Amid the Western Cape’s battle against severe storms and flooding, along with a tropical storm in Libya causing deadly flooding earlier this month, President Cyril Ramaphosa has taken the opportunity to address the issue of climate change.
In his latest weekly newsletter, dated September 26, the President underscores that the recent catastrophic floods serve as a stark reminder of the acute vulnerability of developing African countries to the ravages of climate change.
Despite being the least culpable for global warming, Africa is experiencing a faster rate of warming than the rest of the world, states Ramaphosa.
Fresh from the United Nations (UN) General Assembly, in New York, where climate change was a major focus of discussion, Ramaphosa says there is growing concern that the international community is falling short on meeting Paris Agreement goals.
“While the nations of the world agreed in Paris in 2015 to undertake urgent actions to limit global temperature rises and mitigate the impact of climate change, the effects of climate change are being increasingly felt and with greater ferocity,” he writes.
Ramaphosa specifically points to the lack of promised financial support from wealthy countries to vulnerable countries for climate adaptation. He notes that financial assistance has not materialised at the necessary scale and urgency that is needed.
On the sidelines of the UN General Assembly, secretary-general António Guterres convened a Climate Ambition Summit, aimed at mobilising governments, businesses, financial institutions and civil society towards greater climate action.
Guterres acknowledged that the world’s efforts to combat climate change were falling short of what was needed.
At the summit, South Africa reiterated its long-stated position that developed economy countries must fulfil their obligations and honour their past promises to developing economy countries, says Ramaphosa, adding that this is not an act of charity, but a matter of economic and social justice.
“Africa’s people are literally paying the price for the industrialisation and development of the northern countries,” he pens.
Moreover, the efforts of wealthy countries to help those less developed will help make the world more stable and secure, as well as ensure more equitable distribution of resources such as water and food, Ramaphosa emphasises.
He also mentions in his newsletter that African countries cannot be bystanders in its own development and that the necessary measures are being put in place in the respective economies of Africa to decarbonise, while pursuing sustainable development.
Notably, the energy transition is a priority, with Ramaphosa calling on the international community to support efforts to increase the continent’s renewable energy capacity and ensure energy security for people.
This, however, needs to take place alongside more investment in smart, digital and efficient green technologies in carbon-intensive sectors such as transportation, industry and electricity, he adds.
He highlights as an example that South Africa has undertaken regulatory reforms to help realise the 10 GW pipeline of confirmed renewable energy projects.
Ramaphosa warns that as the world works to address climate change, stakeholders should take heed to not increase the vulnerability of developing economies. For example, the European Union’s Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism, will increase tariffs on all imports into the region that are produced through carbon-intensive processes.
The President believes this measure, for one, will have a significant impact on South African producers through increased export costs and reduced competitiveness.
Rather, as Ramaphosa also stated during the Climate Ambition Summit, trade mechanisms must enable products from Africa to compete on fair and equitable terms. Trade tariffs and non-trade barriers that have an environmental purpose should be the product of multilateral agreements, he motivates.
Ramaphosa concludes that South Africa is committed to contributing its fair share to the global climate change effort, while taking unique circumstances into account.
“To achieve the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030, unity of purpose and action between countries is vital, as is a common commitment to multilateralism in the global climate change effort.
“Ultimately, no country should be forced to choose between climate action and meeting their development aspirations.”