Pretoria - South Africa needs to use next year's climate change talks in Durban as an opportunity to fight global warming, says environmental lobby group, Greenpeace Africa.
This comes as organisers confirmed Durban as the host city for the 2011 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Congress of Parties (COP 17).
South Africa was part of the COP 15 held in Denmark last year, where world leaders pledged their renewed commitment to fight the effects of global warming. Mexico will host this year's round of talks that will pave a way for the conference in South Africa.
"As the hosting country, the South African government must seize this unique opportunity to push for a legally binding agreement to save the climate...the country's international climate leadership must be matched with a clear commitment to act on the domestic level to ensure a clean energy," said Michelle Ndiaye Ntab, Executive Director for Greenpeace Africa.
She said a great deal for the climate can be made in Durban next year, provided that South Africa seizes the opportunity to become "a climate leader and takes responsibility for being the largest emitter on the African continent".
Transport is said to be the fastest growing emitter of greenhouse gases in South Africa, contributing to about one-fifth of the country's emissions, second only to its dependence on coal-fired power stations.
Government plans to change this with plans of a mega solar power plant earmarked for Upington in the Northern Cape. More than 400 foreign and domestic investors have already shown interest in the project that would initially produce 1000 megawatts or 1GW, using a mix of the latest solar technologies.
Ndiaye Ntab said Mexico was a key stepping stone towards a deal in South Africa. "It is vital that the Mexican and South African governments continue to show a willingness to lead, while concentrating on building trust after Copenhagen".
The world's governments further needed to choose whether they make big steps in Cancun and Durban towards a clean energy future, or stick to business as usual and the fossil fuel industry, risking climate chaos and its economic, social and environmental consequences.