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Willpower vital to combat climate change, says minister

by Michael Appel
on 10 Jun 2008
BuaNews Online
BuaNews Online

Converting public will into political will is paramount to combating the global phenomenon of climate change, says Environmental Affairs and Tourism Minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk.

"Our task as Environment Ministers is to provide the leadership that will convert public will into political will and political will into action and implementation.

"These include mainstreaming and integrating environmental concerns in other areas of work in our respective governments and developing new scientific and policy capacities," said the minister.

Speaking at the 12th Session of the African Ministerial Conference on the Environment (AMCEN) on Tuesday, Mr van Schalkwyk highlighted that as the world population increases, so too does the demands for water, energy and food resources.

These everyday pressures, he said, are exacerbated by natural disasters, extreme poverty and resource deprivation, as well as human induced-climate change.

"These trends, as evidenced by the sobering daily newspaper reports about droughts, escalating food and oil prices, and human tragedy, all place new demands on the way we manage the environment," said Mr van Schalkwyk.

Despite the numerous barriers that have been overcome in the continuing fight to preserve the environment, there are signs of a stagnating and fragmented global regime for the environment and sustainable development.

"The proliferation of environmental agreements, funds and entities calls for greater coordination and significantly up-scaled resources.

"Africa should increasingly be driving these debates, thereby ensuring that our concerns and interests are at the forefront of United Nations [UN] environmental reform," said the minister.

Some immediate challenges, which have particular relevance to the summit's policy dialogue on Wednesday, include building a strong political base for international environmental governance (IEG); improving coherence and coordination between different UN agencies and bodies as well as eliminating the fragmentation of implementing policies.

Discussions will also focus on scientific work and policy development, and the challenge of addressing the huge resource gap that has led to discrepancies between commitments and actions from governments, he said.

The minister highlighted a number of issues worth considering which included, firstly, establishing the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) as the authoritative voice on environment and the chief advisor on environmental policy in the UN system.

Secondly, that such an office could play an important facilitation role, act as a repository for new research, assess new information and make it accessible and digestible to policy makers.

"Africa is one of the regions least responsible for climate change, and is also least able to afford the costs of adaptation.

"Africa will remain vulnerable even if, globally, emissions peak and decline in the next 10 to 15 years.

"No agreement on the strengthening of the international climate architecture, when we meet in Copenhagen at the end of 2009, will be considered balanced if adaptation is not accorded much higher priority in our deliberations," he concluded. - BuaNews

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