Minister defends makeup of SA delegation to COP21
Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa has responded to reports criticising the size of South Africa’s delegation to the COP21 conference in Paris and the costs involved. Molewa says the reports appear to have been based on an outdated and subsequently revised delegation list.She said media reports had contained incorrect information regarding the size of the delegation‚ delegates who were not at the conference or only at the opening and did not attend the full conference‚ and about officials actually based in Paris but who were claimed to have travelled from South Africa.Some reports put the number of South African delegates at the conference at as many as 139.The minister provided no figures‚ but urged media houses‚ in the interests of accuracy‚ to contact the department directly for correct information.She added that the Department of Environmental Affairs strictly complied with the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA)‚ and all the necessary regulations‚ as well as the recent cost cutting measures agreed to by Cabinet.As directed by Cabinet‚ the National Treasury memorandum elaborates on all flight‚ accommodation and other measures to be taken to ensure reasonable government expenditure‚ Molewa pointed out."I want to personally assure all stakeholders and the South African public at large that each and every official attending COP21 on behalf of the South African government was there because they are a vital part of our team; they have done sterling work in the years‚ weeks and days leading up to the conference‚ as well as during the conference itself‚" Molewa stated.She lauded all the delegates attending COP21 on behalf of South Africa."They have served their country with distinction‚ especially our teams of negotiators. We are ever mindful that we represent every South African‚ and I am immensely proud of what we have achieved‚" she stated.Molewa added that the Departments of Environmental Affairs and International Relations intended holding a public briefing to report to the nation on South Africa's achievements at COP21‚ to which members of the media would be invited.“The Department has kept the South African public abreast of developments at COP21 with regular updates. Also as part of our mandate to keep South Africans informed of the work of the South African team‚ the Department sponsored travel for a number of journalists to attend COP21.“Climate change is an economic‚ social and environmental challenge requiring political leadership and co-ordination across all sectors and spheres of government‚ as well as engagement with leaders of business‚ labour‚ civil society and research institutions‚” Molewa said.She said the South African delegation was representative of all key national departments‚ local and provincial government‚ members of Parliament and other key stakeholder groupings.“As current chair of the G77 plus China‚ South Africa played a key role negotiating on behalf of the developing countries of the world‚ as well as in our capacity as part of the Africa Group.“Our team of negotiators has been instrumental in advancing positions around finance‚ technology and capacity building required to tackle climate change‚” Molewa stated.On Saturday‚ she added‚ the South African team‚ together with Ministers and delegates from more than 196 countries were expected to conclude a new ambitious‚ fair and effective multilateral legal instrument‚ applicable to all parties.“We are also engaging actively in the negotiations on pre 2020 implementation programmes.“The work done by the South African team at COP21 was the culmination of a four-year negotiating process: to ensure a favourable outcome for South Africa‚ Africa and the world in battling one of the biggest global challenges of the century."Considering that this agreement will provide the legal basis for addressing one of the biggest challenges the world has ever faced; it is unfortunate that the seriousness and magnitude of what we have achieved is being downplayed‚" Molewa said.She added that the full delegation itinerary for COP21 would be put on the Department's website in due course to enable all South Africans to understand the processes that preceded the conference outcome."This agreement was reached after many long hours spent working around the clock‚ on complex multiple parallel work streams‚ and through attendance and participation in a number of formal and informal meetings‚ negotiations and consultation sessions and side events. We should be proud that we have managed to ensure that we as a country were fully represented across all aspects of this historic conference."Each and every delegate attending COP21 on behalf of South Africa played their part in ensuring an active and vigorous participation in the negotiations. Whether they were support staff or negotiators‚ without them we would not have achieved what we have - namely an ambitious‚ fair and effective legally binding outcome of which we as all South Africans can be proud‚" Molewa stated.