If you have visited the website of any environmental organisation recently, or been accosted by someone in a shopping mall encouraging you to join Greenpeace, or read the environment pages of the Mail and Guardian, it is very likely that you will have seen reference to the Copenhagen conference, a pivotal negotiation on climate change due to take place in December 2009.

South Africa, and most countries around the world (including the United States) signed the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change at the Rio Earth Summit in 1992.  This framework agreement commits signatories to preventing “dangerous” human interference with the climate system, but has no binding commitments, which come in the form of protocols.  So far only one exists – the Kyoto Protocol, named after the city in Japan where it was signed in 1997.  The Kyoto Protocol commits developed countries to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by 8-12% on 1990 levels by 2008-2012 (known as the first commitment period), but contains no commitments for developing countries, including China (which recently overtook the US in terms of share of global emissions).  This was the reason cited for the withdrawal of the US from this protocol in 2001.

As the first commitment period draws to a close, negotiations are underway for a successor to the Kyoto Protocol – which will be finalised in Copenhagen.  Current indications suggest a similar “cap and trade” arrangement, whereby countries have a target which they can reach through  mechanisms including carbon trading – but that the big 5 developing country emitters – Brazil, China, India, Mexico and South Africa – will have a reduction commitment for the first time.

As the 17th largest emitter of greenhouse gas emissions in the world, South Africa unilaterally signalled its commitment to reducing carbon emissions with the launch of the Long Term Mitigation Scenarios in 2008, which describe four strategic options for reducing carbon emissions over the period to 2050, and form the basis for discussion of national climate policy, as well as inputs to the South Africa negotiators at Copenhagen.

If you want to find out more about climate change and your business, please contact the team at Kulima Solutions. Kulima Solutions is a specialist Sustainable Development and Corporate Social Responsibility Consultancy whose principals are:

Katharine Vincent, BA Hons. (Oxford), MREs (University of East Anglia), PhD (University of East Anglia)
Email:  katharine.vincent@gmail.com, Phone: 072 1964525.

Tracy Cull, B. Soc. Sci. Hons (University of Natal, Durban)
Email: tracymcull@gmail.com, Phone: 082 820 660