PRETORIA, Aug 30 (NNN-BUANEWS) -- South African International Relations and Co-operation Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane says the role of labour movements in helping the government to mitigate the effects of climate change will be crucial as South Africa prepares to host the global climate summit later this year.
Nkoana-Mashabane met with various labour representatives, headed by the country's two major unions -- the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) and Federation of Unions of South Africa (Fedusa) -- here Monday to brief labour on the government's position ahead of the summit to be held in Durban from Nov 28 to Dec 9.
South Africa is this year's host to the 17th Conference of the Parties (COP17) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), and the country hopes to follow on the relative progress made at last year's negotiations in Cancun, Mexico. It is expected that approximately 20,000 people will attend COP17.
Experts have argued that previous climate talks have been weakened by the lack of a formal role for businesses and labour. Authorities say there is a growing appreciation of the emerging role that labour and business can play in mitigating and adapting to climate change.
"We want to work with you because together, we believe we can address common concerns ... without labour, we cannot achieve adaptation and mitigation goals," Nkoana-Mashabane said.
The meeting with labour followed similar gatherings between government, the business sector and civil society in the past few of weeks.
"We are of the view that the majority of people who will have to adapt to climate change is the workers themselves and it is important that we have many robust engagement in ensuring that we bring out the strongest Team South Africa to take us to Durban," said Nkoana-Mashabane.
She highlighted the need for trade unions to mobilise their members towards a common climate deal "that will benefit all of us".
"People are looking at us as country and it is therefore imperative that when we leave Durban, we have a fully fledged adaptation committee that labour can be part of."
COP17 presented South Africa's labour movements with an opportunity to address the concerns of workers on issues of climate change that have led to massive job cuts in the agricultural sector, said the minister.
"We are all aware that the changes in environment are directly affecting the agricultural sector, particularly subsistence farming. It is therefore crucial for government and labour and indeed business that we work together to find solutions to the current challenges that we are facing as a country and as the world," Nkoana-Mashabane said.
Cosatu's David Macati accepted that the involvement of labour organizations in climate change negotiations was crucial to address both mitigation and adaptation.
"Climate change talks start and end with the unions. Any decision that is taken after the talks directly affects the workers and we say you don't do anything for us without us," he said.
The conference in Durban takes place at a time when the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which bound nearly 40 countries to specific emission reductions targets, is set to expire in 2012.
Both labour and the department agreed that the Durban summit should, among others, result in countries signing up for a second commitment period to cut emissions beyond 2012. -- NNN-BUANEWS