The government has been accused of trying to scupper a landmark global deal to tackle climate change on the high seas.
In an internal document submitted ahead of crucial meetings of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) next month to curb greenhouse gas emissions from the international shipping industry, South Africa, together with Argentina, Brazil, China, Ecuador, India, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia and Turkey, has argued strongly against a cap on the sector’s emissions.
The IMO, an arm of the UN, is expected to reach an international climate agreement for the shipping industry, a sector which experts maintain does not boast an encouraging track record on managing emissions.
“As shipping emissions are a function of global emissions, setting an absolute overall cap to greenhouse gas emissions would represent an undesirable hindrance for world trade and the development of all countries,” the nine countries affirm.
They request the Marine Environment Protection Committee to agree that the initial strategy to be adopted in 2018 is a zero draft. “The final decision should not be taken without prior analysis of impact on international trade, particularly for developing countries,” they state.
But one shipping expert, who cannot be named, says this position completely contradicts South Africa’s many public statements in support of the goals of the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change. “Shipping emissions on their current course are projected to grow between 50% and 250% by mid-century, meaning if a handful of countries successfully block a deal at IMO, the Paris Agreement commitments are basically toast.”
Many companies around the world are pushing forward on clean technology and renewable energy in shipping.
“South Africa has some of the best conditions for renewable energy in the world and could profit hugely by using its influence at IMO, and its leadership role on the continent, to support a serious reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from shipping at the crucial IMO meeting,” says the expert.
Shipping is the backbone of world trade, carrying about 80% of the total volume of trade and plays a significant role in ensuring global development, says Saliem Fakir, head of the policy and futures unit at WWF-SA.
“The bottom line is that there has to be consistency with South Africa’s campaign for a better climate deal at the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and what it says at the IMO. So far, the two are inconsistent with each other. The big puzzle is why there is such a contradiction in our approach. That’s the tragedy,” says Fakir.
The IMO meeting affords South Africa the opportunity to position itself as a leading voice in the negotiations around emissions reductions in the shipping sector.
“We are often seen as a deal-maker in these negotiations. In contrast, South Africa is seen to be non-committal in tackling greenhouse gas reductions at the IMO and its position tends to be wavering and often inconsistent with those taken at the UNFCCC.
“By providing a strong voice, South Africa would also help secure a sector that by 2033 is expected to contribute close to one million jobs and between R129billion and R177bn to its own gross domestic product, Fakir says.
Timothy Walker, a senior researcher in peace operations and peace-building at the Institute for Security Studies, explains that shipping is the “anchorage upon which entire the entire world’s economy is based”.
“South Africa is trying to grow and expand its oceans economy, something that has been neglected throughout our history. It’s now being seen as a greater political and economic priority.
“South Africa plays a proactive role at the IMO but when it comes to its climate change targets, it’s disappointing that we aren’t putting in more specific targets now and taking into account other developing countries, particularly those most vulnerable (to sea-level rise).”
But Collen Msibi, spokesperson for the Department of Transport, disputes that South Africa is trying to block a meaningful deal to tackle climate change.
“Specific issues to be taken into consideration are evidence- based decision-making and impact assessments focused on developing countries, taking into account that shipping activity is directly related to economic activity and reduction in the activity or emissions (which would require technological investment and thus increased shipping costs) would have a bearing on the economies, particularly developing economies.
“South Africa is of the view that there can be no agreement on any quantum of reduction above the principle (which it supports) until the implications are fully understood. This obviously contradicts the position of the developed countries, which have a historical responsibility as well as access to technologies that would come at a cost to developing countries.
“We hope to progress the discussions and see meaningful resolutions that are taken on an equitable basis.”
(Source: Saturday Star)
Sea News, April 5