Coast KZN

22 Nov 2023

What South Africa will tell the world at COP28

Ethan van Diemen (Daily maverick: Our Burining Planet) Picture: Felix Dlangamandla. Environment Minister Barbara Creecy.

Briefing the portfolio committee on Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment, Environment Minister Barbara Creecy and Deputy Director-General of Climate Change and Air Quality Management, Maesela Kekana outlined South Africa’s positions and desired outcomes for the major UN climate summit.

In a briefing to Parliament’s portfolio committee on Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment on Tuesday, South Africa’s negotiating team for the Conference of the Parties (COP) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) outlined their focus for the conference in Dubai from 30 November to 12 December.

According to the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment, the COP28 outcomes should support the implementation of the Convention and its Paris Agreement which seeks to hold the global average temperature increase to below 1.5°C above pre-industrial temperatures. Beyond this threshold and especially beyond 2°C of warming lies what is sometimes referred to as “dangerous climate change”.

At the meeting on Tuesday, Environment Minister Barbara Creecy and Maesela Kekana, the Deputy Director-General of Climate Change and Air Quality Management, shared insights into the country’s official positions and desired outcomes. They also explained that South Africa will emphasise:

Continuing the momentum of global economic reforms, including those of multilateral development banks, and significant debt restructuring for developing countries;

Addressing the speed and trajectory of progress toward a sustainable, just and equitable society, bridging the gap between pledges and actual implementation;

Advocating for a specific, substantially scaled-up, long-term financial goal for developing countries, negotiated collectively and tied to an implementation roadmap; and

Focusing on global stocktake outcomes centred on common but differentiated responsibilities, respective capabilities, equity and the best available science.

The minister explained why the Dubai conference is particularly noteworthy. COP28 occurs at an “important moment in the negotiating life of the UNFCCC because it falls exactly midway between the signing of the Paris Agreement and the year 2030 which scientists are telling us is the year in which – if we have not adequately dealt with global warming – we will be facing various physical tipping points in the the status of our world”.

She added: “And this is the COP where we will be dealing with the global stocktake and what we know from the technical report of the global stocktake, we already know that we are not on track.

“There has been progress since the signing of the Paris Agreement, but we’re not on track to make the 1.5°C average temperature increase [target]. We are not on track in terms of adaptation and we are not on track in terms of the provision of adequate means of implementation from developed to developing countries.

“The question that COP will have to consider is: Why are we not on track?”

We will continue to push hard on the question of the global goal on adaptation and on the issue of new, adequate and predictable climate finance for developing countries.

In addition to that important “moment”, the minister explained that “obviously, there would be work that needs to happen from the perspective of the African continent and the G77 [Group of 77]. We don’t yet have a clear global target around what we consider to be adaptation and climate resilience. We don’t yet have an understanding of what will be the new predictable and non-debt-financing instrument that will be available to developing countries to combat climate change in the post-2024 environment.

“What we do understand is that we will, this year, operationalise the Loss and Damage Fund that was agreed on in Sharm el-Sheikh and that, of course, is a very important objective for developing countries, particularly those who are extremely vulnerable to climate change.

“So, we expect that, as usual, there will be tough negotiations and we expect that South Africa, as a negotiating group within the African group of negotiators, will continue to push hard on the question of the global goal on adaptation and on the issue of new, adequate and predictable climate finance for developing countries.”

Kekana, also one of South Africa’s lead negotiators, took members through a presentation. He laid out some of the general expectations for the conference which, he explained, is a key platform for both progress on negotiation issues under the UNFCCC, as well as broader conversations including about the need for transformation of the global financial architecture.

A “central concern” of developing countries was to secure adequate, predictable, at-scale and appropriate means of implementation support for their climate actions and just transitions and a “recognition of their right to development and to development space”.

President Cyril Ramaphosa was likely to drive this message home himself, since he had accepted an invitation to the summit and would be attending in person.

So, what are some of team South Africa’s expectations for COP28?

According to Kekana, South Africa is poised to negotiate as part of the Africa group and “lead several thematic areas on behalf of the group”. The negotiators hoped that COP28 would deliver on the operationalisation of the Loss and Damage Fund and the Global Goal on Adaptation Framework.

“The number-one priority for South Africa and the entire Africa block remains adaptation. And the big issue is the framework. Last year, we could not agree on the targets and the indicators, so the decision from last year was that this issue must be concluded at this COP. So, that remains our priority. But together with that… is the issue of financing for adaptation. And we are calling for 100% funding for all developing countries to implement their national plans. But also the last piece of the puzzle is universal access to multi-hazard early warning systems by 2027. So, that will constitute a package that we will be putting forward as the country but also as a region under adaptation.”

Our aim has been very clear: We want multilateral engagement on this issue of financing for just transition pathways.

On Loss and Damage, Kekana said: “Following the establishment of the [Loss and Damage] fund, we expect to see new additional and predictable resources to the fund. And our position is very clear: This should be new and separate from adaptation or even from mitigation. So we expect the pledges to be made to the fund at the COP itself.”

As it related to climate finance, they would be receiving a report on the $100-billion a year that was supposed to be flowing by 2020. “There are other indications that this has been matched but we are not certain until we get that particular report. The $100-billion is important to rebuild trust. We all understand that $100-billion is not adequate and it’s not built on our needs and therefore a lot of our focus has been on the new finance goal that needs to be based on our needs as opposed to the $100-billion. So we will be pushing for progress around that and maybe the GST (global stocktake) can also give some signals around that particular issue.”

He added: “Financing for adaptation remains a challenge, it lags far behind. Africa alone needs $26-billion to $41-billion annually between 2020 and 2030 to implement its adaptation actions as captured in the NDC, but we do not have any such resources for adaptation. So, it’s important that as we talk about finance we also push for finance for adaptation, as much as mitigation is the first line of defence.”

As it related to the just transition, Kekana said: “South Africa is leading the G77 at a technical level so we are coordinating the G77 on the just transition and our aim has been very clear: We want multilateral engagement on this issue of financing for just transition pathways.” He added that “developing countries are seeking a more equitable international system, and an all-of-society transition in the context of sustainable development”.

In conclusion, he said that “if I was to summarise in terms of what we will be emphasising, it’s about the six or seven bullets; the urgent need to enhance international cooperation for climate action, and identifying opportunities for action across all sectors of the economy.

“We need to continue building momentum and global economic reform including the [multilateral development banks]. The speed and trajectory of the journey towards a sustainable, just and equitable society that is narrowing the gap between what is pledged and the implementation itself.

“We also need specific and massively scaled-up new finances, particularly under the long-term goal for finance and the global stocktake outcomes that are centred around the key principles of the convention, CBDR (common but differentiated responsibility) and equity, and are informed by best available science and a multilateral agreement on financing for just transition. “South Africa stands ready to play a constructive role.”