/ 2 March 2009

Zuma warns over SA’s emission of greenhouse gases

South Africa is one of world’s largest producers of greenhouse gases, African National Congress president Jacob Zuma said on Monday.

Zuma, speaking at the International Commission for a Sustainable World Society in Hermanus in the Western Cape, said South Africa produced 1% of the world’s greenhouse gases.

While this was a ”relatively small proportion”, it made it the 14th largest producer of greenhouse gases in the world.

”As the pace of development increases, countries such as South Africa are contributing an increasing amount to the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere,” read a copy of his speech sent to the South African Press Association.

The reason for this was South Africa’s heavy reliance on coal as its main source of energy, Zuma said.

This placed an obligation on South Africa to demonstrate its seriousness and commitment to greenhouse-gas reduction.

”In response, we want to escalate our national efforts towards the realisation of a greater contribution of renewable energy sources, including solar and wind power, as part of an ambitious renewable energy target,” Zuma said.

Zuma said unpredictable weather, brought on by climate change, would jeopardise human settlements, livelihoods and infrastructure, particularly in low-lying coastal areas and even inland.

”We are beginning to see changes in climatic patterns that will result in a shift in rainfall quantities and distribution, which affect animal and plant life,” Zuma said. That meant agricultural patterns would change, along with livelihoods.

”In our country we are currently dealing with the dire consequences of severe flooding in Soweto in Johannesburg,” Zuma said.

”We have had other serious disasters as well this summer, especially in the coastal provinces.”

Agricultural production, including access to food, in many African countries and regions would be severely compromised by climate variability and change.

In some countries, yields from rain-fed agriculture could be reduced by up to 50% by 2020, while local food supplies would be negatively affected by fewer fish in large lakes, he said.

A United Nations report in 2007 estimated that by 2020, between 75-million and 250-million people would be exposed to increased water stress due to climate change.

President Kgalema Motlanthe, speaking at the same meeting, said Africa was one of the regions least responsible for climate change, yet was the most affected by the problem.

”Africa is the least able to afford the costs of adaptation,” Motlanthe said.

”Our continent will remain vulnerable even if, globally, emissions peak and decline in the next 10 to 15 years. — Sapa