Creating the necessary momentum is a challenge across the globe

Weitblick Artikel

Creating the necessary momentum is a challenge across the globe

Weitblick Artikel

Bewusstsein zu schaffen bleibt die globale Herausforderung

Interview with Tasneem Essop from South Africa, head of WWF International climate change delegation at the UN climate change conference 2011 in Durban (COP17)
Bild: Tasneem Essop

Im Bild: Tasneem Essoop

Dear Tasneem Essop, you are heading the WWF climate change delegation for the negotiations. It must be a very special feeling that the COP is now coming to South Africa and that this COP will likely be decisive for the future of the Kyoto Protocol, the only international legally binding instrument for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

We are excited and nervous at the same time because of the challenges. In preparing our strategy for COP17 WWF  has taken into account the political realities, but at the same time highlighting the need for more ambition and environmental integrity. We have prioritised these two key issues.

What would constitute a success in Durban, what a failure?

There is a huge risk that Parties will agree on key issues, such as the legal issue, this involves agreement to a second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol and for WWF we also would like to see countries agree on a mandate under the Convention track for negotiations to conclude a legally-binding agreement to be concluded no later than 2015 for all Parties. This would be a major step that we have not had before in this process.

However, there is also the risk of a breakdown of the whole process. We need to achieve a balanced package, and these are the critical elements. We need agreement on the future legal form, and we also need to ensure progress on long-term finance. Putting the Green Climate Fund in place is one important element. Another is to identify sources that would deliver the promised finance. WWF has prioritised innovative sources of funding such as raising revenue from the maritime and aviation transport sectors and the financial transaction tax. Even if this would only be process-related progress, like a work programme, it would be an important step. There is also the need to finalise the modalities of a system to ensure transparency in the mitigation actions parties are undertaking. Finally, we need strong elements of adaptation, the Adaptation Committee, a work programme on loss and damage amongst others.

Unfortunately we do not expect that countries will come to Durban with new and more ambitious mitigation pledges. But we can increase the environmental integrity, through better accounting rules and closing loopholes. Agreement on a global peak year of 2015 and a global emission reduction target of at least -80 % from 1990 levels for 2050 will also be important for COP 17. Agreement on all these areas would not constitute a great success, but significant progress.

COP17 is also regarded as an African COP. What is the perception of people in South Africa towards this event, how much do they see themselves as representing Africa?

We as WWF have tried to ensure that the idea of an African COP becomes a reality and is given content. We have been working in different countries across Africa for 50 years and we will be using COP17 in Durban to highlight this work. Our theme is food, energy and water for all. In South Africa there are many people involved in the preparation of Durban. But the majority of the people in the country still need to increase their awareness about climate change. In reaching out to the general population there has been less progress than hoped for. But there are innovative activities, like the climate train. Civil society has also coordinated its work in the preparation for COP17. There will be alternative conference space for domestic and international NGOs, lots of demonstrations and lots of momentum.  But it is a challenge across the globe to create such momentum, to explain why climate action is needed and why this international process matters.

The South African government has recently adopted a new climate change strategy. It is also expected that in Durban the government will announce “South African Renewables Initiative (SARI)” which aims to significantly scale-up the use of renewable energies, with potentially some donor countries promising support. Will these programmes make South Africa a forerunner in a transformational change towards low-carbon development?

WWF South Africa is excited that the White Paper on National Climate Change response has been agreed before Durban. It was a difficult process, but the paper has improved significantly. We particularly support the carbon budget approach, where the long-term mitigation pledge will be broken down to sectoral carbon budgets. It is exciting but implementation will also be challenging. There is a strong push back from major industry polluters. But it is our national policy now. WWF South Africa has also been supporting government’s work to look at ways of scaling up renewable energy. The South African Renewables Initiative’s focus on innovative ways to finance such scaling-up as well as how to ensure that the local economic benefits will be maximised is a good example of how transitioning to a low carbon economy is good for development and job creation in a developing economy.

Germany has now decided to phase out nuclear energy while at the same time pursuing ambitious mitigation targets. How is this perceived in South Africa, and do you have any specific messages for the German public?

The position taken in Germany because of the German public’s pressure has helped NGO’s in South Africa to strengthen its campaign against nuclear in South Africa and to call on government to increase investment in renewable energy. This kind of international pressure helps us with our domestic pressure.

Interview: Sven Harmeling