Climate talks a matter of life, death - Zuma

Thursday, December 17, 2009
By: 
Chris Bathembu

Copenhagen - President Jacob Zuma has described the United Nations climate change talks as a matter of life and death.

"We are dealing with an issue that is threatening the very existence of human beings so any differences that may be there need to be dealt with," Zuma said.

He was addressing journalists on his arrival in Copenhagen where he is set to join other world leaders in broking a climate deal that will address the imminent devastating effects of climate change.

Zuma is expected to be briefed by the Prime Minister of Denmark on the progress of the negotiations that have been taking place since last week.

"We must emerge from here with an agreement that will help us address all the challenges that we are facing," said Zuma, adding that South Africa will support the group of 77 countries to push for an outcome that will benefit all developing nations.

There have been a series of differences emerging out of the talks, the Kyoto Protocol being one of the thorny issues. Zuma, however, is confident that the arrival of leaders today will help iron out any deadlocks that may have been there.

Meanwhile, South Africa has called for the UN climate talks to deliver an outcome that will see the United States being brought into the Kyoto Protocol, the treaty that binds nations to commit to legally binding carbon emission reductions.

Speaking at the summit on Thursday, Water and Environmental Affairs Minister Buyelwa Sonjica noted that in accordance with the science and in line with their historical responsibility for emissions, all developed countries must commit to ambitious, economy-wide legally binding emission reduction targets, of at least 40 percent reduction below 1990 levels by 2020.

The US remains the only developed nation that has not committed to the Kyoto Protocol which developing nations regard as first step in forcing all nations to take equal responsibility to addressing climate change.

"South Africa recognizes that as a responsible global citizen, we want to take more action, not only because we have a responsibility for future generations, but also because the science tells us that we are very vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.

"While we insist on the right to development, we will do everything within our capability to achieve our development and poverty eradication objectives in the most sustainable manner possible," said Sonjica.

She said the country was already undertaking significant mitigation actions in relation to energy efficiency, commerce and industry, mechanisms to support the roll-out of renewable and alternative.