‘Decisive action' needed on climate change

2nd October 2009 By: Christy van der Merwe

Consensus on the science of climate change had emerged at various meetings of the major economies, however, it was hoped that this consensus would "translate into decisive action", said French Embassy deputy head of mission first counsellor Phillippe Orliange.

He said he hoped for a major breakthrough at the global climate change negotiations in Copenhagen in December, as climate change was viewed as an urgent matter requiring immediate attention.

"What we would like to see at Copenhagen is a concrete agreement on targets to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases, with, hopefully, a precise time frame. But we are of course aware that although this is a common responsibility, it is a differentiated responsibility, and not all countries can be expected to do the same level of effort," Orliange told Engineering News Online.

He added that not all developing nations were in the same position, and the least developed countries, which would be most affected by climate change, had limited resources to address the challenges of mitigation and adaptation.

"Those countries obviously deserve increased support by the international community. Other countries, especially emerging countries, whose emissions have now reached a significant level, are expected to adhere to some kind of limitation in terms of emissions - knowing that these limitations also have to take into account their development needs," added Orliange.

He said that France had a special emphasis on the needs of African countries, especially those where access to energy remained a critical issue for most of the population, and this also had to be part of the Copenhagen agreement.

He further explained that the country's position and decisions at the Copenhagen negotiations, in turn guided bilateral relations with countries such as South Africa.

French President Nicholas Sarkozy visited South Africa in February 2008, when the two nations announced a strategic partnership.

"One of the elements of that partnership is energy, and we have decided to work with South Africa at policy level. We have created a working group on energy matters. We have also decided to make it a priority issue in our financial cooperation, and this is also an area in which there is a lot of French investment going on. With major companies being active, one of them is our public utility EDF, Electricité de France," said Orliange.

Also on the energy and climate change front, French development bank Agence Française de Développment (AFD) on Thursday announced that it would be extending a €120-million (about R1,5-billion) credit facility to commercial banks in South Africa, to be used for small- to medium-sized energy efficiency and renewable energy projects.

The banks involved would be Absa, Nedbank and the Industrial Development Corporation.

AFD Johannesburg regional office investment officer Stéphane Tromilin explained that the facility was being made available to promote investment in the renewable energy and energy efficiency fields, for small or medium sized projects, because the AFD would provide funds for individual projects up to €10-million.

Tackling the "twin challenges" of climate change and development, simultaneously, were becoming increasingly important for development finance institutions. In this regard, the AFD reported that in the previous financial year, about one third of the banks' financial commitments were put towards ‘climate friendly', or low-carbon portfolios.

AFD Johannesburg regional representative Christophe Richard explained that it was not a matter of the bank changing its approach, but rather, integrating, or "capturing the issue of global warming here - like everywhere else, like in China, like Brazil, like in India".

"This is increasingly becoming a development issue," Richard added.

"We have to rethink many development models on which we had built development concepts, and for that, we have to be active in the level of awareness, our capacity to assess what we are doing to that respect, and also, to put in place financial tools to play a role, an incentive role, in going in the direction which is more sustainable in terms of development."