South Africa joins Nations of the World in ratifying the Paris Agreement on Climate Change

02 November 2016


South Africa has ratified the Paris Agreement on Climate Change and has since submitted its instrument of ratification to the Depository under the United Nations Secretary-General in New York.

Ratification of the historic treaty, adopted at the 21st international climate change talks in France on 12 December 2015, was assented to by the National Council of Provinces on 27 October 2016, and the National Assembly yesterday, 1 November 2016.

Cabinet had on 20 October 2016 announced its approval for the historic treaty to be submitted to Parliament for ratification.

The Agreement will enter into force on 4 November 2016, thirty days after the date on which at least 5 Parties to the Convention, accounting for an estimated 55% of the total global greenhouse gas emissions, have deposited their instruments of ratification with the United Nations Secretary-General.  This is ahead of the scheduled implementation of the Agreement by 2020.

To date, 92 Parties had deposited their instruments of ratification with the UN Secretary-General.  South Africa will join these Parties in the coming days - ahead of the first meeting of the Paris Agreement’s governing body, the Conference of the Parties serving as the Meeting of the Parties to the Paris Agreement (CMA1).  The CMA meeting will take place in Marrakesh in conjunction with COP22 and CMP12 (the Conference of the Parties serving as the Meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol) from 7 to 18 November 2016.

The Minister of Environmental Affairs, Dr Edna Molewa, praised the approval of Parliament of the ratification of the Paris Agreement calling the decision historic.

“South Africa's ratification of the Paris Agreement sends a positive signal of our continued leadership role in ensuring the effects of climate change are addressed,” said Minister Molewa.  

The Paris Agreement is a legally binding instrument that will further guide the process for universal action on climate change.  It brings all nations into a common cause of acting collectively to address the threat of climate change within the context of sustainable development and efforts to eradicate poverty.  It sets the goal of holding the increase in global average temperature to well below 2 degrees Celsius and pursuing efforts to limit global temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

Minister Molewa signed the Paris Agreement on Climate Change on behalf of South Africa on 22 April 2016.

The South African-led Durban international climate change talks in 2011 marked the beginning of the 4-year negotiating process that culminated in the Paris Agreement, which is in line with the National Development Plan, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and Africa’s Agenda 2063.

South Africa played a leading role at COP 21 in Paris, as the Chair of the Group of 77 and China, a group of 134 developing countries that are worst affected by climate change. South Africa was also the lead negotiator for the African Group as well as a member of the Brazil, South Africa, India and China (BASIC) configuration.

Minister Molewa pointed out that as an African and developing country, South Africa had to balance developmental and environmental imperatives. At the same time, South Africa negotiated for an ambitious and legally binding outcome that would strengthen the multilateral rule of law and provide certainty and predictability for developing countries in a world with a changing climate.

“The adoption of the Paris Agreement has been hailed as a turning point in the efforts of the international community to address climate change,” said the Minister. “The global markets have been given a strong signal that the transition towards a low carbon economy is underway, and that carbon markets and other market- based solutions will be utilized to assist in this transition. Of critical importance to developing countries, particularly in Africa, is the enhanced importance accorded to adaptation to climate change, through the establishment of a global goal on adaptation, and to addressing the loss and damage associated with its impacts.”

South Africa has been experiencing the severe effects of drought conditions catalysed by the worst El Nino event in decades. The rising sea temperatures in the Pacific Ocean that resulted in increased temperatures and reduced rainfall in many parts of the world, was exacerbated by rising global temperatures associated with climate change.  South African scientists and weather forecasters warn that this is what can be expected in the decades to come, if ambitious global action is not taken urgently to reduce the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

Minister Molewa said it was clear that the only choice for humanity is to take ambitious and practical action, through reducing greenhouse gas emissions, preparing for extreme events, and adapting to the impacts of climate change.

“We need to adjust our ecological, social, and economic systems and change the way of doing business, so that we can transition to a lower carbon and climate resilient society, in a manner that also grows our economy, creates employment, and eradicates poverty,” said the Minister.

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Albi Modise
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