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Minister Edna Molewa’s speech during the National Climate Change Response Dialogue official opening

10 November 2014


Mr Lebogang Maile, MEC Agriculture, Economic and Rural Development, Gauteng;
The MEC of the Northern Cape, and other MECs present here today;
Mr Parks Tau, Executive Mayor of the City of Johannesburg;
Mr Patrick Mabilo, acting Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Environmental Affairs;
Mr Horst Freitag, Ambassador of the Federal Republic of Germany to South Africa and other members of the Diplomatic Corps;
Mr Jean-Pascal van Ypersele, Vice-Chair of the IPCC;
Youba Sokona, Co-Chair of the WGIII from the IPCC;
IPCC representatives and lead authors from across the African continent;
Director-General of the Department of Environmental Affairs, Nosipho Ngcaba;
Distinguished guests;
Ladies and gentlemen

Last month, our President Jacob Zuma officially opened what you may call the ‘green jewel in our government’s crown’ – the new headquarters of the department, Environment House.

Environment House is the only government building to achieve a 6 Green Star rating; blazing a trail in fact for all government buildings in future to contribute towards reducing carbon footprint and water use.

This building was not something we could have imagined twenty years ago, with its state of the art specifications setting the standard for energy efficiency, emissions reduction and innovation.

The opening of Environment House, Ladies and Gentlemen, was the realization of a vision. A vision that with its ultimate goal will propel South Africa into a future where environmental considerations are key to government planning and policy.

In his address at the opening of Environment House President Zuma said this:  “If all sectors implement the measures to fight climate change at the same time, together we can build the biggest mitigation buffer against climate change. We can save our country and the world for future generations. Our economy will become resilient to the possible effects of climate change only when we take bold steps.”

For it is bold steps that are needed, and will be needed for a long time to come, if we are to adequately address the very real threat of climate change.

It is a phenomenon that unless addressed, threatens to severely undermine the development gains made by our young democracy in the past twenty years. Its effects threaten food and water security and the overall ability of communities to thrive…not just in South Africa and on the continent, but way beyond our borders.

The Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change confirms that “despite a growing number of climate change mitigation policies, global annual greenhouse gas emissions continue to grow rapidly. Total emissions were the highest in human history from 2000 to 2010.

This tells us that despite, despite (emphasis) our actions, they haven’t been enough. We will continue to experience the impacts of global warming. And that they are intensifying.

I would like to extend a warm welcome to you to this National Climate Change Response Dialogue. It is an intervention that is both timely and critical.

To those of you who have travelled many miles from different parts of the African continent, and the world to share this platform with us, we extend the hand of solidarity.

Let me acknowledge and sincerely thank the Federal Republic of Germany and the GIZ, through you, Ambassador Freitag, for the generous support for South Africa’s climate change response programmes, and for making it possible to host this National Climate Change Response Dialogue.

I would also like to thank the IPCC, for working with us closely to make the IPCC outreach event for Africa, part of our national conference.

Over the next few days you will be discussing, deliberating and sharing experiences on how best to address the challenge that is common to us all.

Importantly, this platform should spell out exactly how we aim to realize this common vision, of a lower carbon and climate resilient society.

And in this we stress the words common (emphasis) vision. For decisions on such matters affecting us call cannot, and should not be taken in isolation, or by selected persons alone.

It gives me great pride, on behalf of my department and my government, to see community organizations, business, labour, civil society movements and the scientific community all gathered in one room.

As citizens of the African continent, we are here to deepen our understanding of what needs to be done, and how we can intensify our current efforts to contribute our fair share to reduce emissions.

For it is Africa, Ladies and Gentlemen, that has borne the brunt of climate change. It is African men, women and children who are feeling its effects most.

When we last gathered in 2011 as a community of policy-makers, it was in the lead up to the United Nations COP 17 conference in Durban.

It was in Durban three years ago, largely through the leadership shown by all countries of Africa, that the world took bold decisions and set a new long-term pathway for the development of a fair, ambitious, rules-based and legally binding multilateral global climate change system. This is the context that informs our gathering here this week.

We are preparing ourselves to ensure that Paris 2015 delivers an outcome that lives up to the groundbreaking Durban Platform outcome of COP 17. And in doing so, we continue to engage with the science from the 5th Assessment Report of the IPCC…all the while deliberating, planning, strategizing and taking practical action.

Like all of you gathered here today, we as Team South Africa know that deliberation and strategizing must be matched by practical action.

Allow me, then, to reflect briefly on our country’s achievements in the past few years since Durban.

  • We have a National Climate Change Response Policy, that charts the course for actions that are both developmental and transformational.
  • A set of Long Term Adaptation Scenarios (LTAS) are being developed, under plausible future climate conditions and development pathways.
  • We are also working hard on reducing our greenhouse gas emissions. Extensive work has been done, jointly with business and industry, to analyse the emission reduction potential in key economic sectors, and to understand the social and economic opportunities and impacts of reducing emissions. This work will lead to the establishment of desired emission reduction outcomes per sector, and carbon budgets for companies.
  • The National Green Economy Strategy provides the strategic directive to grow economic activity in the green industry sector, so as to attract investment, create jobs and improve competitiveness. It also provides the strategic direction for transitioning existing economic sectors towards cleaner, low-carbon industries with sustained socio-economic benefits and low environmental impact. 

South Africa’s approach is one of promoting sustainable development by prioritising climate change responses that have significant mitigation benefits, AND have significant economic growth, job creation and poverty alleviation benefits.

Three years ago a green transport strategy was still at the drawing board. Today the Minister of Transport is leading the green transport flagship with groundbreaking urban public transport initiatives, renewable energy fuel alternatives and the shift of freight from road to rail.

Some of our visitors gathered here today may remember the construction still being done on the Gautrain when you last visited. Today the Gautrain’s ridership exceeds 1.3 million passengers per month significantly reducing private motor vehicle usage on the roads.

Our Ministry of Public Works is leading a flagship programme to unlock the so far largely untapped potential for energy savings in public buildings at national, provincial and local level. 

The Department of Environmental Affairs has been leading by example – with the opening of Environment House, and the utilization of a fleet of electric vehicles used to ferry our staff from the Gautrain station to work.

Whereas three years ago renewable energy projects were small and lacking investment, today there is rapid uptake of large-scale renewable energy technologies through the Renewable Energy Independent Power Purchase Programme.

So far under the REIPPP programme, 3 933 MW have already been procured.

Throughout, we are greening our cities, with wide ranging action including reducing energy load in buildings, creating a recycling economy, and restoring wetlands that protect precious water resources. Through our national Green Fund, we have adopted an innovative approach to catalysing investment in green programmes.

These are just some examples illustrating that with a vision, taking bold steps has become a reality, not just diagrams on paper.

But as we celebrate achievement, we are constantly looking ahead. In this we are guided by the Vision 2030 laid out in South Africa’s National Development Plan.

We will have a full session tomorrow on turning Vision 2030 into practice, but if I may briefly touch on key aspects.

By 2030, South Africa hopes to have sliced our energy demand in half through technological innovation, good behavioural practise and sheer public commitment to more efficient, sustainable and equitable energy use.

By 2030 we hope to have made rapid progress towards a  carbon-neutral electricity sector

By 2030 it is hoped South Africa will have a low-carbon public transport system that makes everyday use of private vehicles an unnecessary extravagance.

By 2030 our houses, offices and commercial building will no longer be energy drains, energy sources- supplying electricity to communities through smart meters and smart grids

These are just some of the goals laid out in Vision 2030. It also includes targets on emissions reduction, air quality standards and the like, with the ultimate aim of transitioning to a low-carbon, climate resilient economy and society.

It is indeed a common vision shared by all of us gathered here today. Most importantly, it is realizable and within the grasp of each of us: provided we are prepared to take bold steps.

In conclusion I would like to turn briefly to preparations for the 20th Conference of the Parities under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, taking place in Lima, Peru, at the end of the year.

As we near the deadline set in the Durban Platform, this meeting is critical as we work towards concluding the negotiation of a new multilateral legal agreement in Paris next year.

To summarise, our priorities for Lima COP 20 are as follows:

  1. Firstly, to reach agreement on the elements of the new legal agreement, that is inclusive, fair, effective and adequate to keep temperature increase well below 2°C.
  2. Secondly, there must be recognition that adaptation should be at the heart of   the climate regime with multi-lateralism critical to offering protection of those that are most vulnerable;
  3. Thirdly, it will be critical for Parties to reach agreement on the minimum information to be presented with Parties’ Intended Nationally Determined Contributions, covering all key pillars of the negotiation, namely adaptation, mitigation, technology, finance and capacity building.
  4. Fourthly the Lima political agreement needs to elaborate on the legal form that the post -2020 regime should take; and
  5. Finally, the Lima political agreement must confirm how developing countries’ contributions to the global effort to combat climate change will be financed, and whether the obligation to provide this support will be legally binding on developed countries.

Delegates, ladies and gentleman, many of you will be in Lima, or following the negotiations virtually, from the perspective of your different organisations. Remember that we are team South Africa. These are difficult negotiations and we will need your support.

Ladies and Gentlemen, the efforts that we take today to fight climate change will define our true value for the generations to come. We can choose to make a difference. We can choose to alter the path that this world will take. The question is, are we ready to do that?

This Dialogue is an important moment to celebrate progress, but also a common platform for us to strategise, share best practice, and continuously improve and refine our plan to attain our common vision.

I wish you fruitful discussion in the days ahead.

For media queries, contact:

Albi Modise
Cell: 083 490 2871

Thanks You!