The international community regards climate change as the single biggest threat to wellbeing, health and socio-economic development facing humanity this century. Its impacts are widespread, unprecedented and disproportionately burdens to the poorest and most vulnerable.
South Africa therefore expresses its profound regret over the decision of the United States of America to withdraw from the Paris Agreement, which reflects the multilateral agreement to keep global temperature increase to well below 2 degrees celsius.
The adoption of the Paris Agreement, 15 years after the withdrawal of the United States from the Kyoto Protocol, is a victory for multilateral effort to curb climate change. The Agreement entered into force far earlier than expected due to the extraordinary speed of ratification by Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, including the United States, and reflects the scientific consensus on severity of the crisis.
The Paris Agreement, which will be fully operational by 2020, is premised on contributions determined by countries themselves, towards collectively agreed global goals. These nationally determined contributions are to represent countries' best effort, and to be progressively enhanced over time.
It is further premised on a strong understanding that we all have a common responsibility to act, whilst noting that nations over time have contributed to the problem differently, and have varied capabilities to respond. The Paris Agreement represents the most flexible and dynamic approach to addressing climate change, and the withdrawal of the USA is not only an abdication of global responsibility we all have to humankind, but damaging to multilateralism, the rule of law and trust between nations.
Historically, the US has contributed significantly to global emissions, and therefore has a moral obligation not only to lead in reducing emissions, but to support poorer economies in contributing to the global effort.
South Africa has full confidence in and reiterates its unwavering commitment to the realization of the goals set out in the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and its Paris Agreement. The global effort to curb climate change and address its impacts cannot be postponed. There is an urgent need for action, and as such there is no space for renegotiation.
South Africa has full confidence that the momentum of the collective effort to address climate change will only accelerate. We recognize the outstanding contribution made to the fight against climate change in the US by past Administrations, states, cities, scientific organizations, civil society, business and individual citizens. South Africa therefore calls on the United States to reconsider its position and to re-commit to the multilateral process.
Issued by GCIS on behalf of the Department of Environmental Affairs