Presidency on impact of climate change in 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.


Bongani Majola

Cell: 082 339 1993