/ 4 November 2022

Barbara Creecy: South Africa’s stance at the ‘Africa’ COP

Barbra Creecy 4000 Dv
Unequivocal: Environment Minister Barbara Creecy

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)’s COP27 takes place in Sharm-el-Sheikh in Egypt from 6 to 18 November. Because the conference is being held in Africa, this presents an opportunity to highlight and advance priority issues for Africa, which is on the front line of the climate crisis, despite having the least responsibility for causing it. 

No part of Africa is being spared by climate change, which is significantly impeding our sustainable development imperatives such as addressing the triple challenges of poverty, inequality and unemployment.

We see an opportunity to advance the collective, multilateral response to climate change, especially in relation to adaptation and loss and damage caused by climate change. We will stress the centrality of finance and access to technology for developing countries. 

This will enable maximum ambition and help realise the full implementation of the convention and the Paris Agreement — a legally binding international treaty with the goal to limit global warming to well below 2°C, preferably to 1.5°C, compared to pre-industrial levels.

We also value the platform that COP27 provides to locate the ambitious and comprehensive climate actions that South Africa and other developing countries are already undertaking within the context of our right to development and efforts to achieve just transitions. Developing countries are shouldering more than their fair share of the global burden in addressing climate change and yet they are prepared to do even more, with enabling international support. 

This is because we appreciate the necessity of changing historically unsustainable patterns of consumption and production, as well as the opportunities associated with a transition towards a more equitable, climate resilient and sustainable future. These benefits include a cleaner and healthier environment and more and better jobs for our people.

South Africa has recently adopted a national framework on just transition. The country’s contribution to the global climate effort is contained in the updated nationally determined contribution (NDC) to the Paris Agreement, which we submitted to the UNFCCC ahead of COP26 last year. 

We have a draft climate change bill before parliament, we are already implementing our national adaptation strategy and we have entered into innovative initiatives to secure international support, including the Just Energy Transition Partnership with Germany, France, the European Union, the United States and the United Kingdom.

COP27 includes the Sharm el-Sheikh Climate Implementation Summit, to be attended by about 100 world leaders, including President Cyril Ramaphosa. This is an important platform to send messages in support of the negotiations and to set the political direction for addressing systemic challenges beyond the UNFCCC mandates. 

A key issue is a pressing need for a fundamental transformation and modernisation of the global financial architecture, including the reform of the multilateral development banks, so that they can support sustainable development in developing countries.

The current situation, where 70% of the world’s poor are not eligible for multilateral support for various reasons, including living in so-called emerging or middle-income countries that are deemed too rich to merit support, is unsustainable.

Urgent measures need to be taken to address the debt crisis, the risk aversion to investing in developing countries and the conditionality and extreme cost of borrowing money for developing countries, compared to the low-interest and unconditional loans available to developed countries in support of their climate actions. 

As a result, the overwhelming quantum of loans from the multilateral development banks for climate action goes to developed countries and not to developing countries. Grant-based financing is in steep decline despite it being critical to getting essential climate actions off the ground that do not always yield immediate commercial opportunities, such as adaptation and responding to loss and damage caused by slow onset and extreme weather events. 

The international community needs to come together at COP27 to find predictable, appropriate and at-scale sources of funding for adaptation and loss and damage. 

Financial commitments and pledges made by developed countries have to be honoured and they need to come forward with more meaningful and credible support to developing countries, in line with the Paris Agreement’s principle of progression of effort. It is not acceptable that the annual goal of $100-billion has been missed every year since 2009 and that many of the pledges, including those made to the Adaptation Fund in Glasgow last year, remain unfulfilled.

COP27 needs to adopt a progressive work programme on mitigation that will help us to keep the 1.5°C goal of the Paris Agreement within reach. This work programme should be focused on assisting parties to implement their NDCs and firmly based on the guiding principles of the convention and its Paris Agreement, including developed country leadership, equity and differentiation of action and support between developed and developing countries. 

Because parties have very different capacities, there can be no one-size-fits-all approach. Every country has the right to choose its own development pathway towards shared objectives, such as contributing towards the global goal of net-zero emissions of greenhouse gases by mid-century.

South Africa stands ready to play a constructive role towards the success of the African COP27.