We live in a time of apprehension, prevalent poverty, and a changing planet, but this can also be a time of hope. Pope Francis finds hope in COP21. This is the upcoming 21st annual gathering of 1961 nations to discuss the urgent action that must be taken to confront climate change. Following his Laudato Si encyclical Pope Francis has expressed his “… hope that a fundamental basic agreement is reached.”2
The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change has focused on greenhouse gas (GHG) mitigation strategies since its first meeting in 19943. To prepare for COP21, each nation will submit an Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDC) which outlines the commitments each country will make to keep global temperature from rising.4 However, climate is already changing and some INDCs also include the crucial element of adaptation.
S. Africa is a developing nation that has taken initiative, framing its INDC in the context of eliminating poverty. With floods, fluctuation in precipitation and extreme storm events S. Africa is experiencing the detrimental impacts of climate change. Its INDC focuses on strategies to adapt to these climate change hazards, in addition to meeting GHG emission targets.
S. Africa has a “peak, plateau, decline” mitigation strategy and expects emissions to peak between 2020 and 2025 and remain between 398 and 614 Mt CO2-eq from 2025 to 2030. Its plan to increase investment in a renewable energy sector will help achieve these goals.
The nation’s six adaptation strategies encompass all aspects of society:
- Construct a National Adaptation Plan that is implemented across sectors
- Pursue national development with sustainability in mind
- Increase the legislative focus on climate concerns
- Create a vulnerability monitoring and early warning system
- Develop a vulnerability assessment enabling a continuous understanding of necessary adaptations
- Expand environmental communications on local and international scales5
COP21’s concrete goal to create a legally binding agreement to keep global temperature from increasing 2° Celsius6 is commendable. As France’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development, Laurent Fabius proclaims “…we are the first generation to really become aware of the problem and yet the last generation that can deal with it.”7 We live in a unique time in which we are all being called to action. Countries like S. Africa provide powerful examples as they take responsibility not only for GHG reduction but also for adaptations that save lives and improve livelihoods in this changing world.
1. “Negotiating Bodies.” unfccc.int
2. Freedman, Andrew. “Pope Francis has ‘great hope’ that Paris climate summit will succeed.”
3. “COP – What’s it all about?” cop21paris.org
4. “What is an INDC?” World Resources Institute
5. “South Africa’s Intended Nationally Determine Contribution (INDC).” unfccc.int
6. “COP – What’s it all about?” cop21paris.org
7. Fabius, Laurent. “Laurent Fabius introduces Paris 2015 – COP21/CMP11.” cop21.org