Posted by: Saving Water SA (Cape Town, South Africa) – partnered with Water Rhapsody conservation systems – 22 June 2011
A delegation at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Bonn, Germany, represented the “very best capacity” in the country, the government said on Friday.
It was reacting to criticism – levelled earlier this week by the NGO GroundWork – about the inclusion of representatives from petrochemicals giant Sasol and electricity utility Eskom in the delegation.
In a statement on Wednesday, GroundWork said the inclusion of Sasol and Eskom representatives “simply boggles the mind”.
“How can the two companies, who together account for the majority of South Africa’s emissions, and who do so profitably, be tasked with charting a low-carbon future for the country?”
The environment affairs department defended the composition of government’s negotiating team.
“The policy governing the composition of the South African delegation for all UN climate change meetings and conferences of parties is constituted with representatives of government, business, civil society, labour and Salga (local government) representatives, and also includes representative with specific skills, particularly from the South African scientific community.
“It must be noted that once a part of the South African delegation, representatives from sectors other than government operate under a strict code of conduct and discipline,” it said.
The basis for the inclusion of individuals in the team was they all represented the SA government, “not their respective organisations”.
The government’s view was the current team had been of benefit to the country’s negotiating position, the department said.
GroundWork was highly critical of both Sasol and Eskom.
“With plans to launch new coal-to-liquids and gas-to-liquids plants across the globe (including in India, China and Indonesia) 1/8and 3/8 lobbying for coal-to-liquids in the US Congress… Sasol is spending its revenues on polluting the planet with even more carbon dioxide.
“Eskom is currently under a major coal-fired generation expansion project, backed by the SA government, and is also spending billions on warming the planet.”
The NGO questioned the chances of the COP17 UN conference – set to be held in Durban later this year – resulting in a deal to reduce rising global greenhouse gas emissions, saying this seemed increasingly remote.
“Why? It seems that vested high-carbon emission interests are capturing the process. In effect, those who financially benefit from high carbon emissions, such as energy companies, are involved in the actual negotiations to reduce emissions,” it said.
GroundWork said that as COP17 host, the government needed to free itself from corporate influence.
“The South African government has a duty and obligation to protect the global environment and every individual, not to protect energy companies like Sasol and Eskom and their love affair with coal,” it said.
The Bonn conference ends on Friday.