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Minister of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment, Ms Barbara Creecy, delivers opening address at the chance assembly meeting

Minister of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment, Ms Barbara Creecy, delivers opening address at the chance assembly meeting

-23 June 2022-

Dr. Kaluwa Owen Laws, WHO Representative in South Africa
Dr. Magaran Bakayoko, WHO Representative in Gabon
Mr. Richard Tavares, of the European Union and Project Adviser on the ENBEL project
Gloria Maimela, Director of Climate and Health at the Wits Reproductive Health and HIV Institute

Ladies and Gentlemen

Good Morning

It is a privilege for me to be among such an esteemed group of policy makers, researchers, climate scientists and stakeholders working on climate change and health in Africa for your first face-to-face workshop as members of the Climate Health Africa Network for Collaboration and Engagement Network, also known as the Chance Network.

Climate change poses the single most serious threat to Africa’s development and prosperity, and during the past few years South Africa has experienced devastating weather events.

Most recently, communities in and around Durban experienced first-hand the destructive impact of our changing climate as two severe storms claimed the lives of loved ones, destroyed homes and infrastructure such as roads, and resulted in job losses when industries were destroyed.  In the aftermath of these storms people are struggling to rebuild their lives hoping that they don’t have to go through a similar experience again soon. 

In addition to flooding, several regions of our country have faced their worst drought in decades. The impacts of these events are being felt most severely by the poorest and most vulnerable sectors of our society.

As a cross-sectoral challenge, steps need to be taken by all levels of government, and by government and society in general, to address the impacts of climate change and ensure that we are able to adapt to our new climate reality.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

South Africa’s Long-Term Adaptation Scenario and the 6th Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) both suggest that as temperatures continue to increase above the 1.5 degree Celsius threshold, life as we know it will change completely.

The Working Group II report released earlier this year by the IPCC dealt with mitigation issues, warning that the scientific evidence is unequivocal: climate change is a threat to human well-being and the health of the planet. Any further delay in concerted global action will miss the brief, rapidly closing window to secure a liveable future. However, the IPCC report also offers solutions.

In a chapter on the African continent, the authors emphasise the vulnerability of all countries on the continent, and the urgency of developing and implementing adaptation measures across the continent and in multiple sectors.

African countries have already experienced widespread loss and damage as a result of human-induced climate change. The report makes it clear that our development pathways must become more climate resilient - and that the choices we make as a society now, are critical. With increasing global warming, human and natural systems will reach adaptation limits.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

South Africa is making progress on our own climate goals: we have established the Presidential Climate Commission to advise government on a just transition to a low carbon and climate resilient society. The Climate Bill is now under consideration in parliament and once passed, it will make it mandatory for all government departments to plan and implement climate resilience strategies.

Last year, South Africa made a very ambitious contribution to the global effort to address the climate crisis in the form of our updated Nationally Determined Contribution, affirming the economic opportunities offered by a low-carbon development pathway given our endowment of natural resources, including wind, sun and minerals – all key to the global green economy.

Our NDC also emphasises the importance of a just transition – addressing South Africa’s development challenges, ensuring that there is a smooth and prosperous transition for workers and communities from our current coal-based economy to the future zero-carbon economy, and making maximum use of economic opportunities, including green industrialisation.

In 2020, the National Climate Change Adaptation Strategy (NCCAS) was approved by Cabinet setting out the national priorities for building climate resilience. A common reference point for climate change and the main vehicle for South Africa in meeting our international climate obligations under the UNFCCC, the strategy provides overarching guidance to all sectors of the economy.

Among these is building climate resilience and adaptive capacity to respond to climate change risk and vulnerability. It promotes the integration of climate change adaptation responses into development objectives, policy, planning and implementation and improves our understanding of climate change impacts and capacity to respond to these impacts.  The strategy also ensures that  resources and systems are in place to enable implementation of climate changes responses.

We are also developing detailed plans to enable a Just Transition to a low carbon economy and climate resilient society. These plans will locate support for affected workers and communities and will be at the centre of these plans.

As you are no doubt are aware, developed countries have offered to mobilise $8.5 billion to support the repowering and repurposing of old coal fired power stations and for the development of new sectors such and green hydrogen and electric vehicles. The objective of the financial offer is to ensure a just transition for affected workers and communities.  

While discussions continue on the financial instruments and mechanisms, we do believe the offer marks a potential turning point for the quality of finance offered to developing countries and could be precedent setting.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The ability of developing countries to develop and implement ambitious mitigation and adaptation targets is directly dependent on the level of ambition developed countries offer for the means of implementation, namely finance, technology and capacity building.

Developing countries need access to scaled up levels of new, additional and predictable grant and concessional finance which undoubtedly could be deployed effectively to support both mitigation and adaptation actions. This will also facilitate the transition to low carbon climate resilient societies including enhancing the climate-resilience of health systems.

At the 26th Conference of Parties to the UNFCCC in Glasgow in November 2021 the global community noted with deep regret that developed countries have failed in mobilising jointly USD100 billion per year in 2020, and in fact that this goal may only be achieved in 2023.

Almost no climate finance targets the health sector, and nearly no global health finance targets climate adaptation. It furthermore highlights that less than 5 percent of total global adaptation spending, and less than 1 percent of multilateral climate adaptation finance targets health.  

The World Health Organization's COP26 Health Report emphasises the value of investing in health adaptation and resilience and calls on governments to allocate half of their climate finance to adaptation, especially for the health sector. We need to build on this to ensure that not only are developed countries fulfilling obligations but reflecting ambition when identifying new finance goals.

We need urgent action to attain a balance between mitigation and adaptation financing and also make concerted efforts to ensure that the climate finance instruments that are deployed do not contribute to the debt burdens of developing countries.

We need to create greater awareness of the nexus between climate change and health, and as the 2021 Lancet Countdown report has described the present situation of a "code red for a healthy future." Coupled with this we need to build capacity that contributes to the development and implementation of projects and programmes within the health and climate sector.

This means at a domestic level countries need to have clear strategies for building health resilience and use these strategies to develop a clear pipeline of projects for domestic and international funding.

In conclusion, Ladies and Gentlemen, I would like to wish you well for your workshop during which you will be looking at issues such as the effects of extreme heat and air pollution on health; and the impact of  climate change on infectious disease in Africa. We hope your deliberations will  identify policy and research priorities for Southern and East Africa that will assist to direct local health action to combat the global challenge of climate change.


I thank you


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