By Claire Tucker Tuesday, October 07, 2014

South Africa ratified the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in August 1997 and acceded to the Kyoto Protocol in July 2002. As South Africa is classified as a non-Annex I country, it is not required to meet targets and timetables for emission reductions in the Kyoto Protocol. The first commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol ended in 2012.

Heavier burdens are placed on developed nations (or Annex I countries) than on developing countries under the principle of ‘common but differentiated responsibilities’. Despite being classified as a non-Annex I country, at the Conference of Parties in Copenhagen in 2010, South Africa committed to lowering its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to 34 per cent below current expected levels by 2020 and 42 per cent below current trends by 2025.

This commitment is conditional on a fair, ambitious and effective international climate change agreement being reached and financial and technological support being provided by developed countries. The UNFCCC and Kyoto Protocol provide for several flexible mechanisms to enable developed countries, with emission-reduction commitments, to partially meet their commitments through investment in other countries. The continuation of the Kyoto Protocol was secured at the Conference of Parties meeting in Durban, South Africa, in December 2011.

The second commitment period under the Kyoto Protocol began on 1 January 2013 and in terms of the Doha Amendment will end on 31 December 2020. The Doha Amendment is subject to the acceptance by Parties to the Kyoto Protocol and South Africa is yet to accept the Doha Amendment. The clean development mechanism (CDM) (article 12 of the Protocol) enables developed countries or private companies to invest in GHG reduction projects in developing nations, thus earning saleable certified emission reduction credits (CERs), each equivalent to one tonne of CO2. CDM project financers can acquire these CERs to sell to signatory countries or private parties with emission targets or commitments.

South Africa has established a designated national authority (DNA) under the Department of Energy (DoE), to consider and approve CDM applications that will result in GHG emission reductions. This process is governed by regulations published under the National Environmental Management Act 1998 (the CDM Regulations). South Africa produces significant CO2 emissions and is part of the G5 group (countries with emerging economies). While South Africa has the 33rd highest GDP in the world (as at 2013), it faces immense socioeconomic barriers, with a 25.5 per cent unemployment rate and inequitable distributions of wealth.

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