Some 70 developed and developing countries, responsible for about 80% of the world's greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, had submitted emission mitigation pledges to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) by Monday.
Initially, the Copenhagen Accord had outlined the deadline of January 31, for participating countries to submit their pledges to the UNFCCC, but individual pledges were still being submitted. Over 120 member country pledges were still missing.
The Copenhagen Accord was the political agreement, which came out of the December global climate change conference of the parties (COP) in Copenhagen. It is a three-page document, sculpted in a room where 28 of the 193 participating member countries were present, and which has only been ‘noted', and not adopted, by the UNFCCC.
South African Environmental Affairs DDG Joanne Yawitch pointed out that, interestingly, some of the countries, which played a part in the creation of the Accord, had not yet submitted pledges, such as Saudi Arabia and Sudan.
South Africa submitted its pledge in time for the initial January deadline, which was the same as the country's ambition, which was earlier outlined by the Presidency.
"South Africa reiterates that it will take nationally appropriate mitigation action to enable a 34% deviation below the ‘business as usual' emissions growth trajectory by 2020, and a 42% deviation below the ‘business as usual' trajectory by 2025," said Environmental Affairs DDG Alf Wills in the letter to the UNFCCC.
"The extent to which this action will be implemented depends on the provision of financial resources, the transfer of technology, and capacity building support by developed countries," he added.
World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) trade and investment adviser Peet du Plooy noted that South Africa's pledge was "suitably ambitious to claim that we are willing to do our fair share and to inspire other nations to do the same".
However, Du Plooy and WWF climate change programme manager Richard Worthington emphasised that South Africa's emission reduction pledges were only realiseable if the country "urgently" put in place the planning, market and regulatory measures required to kick-start the supply of clean energy and its efficient use, without waiting for the international developments upon which the commitment was conditional, to be in place.
"If we wait, it will be too late to use the anticipated support when it materialises," Worthington reiterated.
"South Africa put forward its pledge on the Sunday before the start of the negotiations, which gave the country a lot of goodwill, and South Africa was viewed as a leader at the conference by the international community and nongovernmental organisations. The only problem is that this hadn't really been consulted at home," explained SouthSouthNorth CEO Stefan Raubenheimer.
The Accord emphasises the strong political will to combat climate change, and accepts the scientific view that global warming should be kept below 2 ºC.
Keeping the average temperature increase below 2 ºC would require global emission reductions of between 40% and 45% below 1990 levels.
At the Copenhagen COP, the ambition of pledges from all the countries tallied up to between 11% and 19% reduction of GHGs below 1990 levels.
"What we are sitting with now [following the Copenhagen Accord pledges] is probably less than the 11% to 19% that was pledged at the conference," said Yawitch.
"If the aim is to keep the average temperature increase below 2 ºC ... the level of ambition, or frugality, needs to change," reiterated Raubenheimer.
Sustainability Institute affiliate Climate Interactive has established a ‘climate scoreboard', which analyses the Copenhagen Accord submissions, and estimates that if the current global proposals or pledges are fully implemented, this would mean a 3,9 ºC increase in global average temperature.
Without implementing the proposal, and continuing on a business as usual path, an average increase of 4,8 ºC was expected.
Also worth noting, is that the Alba bloc of countries was still refusing to engage with the Copenhagen Accord, and have stated that they would not submit pledges.
The Alba countries, or Bolivarian countries, include Venezuela, Cuba, Bolivia, Dominica, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Antigua and Barbuda, and St Vincent and the Grenadines. Led by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and Bolivian President Evo Morales at the negotiations in Copenhagen, these countries were challenging capitalism and promoting a fundamental redistribution of wealth as a solution to climate change.