Opening remarks by President Jacob Zuma to the 3rd Nobel Laureate Symposium on global sustainability - transforming the world in an era of global change, Inkosi Albert Luthuli ICC, African Pavilion, Durban, 06 December 2011

Excellencies Heads of State and Government,

Prof Johan Rockström, Chair of the 3rd Nobel Laureate Symposium on Global Sustainability,

Ministers,

Ambassadors,

Ladies and gentlemen,

It is indeed an honor for me to welcome you to this august gathering of Laureates, state leaders, ministers and other distinguished participants, to discuss global sustainability and related solutions to climate change.

This UN climate change conference in Durban, COP 17/CMP7 is all the richer because of your attendance and participation.

Many of you have made an invaluable contribution to the upliftment of humanity and in the protection and sustainable use of our environment.

As COP17/CMP7 President, South Africa fully supports the Nobel Laureate Symposium in its dialogue with the Secretary-General`s High-level Panel on Global Sustainability.

This symposium is very important to members of the UN SG`s panel as obtaining the views of a distinguished gathering like this one will certainly add value to our work.

Esteemed members;

Humanity has never been so profoundly aware of climate change, its impact and the necessity to radically reduce the emissions to save the next generations.

The developing world and Africa in particular are hardest-hit by climate change.

Apart from the climate change impact such as sea-level rise, severe droughts and floods, Africa`s vulnerability also arises from the prevailing dismal levels of poverty, which limit the continent`s ability to cope with the adverse effects.

The effects, as we know, are always manifold and unfortunately, also include the recurrent resource-induced conflicts such as we have seen in the Sudan over grazing land.

As we have always emphasized, a global multilateral response grounded in the principle of common but differentiated responsibility and respective capabilities will be the only effective and sustainable answer to this pressing global challenge.

In this regard this COP17 conference presents us with an opportunity to shape the future global response to climate change, by providing leadership and political direction for this critical process.

None is better placed than you therefore, leaders in the field of humanity, with your proven and tested credentials, to provide visionary direction.

Given the difficult global economic climate, we are fully aware that countries are concerned that decisions taken at the climate change negotiations could hamper their economic development.

We feel strongly therefore, that sustainable development and economics should be at the heart of the climate change discussions.

We have also always maintained that without multilateral rules-based system there can be no guarantee that countries will honour their commitments.

Colleagues and friends,

There are a number of issues currently on the table for discussion as you would have been briefed by respective delegations.

Finance remains one of the key issues, not only for a comprehensive climate deal, but also to place the global community on a path that will allow us to build resilient societies.

With reference to future actions, it remains of critical importance that the level of ambition should correspond to the demands of science.

Any agreement on a future response should also take into account what science prescribes, as well as the outcome of the 5th report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

It is here where Parties have to consider a definite timeframe for concluding the work that forms part of the agreement on future actions within the multilateral rules-based system which should be implemented by no later than 2020.

More importantly, as you are aware, action on adaptation is an essential element and a key priority for many developing countries, particularly Small Island Developing States, Least Developed Countries and the African continent.

Therefore, the operationalisation of the Adaptation Committee is urgent, considering its role in enhancing coherence and agreeing on activities for the next phase of the Nairobi Work Programme.

The need for dedicated financing to be made available for adaptation programmes and assistance will continue to be of critical importance in all future climate change negotiations.

We therefore urgently require a formula that will reflect these elements in a manner that can provide the required re-assurances of the commitment and full participation of all Parties, developed and developing, in the current and evolving climate change system.

Such a formula is achievable, but it will require leadership and pragmatism from all sides.

I am personally of the view that with the necessary political will, there is a window of opportunity to find this delicate formula that would safeguard the many gains.

This opportunity should not be missed.

It is also important to think beyond our national interests in these negotiations, no matter how difficult that may be. That is always the area where sound leadership is needed so that we can harmonise engagements beyond existing entrenched positions.

Developing countries fear that their economic and social development could be hampered by countries which have the greatest historical responsibility for current concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

At the same time, the share of global emissions of greenhouse gases originating in developing countries is growing rapidly, as they expand their industries to improve social and economic conditions for their citizens.

As climate change is a global problem, every country must assume responsibility to play its part in contributing to the solution.

That way we will be able to find solutions.

The developed world must continue to take the lead. On the other hand, the developing countries must show a willingness to take their fair share of responsibilities, keeping in mind the principle of common but differentiated responsibility, to deal with the challenge of climate change.

The outcome of this balance must address the urgent need of humanity as it is already suffering the effects of climate change.

The outcome must also address natural resource management, and advocate for institutions that will integrate these issues of development and natural environment.

Also important is food security, and other concerns as articulated in the Millennium Development Goals.

Esteemed colleagues and friends,

Ladies and gentlemen;

Many people have referred to this Conference as an "African COP”. It is no coincidence that this event of Nobel Laureates is taking place in the Africa Pavilion.

We are happy indeed that you have decided to contribute your collective wisdom to one of the most defining issues of our time on African soil.

At the same time, I need to remind you that this is not the first COP on the African Continent. However, there is a particular way in which the African continent looks at this event.

We want you to feel the spirit of Africa and the warmth, and use it to develop strong partnerships to take forward the mammoth task of dealing with climate change and ensuring global sustainability.

This event is not like the 2010 FIFA Soccer World Cup tournament that we proudly hosted, where only a few soccer teams qualified, with one ultimate winner.

All countries have qualified to participate and all should be able to emerge here as winners.

According to your programme, you will continue with extensive deliberations on possible solutions for what we need to do NOW and what we agree to do in the FUTURE.

I wish you all the best with those discussions.

As our message at this COP states, it is only by working together that we can truly save tomorrow today!

I thank you.