SA faces big bill for climate talks in Durban


The tab for South Africa’s hosting of the seventeenth conference of the parties (COP17) climate change talks in Durban later this year could be more than R320-million, Environmental Affairs DDG Joanne Yawitch revealed on Wednesday. But she added that the country was planning to organise a “lean and mean” event and would also seek to raise outside funding for the event.
The National Treasury would be making an allocation towards the operation of COP17, although the size of that contribution was yet to be determined. The budget would have to cover items such as domestic logistics, the hiring of the convention centre, security and visas, as well as catering.
A COP17 logistics committee was scheduled to meet for the first time on Thursday, February 3, and representatives from the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) would be visiting Durban later in the month.
A person at chief director level in the DEA had been appointed to oversee logistical arrangements. But Yawitch stressed that the conference would require collaboration between government departments, as well as including input from vital stakeholders such as the South African Police Service and the eThekwini municipal authorities.
“If everyone doesn’t pull together, it [COP17] isn’t going to happen,” she asserted.
To close the anticipated funding gap she said that the organisers would turn to a range of entities, including the UNFCCC, business and nongovernmental organisations. She stressed that nonfinancial support would also be sought in a bid to secure a definite outcome from Durban.
A COP17 Website was expected to be set up by March, and the City of Durban would also display information on the conference on its Website.
The selection of the COP17 president would be made soon, but would need to be considered by Cabinet and approved by President Jacob Zuma. It was likely that the Inter-Ministerial Committee on Climate Change, which was scheduled to meet soon, would offer a recommendation in this regard.
Expectations would also have also have to be managed, with the recent COP16 in Cancun, Mexico having kept expectations for a global legally binding agreement on climate change far lower than had been the case with the disappointing COP15 gathering in Copenhagen, Denmark, in 2009.
To strike the correct balance, South Africa would work with other countries, including Bolivia, which was the only nation of the 195 member States of the UNFCCC not to accept the agreement that was reached in Cancun.
Expectations were likely to be high leading up to the Durban meeting, primarily because the first commitment period under the Kyoto Protocol ends in 2012, and the world is looking for clarity on the future framework under which emissions-reduction will take place.
It is as yet unclear whether there would be a second legally-binding commitment period under the Kyoto Protocol, or whether an entirely new treaty would be established. Also possible is the emergence of a non-legally binding treaty.
One of the major issues haunting the negotiations was the changing political dynamics between member States. The US was unlikely to advance its position, owing to domestic politics, while countries such as China would not take on obligations until the US showed its hand.

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