South Africa’s Road to COP21 and the 2015 Climate Deal
The Department of Environmental Affairs is mandated to ensure the protection of the environment and conservation of natural resources, balanced with sustainable development and the equitable distribution of the benefits derived from natural resources. In its quest for better use and management of the natural environment, the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) is guided by its constitutional mandate, as contained in section 24 of the Constitution. DEA has a climate change branch that is aimed at improving air and atmospheric quality, lead and support, inform, monitor and report efficient and effective international, national and significant provincial and local responses to climate change.
The department’s response to climate change is aimed at effectively managing inevitable climate change impacts through interventions that build and sustain South Africa’s social, economic and environmental resilience and emergency response capacity. In the international space South Africa is willing to make a fair contribution to the global effort to stabilise greenhouse gas (GHG) concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that avoids dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system within a timeframe that enables economic, social and environmental development to proceed in a sustainable manner.
In 2011 South Africa hosted the 17th Conference of the Parties (COP) to the UN climate convention. Held in Durban, the meeting was instrumental in building trust in the climate negotiations after Copenhagen in 2009. It was at this conference that the Ad Hoc Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action (ADP) decided to launch a process to develop a protocol, another legal instrument or an agreed outcome with legal force under the Convention applicable to all Parties. In the same year South Africa developed a Climate Change Response White Paper, marking the beginning of the development of strategies to address adaptation and mitigation, as well as the establishment of monitoring and evaluation processes. This White Paper presents the South African Government’s vision for an effective climate change response and the long-term, just transition to a climate-resilient and lower-carbon economy and society.
In November 2014, the Department of Environmental Affairs organised a National Climate Change Response Dialogue. The Dialogue consolidated South Africa’s vision and common purpose for an effective climate change response and a just transition to a climate resilient and low carbon economy and society. It provided an opportunity to celebrate progress, and reflect on the achievements since 2011. Against the backdrop of the 5th Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The Dialogue further strengthened South Africa’s position in the international arena with regards to preparation towards the Paris 2015 negotiations. This was also a platform to initiate a broader public consultation on South Africa’s Intended Nationally Determined Contributions that should be submitted before COP 21 in Paris in December 2015.
South Africa’s INDC
The Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action (ADP) at the 2013 UN summit in Warsaw (COP 19) decided in decision 1/CP.19 paragraph 2 (b) to invite all Parties to initiate or intensify domestic preparations for their intended nationally determined contributions (INDC). This was to be without prejudice to the legal nature of the contributions, in the context of adopting a protocol, another legal instrument or an agreed outcome with legal force under the Convention applicable to all Parties towards achieving the objective of the Convention as set out in its Article 2 and to communicate them well in advance of the twenty-first session of the Conference of the Parties (by the first quarter of 2015 by those Parties ready to do so) in a manner that facilitates the clarity, transparency and understanding of the intended contributions, without prejudice to the legal nature of the contributions.
South Africa’s commitment to addressing the challenge of climate change is based on science and equity and its national response considers both development and climate change. South Africa is acting in response of the findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that warming of the climate system is unequivocal, and understanding that further mitigation efforts by all are needed to avoid high to very high risk of severe, widespread and irreversible impacts globally.
Peak and decline
In this context, South Africa submits its intended nationally determined contribution (INDC) on adaptation, mitigation and support for both. South Africa’s contribution to the collective challenge is framed by both its National Development Plan (NPC 2012) and its National Climate Change Response White Paper that reaffirm SA’s “peak, plateau and decline” emissions trajectory for mitigation and adaptation needs in the context of agreed temperature goal that does not lead to dangerous anthropogenic interference.
Under mitigation South Africa reiterates that it will take nationally appropriate mitigation to enable a 34% deviation below the ‘Business As Usual’ emissions growth trajectory by 2020 and a 42% deviation below the ‘Business As Usual’ emissions growth trajectory by 2025. The action will be implemented depends on the provision of financial resources, the transfer of technology and capacity building support by developed countries.