There’ve been whispers of a major rift between the departments of environmental affairs and international relations and cooperation over who will take the reins for the preparation of the COP17 conference, in Durban at the end of the year. At a press conference in Pretoria, both respective ministers pooh-poohed the rumours. By SIPHO HLONGWANE.
The Mail & Guardian recently ran a piece that alleged that there was friction between Edna Molewa, the minister for environmental affairs and her counterpart at international relations and cooperation Maite Nkoana-Mashabane over who would be in charge of what in preparation for the 17th Conference of Parties (COP17) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. The tension was reportedly causing delays in preparations.
At a press conference in the Dirco headquarters in Pretoria, both ministers said the idea of a turf war between them was silly. “In South African vocabulary, there is no such thing as a turf war,” Nkoana-Mashabane said. “There is one president of COP17, and she is Maile Nkoana-Mashabane. And there is one leader of the South African delegation to COP17, which is the environmental minister. South Africa is on track for COP17, if not ahead of schedule.”
According to her, a communications plan for the event was ready for rolling out, the booking of accommodation, transport and security was all but done and the venues for the conference were almost ready.
“Expectations about what South Africa can achieve are very high,” she said and went on to explain that the world was very interested in South Africa’s well-being, since it had played such a key role in shaping it in the first place. You won’t often hear a ranking ANC member put the international intervention against apartheid on such a high pedestal.
International protocol dictates the DEA needs to handle the contents of the conference, and Dirco the logistics. Nkoana-Mashabane said the designation of duties between the two departments meant exactly that – her department would deal with organising the conference and running it, while the DEA would formulate South Africa’s policy positions and head the delegation to the conference.
Molewa repeated the point, saying the roles between the two departments were very clear and talk of a turf war was mistaken. The countries attending COP17 had looked at preparations and were satisfied South Africa was ready, she said. “South Africa is not a country that will carry itself with arrogance. We will listen. The whole world is convinced that yes, we are on track”.
As delegation leader environmental affairs must develop South Africa’s negotiating position, coordinate and implement COP17 legacy projects and run the public climate change outreach and mobilisation programme.
Nkoana-Mashabane said one of the key aspects of the Durban conference would be a determination on the second commitment period for the Kyoto Protocol. Durban is the last stop before certain key aspects of the old climate change global deal expire, and it would be a major plus for the foreign minister if a concrete deal was reached in Durban.
As part of South Africa’s efforts to reduce its carbon footprint, it would implement “nationally appropriate mitigation actions” which would result in a reduction of emissions by 34% relative to the current trajectory by 2020, and 45% by 2025. The construction of two huge coal power stations had been factored into those calculations, Molewa said.
The departments are both eager to put on a good show during COP17 – in some circles this conference will be a bigger deal than the 2010 Fifa World Cup. The event will gather many of the world’s top leaders for a big environmental bun fight. Though the Durban conference won’t be as spectacular as the 2009 Copenhagen conference, where presidents bickered rather more energetically than usual over carbon emissions and the like to replace the expiring Kyoto Protocol, it still wouldn’t look good if Dirco and the DEA stuffed it up. DM
Photo: Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa and International Relations and Cooperation Minister Maile Nkoana-Mashabane (Daily Maverick).