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SA: Developed economies must do more to tackle climate change

President Cyril Ramaphosa has re-emphasised the call for developed economy countries to fulfil their pledge to assist developing nations in their transition to low carbon economies.

The President was addressing the nation through his weekly newsletter.

“While the nations of the world agreed in Paris in 2015 on urgent actions to limit global temperature rises and mitigate the impact of climate change, the effects of climate change are being increasingly felt with greater ferocity.

“Although developed economy countries promised to support developing economies as they transition to low-carbon, climate resilient societies, this support has not been forthcoming at the scale and with the urgency that is needed.

“Among other things, wealthy countries have not provided the promised finance that vulnerable countries need to adapt to climate change and to cover the cost of the loss and damage caused by climate disasters,” he said.

Last week, on the sidelines of the recent United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), UN Secretary General António Guterres held a Climate Ambition Summit.

President Ramaphosa said South Africa used the summit to “reiterate our long-stated position that developed economy countries must fulfil their obligations and honour their past promises to developing economy countries”.

“This is not about charity. It is about economic and social justice. Africa’s people are literally paying the price for the industrialisation and development of the countries of the north.

“It is also about shared interests because the economic and social havoc caused by climate change will make the world more unstable, less secure and will increase competition for scarce resources like water and food,” he said.

President Ramaphosa emphasised that although developed countries share the responsibility to assist developing nations, Africa is taking steps to ensure its own climate change resilience.

“As African countries, we cannot be bystanders to our own development. We are putting the necessary measures in place to de-carbonise our respective economies while pursuing sustainable development. 

“The transformation of the energy landscape in Africa is a priority. As African countries, we have called on the international community to support efforts to increase the continent’s renewable energy capacity while ensuring energy security for Africa’s people.

“This needs to take place alongside increased investment in smart, digital and efficient green technologies in carbon-intensive sectors such as transportation, industry and electricity,” he said.

The President described South Africa’s own efforts towards de-carbonising the country’s carbon intensive economy.

“As South Africa, we want to use our abundant solar and wind resources to position our country at the forefront of the clean energy transition.

“Regulatory reforms undertaken by this administration have resulted in a confirmed pipeline of renewable energy projects that are expected to produce in excess of 10 gigawatts of electricity,” he said.

President Ramaphosa added that de-carbonisation of economies must be “just and inclusive” and also be consistent with “our national circumstances and development plans”.

He warned that some measures like the European Union’s Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism – aimed at increasing tariffs on imports produced through carbon intensive processes – may “simply further increase the vulnerability of developing economies”.

“This is likely to have a significant impact on South African producers, increase the costs of South African exports into European markets and reduce our economy’s competitiveness. 

“In my address to the Climate Ambition Summit, I said that trade mechanisms must enable products from Africa to compete on fair and equitable terms. Trade tariffs and non-trade barriers that have an environmental purpose should be the product of multilateral agreements,” he said.

President Ramaphosa said while South Africa remains committed to “contributing our fair share to the global climate change effort”, the circumstances of developing countries must “must be taken into account”.

“To achieve the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030, unity of purpose and action between countries is vital, as is a common commitment to multilateralism in the global climate change effort.

“Ultimately, no country should be forced to choose between climate action and meeting their developmental aspirations,” he said.

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