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EU has high hopes for climate talks

South Africa is under pressure from the European Union (EU) to deliver a second term of the Kyoto Protocol at the global climate change negotiations in Durban later this year, said Swedish Environment Minister Andreas Carlgren.

As president of the Conference of Parties (COP 17), South Africa needs to secure a legally binding commitment that is “a great step forward” from the agreements currently on the table, he told the Mail & Guardian this week.

Carlgren, who plays a leading role in EU climate change negotiations, was in South Africa to “start discussions about cooperation”. He met International Relations and Co-operation Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, who will chair COP17, and Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa.

“The most important discussions will be around a legally binding global framework,” he said. “The EU wants a second commitment under Kyoto and developed countries to commit to emissions reductions.”

The position was supported by developing nations at talks hosted by the United Nations in Thailand this week, where disagreements over Kyoto’s future threatened to derail progress on various climate change agreements.

Carlgren said that the country’s role as president of the COP17 talks means that South African negotiators would need to listen to all the different views to facilitate a way forward. Challenges would include getting the world’s two biggest polluters, the United States and China, on board. The US never ratified Kyoto and, as a developing nation, China was exempt from reduction commitments.

Japan, Canada, Australia and Russia oppose a second term of Kyoto, which ends in 2012, unless all the major polluters are part of the process.

At a “Team South Africa” workshop last Friday, aimed at getting local stakeholders on board, Nkoana-Mashabane said expectations were high that the country would “deliver a miracle” at COP17. Hard work, rather than a miracle, was needed, Carlgren told the M&G. “The COP president needs to facilitate to create a result.”

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Fiona Macleod
Fiona Macleod

Fiona Macleod is an environmental writer for the Mail & Guardian newspaper and editor of the M&G Greening the Future and Investing in the Future supplements.

She is also editor of Lowveld Living magazine in Mpumalanga.

An award-winning journalist, she was previously environmental editor of the M&G for 10 years and was awarded the Nick Steele award for environmental conservation.

She is a former editor of Earthyear magazine, chief sub-editor and assistant editor of the M&G, editor-in-chief of HomeGrown magazines, managing editor of True Love and production editor of The Executive.

She served terms on the judging panels of the SANParks Kudu Awards and The Green Trust Awards. She also worked as a freelance writer, editor and producer of several books, including Your Guide to Green Living, A Social Contract: The Way Forward and Fighting for Justice.

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