Climate change is proving to be one of the most disputed issues at this year's G8 Summit - and one that the South African president is keen to discuss in his role as G8 outreach delegate. Thabo Mabaso looks at South Africa's own climate prospects.
Charles Abani, the regional director of Oxfam Southern Africa, says a two per cent increase in temperature over the next five years will damage efforts to achieve meaningful economic development in the country.
“If South Africa does not wake up, it is sitting on a powder keg,” he said today.
“The country needs to show leadership by beginning to reduce its own greenhouse gas emissions and by leading the call for the West to pay compensatory finance for the damage they have done to the climate.”
Climate change is one of the topics that will preoccupy the G8 leaders this week. At issue are concerns that increased greenhouse gas emissions have damaged the global climate.
Civil society and non-government groups have called on rich nations – especially the United States and European Union - to cut their emissions and provide finance to compensate for the damage they have already caused.
Oxfam estimates that the total cost of adapting to climate change could be in the region of $50 billion. Abani says the consequences of gradual climate change are already being felt in Southern Africa.
“We’ve already begun to see changes that are not typical in the weather cycle. Southern Africa is now prone to cyclones, floods and chronic drought, making millions vulnerable to poverty and hunger. If these weather patterns persist, people in poorer countries of Southern Africa will migrate to the only country with an industrial base in the region, South Africa.”
He added that this could put a strain on – and eventually damage – the South African economy.
Germany, the chair and host of this year’s G8, has put the issue of climate change at the heart of the summit agenda. German Chancellor Angela Merkel, has called for a 30 per cent reduction in emissions by all nations.
But organisations like Oxfam are not happy with this proposal. They insist that industrialised countries need to urgently focus their efforts on adopting renewable energy sources.
They also have called on the United States to pay 44 per cent of the cost of adapting to the impact of climate change, while European countries should bear 37 per cent of the cost, they say.
Max Lawson, a senior policy advisor at Oxfam, says time is running out and the G8 must act soon to cope with the consequences of climate change.
“We are already seeing poor people in developing countries suffering the effects of climate change. They can’t wait for the results of a parade of different country initiatives. They need the G8 to provide money now to help them adapt to climate change, while at the same time agreeing on measures to cut emissions and limit global warming to as far below two degrees as possible,” he said.