News / South Africa / Government

Citizen Reporter
4 minute read
26 Apr 2021
9:20 am

Tackling climate change a national priority for SA, says Ramaphosa

Citizen Reporter

Last week, the president joined more than 40 world leaders at a climate summit convened by US President Joe Biden.

President Cyril Ramaphosa. Picture: GCIS

While the country continues to fight the Covid-19 pandemic, President Cyril Ramaphosa says tackling climate change is also a national priority for South Africa.

Writing in his weekly newsletter on Monday, Ramaphosa underscored the effects of climate change such as extreme weather conditions like drought, which makes SA particularly vulnerable as a water-scarce country.

“To fully appreciate the devastating impact of climate change on lives and livelihoods in South Africa one need only look at the prolonged drought in parts of the Eastern, Northern and Western Cape,” Ramaphosa said.

“The coming of the rains last year broke a seven-year drought, the longest in over a century. It wreaked havoc on communities across these provinces. It caused water shortages, widespread crop failure and negatively affected both commercial and subsistence farming.

“This, in turn, had a national impact. It drove up food prices, particularly of basic staples such as maize meal, contributing to food insecurity in poor households. It affected the broader economy, as the yield of key agricultural exports declined.”

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Last week, the president joined more than 40 world leaders at a climate summit convened by US President Joe Biden.

At the summit, Biden doubled US targets to slash greenhouse gas emissions responsible for climate change by 2030. The summit was convened in the run-up to the next international climate conference in Glasgow, Scotland, in November.

Ramaphosa said understanding the cascading effects of climate change is vital as it does not just affect weather patterns.

“It affects nearly every aspect of our lives, from the food we eat, to the water we drink, to where we live. It affects human health, economic activity, human settlement and migration.

“Climate change does not respect borders. It is a global problem, which requires global solutions,” the president said.

Global responses to climate change

Ramaphosa listed three global responses to alleviate the effects of climate change, with the first being mitigation to slow the rate of global warming by significantly reducing the emission of greenhouse gases.

“The second part is adaptation – taking steps to respond to the effects of global warming. This could range from building infrastructure to protect communities from rising sea levels or regular flooding to planting drought-resistant crops.

“The third part is financing – mobilising resources to support the efforts of developing countries in particular to adapt to climate change and move towards cleaner forms of energy. This is important because developing countries are most vulnerable to the effects of climate change, despite historically being the lowest emitters of greenhouse gases.”

Ramaphosa warned that global developmental gains around reducing poverty, joblessness and inequality risked being severely reversed and constrained unless the world acts with urgency to fight climate change.

“An important part of our response is our Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC), which outlines our targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Each country submits these targets to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change every five years.

“Last month we published our updated NDC for public comment ahead of submission to the Glasgow Summit in November. Our new NDC proposes a significant reduction in emissions target ranges. By implementing our mitigation strategy, we aim to see our carbon emissions progressively declining from 2025. This is a decade earlier than previously expected.”

Low-carbon economy

The president said the government remained committed to contributing SA’s fair share to the global climate effort.

He cited the newly-established Presidential Climate Change Coordinating Commission, which is also tasked with advising the government on “an ambitious and just transition” to a low-carbon economy.

“The Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan that we launched in October last year has several measures to drive business and job creation in green industries, and our Integrated Resource Plan 2019 envisages the building of renewable energy capacity that can produce over 17 gigawatts of electricity by 2030.

“These goals will only be achieved through collaboration across society, with government, labour, business, civil society and communities all working together towards a just transition.”

Ramaphosa also said businesses had an important role to play in addressing sustainability and climate change issues as part of their financial reporting.

“We need greater investment in climate resilient systems and processes, from smart agriculture, to clean energy, to green infrastructure to public transport. The financial sector must continue to play a role by scaling up project financing for renewable energy and other green initiatives.

“As a developing country, our economy is still heavily dependent on fossil fuels. That is why we continue to push on the world stage for the space to develop our economy and improve the lives of our people. This is why we need a just transition where the uptake of sustainable systems and technologies proceeds at a realistic pace.”