Pretoria – Government has defended the South African delegation sent to United Nations Climate Change Conference in Germany, saying it included the very best capacity in the country.
Responding to criticism over the composition of the team representing SA in Bonn, the Department of Environmental Affairs said policy governing the selection of the SA delegation for UN climate change meetings and Conferences of Parties was constituted with representatives of government, business, civil society, labour and local government representatives. It also included representatives with specific skills, particularly from the South African scientific community.
Earlier, NGO Groundwork had criticised the inclusion of representatives from Sasol and Eskom in the delegation, questioning how “the two companies that together account for the majority of South Africa’s emissions and who did so profitably”, could be tasked with charting a low-carbon future for the country.
Groundwork said South African civil society organisations participating in the meeting were concerned about the criteria guiding the construction of the delegation, adding that there was no civil society representative of the negotiating team.
However, the department said that once representatives from sectors outside government became part of the delegation, they operated under strict codes of conduct and discipline.
“This policy that draws on expertise from across society in general was agreed to in 2004 at the National Committee on Climate Change to enable the South African delegation to include very best capacity in the country.
“Since then, there have been members of the delegation drawn from a wide range of sectors like academic, business and NGO communities. It is crucial to also add that at the COP itself, our delegation has also included parliamentarians and local government representatives,” it added.
In order to broaden access to negotiations by civil society, it has been the practice – finance permitting – for government to pay for trade union, youth and women organisations, the department pointed out.
“The basis of the inclusion is that all of these individuals represent the SA government, not their respective organizations, and are bound by the country position. The view of government is that the current team has been of benefit to the SA negotiating position,” the department said. – BuaNews