Address by President Jacob Zuma at UN Climate Change Conference

Monday, December 21, 2009


18 December 2009

Excellencies, Your Majesties,

We have all gathered here because we understand the enormous challenge we face as a result of climate change.

A lot of work has been done over a period of time by our negotiators as well as the United Nations to assist the world to reach agreement.

Climate change is a practical matter for the developing world, especially Africa.

For countries such as South Africa, weather patterns in coastal provinces are already wreaking havoc on the lives of our people, which makes this challenge a reality that we are already confronting.

We came here knowing that reaching an agreement would be critical for future generations to avoid fundamental and irreversible changes in climate.

We knew that the outcome of this Conference would have to give effect to the principle of common but differentiated responsibility and respective capabilities enshrined in the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Some facts are already well known. Developed countries are historically responsible for around 80 percent of the current emissions in the atmosphere.

Developing countries are most affected by climate change and are least capable to adapt to the impacts.

As they justifiably pursue their own development paths, it is expected that developing countries' emissions will increase.

In the long-term, we need an agreement that recognises the common responsibility of all nations to reduce emissions, while not retarding the development of developing countries.

Our view remains that all developed countries must commit to ambitious, legally binding emission reduction targets, in line with historical responsibility and in line with needs of science.

Developing countries should commit to nationally appropriate mitigation action, to achieve a decline in emissions relative to business as usual.

This would be conditional on finance, technology and capacity building support from developed countries.

Developing countries are ready to play their part in reducing global emissions, but obviously rich countries have to take the lead.

With financial and technological support from developed countries, South Africa for example will be able to reduce emissions by 34% below 'business as usual' levels by 2020 and by 42% by 2025.

We wanted a complete, legally binding agreement, but accept the progress that has been made in COP 15.

We support the fact that parties will continue negotiating two complementary binding instruments: one under the UN Convention and one under the Kyoto Protocol.

We have made progress in that we have been able to isolate the areas of agreement and disagreement.

We need to move with speed to finalise the areas of disagreement, in order to conclude a legally binding agreement for the sake of future generations.

We, the leaders of the world, need to seize our historical opportunity to act now to safeguard the future of humanity and the planet it inhabits.

We owe it to current and future generations.

South Africa believes that working together we can do more to meet the challenges of climate change.

I thank you.