Excerpt from President Zuma’s response to the debate on the State of the Nation Address

Address by President Jacob Zuma in response to the debate on the State of the Nation Address, National Assembly, Cape Town, February 17 2011

Honourable Members referred to the important United Nations Conference of the Parties on Climate Change or COP 17 that we will host from the 28th of November to the 9th of December 2011 in Durban.

We agree with Honourable Holomisa that the conference should be used as a rallying point to inform and mobilise our communities around issues of the environment.

We are humbled by the confidence shown by the UNFCC in Africa’s ability to host this meeting again after Kenya successfully hosted it in 2006.

This presents another opportunity for Africa to rise to the occasion, just like we did when the world gave us an opportunity to host the 2010 FIFA Soccer World Cup last year.

It is a timely conference for our country. Disaster events have become an increasing burden. Incidents of veld fires are being reported in the Western Cape, severe drought conditions are currently being experienced in the Eastern Cape. Heavy and recurrent rains are being experienced in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal amongst other provinces.

As Honourable Minister Molewa pointed out, climate change also continues to impact negatively on food security, for example the food price increases due to the changes in farming production capacity due to floods, drought, fires and land degradation due to changing weather patterns.

We are preparing ourselves to host this huge event which will bring to our country several heads of state and government and their delegations as well as civil society. Yesterday, Cabinet appointed an Inter-Ministerial committee to lead our preparations.

The Minister of International Relations and Cooperation who is chairing this committee, will also chair the conference. The Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs will lead the South African delegation. Other members are the Ministers of Energy, Finance, Home Affairs, Economic Development, Trade and Industry, National Planning Commission, Mineral Resources, Public Enterprises, Tourism, Science and Technology, the Premier of KwaZulu-Natal and the mayor of Ethekwini municipality.

As a developing African country, we will use the opportunity to showcase the way in which climate change impacts on our country and Africa, as well as the responses we are implementing. We will take forward the good work done by Mexico and will approach the 17th Conference in a spirit of comprehensive and open consultation with all parties and stakeholders.

This will enable us to work towards an outcome that is comprehensive and acceptable to all parties. As we prepare for COP 17, we will also continue implementing strategies towards cleaner technology and the green economy, including clean energy.

We reiterate that every South African must save energy to avoid the need to resort to the unpopular load shedding energy conservation method.

Honourable Speaker,

Next week, we have the pleasure of hosting a meeting of the UN Secretary General’s High Level Global Sustainability Panel, which I have the honour of co-chairing with Her Excellency President Halonen of Finland.

The Panel has a special focus on climate change as a sustainable development challenge, addressing three pillars, namely economic, social and environmental.

The meeting will take place in Cape Town and will help set the tone for the climate change conference later in the year.