Speaking notes by Minister in the Presidency for Performance Monitoring and Evaluation, Collins Chabane at the Africa Youth for Climate Change Conference, Olive Conference Centre, Durban
28 November 2011
Deputy President of the Republic of South Africa, Mr Kgalema Motlanthe
Chairperson of the National Youth Development Agency of South Africa, Mr Andile Lungisa
It is almost two years since we successfully hosted the 2010 FIFA World Cup, the focus of the world is once again on our country, South Africa, as we host the world for the 17th Conference of parties to the UN Climate Convention (UNFCC) and the 7th Conference of Parties serving as the Meeting of the Parties (CMP7) to the Kyoto Protocol. South Africa has a huge responsibility in this regard as it participates in this event as a party in the negotiations as well as host and President of the conference.
As the South African government, since we started the campaign to Durban, we have continued to remind South Africans, the Continent and the rest of the world that if we don’t change our attitude, climate change will change our environment.
Your presence at this conference to explore the role you need to play in the Continent in driving climate change is therefore commendable, and should serve as a clarion call to all young South Africans and the youth of the world to play their part and make a difference in saving the environment for current and most importantly future generations, for if we don’t act now, the consequences may be dire.
The adoption of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) which entered into force in 1994 was indeed a culmination of a global awareness of the threat posed by human-induced climate change to our planet. Even though the UNFCC process is at the level of states, we cannot undermine the role of young people for we understand that young people also share our concern about the threat posed by our own actions on the climate.
Today, many African countries once self-sufficient, suffer very high levels of hunger and starvation and its resultant malnutrition and underdevelopment. African countries are now dependant on food aid. The agricultural sector is an important sector to African economies; as a large portion of the African gross national products derives from the sector. The agricultural sector also provides employment for 70% of the African population. Small scale and homestead farmers in dry lands are most vulnerable to climate change and although intensive irrigated agriculture is better off than these farmers, irrigated lands remain vulnerable to reductions in available water. The global climate change effects threaten the livelihood of many African families.
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) research shows that by the year 2050, 250 million people in developing countries will lack water. Because of rising sea waters twenty million people will be displaced. Due to the population explosion and desertification about 30% of the world’s animal species will go into extinction.
As Government we regard climate change as a component of sustainable development; about finding a balance between the imperatives of socio-economic development and the meeting of the needs of our people on the one hand and protecting the environment on the other.
Climate change and its attendant effects place African countries at a difficult juncture. African countries faced with the urgent need to industrialize their economies in order to address the human and social needs that they face, find themselves pressed to find ways to do this in ways that do not degrade the environment.
Already, climate models predict that global warming will profoundly affect water, energy, transportation, agriculture, ecosystems and health in the coming decades. As you may know, the causes of climate change are natural as well as based on human activities, in particular the increased production of greenhouse gases. Measures and solutions to mitigate climate change effects, as well as adaptation to these effects, have important consequences for human society, from the global economy to people’s livelihoods and individual lifestyles.
For instance in South Africa, if nothing is done about climate change and we continue to do things like burn fossil fuels like oil, diesel and coal and chop down trees destroying our forests at the rate we are doing, the following is predicted:
There will be significant changes in rainfall patterns and this, coupled with increased evaporation, will result in significant changes in respect of water availability. Some predictions suggest that even maize production in summer rainfall areas and fruit and cereal production in winter rainfall areas may be badly affected.
We will continue to experience droughts and famine, especially in Africa, where natural disasters potentially pose the risk of wiping out entire communities. While the poor are minor contributors to climate change, they are the most vulnerable and will be the most impacted. A crucial balance must be reached to ensure that social development and poverty alleviation goals are achieved in an environmentally sustainable manner.
In all of this, young people have a crucial role to play. They have the responsibility to decarbonise their environment, build better economies and create just and equitable social and living conditions.
Young people have the responsibility to reduce the carbon footprint, and to ensure sustainable consumption and production. The critical factor to climate change is that it requires changes in behavior, in habits, in ways of doing and in culture. Such shifts and changes must and can be achieved through deepening the involvement of young people. This is because they will take this forward, assist us in implementing the changes and preserving the environment. We must move beyond commitment to result oriented action.
Young people must hold their own governments to account and deliver on any of the commitments made and those commitments that need to be made, the 2nd Commitment period, to ensure that the planet has a future. This applies to youth in developing and developed countries; those that had signed up to the Kyoto Protocol (KP) and those that had not. In those countries that had signed up to the KP, the youth need to mobilize to push their leaders towards a 2nd Commitment period and a continuation of the Kyoto Protocol at COP 17. This is the only legal framework around global greenhouse gas emissions reduction and this must be protected, maintained and continued.
Here we have to balance the needs of many African youth, who have faced starvation due to drastically changing climates. We will also need to come up with innovative ways, through the green economy to stimulate young people’s economic participation, in sustainable and environmentally friendly ways. We are encouraged by practical efforts undertaken by the National Youth Development Agency (NYDA) an agency of government by establishing the Green Economy Programme which will support the establishment and development of youth owned enterprises in the green economy through financial and non-financial business support services. This programme is premised on the believe that business process should be configured or reconfigured to deliver better returns on natural, human and economic capital investments while at the same time reducing greenhouse gas emission, extracting and using fewer natural resources, creating less waste and reducing social disparities. Through these green house economy initiatives, jobs will be created to reduce the high levels of youth unemployment.
We must intensify our efforts and initiatives to also educate our communities on climate change because this will help improve their capacity to adapt to uncertain future and changes in social, economic and ecological environment. It can also support the changes in behaviour needed to reduce emissions of the greenhouse gases and individual level and prepare individuals to make informed decision on lifestyle choices. This conference should also achieve practical tangibles including empowering you to support and influence government policy makers, school administrators and teachers to grasp the challenges and opportunities posed by climate change, desertification and pollution.
To capacitate you with skills and knowledge to address the challenges currently faced by our local communities as a result of climate change. It must be a platform where you interact, exchange ideas, learn from each other and collaborate with one another on tangible programmes, projects and actions that will lead to the development of a sustainable environment.
Perhaps what we view as a difficult development juncture for the African continent is in fact a huge opportunity for us. It challenges us to return to our indigenous knowledge systems. Knowledge that the African continent has possessed for many centuries, is now critical for its own survival. Everywhere, we must plant trees and cultivate communal gardens; use solar energy for power. Systems and ways of being that have always shaped the way that Africans live.
Through the use of social media, the penetration of mobile technology on the continent, information is better able to reach even the most far away of areas on the continent. Social media can be used to spread awareness, and education on responsible consumption and production.
This platform aims to ensure that agreements that have been built thus far are taken forward. Importantly, is that African countries, including their youth, begin to undertake practical steps in dealing with climate change and its destruction to the environment.
Let us do this Working Together to Save Tomorrow Today!