South Africa will not shrink from its responsibility to address climate change

18 February 2020

South Africa, as a responsible global citizen, will not shrink from its responsibility to address the important tasks that lie ahead to mitigate, and adapt to, climate change.

 “We have a common moral responsibility to future generations to honour our mutual commitments and our differentiated responsibilities to fight the causes and consequences of climate change,” said Environment, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Barbara Creecy.

Speaking during the SONA debate in the National Assembly, the Minister said the transition to a low carbon growth trajectory would only be just if it took account of the existing high levels of inequality, unemployment and under-development, and that it was important that those most affected by climate change not be left behind.

The Minister welcomed President Cyril Ramaphosa’s commitment in the State of the Nation Address to undertake a decisive shift in the country’s energy trajectory at a time when human kind faces the greatest threat to its sustainable future, namely Climate Change.

The President also promised that the Presidential Climate Change Commission will lead South Africa’s just transition to a low carbon, climate resilient and sustainable society, which will leave no one behind. It will ensure the just transition happens in a responsible, phased and planned manner.

Because South Africa, and Africa, are warming at twice the rate of the rest of the world because of climate change, extreme weather events have become more frequent.

The Eastern, Western and Northern Cape are experiencing severe droughts, while Kwa-Zulu Natal and the wild coast of the Eastern Cape have experienced severe storms and flooding with unprecedented frequency that has destroyed lives, homes and infrastructure.

 “Heat waves and multi-year droughts are impacting on agricultural production, the livelihoods of thousands of subsistence farmers and, more systemically, on our country’s GDP,”  said Minister Creecy adding that coastal  cities already face sea-level rise and storm surges, while people, animals and plants confront new diseases and infestations of pests.

Minister Creecy said it was the ultimate injustice that developing nations, such as South Africa, have historically contributed the least to greenhouse gas emissions, but today are the most affected. South Africa’s vulnerability to climate change is exacerbated by its economic inequality, poverty and dependency on coal-fired power generation.

 “So, no matter how we look at it, climate change poses significant risks to our country’s current and future socio-economic development,” said the Minister.

In addressing this challenge the Minister said we need to be mindful of both the opportunities and difficulties. The opportunities include unlocking new sectors for growth and job creation. The difficulties include ensuring that the transition is responsible, phased and planned. Working with all stakeholders will be the only way we ensure no one is left behind.

To address these issues, the Climate Change Bill, which provides for effective management approaches to the impact of climate change will be tabled in the National Assembly this year, while the National Adaptation Strategy is to be finalised. This strategy will galvanise investment in preparedness, early warning capabilities and risk mitigation measures for society.

The Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries (DEFF) will this year assist municipalities in implementing their climate change response strategies, while the SA Weather Service will ramp up efforts to educate local communities so they can better understand climate change and respond appropriately. 

Through the Department’s environmental programmes, R1.9 billion is to be spent in 2020 to restore wetlands, estuaries and coastal dunes to better protect built infrastructure and human settlements from storms, floods and sea level rise.

South Africa will continue to lobby developed countries to provide for an adequate, reliable and predictable source of international funding for both mitigation and adaptation.

 “We must all be clear that climate change and its associated consequences can only be addressed by the world’s nations working together,” she said expressing concern about the withdrawal of the United States – on of the world’s biggest emitters – from the Paris Accord.

 “It is essential that the nations of the world stand together in support of the Paris Agreement.  We have a common moral responsibility to future generations to honour our mutual commitments and our differentiated responsibilities to fight the causes and consequences of climate change,” she said.

For media inquiries contact:
Albi Modise
Cell: 083 490 2871