x Zuma: The heat is on
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The heat is on:
challenges ahead for Durban forum

Jacob Zuma, president, Republic of South Africa

With the continent of Africa particularly at risk from climate change, the forthcoming UN conference on the topic to be held in Durban must come up with some powerful initiatives to mitigate the effects of this most pressing of problems

From "The 2011 G8 Deauville Summit: New World, New Ideas." edited by John Kirton and Madeline Koch
Published by Newsdesk Media Group and the G8 Research Group, 2011
To download a low-resolution pdf, click here

South Africa feels humbled for having been afforded the opportunity to host the United Nations Conference of the Parties on Climate Change (COP-17) at Durban in November-December 2011. It is a demonstration of confidence in Africa’s ability to host this meeting again, after Kenya successfully did so in 2006.

South Africa believes issues of climate change place heavy responsibilities on the shoulders of all nation states to ensure that future generations inherit a habitable world. It therefore beckons all to come up with meaningful solutions to today’s challenges.

The implications of climate change are immediately understandable in light of the devastating drought in Africa, recent floods in the Australia, the United States and South Africa, and recent wild fires in Russia and other parts of the world. Our actions have overwhelmed the world in which we live.

The implications of unmitigated climate change are too grave to imagine, especially on the continent of Africa, where in some countries yields from rain-fed agriculture could be reduced by up to 50 per cent in the next 20 years.

Some worrying challenges that lie ahead include the continent being exposed to increased water stress levels by 2020, serious challenges of food and water insecurity, which will magnify health problems, and increased strain on the resilience of many ecosystems, which will diminish the livelihoods of people living in rural areas.

The Bali Roadmap managed to set the two-track framework for negotiations under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and its Kyoto Protocol, in accordance with the principles of equity and common, but differentiated, responsibility and respective capability.

The Copenhagen Accord provided political direction by encouraging developed countries to provide adequate, predictable and sustainable financial resources, technology and capacity building for adaptation action in developing countries. The Cancůn negotiations helped make further progress.

Climate change talks must produce a multilateral regime that is fair, inclusive and effective and that keeps the temperature well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels.

The multilateral climate-change regime should also seek to strike a balance between climate and development imperatives. It must not jeopardise economic growth and poverty eradication in developing countries. And there must be no trade-off between faster economic growth and the preservation of the environment.

At the domestic level, South Africa will use the opportunity of the Durban conference to inform and mobilise its own communities on issues of climate change. Environmental disasters have become an increasing burden. Veld (forest) fires are being reported and, in addition to severe drought conditions, heavy and recurrent rains are being experienced. The only way to explain these unusual climatic conditions is to share the space and ensure that our own people participate in deliberations on this important topic.

The rural economy is the bread and butter of the African people. Most Africans work and live in rural areas, and the burden of most rural households lies on the shoulders of women. In South Africa, as in most African countries, despite abundant arable land and human resources that could be translated into increased production, income and food security, serious challenges remain. The continent has the highest proportion of people who suffer from the wrath of climate change and hunger, including the largest population living below the poverty line.

We must interrupt these unfortunate patterns in Africa, where human, financial and scientific knowhow exist that could easily address problems of agricultural productivity and food security. Nevertheless, we need partners to address these challenges of low productivity and poor infrastructure, including market access and rebuilding institutions.

Almost all Africa’s farming systems depend on rain-fed agriculture. Agricultural productivity thus relies entirely on the environment, and is vulnerable to the effects of climate change. Africa has prioritised agriculture and food security for its socioeconomic development. Our continent has the potential to be the breadbasket of the world.

The close link between climate change and food security is evident in the negative impacts of changing

The lethobong power station near Johannesburg will use the Durban conference to inform and mobilise South african communities on climate change weather patterns on food security. This is especially clear with regard to food price increases due to disruptions in farming production capacity caused by floods, drought, fires and land degradation.

As a developing African country, South Africa will use the opportunity of COP-17 to showcase the impacts of climate change. We will take forward the good work done by Mexico and approach the meeting in a spirit of open consultation with all parties and stakeholders. This will enable us to work toward a comprehensive outcome that is acceptable to all parties.

If urgent action is not taken soon, climate change will severely affect development, food production and the ability to eradicate poverty in the future.

South Africa and the G8

South Africa has engaged in G8-Africa outreach since the 2002 Kananaskis Summit, and in the Group of Five (G5) since the 2005 Gleneagles Summit. The G5 also includes Brazil, China, India and Mexico. No G5 outreach session was held at the 2010 Muskoka Summit.

South Africa has been invited by French president Nicolas Sarkozy to participate in G8-Africa outreach at the Deauville Summit on 27 May.

The Africa Action Plan, launched at Kananaskis, constituted an undertaking by the G8 to support the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), previously introduced at the 2001 Genoa Summit. The African Partnership Forum (APF) was subsequently formed to identify and address obstacles to the implementation of the Africa Action Plan on the G8 side and NEPAD on the African side.

There are four key challenges in G8-Africa outreach: yythe implementation of commitments made at Kananaskis and Gleneagles; yythe institutional set-up of the APF, which is currently dominated by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development; yyan integrated response by the G8 to NEPAD; and yythe need for funding to augment the $640 million raised by Africa to finance the African Infrastructure Consortium.

South Africa and the G20

South Africa’s key message to the G8 and G20 is that, together as the developing and developed worlds, we should promote stronger and more effective international partnerships for growth and development. If the world is serious about defeating the challenges of under-development, illiteracy and poverty among others, sufficient time and attention must be given to Africa at these summits.

At the G20 Cannes Summit in November, South Africa will emphasise that Africa is open to partnerships and engagement to ensure sustainable development that focuses on society, the economy and the environment, including meeting the UN’s Millennium Development Goals. South Africa will also underline that African markets are open for trade and investment. The world should stop viewing Africa as only a destination for development aid.

The G20’s Seoul Summit delivered important commitments for strong, sustainable and balanced growth. The Seoul Action Plan specifies deliverables in monetary and exchange rate policies, trade and development policies, fiscal policies, financial reforms and structural reforms.

Furthermore, the G20 made serious commitments to yyreform and modernise the International Monetary Fund to reflect the changing world economy – through greater representation of emerging markets and developing countries; yyexplore ways to bring stability to the international monetary system; yyfight protectionism and promote trade and investment; yyrecognise the importance of a prompt conclusion of the Doha Development Round; yysupport the regional integration efforts of African leaders, including supporting their vision of a free trade area through the promotion of trade facilitation and regional infrastructure; and yyimplement structural reforms to boost and sustain global demand, foster job creation and contribute to global rebalancing.

Our relations with the G8 remain nonetheless important, especially on the G8 Africa Action Plan, which includes commitments to support peace and security in Africa.

As a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council and a member of the African Union’s Peace and Security Council, South Africa seeks closer working relationships with G8 members on disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration in Africa. We are also interested in exchanging views with the G8 members on their commitment to provide technical and financial assistance to peacekeeping operations.

As Africans, we remain convinced that our journey for the economic, political, social and cultural rebirth of our continent makes it an attractive destination for development partners.

An effort is being made to create an environment for economic growth and development. But there is still much to do in terms of economic reform and the development of infrastructure and social services in Africa. This understanding informs NEPAD.

The biggest development in Africa’s recent economic relationships has been the increasing role of countries of the South in trade and investment links. Nevertheless, the advanced economies of the North provide mature markets, helpful networks, innovative technologies and an important source of foreign direct investment.

However, as we work to broaden and deepen mutually reinforcing relations with our partners in the both the North and the South, we make a special appeal on the aspect of fair trade. Progress will be greatly enhanced by economic reforms to enable more inclusive, faster growth. The completion of the Doha round of trade negotiations must thus be a priority, so that developing countries gain favourable access to markets in the developed world without restrictive conditions.

Africa has much potential for raw commodities, which will be the mainstay of our economies for many years to come. It is therefore crucial that we harness and optimise these resources in a global community where there are few trade barriers and protectionist policies. We are particularly pleased that France has indicated that the development agenda will be one of the core priorities for its presidency of the G20.

France, together with Korea and South Africa, is co-chairing the G20’s Development Working Group. In view of the urgent and loud call from our continent of Africa, we also support France’s particular emphasis on infrastructure and food security for this year.

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