Climate change policy launched

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Water and Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa has announced government's ground-breaking National Climate Change Response Policy.

The policy, which was developed over the last six years and approved by Cabinet last week, gives South Africa a clear roadmap to respond to the urgency of climate change as it seeks to push towards a green economy.

Molewa said that like other countries, the greatest threat to SA's sustainable development, economic growth and quality of life hinged largely on the impacts of climate change. "Early impacts are being felt on agricultural production, food prices and food security, which will have disastrous social and economic consequences if we do not take bold steps to address climate change."

The timing of the policy is set to give SA some muscle during next month's COP 17 climate change negotiations in Durban.

Molewa said the policy confirmed that climate change "is already a measurable reality, and along with other developing countries, South Africa is especially vulnerable to its impacts."

SA's response to climate change, as noted in the policy, has two objectives. The first is to effectively manage the inevitable climate change impacts through interventions that "build and sustain South Africa's social, economic and environmental resilience and emergency response capacity". The other is to make "a fair contribution to the global effort to stabilise greenhouse gases concentration in the atmosphere". This is to be done within a timeframe which allows economic, social and environmental development to continue in a sustainable way.

The policy is guided by the Constitution, Bill of Rights, National Environmental Management Act, Millennium Declaration and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. Its policy strategic priorities are drawn around risk reduction and management, mitigation actions with significant outcomes; policy and regulatory alignment; informed decision-making and planning; integrated planning, and technology research among other elements.

To monitor the success of responses to climate change and to replicate those that will be proven to work well, Molewa said there was the need to measure the cost, outcome and impact of such responses. To that end, South Africa will, within two years of publication of the policy, design and publish a draft Climate Change Response Measurement and Evaluation System. Molewa said although the system would be based on South African scientific measurement standards and undertaken through the Presidency's Outcomes-Based System, it would meet international measuring, reporting and verification requirements.

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