This week’s Nedbank-hosted Pre-COP17 summit, convened by WWF South Africa in partnership with the National Business Initiative, was successful in drawing together the linkages and synergy between addressing poverty, climate change and sustainable investments.
The event, which formed part of WWF’s Green Growth South Africa project, brought together stakeholders from government, civil society, labour and the private sector in an effort to identify shared perspectives on the opportunities and challenges we face on the path to a low-carbon economy, as well as ambitions for COP17.
There was broad agreement that the upcoming climate change negotiations in Durban, which would be unlikely to achieve a fair, legally-binding agreement, should at least lay out a broad map for the transition to a low-carbon world.
In her opening address, Department of Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa discussed the urgency and determination that would be needed to succeed in this goal. She acknowledged the difficult global situation, but asserted that the negotiations must work beyond interim measures and make decisions in the present and that developing countries will “need to see the colour of money”.
WWF Africa Policy and Partnerships Advisor Rubina Haroon noted the challenges and opportunities for Africa in the move towards low-carbon development. “We already have many countries in severe crisis, especially the heavily indebted poor countries, which climate change is and will increasingly, exacerbate, particularly desertification and diminishing water availability. However, in many ways Africa is a new frontier, with massive opportunities for innovative development approaches.”
She reported that leaders at the African Preparatory Conference for Rio+20 had discussed what more Africa can do without waiting for support from industrialised countries, developing low-carbon initiatives that can be scaled up when support materialises. Responding to the summit, Haroon noted, “It is great to see people combining hard-nosed realism with a positive approach to collectively seeking solutions that address both job creation and climate change response”.
Private sector speakers called for support and scale up of existing projects in an effort to transit to a new economy, but Nedbank’s Thabani Jali cautioned that “‘Green’ is not an approach that should be exploited for reputational gain…It is an investment…that will deliver lasting returns to every member of society”.