Coast KZN

09 Dec 2020

Action on climate change cannot wait, say ambassadors

Shannon Ebrahim (IOL) Picture: Val Boje -talian Ambassador Paolo Cuculi; co-chairperson of the #Resilient40 youth climate activists group Khodani Mulaudzi; British High Commissioner Nigel Casey; and French Ambassador Aurelien Lechevallier at a media briefing on the eve of the 5th anniversary of the Paris Agreement and the Climate Ambition Summit 2020 co-hosted by the National Press Club yesterday.

More than Covid-19, climate change is the overarching threat to the world today, and according to the UN the defining issue of our time. That was the message that the ambassadors of the UK, Italy, Chile and France told the South African press at a briefing co-hosted by the British High Commission and the National Press Club in Pretoria on Tuesday. The ambassadors came together to mark five years since the Paris Climate Change Agreement, and will hold the Climate Ambitions Summit this Saturday as a way of mobilising support for drastic action to combat climate change now.

“We cannot wait a year until something happens,” Val Boje, co-host of the event said, referring to the upcoming Cop 26 Summit due to take place in Glasgow in November next year. Of great concern is the fact that 4ºC of warming is being predicted by the end of the century and based on current emissions, the globe may only manage to limit the rise in temperatures by 3 degrees, not the target of 2ºC.

“South Africa is one of the most bio-diverse countries in the world, and is one of the most affected by climate change,” French Ambassador Aurelien Chevalier said. “South Africa was very helpful and played a decisive role in co-ordinating the position of 54 countries in the climate change negotiations.”

UK High Commissioner Nigel Casey also acknowledged the influential role South Africa played in the UN climate negotiations, and said the UK was committed to assisting South Africa on its journey of transitioning the energy sector. The UK will be spending almost £12 billion (about R240 bn) in the next few years on curbing climate change, and has announced its intention to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions 68% by 2030.

“The UK is ending its purchases of petrol and diesel cars by 2030,” Casey said. This policy decision is a welcome commitment to addressing climate change, but also creates a challenge for South Africa in that thousands of local jobs emanate from the thriving motor vehicle industry which produces petrol and diesel vehicles. This will require forward planning and transitioning to the manufacturing of clean energy vehicles. This is what the UK calls “green industrial development”.

Prior to the Glasgow Summit, Italy will host a youth conference in September as part of its efforts to focus on the role of youth in moving the climate change debate forward.

“We will bring together 400 youth in Milan between the ages of 18 and 24 years,” Italian Ambassador Paolo Cuculi said, “the youth will discuss what additional steps need to be taken, and representatives of the young people will present their ideas to ministers who will draft the documents and hopefully agreements in Cop 26.”

These efforts will build on the massive mobilisation of youth on climate change seen last year where there were weekly mobilisations of high school students — something that was stymied this year by the emergence of Covid-19.