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Summary of South Africa's position at CoP 21 - CMP 11 in Paris, France


Climate change is already seriously affecting South Africa

The 21st Conference of the Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change concludes a 4 year negotiating process that was mandated by the global climate change negotiations hosted by South Africa in 2011 in Durban.

The Durban Climate Conference achieved an unprecedented outcome that not only significantly advanced the global effort needed urgently to address the immediate global climate change crisis; but also set a new long-term pathway for the development of a fair, ambitious and legally binding future multi-lateral and rules-based global climate change system which can balance climate and development imperatives.

This new global agreement, under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, to be concluded here in Paris by the end of next week, would ensure the fair participation of all countries (both developed and developing) in the global effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, both now and in the future.

“The impacts of climate change affect everyone, and will potentially unravel the massive development achievements of our young democracy should we not act timely. African countries are already experiencing some of the worst effects of climate change. We must anticipate that these impacts will worsen over time, unless global greenhouse gas emissions are drastically reduced, with developed countries taking the lead,” said the Minister of Environmental Affairs, Ms Edna Molewa.

Agriculture production, and food security in many African countries, is likely to be severely compromised by climate variability and change. The area suitable for agriculture, the length of growing seasons and yield potential, particularly along the margins of semi-arid and arid areas, are expected to decrease. This will affect farmers, and it will in particular, affect the women and many children of our continent who strive every day to ensure that there is food on the table for their families. Water security is also likely to be affected, she said. “In South Africa we are already experiencing water stress and drought in many parts of our country. This affects every sector of our economy and life. There are likely to be health impacts that will magnify the challenges of food and water insecurity. Increasing strain on the resilience of many ecosystems will affect the livelihoods of people living in rural areas. The people and infrastructure in coastal areas will face the risk of coastal flooding because of sea level rise. And fish stocks will be impacted by the warming of the ocean”.

In South Africa, we can proudly say that we have long put in place progressive, innovative and proactive policies and plans to deal with an ever-changing climate. These policies are guided by the overarching principle of sustainable development, which is the cornerstone of Vision 2030 contained in the National Development Plan (NDP).

We have a National Strategy for Sustainable Development, a National Climate Change Response Policy, Green Economy Strategy, and Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) – which outlines our country’s energy mix. This is in addition to our Industrial Policy and Action Plan that recognizes that energy efficiency and less-carbon intensive production are central tenets of a green economy. A National Adaptation Strategy is under development to guide South Africa’s efforts to plan for and adapt to the impacts of climate change.

Our approach balances our contribution as a responsible global citizen to the international effort to curb emissions, with the need to address economic growth, job creation, and poverty alleviation.

“These policies, strategies and planning instruments instituted by this government demonstrate that we are proudly leading from the front, and at the same time hard at work behind the scenes, and beyond the headlines, to ensure that the Paris climate change negotiations produce a multilateral legal agreement that is ambitious, fair and effective and balances development priorities with the need and urgency to address the global challenge of climate change,” said Minister Molewa.

Role of South Africa in the climate change process

South Africa has worked hard in contributing to the United Nations efforts to launch a new phase for action on sustainable development and climate change, and the country is pleased that the process has come thus far, said President Jacob Zuma in Paris ahead of the Leader’s Event at the UN climate change conference in Paris on 30 November.

In 2010 President Jacob Zuma co-chaired with the President of Finland, Excellency President Tarja Halonen, a 21 member High-Level Panel on Global Sustainability created by the United Nations Secretary-General.

This Panel consisting of leading policy makers sought to create a blue print for achieving low carbon prosperity in the 21st Century. The GSP report Resilient People, Resilient Planet: A Future Worth Choosing on 30 January 2012 in Addis Ababa.

The High-Level Panel on Global Sustainability influenced the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD/“Rio+20”) where world leaders came together in 2012 to decide on how to reduce poverty, advance social equity and ensure environmental protection. The discussions focussed on two main themes: how to build a green economy to achieve sustainable development and lift people out of poverty and how to improve international coordination for sustainable development. The outcome of Rio+20 The Future We Want mandated a process under the United Nations to develop the post-2015 development agenda, building on the Millennium Development Goals.

In 2015 the United Nations adopted 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), including a goal on climate change, as part of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development as a plan of action for people, planet and prosperity. It also seeks to strengthen universal peace, recognising that eradicating poverty in all its forms and dimensions, including extreme poverty, is the greatest global challenge and an indispensable requirement for sustainable development.

In addition, in 2011 South Africa hosted the COP17/CMP7 conference on climate change in Durban, where the President hosted several Heads of State and Government. This meeting proved a watershed in the climate change negotiations as it provided a roadmap to resolve a long standing division between developed and developing countries that has existed ever since the adoption of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in 1992.

At the Durban COP, thanks largely to the facilitation provided by South Africa, a consensus decision was reached to set up the Ad hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action (ADP). The ADP provides for the implementation of existing commitments by developed countries and the entry into force of the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol in the pre-2020 period and negotiations towards the adoption of a legal instrument to enhance action under the Convention in the post-2020 period.

In 2014 the President participated in the United Nations Secretary-General’s Climate Summit, which was convened to mobilise political will for the conclusion of the work under the Durban Platform.

Also within the framework of the African Union, South Africa played an important role in the development of Agenda 2063: The Africa We Want, which provides, among other things, that Africa must address the global challenge of climate change by prioritising adaptation in all our actions.


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Ad Hoc Working Group under the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action


The 2015 Agreement to be adopted at CoP 21/CMP11 in Paris, France, should be under the Convention, and in accordance with its principles and provisions in particular the principles of common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities and equity. The agreement must be consistent with science and equity, and further enhance a multilateral rules based system in a balanced and ambitious manner.

The agreement should provide legal parity between mitigation and adaptation. The UNEP second Adaptation Gap Report clearly points out at the increased burden for adaptation in developing countries from inadequate aggregate mitigation efforts. Therefore, the agreement should ensure mitigation ambition keeps the world on track for global temperature increase that is well below 2 degrees Celsius from pre-industrial levels by the end of the century.


  1. Adaptation;

    South Africa will insist on the operationalization of the global responsibility for adaptation, through a global goal for adaptation that enhances the implementation of adaptation commitments, which takes into account adaptation investments by developing countries, adaptation needs and costs including support.

  2. Mitigation 

    South Africa calls for enhancement of mitigation ambition, in accordance with the provisions and principles of the Convention with a view to achieving the 1.5 or 2 degree Celsius target. In this regard, the developed country Parties and other Parties included in Annex II to provide climate finance as a means to enhancing action towards achieving the objectives of the Convention.

  3. Response measures 

    South Africa‟s position is that we should maintain the forum on response measures and also calls for the establishment of a mechanism to avoid and minimize the negative economic and social consequences of response measures taken by developed country Parties on developing country Parties, and in particular to address policy issues of concern, such as unilateral measures.

  4. Finance 

    South Africa support Africa‟s call that the 2015 agreement should also spell out the support from developed countries to the developing countries as stipulated in the Convention.

    It is also important that the capitalization of the Green Climate Fund be continued in the pre-2020 period to fill the finance gap that currently exists. The GCF is supposed to mobilise $100 billion per annum from 2020 onwards. It is important to advocate the yearly targets for the capitalization of the GCF.

    The CoP also has to resolve the issue of sources and scale of finance for the post 2020 period.

  5. Capacity building 

    South Africa has called for the establishment of the international capacity-building mechanism that can ensure coherence of this cross-cutting issue, whilst facilitating implementation of adaptation and mitigation in developing countries. Capacity building is still a necessity for many developing countries.

    The international capacity-building mechanism under this agreement should be supported through the Financial and Technology mechanisms under the Convention and be linked to adaptation-related institutions.


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Pre-2020 or Workstream II position under ADP 


Workstream II is part of the Durban mandate and should therefore receive equal priority. South Africa‟s position is that Parties to UNFCCC should urgently ratify the second commitment period under the Kyoto Protocol (KP 2). Developed countries not participating in KP 2 needs to fulfil their obligation under the Convention.

The Technical Expert Process under needs to do more, faster through identification of ambitious actions.


  1. Provision of means of implementation is essential for implementation

    Workstream II could be more useful is it could design some form of the implementation mechanism that makes international collaboration possible. If the proposed Accelerated Implementation Mechanism could do this we will be fine with that.

  2. Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs), elements and legal form and elements of the 2015 agreement: 
    1. Definition of the INDC

      While the term INDC is not defined by any CoP decision, the language “intended nationally determined contribution” provides some indications of the anticipated process that can inform Parties‟ preparation of their contributions which might well be Parties commitments after Paris. The term “intended” reflects the fact that the legal status of the contributions and their final form under the 2015 agreement are yet to be decided.

      Contributions may also be subject to adjustment, for example, if future rules change the assumptions (e.g., about land-use accounting) that Parties made when preparing their INDCs. The language “nationally determined” underscores that contributions will be developed by countries in accordance with their national circumstances rather than collectively determined. INDCs were defined at CoP 19 as contributions “towards achieving the objective of the Convention as set out in its Article 2.”

      That objective is “to achieve the stabilization of greenhouse gas (GHG) concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system. Such a level should be achieved within a time-frame sufficient to allow ecosystems to adapt naturally to climate change, to ensure that food production is not threatened and to enable economic development to proceed in a sustainable manner” (UNFCCC 1992).

      INDCs may also contribute to numerous domestic objectives associated with the shift to a low-carbon economy, including gains in energy efficiency, reduced deforestation, and improved air quality, among others as further described below. The term “contribution” is used without prejudice to the legal nature of the contribution or type of contribution.

    2. Benefits of developing and submitting an INDC

      The INDCs will be crucial to the success of the UN's climate deal, both in 2015 and in the future. It is the first time that all countries, whether rich or poor, have been obliged to come forward with pledges to manage their greenhouse gas emissions. INDCs act as a barometer of where the world stands on tackling climate change.

      This could be seen as median between bottom-up and top-down, where countries proposes their own targets, while the UN tracks whether they are enough. The success of the UN's new climate agreement will, to a significant degree, depend on the ambition of these pledges, which will determine the rate of action to tackle climate change after 2020, and limit global temperature below 2 degrees relative to pre-industrial levels.

      Putting forward an INDC demonstrates a political commitment to limiting warming and, in turn, to limiting future risks posed by higher temperatures. The Durban decision to launch a process to develop the 2015 Agreement noted its applicability to all Parties. Climate change is a problem of the global commons, and, therefore, every country should participate in its solution. And given the significant risks posed by higher temperatures, the costs of inaction are too high for global community to accept.

      INDCs can be an opportunity to design policies that can make economic growth and climate objectives mutually reinforcing. For example, policies that lower emissions not only reduce vulnerability to energy price volatility and supply disruptions, but they also produce significant benefits for human health and ecosystems by curbing air pollution. Climate action can also advance rural development as a result of better land management practices.

      Furthermore, the process to develop an INDC can enable climate change to be linked to other national priorities such as sustainable development and poverty reduction. INDC preparation and implementation could also strengthen the institutional and technical capacity, enhance policy integration, and inform key stakeholders.

      Click » here to access the draft INDC for South Africa for public comment. 


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Related informantion / links / websites and sources


South Africa's INDC - Road to CoP 21, Paris
Related Branch Climate Change and Air Quality
The Presidency of the Republic of South Africa website
United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)
Paris 2015 UN Climate Change Conference, CoP 21 - CMP 11