/ 12 December 2008

Kortbroek strikes back at climate conference

South African Environmental Affairs and Tourism Minister Martinus van Schalkwyk immediately got tough with countries holding up negotiations when he arrived at the United Nations climate change conference in Poznan, Poland, this week.

”We are very disappointed with the attitudes of four countries, Australia, Japan, Canada and Russia. They are breaking their promises they committed to in Bali already and that is why we are being tough on them,” he said.

He said the lacklustre attitude of the countries could be traced back to their immense fear for the growing economies of the developed world, and that they were playing for time.

Although no significant outcome is expected at Poznan to curb the world’s carbon emissions, it was hoped that developed countries would have agreed in principle to targets to ease the tense negotiations expected next year in Copenhagen. The Copenhagen deal is expected to be even more significant than the Kyoto Protocol, which tied developed countries into curbing their carbon dioxide emissions. The new deal will ultimately shape the economy of the 21st century, because it will tell countries how to power their economies.

”The four countries are also reluctant to commit to any targets,” said the tough talking South African minister.

”They are waiting to see what the incoming Obama-adminstration will do.”

Van Schalkwyk resembles a lone cowboy riding into town to call the local scoundrels to order and in the conference halls his name was mentioned with awe.

Last year South Africa was instrumental in browbeating the United States into accepting a climate-change deal and this year he is leading the charge again to force the four wayward countries to put their cards on the table.

But the reality is that he might not be around come next year to see through the critical deal he and his team have invested in so heavily.

Van Schalkwyk did not want to be drawn on this possibility, but his face resembled that of a four-year-old who had spent all his money on presents, and then told that Christmas might not come after all.