Leading by example

The South African government launched its long-term mitigation scenario (LTMS) process on climate change in 2006. Findings and policy recommendations based on the LTMS were presented to the cabinet in July 2008. This is the culmination of two and a half years of work that involved stakeholders from government, business, civil society and labour.

During the Cabinet Lekgotla, the South African government discussed the policy implications of the LTMS in detail. In response, it has outlined an ambitious vision and adopted a proactive and scientifically and economically robust policy framework that will ensure we meet the challenges of climate change in decades to come. It has set the strategic direction for climate action in South Africa.

Our government's vision and the implementation of this policy framework will be the best insurance policy that current and future generations will have against the potentially devastating impacts of climate change. By adopting this strategic direction, South Africa demonstrates that it is ready to shoulder its fair share of responsibility as part of an effective global response.

The worst impacts of climate change can be avoided if the rest of the world takes up the challenge in a similarly serious way, with developed countries taking the lead.

The international negotiations on strengthening the climate regime after 2012 gained significant momentum at the talks in Bali in December 2007. This process is scheduled to conclude in Copenhagen at the end of 2009.

Science tells us that the climate challenge is urgent and our government has therefore formulated a comprehensive domestic response based on the best available science, scenario-building tools, rigorous analysis of energy and non-energy emissions, the consideration of a wide range of mitigation options and potentials, adaptation planning, and economic models. This is, indeed, cutting edge work.

The world faces a global climate emergency. It is now clear that only action by both developed and developing countries can prevent the climate crisis from deepening. While developed countries bear most of the responsibility for causing the problem to date, developing countries - including South Africa

- must face up to our responsibility for the future. While we have different historical responsibilities for emissions, we share a common responsibility for the future.

The technical work done in the LTMS makes it clear that without constraints our emissions might quadruple by 2050. This is, in the most literal sense, not sustainable: if we continue with business as usual, we will go out of business.

The implementation of a combination of the three LTMS strategic options

- in other words, those that can be achieved with known technologies and at a relatively affordable cost - can deliver a substantial deviation from business-as-usual emission trajectories in South Africa. By committing to and implementing this vision and policy framework, the South African government will make a meaningful contribution to the international effort.

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