Cablegate: South Africa's Views On Un Climate Change Talks in Poland

R 191224Z DEC 08



E.O. 12958: N/A

REF: STATE 132715

1. Summary. EST officer and EST Assistant met with South Africa
Climate Change officials on December 18, 2008. Atmospherics were
cordial. The South Africans expressed minimal satisfaction with the
Poznan talks, noting that progress towards long-term resolutions
would have to be reached by June/July 2009 for adoption in
Copenhagen. All felt there was a "leadership gap" and hoped the
U.S. would step into that role. EST Officer provided the group with
material regarding U.S. Climate Change activities and bio
information on the potential new members of the U.S. Cabinet. End

2. EST officer and EST Assistant met on December 18, 2008 with
South Africa Climate Change officials, including Chief Director:
Planning and Coordination Judy Beaumont; Senior Policy Advisor:
International Environment and Climate Change Deborah Ramalope;
Senior Policy Advisor: Africa and bilateral Engagements Stuart
Mangold; Policy Analyst: Africa and Bilateral relations Efa Methi
and Chief Director: International Governance and Relations Zaheer
Fakir. EST Officer had asked for the meeting to discuss the South
African government views leading up to Poznan, but the South
Africans were unwilling to meet prior to the conference.

3. Beaumont provided a summary of the South Africa position and
reactions to the Poznan Conference. She felt the developing
countries "did not get much" except for approval of adaptation
funds. However, Beaumont said the conference was "useful" because
it "cleared the way for serious negotiations." The March
intersessional will be critical in her view as it will indicate
whether there is possible divergence or convergence in views and
whether there will be movement by developed countries.

4. Beaumont and Fakir agreed that the Poznan conference was forced
to operate in a political vacuum since both the EU and the U.S. were
changing political regimes. They pointed out that South Africa was
changing political leaders, but they felt the positions on these
issues would likely remain consistent.

5. Fakir noted that they had met with Senator John Kerry as well as
DOS officials in Poznan. Fakir stated that South Africa understood
the Administration faces political constraints in trying to convince
Congress to adopt climate change legislation. He was encouraged by
statements from Senator Kerry that it might be possible to sign an
agreement without having to enact implementing legislation
immediately. Fakir said that delegates would have to work towards
finding ways to "package" climate change to make it attractive to

5. Beaumont said that South Africa wants the U.S. to move from its
position of not accepting "historical responsibility." She said
South Africa cannot accept a viewpoint that only wants to "work
forward." She said that goals requiring developing countries to cut
emissions from 20-80 percent by 2020 puts those countries in
"difficult positions". Any such goals would have to be in the lower
levels to be acceptable. Long term goals must be conditioned on
achievement of midterm goals.

6. Fakir said there was a world leadership gap, which he described
as the "penguin effect." He said, "The nations are like penguins
all poised together on the shoreline with no one willing to make the
first dive into the water; the EU is waiting for the U.S., the U.S.
is waiting for China." Fakir said he would like the U.S. to take
firm leadership and make commitments. He said there is no other
nation that can play that role.

7. Beaumont felt the Rio+20 concept was an "interesting" proposal.
South Africa has been in contact with Brazil regarding the
QSouth Africa has been in contact with Brazil regarding the
conference, which has been agreed to in principle. The venue
remains uncertain. The conference will provide a "useful
opportunity" to review commitments made since Rio and WSSD.

8. Comment. South African working level climate change officials
are pragmatic and realistic. While they remain adamant that the
U.S. cannot ignore so-called "historical responsibility," they also
understand political realities in the U.S. and appear willing to
work within their parameters to reach a climate change agreement
that would be acceptable to the U.S.


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