Greater Political Leadership and Public Awareness Needed On Climate Action

Marthinus van Schalkwyk in the Kruger National Park.


Ministers and heads of delegation from 22 countries met at Kapama Lodge outside Hoedspruit for a ministerial Indaba on climate action. The meeting was hosted by environment minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk. The Indaba provided ministers with the opportunity to consider key issues for the climate change agenda for the long term, as well as for the next round of talks under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and its Kyoto Protocol to be held in Nairobi later this year.

The key areas of discussion included an overview of the current status of the climate change regime, the economic case for action, sustainable development, adaptation, technology transfer, positive incentives, and the way forward. The Montr?al Action Plan, agreed to last year, launched a dual-track process aimed at the widest possible cooperation and broadening participation in an effective and appropriate international response to climate change. An ad hoc working group was mandated to discuss future commitments by developed countries under Article 3.9 of the Kyoto Protocol (?the Kyoto track?).

Under the guidance of the Conference of the Parties, a dialogue was established to discuss how long-term cooperative action by developing countries to address climate change could be deepened through enhanced implementation of the Convention (?the Convention track?). Given the breadth of the climate change agenda, deliberations at the South African Ministerial Indaba on Climate Action focussed on unpacking the central elements of effective long-term cooperation under the Convention track.

Reflecting on the talks, minister van Schalkwyk said, ?Rather than reiterating historical positions, the Indaba discussions were forward-looking and concrete, and enhanced our common understanding of the challenges and opportunities facing developed and developing countries. Since the scientific case for action has been widely accepted, we discussed the economic case for urgently addressing climate change in much detail.? Van Schalkwyk furthermore stressed that all countries have responsibilities and must do more.

Noting the particular vulnerabilities of African countries, ministers shared the view that the implementation of high-priority adaptation activities is critical and acknowledged the challenge of mobilising funding at the scale required. The Indaba provided a creative basis for further discussions about the overall architecture of a post-2012 climate regime. Ministers expressed interest in developing and testing a number of options, possibly in the form of scenarios or packages, by the end of 2007.

Such options could include national sustainable development policies and programmes, supported through technology, enabled by finance. Adaptation will need to be a core element to give balance to any package. Van Schalkwyk stressed the importance of political leadership on the climate issue: ?Our attempts to address climate change would not succeed if ministers are led by public opinion.

They should rather play an active leadership role in influencing public opinion.? In this context, the minister called for ?a global public awareness and education programme to provide the political momentum to the future climate change process.?

Being very aware of the potentially devastating impacts of climate change on livelihoods in Africa, the continent?s adaptation challenges, and the lack of capacity to share in the Clean Development Mechanism, ministers looked forward to active participation during the Conference of the Parties in Nairobi in November 2006. ?We understand that hard work and political will shall be required to sustain and consolidate a creative space for innovative thought and action that would maintain a forward-looking momentum?, said van Schalkwyk.



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