Political will and action required to combat climate change

Monday, March 2, 2009

Cape Town - Politicians and policy makers need to show political will and action in order to deal with the issue of climate change, says President Kgalema Motlanthe.

Addressing delegates at the Socialist International Conference on Monday, the President highlighted that the conference was taking place at a time when the world faced serious challenges, not least that of climate change.

"The problem of climate change and other environmental challenges that the world faces today were, to a large extent, caused by our behaviour and failure as nations to take appropriate measures to preserve our planet.

"Africa is one of the regions least responsible for climate change, yet Africa is the most affected and Africa is also the least able to afford the costs of adaptation," Mr Motlanthe said.

Africa is likely to remain vulnerable even if, globally, emissions peak and decline in the next 10 to 15 years, he said.

Environment ministers from across the globe need to continue to provide the leadership to translate public will into political will, and political will into action and implementation, he said.

Over the last decade, the world has taken important steps in the right direction which includes mainstreaming and integrating environmental concerns in other areas of work in our respective governments and developing new scientific and policy capacities.

"However, despite these achievements, there are also signs of a stagnating and fragmented global regime for the environment and sustainable development.

"For us, the proliferation of environmental agreements, funds and entities call for greater co-ordination and significantly increased resources," the President said.

Climate change also calls for the further strengthening of Africa's voice and strategic leadership in the debate on international environmental governance.

Working together with other countries on the debate surrounding climate change is paramount to ensuring that South Africa and other countries concerns and interests inform United Nations environmental reform.

Immediate challenges, which have particular relevance to this meeting, he said, include the improvement of coherence and co-ordination between different UN agencies and bodies; eliminating the fragmentation of implementation, scientific work and policy development; and addressing the huge resource gap that has led to discrepancies between commitments and actions.

"As government, we believe that the overriding challenge is to provide our people with a better life and to eradicate the scourge of hunger and poverty.

"It is therefore our sincere hope that this meeting will advance society towards an efficient system of managing climate change and creating conditions for sustainable development," President Motlanthe highlighted.