Countdown to climate talks

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Pretoria - The countdown to this year's United Nations Climate summit in Durban has begun, with exactly 100 days left before delegates descend on the city for one of the biggest gatherings on climate change in history.

More than 20 000 delegates, including Heads of State and Government from more than 100 countries, are expected to attend the summit in December.

As part of the build up to the conference, the South African government says it has lined up a series of events that include a summit of energy ministers from across the African continent scheduled for September.

A Women in Media and Environment Conference, to be convened by Deputy Minister of Monitoring and Evaluation Dina Pule on 4 September, is expected to attract more than 200 women from the media and environmental sector as part of the deliberations leading to the December summit.

Officials say the two-day conference is also in line with Women's Month activities celebrated across the country.

The UN views COP 17 as most significant in the long running climate negotiations that started in Copenhagen in 2009. The Durban conference comes at a time when the Kyoto Protocol, which commits developed countries to cut their emissions, is set to expire in 2012. It remains to be seen whether nations will sign up for a second commitment period.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) had singled out 2010 as the year with the highest recorded emissions, highlighting the urgency with which the world has to deal with climate change.

The Department of International Relations and Cooperation, the main organisers of the Durban summit, has insisted that if climate change is not addressed, its impact could undermine the developmental gains South Africa has made since 1994, and the efforts of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and African continent to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

"South Africa, through the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) who leads the South African delegation in pursuing the country's interest at COP17 negotiations, is committed to developing unity of the African Group and a Common African Position in the negotiations," government said in a statement this week.

Research has shown that Africa was likely to be the continent most affected by climate change, with severe droughts already affecting food production in most parts of the continent.

After both the Copenhagen and Cancun discussions failed to produce a legally binding climate treaty, delegates to the Durban talks are under immense pressure to produce some kind of deal that will be acceptable to both rich and developing nations.

As the first major climate change summit on the continent, politicians and environmental groups want Durban to produce an outcome that will further enforce the Cancun Agreements reached in the Mexican capital last year.

A new climate green fund was agreed at Cancun to transfer money from the developed to developing countries to tackle the impacts of global warming, but no figure was put on how much money will go into it.

With 100 days left, Pretoria has consistently said South Africa was ready to host the summit, citing the successful hosting of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) General Assembly Session in Durban and the 2010 FIFA World Cup, among others.
"Government is working closely with the UN to ensure that South Africa hosts an international event which meets UN requirements," said the statement.

UN climate delegates visited South Africa from 1 - 6 August and confirmed the country's state of readiness. An Inter-Ministerial Committee (IMC) to oversee government's preparations for the conference was also set up earlier this year.

Organisers further said all logistical arrangements were being finalized, with arrangements for the increased demand for air and ground transport at an advanced stage.

"Security preparations are in place to deal with a broad range of possible threats and disruptions. There will be a visa-free entry for UNFCCC accredited attendees, while all other observers and delegates will follow normal visa procedures."

Up to 20 000 beds have been secured, of which 2 662 rooms have already been booked and paid for.

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