Minister Edna Molewa’s keynote address at the opening of the South African National Talanoa Dialogue

Midrand Conference Center, 23 August 2018

 

It is my pleasure to address this national dialogue on climate change involving key South African constituencies and stakeholders, in the presence of our development partners.

At the outset, I wish to recognize the presence of the European Union’s Ambassador to South Africa, Dr Marcus Cornaro, and to convey our appreciation for the support our European partners have provided for the hosting of this event. I am also pleased to recall that South Africa was able to make its own modest contribution to the hosting of the European Union’s Talanoa Dialogue earlier this year.

I would also like to recognize the former Chief Negotiator of the French CoP 21 Presidency, Dr Laurence Tubiana and Ms Monika Trojan-Otwinowska, who is representing the Incoming Polish CoP 24 Presidency.

We are further honoured to be joined here today by South African National Planning Commissioners, elected representatives, leaders of the business community, civil society, labour organisations, academia, and other fellow South Africans.

Ladies and gentlemen,

South Africa’s national story thus far is one of struggle for dignity, self-determination and inclusive and sustainable social and economic development. Our story teaches us that it is possible to overcome even seemingly intractable challenges through dialogue. The democratic dispensation we have collectively achieved through this dialogue has already delivered on a number of our political, social and economic development objectives. However, clearly more needs to be done and there are serious challenges in the road ahead.

Climate change is one of these key challenges and it poses the single biggest threat to development, with its widespread and unprecedented impacts that disproportionately burden the poorest and most vulnerable. It is therefore essential that all South Africans work together to address this challenge and that we deepen and broaden our national conversation on how best to achieve a just transition to a low carbon and climate resilient world.

If we adopt the same “Can do Spirit” that secured our transition to democracy, there is no doubt that we can also bring about the low emissions transition in a manner in which our environment, health and development gains are protected and new opportunities are created for development.

Africa has a special and indispensable role to play in addressing climate change and I am recall the poignant words of the late United Nations Secretary-General and one of Africa’s greatest sons,  Dr Kofi Anan,  who sadly passed away earlier this week. Dr Anan said:

“We must not forget that Africa can and has to be part of the solution to climate change. Africa is already experiencing the damaging impact of climate change; yet no region has done less to contribute to global warming than Africa”.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The Paris Agreement, adopted in 2015 under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), represents a landmark achievement towards strengthening the collective multilateral approach to climate change. Indeed, it is no exaggeration to say that the multilateral process represents our best hope of addressing this pressing global challenge. South Africa therefore continues to actively and constructively engage in efforts to fully operationalize the Paris Agreement and to raise ambition, both at the international and national level.

In this regard, the Paris Agreement makes provision for the communication every five years of contributions and intended efforts of State Parties with regard to mitigation, adaptation and provision of support. These contributions are nationally determined and the onus is on each Party to determine its own best effort towards the global cause and to draw from international best practices and partnerships to help shape its pathway towards the transition to a low carbon future. In this way, the Paris Agreement has the flexibility and ownership by Parties that allows it to cater for the very different levels of capacity and national circumstances of countries.

However, these national efforts are part of a collective effort linked to the achievement of globally agreed goals and have to be premised on a number of key multilateral principles, including those of no backsliding; progression of effort over time; differentiation; equity and the need to be guided by science. This necessitates periodic multilateral reviews of the collective effort and a vigorous multilateral process of scientific review, reporting and dialogue to encourage all of us to continuously strive to do more.

The Talanoa Dialogue is the first of these multilateral dialogues ahead of the full operationalization of the Paris Agreement from 2020. As such, it is an important opportunity for South Africa and other Parties to demonstrate their unwavering commitment to the Paris Agreement.

With this in mind, the Environment Ministers of Brazil, South Africa, India and China, who form the BASIC group, decided at their most recent meeting in Durban in May 2018 to each hold preparatory national Talanoa Dialogues to prepare for the high-level international Talanoa Dialogue at CoP24 in Poland in December 2018.

It is therefore my honour to convene this South African national Talanoa Dialogue today and to invite all South African constituencies to join in a process of building South Africa’s narratives on how to  achieve enhanced ambition and climate action, as part of a global effort. I look forward to sharing your stories and experiences from this event with the international community at the Katowice Climate Conference.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Some interesting insights and stories have already been shared by State Parties and non-Party stakeholders during the year-long preparatory phase of the Talanoa Dialogue held by Fiji on the guiding questions of; Where are we? Where do we want to go? and How do we get there?

These questions can be addressed from diverse points of view, such as climate science, development, business, labour, and others. What unites the stories should be the common good of enhanced climate action. Different countries have different stories to tell, but again what should unite us is that these stories should deliver global good in terms of enhanced climate action.

This public consultation is a platform for all South Africans to share their stories of climate action, covering the questions of where they are, what their aspirations are, and how they intend getting there. We have been advised that the Talanoa concept is an inclusive, participatory and transparent dialogue. The purpose is to share stories, build empathy and to make wise decisions for the collective good. During the process, participants build trust and advance knowledge through empathy and understanding. This consultation will be conducted in that spirit.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The Paris Agreement is very close to our hearts here in South Africa not only because the road to Paris started in Durban at CoP 17 in 2011, but also because it affirmed the role of multilateralism in finding solutions for what is a global problem. Climate Change response requires cooperation by the entire international community. It is therefore pleasing to note the presence of our development and negotiating partners. We should jointly press forward with the building of an international regime that is based on science and is rules-based.

South Africa submitted, what is now its Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) to the international community. In our NDC, we had three distinct components of, (i) mitigation, (ii) adaptation and (iii) the means of implementation. It builds on our 2009 emission reduction pledge, and presents an emission reduction trajectory range for 2025 and 2030. This was built on sound science and consultation across the entire country.

We are greatly encouraged by initiatives undertaken by certain sectors of our society, such as business in its Carbon Disclosure Project run by the National Business Initiative. These are initiatives and stories that need to be told as they contribute to our ability to achieve our emission reduction targets. As of 2016 we are at the voluntary stage of implementing the South African Mitigation System, and such initiatives are critical in a smooth transition to the second phase, backed by legislation. 

Ladies and gentlemen,

The world has already reached a One Degree Centigrade aggregate temperature increase since the start of the industrial revolution and we are already seeing clear signs that this is untenable.  Newspaper headlines across the world are dominated by natural disasters often of an unprecedented scale and frequency. We now await further scientific insight into the implications of a One and a Half Degree temperature scenario, with the release of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)’s Special Report on 1.5oC, which will inform the Talanoa discussions at CoP 24.

Faced with this dire situation and the reality that the world is currently far from even limiting the temperature increase to Two Degrees, one needs to address the human face of climate change. This human face is adaptation to the reality that the world has already changed and that further change is inevitable.

The South African NDC sets a number of national adaptation goals, including the development of a national adaptation strategy and plan, the strengthening of institutional capacity for addressing adaptation at all levels, and developing a national early warning system amongst others. These goals were built from a scientific exercise completed in 2015, called the Long-Term Adaptation Scenarios.

The Department of Environmental Affairs has worked very well with subnational players, local government, and cities and to this end has undertaken vulnerability assessments across the nine provinces to determine climate risk with the view to develop appropriate responses.  Furthermore, the provincial response plans for all the provinces have been developed to outline adaptation options, which are tailored to the provincial needs. We have supported 44 district municipalities in developing risk and vulnerability assessments and response plans through our Local Government Support Programme.

Ladies and gentlemen,

South Africa is experiencing slow and fragile economic growth, and is encumbered by structural problems. However, we have been looking into the possibility of scaling-up our current efforts and have found that this is not an easy task. Scaling-up efforts requires significant investment that we can only achieve with support.

The 2017 United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Report on Africa Public Expenditure on Adaptation presents findings that require the attention of both developing and donor countries. The report not only suggests that African countries are investing up to 9% of their GDP on adaptation - with South African investing almost 6% - but also that public expenditure provides bigger benefits for adaptation.

The implication of this finding is that the budgetary support modality is most suited for adaptation, whereas the international finance mechanisms and donor policies have steadily moved towards a project-based approach. As much as project-based financing may be suited for mitigation, it is not the case for adaptation.  South Africa has the requisite institutions, accountability and governance systems to make best use of budgetary support.

Despite these challenges of scaling up action, we are encouraged by success stories that give us confidence that we can meet our goals. These include success in the Renewable Energy Independent Power Producers Procurement Programme (REIPPP); the Green Transport Strategy; and the Energy Efficiency in Industry Strategy; Expanded Public Works Programme, amongst others. This platform is precisely to hear your stories, and ideas for moving towards a low-carbon and climate resilient economy.

I also wish to highlight that we are working on a Climate Change Bill which has been published for consultation. We see this as an important aspect of not only enhancing climate change governance in our country but achieving our undertakings in all areas.

Ladies and gentlemen,

One of the success stories South Africa has to share with the international community is the Renewable Energy Independent Power Producers Programme (REIPPP). The National Development Plan 2030 requires 20 000 MW of renewable energy by 2030 and this is supported by the Integrated Resource Plan of the Country.  So far, we have procured 6 376 MW. More recently, in April 2018 we signed up 27 Independent Power Producers (IPPs). The 27 IPPs are expected to produce 2 300 MW of electricity with a mitigation potential of 8.1 Megaton CO2 equivalent per annum.

Another promising story is the initiation of a process to “decarbonize” the transport sector and lower its emissions by introducing and providing support for initiatives ranging from the uptake of electric and hybrid cars, cleaner fuels and energy efficiency, expansion of non - motorized transportation, efficient and integrated Bus Rapid Transport System, amongst others. Progress has been made in in enhancing the City of Tshwane’s bus fleet using Compressed Natural Gas (CNG). The City of Johannesburg is using a dual system for their bus network with a combination of diesel and CNG. For phase 2, the City has identified CNG and electric busses as potential newer technologies. The City of Cape Town has selected to procure electric busses for their phase, which are currently undergoing testing.

Ladies and gentlemen,

I look forward to the discussions during the coming day and a half, and will listen careful, as you engage in this safe space to share your own stories. Please be mindful that this is not a platform to be critical of others, or to pronounce on what they should do, rather to speak to what you can do. 

More importantly, let us not forget the inspirational words of the father of the South African success story Tata Nelson Mandela who said: “It always seems impossible, until it’s done”.

As a nation we have achieved a lot through dialogue and I hope that this dialogue can usher in a new way through which we look at this collective climate change problem and come up with a solution that is bigger than any single input from each of us.

I thank you.