France presses Zuma on climate

President Jacob Zuma has had an 11th-hour change of mind and will attend the Copenhagen summit on climate change, which is due to start next week in the Danish capital.

The newly appointed French ambassador to South Africa, Jacques Lapouge, told the Mail & Guardian this week that French President Nicolas Sarkozy had asked Zuma to attend the conference. Sarkozy wants Zuma to join forces with France and Brazil in pledging a reduction by 2050 of carbon emissions to half the 1990 levels.

Earlier reports had said Zuma would not attend the summit, which will host more than 90 world leaders.

But on Thursday the Cabinet announced that he would.

‘President Sarkozy asked President Zuma to be in Copenhagen and that South Africa and France follow the same direction,” Lapouge said. The two presidents met last week at the Commonwealth summit in Trinidad and Tobago.

Sarkozy wants Zuma to join the chorus urging the United States and China to support ambitious and binding agreements on carbon emissions. Last week China announced a plan that does not commit it to an overall reduction in emissions but to a slower rate of increase.

Last year South Africa halted the tender process for new nuclear power plants because of the enormous costs involved, but energy experts say the decision could be revisited in the near future. The French-owned nuclear supplier, Areva, was one of the bidders for the contract, which would have amounted to more than R30-billion.

Lapouge said France encourages nuclear power because it has no carbon emissions.

Zuma is due to visit France in March next year and energy issues will be on the agenda. France wants to strengthen relations with South Africa because it is seen as the leading country in Africa and it has a higher status than any of the former French colonies, Lapouge said.

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Mandy Rossouw
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