President Jacob Zuma: Statement to the Opening Session of the Twenty First Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change

Your Excellency, President Hollande,

Excellencies, Your Majesties, Your Royal Highnesses,

We thank President Hollande and his government for the excellent organisation of this significant Twenty First Conference of the Parties of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Paris has become a symbol of global human solidarity following the shocking terrorist attacks.

We reiterate our deepest condolences to the government and people of France.

Our thoughts are also with all other nations that have faced tragic terror attacks in the recent past. Global unity and action against terrorism within the ambit of the United Nations is imperative and urgent.


COP 21 is of immense importance to South Africa as it builds on the historic and bold decisions that were taken at COP 17 in Durban in 2011.

Our mandate from Durban includes three critical areas: closing the ambition gap in the pre-2020 period, urgent entry into force of the Doha Amendment to the Kyoto Protocol, and the adoption of a new agreement for the post-2020 period.

Paris must deliver a legally binding agreement which is based on equity and differentiation, and which will enable ambitious implementation actions through the provision of finance, technology and capacity-building support from developed countries.

Since developing countries already experience climate change impacts, the Paris agreement cannot focus only on mitigation. A Global Goal for Adaptation must be part of the agreement.

Solidarity with developing countries that suffer loss and damage also needs to be reflected in the agreement.

We urge developed countries, given their historical responsibility, to take the lead and honour their existing commitments.

In this regard, climate finance must be scaled up significantly beyond the one hundred billion US dollar mark for the post-2020 period. Climate finance is not aid or Official Development Assistance. It is a legal obligation to support all developing countries under the UN Convention.

Should the developed nations fail to play their part, an impression will be created that the climate change crisis was caused by a few privileged nations who are not sympathetic about its impact on the majority.

South Africa has released an ambitious Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC) which is in accordance with our national circumstances and priorities. These include poverty eradication, job creation, energy security and environmental protection.

The INDCs of the members of the Group of 77 plus China, which we have privilege to chair, also reflect the overriding priorities of poverty eradication and the need for sustainable development.


This historic gathering provides an opportunity to fulfil the mandate from Durban and make COP 21 a turning point in our fight against climate change.

We must succeed for the sake of future generations.

I thank you.