SA shifts position on climate targets

South Africa was prepared to accept binding targets on cutting greenhouse gas emissions provided its developmental goals were not compromised, government spokesperson Themba Maseko said on Wednesday.

“Cabinet would like to correct the wrong impression that had been created that South Africa was opposed to targets being set on global warming,” Maseko told a post-Cabinet media briefing.

“The correct position is as follows: South Africa was not in favour of supporting targets that are imposed by developed nations on developing nations to reduce carbon emissions.

“We are committed to setting targets that take our developmental needs into account.”

He said South Africa would only accept targets—the burning issue to be dealt with at the next United Nations climate change conference in December—if wealthy nations were prepared to subsidise the emission reduction process in poorer ones.

“We support the need for a comprehensive international programme on adaptation that is able to deliver the necessary resources to enable all developing countries to adapt, recognising the particular needs of the poorest and most vulnerable.”

This marks a shift from a government statement earlier this month that South Africa was not ready to agree to targets.

“We think it is unrealistic for us at this stage to set targets,” Maseko told reporters on September 10.

The UN climate change conference—aimed at establishing a global climate agreement for the period from 2012, when the first commitment period under the Kyoto Protocol expires—is set to start in Copenhagen, Denmark, on December 15.

Maseko said South Africa’s strong reliance on coal for energy would play a role in the undertakings to which it could reasonably commit.

Emissions are expected to increase as Eskom pushes ahead with R400-billion expansion programme to enable it to meet the country’s energy needs.

Maseko said South Africa’s strategic framework was based on the fact that its emissions were to peak between 2020 and 2025 before declining in absolute terms.

He reiterated that developed nations, whose carbon-driven growth dated back more than a century, had to accept that they bore “a greater responsibility” for reducing emissions.

Countries such as South Africa, India, China and Brazil had long maintained that they would not accept binding targets on slashing emissions, as this would hamper their efforts to fight poverty.

This stance is under intense pressure, however, as developed nations, while pledging to fight global warming, have insisted that emerging powers also commit to action as part of Kyoto’s successor.

China this week pledged to curb the growth of its carbon dioxide emissions by a “notable margin” by 2020 from its 2005 levels.—Sapa

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