprehensive agreement; hence some priorities for the African continent were highlighted.

I must add that maintaining the integrity of the multilateral process by making progress on the unresolved issues agreed to in Bali in 2007 regarding a post 2012 global climate change regime is important, whilst ensuring that the decisions made in Cancun are operationalised.

The protection of the environment for future generations is a priority for Africa, hence a solution for the 2nd Commitment Period of the Kyoto Protocol in lieu of a comparable emission reduction regime for non-Kyoto Parties was cited as a priority to ensure comparability amongst developed countries.

The adaptation should be at the center of the deal by ensuring that there is a process for concrete implementation of adaptation activities, and recognizing that adaptation needs and costs depend on emission reduction ambition of all Parties with developed countries providing the lead and support

We should also ensure that finance discussions should be an area of focus within the negotiations, with Africa ensuring its readiness through the completion of the design of the Green Climate Fund before Durban, with the fund modalities having been considered and endorsed by the African Ministerial Conference on the Environment or AMCEN.

Lastly, the CAHOSCC reiterated the role of AMCEN in coordination of climate change issues in Africa and the work of the Africa Group Negotiators in drafting the Africa Common Position. They further highlighted the need for South-South cooperation where major developing economies support the concrete implementation of climate change actions in Africa.

Ladies and Gentlemen, the Africa Group Negotiators will be meeting in Durban from the 8th until the 10th August to prepare the Africa Common Position for the resumed session of the Ad Hoc Working Groups to be held in Panama City start and I must say as the South African delegation was enthused by progress made in Bonn in June, and hope the resumed session will help various parties to find each other on otherwise difficult issues.

As a party to the CoP, South Africa has been engaging intensely with common interest blocks. We recently participated in the SADC level engagements that were held in Windhoek in May 2011 as well as the Heads of State and Government meeting in mid August in Luanda. Africa being the only continent that negotiates from a common position, the African Ministerial Conference on the Environment will consider the Africa Common position and the preparation for Rio+20 next year in Bamako, Mali from the 15-16th of September.

Our engagement as a delegation is however not only on how the negotiations proceed, but how the country makes use of the opportunity of hosting such a global event. National departments and their stakeholders have put forward aspects of the country’s climate change response that the country will showcase during the conference, including legacy projects beyond the conference itself.

We commend the response and their leadership in responding to the call we made in April for a coordinated team South Africa. We are serious about taking all our people along with us as we prepare our participation at the CoP. Beginning in August we will undertake consultations across the country in a form of Provincial Summits that are part of our awareness and outreach. Ordinary South African will also get the opportunity to give us messages to take into account in our national position and mandate going to the conference.

We further commend the work done by the incoming CoP President, Minister Nkoana-Mashabane, having traversed the world and sought to understand the 194 positions of the world and regional groupings and leadership exercised in narrowing down the options available for consideration at the conference.

With that leadership Africa and the rest of the world can demonstrate the anthem ‘let us all unite and celebrate together.

Presentationa by Dr. Jane Mukarugwiza Olwoch, Environmental Sciences University of Pretoria – PDF

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