COP17 President: Parties must lead and be bold

Plenary meeting: south africaInformal plenary meeting of the 64th General Assembly to mark the first Nelson Mandela International Day

Ms. Mashabane calls for special attention to be paid to climate change and gender issues at COP17. (Source: Devra Berkowitz/UN)

Writing exlusively for RTCC, Ms. Maite Nkoana Mashabane, South Africa Minister of International Relations and Cooperations and Incoming President of COP17 and CMP7, outlines her ambition for the summit.

As the incoming UNFCCC COP17/CMP7 President, we have a mammoth task of ensuring countries deliver an acceptable, fair, transparent and equitable deal in these climate change negotiations in Durban.

Inclusivity, wide participation and transparency are important priorities for South Africa, and we will make a particular effort to engage with countries that hold minority positions and other major groups.

The key issues and priorities for Durban are achieving a balance between the Bali Roadmap and operationalising the Cancun Agreements, as well as striking a balance between and within the Convention and the Kyoto Protocol negotiating tracks.

In an effort to narrow and overcome the divide between developed and developing countries on the expected outcomes of Durban, South Africa has been promoting the sharing of views and ideas around climate change in the build-up to the negotiations.

It is critical that governments and nations assess the range of risks and plan to reduce vulnerability accordingly. The impact of climate change on our country, our continent and our world cannot be underestimated.

Scientific evidence has shown it will have a lasting negative impact on the world as we know it and, indeed, the effects have already begun to be felt.

Impact on women

The number, frequency and intensity of weather- and climate-related hazards are significantly increasing worldwide and the environment and economies of the developing world – the African continent in particular – will be the hardest hit, but no country will be spared.

Climate change will negatively affect a sector of society already carrying the burdens of underdevelopment, poverty, lack of education and opportunities, namely women.

With all the destruction climate change brings, women are literally on the frontline of picking up the pieces and, as the carriers of development, ensuring the survival of our communities.

In both flood and drought-prone regions, women have to deal with the impacts and fend for their families.  The current famine in the Horn of Africa shows the devastation climate change can have.

In Somalia, the prolonged consequences of climate change are playing themselves out in a context of a country torn by civil strife. We have all seen images of women bearing emaciated children dying in their arms from hunger-related diseases caused by drought and famine.

We must work together, as a global community, to make sure the causes of climate change are urgently addressed before more lives are lost and irrevocable damage is done to our planet.

Alone we can never achieve the critical outcome we all aspire to. It is our hope this spirit will infuse the negotiations and ensure we consolidate the gains made, and address the big political issues as well as the future in good faith.

Yes, we all have our own national interests, but we need to rise above these and find innovative solutions.

The Parties need to lead and be bold. Working together we can save tomorrow today.

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