Speech By The Honourable Buyelwa Sonjica, Minister Of Water & Environmental Affairs During The Occasion Of The Debate Of The State Of The Nation Address

15 February 2010

Mandibulelele Somlomo
Ndibulele kuMongameli welizwe
KuSekela Mongameli
Makumalungu ahloniphekileyo

Okokuqala ndicinga ukuba le Ndlu ifanele ukuhambisana nam xa ndibulela uMongameli, ngokusikhokela kwakhe eCoppehangen. Ndisitsho lungu elibekekileyo, uNdude, asinakho ukulinda isiganeko ukuze sikhokele. Sesiqalile ukukhokela kwaye siyaqhubekeka. Ingqungquthela ebizwa ngokuba yi-COP17 izakwenzeka kwaye izakuba yimpumelelo, phantsi kokukhokela kukaMongameli uJacob Zuma.

Okwesibini, ndifuna ukuyiphinda le ndawo yamalahle. Amalahle asoze siwalahle, ngoba alikho nelinye ilizwe eliwalahlileyo amalahle.

We are going to reduce our dependence on coal but we are not going to abandon coal. UK uses 40% of coal in generating electricity, US uses 50% of coal in generating electricity and Poland uses 80% of coal asizokuwalahla koko sizakuwanciphisa.

Mongameli, ndiyabulela ngeli thuba undinike lona ukuze nam ndincedise phantsi kokukhululwa kwexhego lethu utat`uMandela. Ndiyayibulela loo mbeko endiyinikwe liqela lam le-ANC yokuba nam ndithethe kwakhona, ndiphose igade ekuthini nangomso, Madiba.

As we march further in our long journey to freedom, inspired by President Mandela`s courageous and exemplary leadership, we are mindful that the struggle for a better life is not over and that the conditions of the struggle confronting us have since changed. Indeed the global balance of forces has changed. Climate change is arguably the biggest challenge facing humanity in the 21st century and it may undermine the realisation of the millennium development goals. It poses a serious threat to humanity and life on earth, because we know it is fuelled by the global carbon intensive economy.

Over and above the natural cycles of climate, science tells us that the 150 years of historic industrialisation of the developed countries led to an additional burden on the climate system. It is a burden which does not exempt the developing world but makes it more vulnerable to the vagaries of climate change.

Actions to address climate change and sustainable development paths are linked. South Africa takes a green economic growth strategic approach that supports developing countries to identify actions which allow for sustainable development and climate mitigation co-benefits.

In the context of strong emphasis on mitigation actions, it is essential for adaptation to be given at least the same priority as mitigation. Adaptation to climate change is a concern for the most vulnerable who happen to be the least able to deal with climate change and also the least culpable for the current climate change situation.

As we all know, the nations of the world met in December 2009 inCopenhagen, Denmark, to finalise two years of negotiations aimed at strengthening the international climate regime beyond 2012. Specifically, our aim was to reach an international agreement that would prioritise both mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions and the adaptation to climate change impacts equally. Our aim is also to balance both climate and development imperatives. In this regard it would equitably share the limited remaining carbon space

Ukuba ke siyayika loo carbon space If we are dropping coal, then we will be diminishing that space that we will get. In this regard it would equitably share the limited remaining carbon space in order to give developing countries a fair chance to develop, based on the convention principles of equity and common, but differentiated responsibilities.

We can`t be extreme. We can`t take an extreme view of environmental conservation at the expense of development. The Constitution is quite clear that balancing development and environmental management, is what we need to focus on. This debate on climate change is about that.

In Copenhagen the international community was unable to reach a legally binding agreement on a future international climate change regime. Formally, the conclusion reached in Copenhagen, was to continue negotiations this year, 2010, on the basis of the work of the past two years under the Kyoto Protocol and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, UNFCCC.

However, with the active participation and leadership of the Honourable President Jacob Zuma, together with the leaders of 28 other countries, a political agreement was reached. This agreement is known as the Copenhagen Accord and it captures political agreement on some of the major and difficult issues that have divided the international community since negotiations began two years ago.

The particularly difficult questions addressed in this agreement relate to the following: how to share and reflect responsibility, commitment and action among developed and developing countries; how to verify and ensure compliance with respective commitments; and linked to this, the question of who pays. South Africa is proud of the leadership role it played as part of the BASIC group of countries to ensure that some progress was reached in Copenhagen.

The Copenhagen Accord, notwithstanding its deficiencies, outlines political agreement among leaders on many of the major issues. In particular, these political agreements were related to the following issues that also present opportunities.

Firstly, a means to record economy-wide binding emission reduction targets for developed countries, including the United States of America.

Secondly, to simultaneously for the first time, create a mechanism to record the emission reduction actions, at international level by developing countries such as China, India, Brazil, South Africa, Indonesia, Mexico, South Korea, as well as some small countries such as Philippines and the Maldives. At the meeting, all of these countries submitted their commitment to act.

Thirdly, to measure, report and verify this action internationally which is supported and transparently financed by a commitment from developed countries of $10 billion per annum up to 2012, reaching $100 billion per annum by 2020.

Lastly, is the issue to create a technology development and transfer mechanism.

The Honourable President, in his State of the Nation Address reaffirmed the commitment of this administration to the global and national effort. South Africa committed to potential mitigation actions leading to a 34% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions relative to business as usual, by 2020, and 42% by 2025. This commitment is neither additional nor extraneous to our internationally reviewed study on the country`s mitigation potential, which is the Long Term Mitigation Scenarios, LTMS.

I am emphatic on this point to allay the fears of business. This is not an extra burden on business and the investors must please understand it in this context. This commitment that we made is actually conditional to a legally binding international regime and support with regards to means of implementation.

The extent to which this action will be implemented depends on the provision of financial resources, the transfer of technology and capacity building support by developed countries. Therefore, the above action requires the finalisation of an ambitious, fair, effective and binding multilateral agreement under the UNFCCC and its Kyoto Protocol at Conference of Parties, COP, 15 and CMP 6 in Mexico, to enable the delivery of this support. With financial, technology and capacity building support from the international community, this level of effort will enable South Africa`s green house gas emissions to deviate from business as usual, as per our committment.

We must note that in order to achieve this, we are already taking action in line with our development priorities. The Department of Environmental Affairs is currently in the process of developing a national climate change response policy. This policy informs, and in turn is informed by processes undertaken by other government departments, such as the National Treasury on Financial Instruments to put a levy on carbon, and the Department of Energy`s energy mix policy reflected in the Integrated Resource Plan, IRP. The Department of Transport is investing in transport infrastructure through programmes such as the Bus Rapid Transit, BRT, Gautrain and rail infrastructure. The Department of Science and Technology and the Department of Trade and Industry have made progress on commercialization of the electric vehicle.

Having mentioned these initiatives, it is important to note that at the centre of the climate debate is how the remaining carbon space is shared in the world. International principles of engagement on climate change recognise the potential rise in emissions for developing countries in the short to medium term. As such our study into the country`s mitigation potential, as well as recent publications by the Minister of Energy on the IRP, do take into cognisance the current coal fired power stations. There is no need to panic. We have calculated Madupe. It is part of the long term mitigation scenarios. Therefore, when we committed 34% and 42%, we were including Madupe.

Furthermore, to demonstrate this commitment, from the application of expanding our power generation base, we have included the development of a 100 Mega watt concentrated solar power plant, rolling out solar water heaters to a million households, and supporting wind power generation projects.

We are also undertaking a policy development process that seeks to achieve the objectives of green growth, which will be informed by the LTMS study to guide the actions we need to take to follow a low carbon development path. As a focal point on climate change, our department is already engaged with sector departments in developing climate change sector plans.

The problem is that we are looking at the departments of government with a myopic view. We operate as a unit and we look at an integrated approach. My programme speaks to the programme of energy. It speaks to the programme of science and technology. It speaks to all of these programmes, because climate change cuts across. Therefore, if you are myopic in looking at this, then you will see shortcomings that are not there. Those shortcomings will cause a fragmentation of your mind, but the truth of the matter is that we are looking at an integrated approach. That is what we are implementing.

South Africa is a diverse country in terms of culture, religion and languages. The public at large is crucial to addressing the challenge of climate change. It is therefore important that we demystify climate change into a common language that is understood by all. It must be a language that simplifies scientific and business jargon and traverses language barriers so that every individual, South African and institution in society understands the significance of climate change and their respective roles in responding to it. This is a matter for all sectors of society and not for certain sectors of society. Whether you are educated or not, like my mother, you must understand what it is all about.

The government of South Africa and all sectors of our society agreed to pursue the required by science scenario of the LTMS study in a bid to curb greenhouse gas emissions. It is also important to stress the need for adaptation since the world is committed to a certain level of climate change that will require new coping mechanisms.

I thank you!