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Response to climate change

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The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the Kyoto Protocol were adopted because of worldwide concern over climate change.  South Africa signed the UNFCCC in 1994 and ratified it in 1997.  In terms of its responsibilities under Article 12 of the convention, South Africa completed its Initial National Communication in 2004.  This report documents South Africa’s greenhouse gas inventory (as currently available) and indicates the contributions of different sectors to total greenhouse gas emissions. 
 
A National Committee on Climate Change (NCCC) has also been established, comprising representatives from a number of affected sectors, government departments, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs).
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Climate change response strategy

A National Climate Change Response Strategy for South Africa was compiled in 2004, which aimed to address issues identified as priorities for dealing with climate change in the country.  It also supports the policies and principles laid out in the government’s White Paper on Integrated Pollution and Waste Management of 1998, as well as other national policies including those relating to energy, agriculture, and water. 
 
The focus of the strategy is on the following areas: adapting to climate change; developing a sustainable energy programme; adopting an integrated response by the relevant government departments; compiling inventories of greenhouse gases; accessing and managing financial resources; and research, education, and training. 
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Kyoto Protocol

The Kyoto Protocol was adopted on 10 December 1997.  It aims to reduce the effects of climate change by reducing the emissions of six greenhouse gases: carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), hydrofluorocarbons (HFC), perfluorocarbons (PFC), and sulphur hexafluoride (SF6). 
 
 This protocol is an international agreement among industrialized countries as well as countries in transition to a market economy (mainly in eastern Europe).  Developed countries that are parties to the protocol are legally bound to reduce their collective emissions of greenhouse gases by at least 5% below 1990 levels during the treaty’s ‘first commitment period’ (2008–2012). 
 
South Africa acceded to the Kyoto Protocol in 2002 but, as a developing country, it is not currently required to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions.  However, during the second commitment period, which begins in 2012, South Africa may need to make commitments to cut back.
 
 The Kyoto Protocol also establishes an emissions trading regime and a "clean development mechanism" (CDM).  Currently, responsibilities in terms of the UNFCCC are largely limited to the reporting of South Africa’s greenhouse gas emissions on a sectoral basis and the formulation of adaptation plans.
 
 The Kyoto Protocol came into force on 16 February 2005.  As of September 2005, a total of 157 countries (representing 67% of total global anthropogenic emissions) have ratified the agreement.  Notable exceptions are Australia and the United States of America.
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This page was last updated 09/01/2007