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Cablegate: South African Views On Climate Negotiations

VZCZCXRO9652
RR RUEHAST RUEHBZ RUEHDH RUEHDU RUEHHM RUEHJO RUEHLN RUEHMA RUEHMR
RUEHPB RUEHPOD RUEHRN RUEHSL RUEHTM RUEHTRO
DE RUEHSA #2170/01 2990737
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 260737Z OCT 09
FM AMEMBASSY PRETORIA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 9979
INFO RUEHTN/AMCONSUL CAPE TOWN 7269
RUEHDU/AMCONSUL DURBAN 1348
RUEHJO/AMCONSUL JOHANNESBURG 9630
RUEHZN/ENVIRONMENT SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY COLLECTIVE
RUCNSAD/SOUTHERN AF DEVELOPMENT COMMUNITY COLLECTIVE
RUEHRC/USDA FAS WASHDC 2022

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 PRETORIA 002170

SIPDIS
SENSITIVE

DEPT FOR AF/S, OES/EGC, OES/PCI, SECC
USDA/FAS FOR MARK MANIS
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: SENV ENRG SF
SUBJECT: SOUTH AFRICAN VIEWS ON CLIMATE NEGOTIATIONS

REF: (A) STATE 107536
(B) PRETORIA 1762
(C) PRETORIA 2166

PRETORIA 00002170 001.2 OF 003


This cable is not for Internet distribution.


1. (SBU) SUMMARY AND ACTION REQUEST: Per action request in Ref A,
post requested a meeting with South African climate negotiators, but
was told they are not available until November. In the meanwhile,
this cable lays out context for South Africa's negotiating positions
to date, based on September meetings with the negotiators and other
local reports and statements. Post is convinced the SAG could be a
key to successful talks in Copenhagen and stands ready to engage SAG
and other interlocutors in any way Department advises to give those
talks their best chance of success. Post would appreciate further
guidance from the Department on the border tax issue on an if-raised
basis and whether/how to engage the SAG on its proposal for the
"lifecycle" of nationally appropriate mitigation actions.

----------------------------------
SOUTH AFRICA'S POSITION ON CLIMATE
----------------------------------

2. (U) Economic Minister Counselor and Environment, Science and
Technology Officer last met with South Africa's lead climate
negotiators, Joanne Yawitch and Alf Wills, on September 11. Wills
and Yawitch are Deputy Directors-General in the newly reconfigured
Department of Water and Environmental Affairs (DWEA). Yawitch is
responsible for national climate policy implementation, while Wills
is the lead climate negotiator in international fora, including the
UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the Major
Economies Forum (MEF). (NOTE: In August, Wills had publicly summed
up South Africa's position on climate as "no money, no deal." END
NOTE.) As U.S. negotiators know, South Africa plays an active role
in the negotiating sessions as one of the lead countries of the
G77/China developing nations group. In the run up to the September
25 UN Climate Summit in New York and the Bangkok meetings, South
African government officials, including Environment Minister Buyelwa
Sonjica, were on record stating that South Africa is not willing to
agree to quantified emissions targets that would undermine the
country's economic growth. Nonetheless, post views the South
African proposal for a registry of self-financed, nationally
appropriate mitigation actions as a strong indication that the SAG
is thinking creatively about how to bring developed and developing
countries closer.

3. (U) South Africa's climate and energy policy is guided by the
Long Term Mitigation Scenarios (LTMS), a research project
coordinated by the Department of Environmental Affairs, which calls
for the country's CO2 emissions to peak between 2020 and 2025,
stabilize for ten years, then begin to decline in absolute terms by
mid-century. , However, this scenario is contingent upon South
Africa receiving adequate finance and technology support under a new
climate agreement. South Africa is prepared to take nationally
appropriate mitigation actions that reduce emissions below a
business-as-usual trajectory, consistent with actions proposed for
advanced developing countries under the Bali Action Plan..

----------------------------
FUTURE OF THE KYOTO PROTOCOL
----------------------------

4. (U) According to news reports, Wills and a number of developing
country negotiators staged a walkout from an informal working group
Qcountry negotiators staged a walkout from an informal working group
meeting on the Kyoto Protocol, accusing developed nations of trying
to "kill Kyoto." (Note: According to one observer, only a handful
of delegates walked out and discussions continued. End Note).
South Africa, along with other developing countries, does not want
the Kyoto Protocol folded into a new Copenhagen legal framework, and
that targets for Kyoto's second commitment period from 2013 should
be on a parallel but separate track from any new agreement. They
oppose efforts by developed nations to "cherry pick" or merge parts
of the Kyoto Protocol into a new Copenhagen agreement on the grounds
that it would allow Annex I developed countries to water down their
emissions reduction commitments and it muddies the distinction
between developed and developing countries' binding mitigation
actions.

--------------------------------------------- --
SOUTH AFRICA'S NEW PROPOSAL ON NAMA "LIFECYCLE"
--------------------------------------------- --

5. (U) The South African proposal mentioned in Para 9 of Ref A,

PRETORIA 00002170 002.2 OF 003


which appears to deviate from the standard G77 position on
nationally appropriate mitigation action (NAMA) registries, is
consistent with Wills and Yawitch's expressed commitment that South
Africa will "engage constructively" on climate change.

-------
FINANCE
-------

6. (U) Besides mitigation, the other major sticking point at the
Bangkok talks was finance. South Africa stands firm with other
developing countries in their view that developed countries will
need to commit to massive public financing to seal a deal in
Copenhagen. Wills and Yawitch expressed the belief that private
investment is not sufficient and that, at least initially, large
infusions of multilateral funding will be required to make
interventions where markets are failing, to enable countries
(including South Africa) to "get off first base." Once momentum is
established, the market will be ripe for the private investment
flows that will ultimately provide the majority of funding for
mitigation efforts and the transformation to a low-carbon economy.
At a press briefing in September, Yawitch stated that South Africa
wanted to ensure "massively scaled-up, predictable and sustainable
financial flows" from developed countries to the developing world of
between 200 billion and 400 billion dollars per year until 2020.

-------------------------
ONE SIZE DOES NOT FIT ALL
-------------------------

7. (U) Wills and Yawitch explained that a major problem for South
Africa is its categorization as a "developing country with greater
capability," along with China, India, Brazil and others, under the
tiered climate framework proposed by the U.S. In their view, this
would make South Africa ineligible for public multilateral finance
and technology support. While acknowledging that the U.S. proposal
explicitly reflects "common but differentiated responsibilities and
respective capabilities," Wills and Yawitch opined that the U.S. has
an "un-nuanced view" of South Africa's special circumstances. They
argued that South Africa should not be lumped together with
countries such as China and India that have much larger populations,
bigger economies, and a different set of challenges and
capabilities. In their view, a tiered approach is designed to help
the U.S. solve its domestic political challenges with regard to
China (i.e., getting Congress to accept emissions cuts in return for
concrete mitigation actions by the other major emitters). South
Africa views itself as a developing country with special historical
circumstances that make it different from other major emitters, a
country that will be seriously disadvantaged if it does not have
access to public financing and technology support.

------------------------------------
SOUTH AFRICA'S SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES
------------------------------------

8. (U) South Africa sees itself as a "middle income developing
country," with an advanced manufacturing and services sector but
also with special challenges in common with the Least Developed
Countries (LDCs). While a small segment of its population is
wealthy, large numbers of South Africans live in poverty and the
government is still grappling with the lingering economic and social
effects of apartheid. After the transformation to democratic
majority rule in 1994, high expectations were placed on the
Qmajority rule in 1994, high expectations were placed on the
government to improve living standards for the poor. While progress
has been made in some areas, South Africa now has the world's
highest level of income inequality, as measured by the Gini
coefficient index. Service delivery by the government in all
sectors - housing, water, sanitation, power - is currently a hot
topic and occasionally sparks violent protests, most recently in
Sakhile township near Johannesburg. For South Africa, the
development imperative and poverty alleviation have a more immediate
and higher priority than emissions reductions.

------------------------------------------
ENERGY CHALLENGES DICTATING CLIMATE POLICY
------------------------------------------

9. (U) South Africa relies on coal for 90 percent of its
electricity generation and intends to continue building coal-fired
power plants in the short and medium term to respond to an ongoing
power crisis and to accommodate future economic growth. (REF C on
the electricity situation provides further context.) The global
recession has provided South Africa with a temporary respite in
energy demand, but reserve margins are razor thin (less than 10

PRETORIA 00002170 003.2 OF 003


percent) and the threat of rolling blackouts and power rationing, as
occurred in 2008, remains high. Wills and Yawitch acknowledged that
South Africa has enormous potential for renewable energy (solar,
wind, biomass), but that the technologies have not scaled up
sufficiently to meet mitigation targets. As reported in Ref B,
serious institutional and market barriers remain, including state
power utility Eskom's virtual monopoly of the electricity market,
which has hindered the uptake of clean technologies. Eskom recently
announced proposed electricity rate hikes of 45 percent annually
over the next three years to cover current operating costs and
partially fund their 385 billion Rand (USD $52 billion) capital
expansion program. While rate hikes may encourage the development
of renewable energy sources, they will be a heavy burden on a
fragile economy and a difficult adjustment for residential and
industrial consumers.

--------------------------------------------- -----
SOUTH AFRICA AS CHAMPION OF LESS DEVELOPED AFRICAN COUNTRIES
--------------------------------------------- -----

10. (U) In addition to its role as a major economy and greenhouse
gas emitter, South Africa wears another hat as champion for less
developed African countries, which share with South Africa many of
the same problems of poverty, access to clean water and sanitation,
HIV/AIDS and other development issues. Wills and Yawitch expressed
concern that the differentiation between different categories of
developing countries in the climate talks is counterproductive. In
their view, LDCs fear that because the more advanced developing
countries have greater capacity to leverage financial and
technological support under a climate deal, the economic and
technology gaps between advanced developing countries and LDCs will
be further exaggerated. Wills stated that the LDCs need to be fully
included in support mechanisms of the Copenhagen deal to enable them
to "leapfrog" into clean energy technologies.

-------
COMMENT
-------

11. (SBU) Post is convinced the SAG could be a key to successful
talks in Copenhagen if properly consulted and lobbied as a partner
and a unique player by the USG. SAG negotiators are engaged
thoroughly in preparations for the Copenhagen talks and clearly
prepared to work with the USG and other governments to get to an
agreement there. Post stands ready to engage SAG and other
interlocutors in any way Department advises to give those talks
their best chance of success. In preparation for further
discussions, post would appreciate further guidance from the
Department on the border tax issue (Para 14 of Ref A) and
whether/how to engage the SAG on its proposal for a "lifecycle" of
nationally appropriate mitigation actions.
GIPS

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