Picture: REUTERS/PETER ANDREWS
Picture: REUTERS/PETER ANDREWS

Transition to a more sustainable and resilient society can no longer be a long-term goal. The time has come to take concrete action to address the issues of climate change and biodiversity loss worldwide. This urgency is now reflected in the packed international agenda about these issues.

This week is the opening of the UN Biodiversity conference in China, which aims at elevating the protection of biodiversity to the same level as that of the climate. Then, the beginning of November will see a critical moment in global climate action when the COP26 summit takes place in Glasgow.

Ahead of these summits, SA and France have been hard at work to facilitate our journey towards a low-carbon economy and a climate-resilient society that protects biodiversity. This partnership has been a key priority for France and will continue to be.

Last month, climate envoys from France, Germany, the UK the EU and the US met SA leaders to discuss financing options and support that can enable SA to reduce its dependence on coal. As I visit SA, we look forward to further exploring opportunities and to strengthen our partnerships in this field as we move towards COP26.

France recognises the challenges and the social impact of the transition and the significant support necessary to ensure that no-one is left behind. The “just” part of the transition is crucial and the inclusion of local communities is the key element to make this a success.

France also sees SA’s potential and commitment to a greener future, for its own citizens and the rest of the world. Now the world’s 12th-biggest emitter of greenhouse gases, SA has prioritised efforts to reduce its carbon footprint, but it needs further, continued support. France and the EU stand ready.

Mpumalanga communities

SA has made it clear that its ambitious, revised nationally determined contribution to mitigating greenhouse gas emissions, submitted under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, will need concrete support from developed countries.

As France, we are already involved in various energy technologies in SA and successful renewable programmes to bring in private power developers. The French development agency is also providing support to communities in Mpumalanga to transition away from coal.

On biodiversity, France partners with SA National Parks (SANParks) and SA National Biodiversity Institute (Sanbi) on many projects. We strongly believe that these partnerships and the sharing of knowledge and skills will greatly benefit our countries and the fights against our shared environment challenges.

We want to go even further. While the world focuses on COP26 and its impact on our global future, the just energy transition for South Africans locally and the protection of its biodiversity is of particular significance. A successful transition could cause SA to stand as a model for other coal-reliant nations and elevate it as a leading country in the fight against climate change.

Furthermore, an energy transition has the potential not only to reduce carbon emissions, but increase energy supply security for the growth of the country. The transformation of Eskom’s coal-reliant power grid will be key in addressing both environmental issues and shortages affecting South Africans nationwide. SA’s biodiversity provides and invaluable foundation for the country’s economy and forms an important basis for development.

Of course, this road of a just transition is not an easy one — and no country can ride it alone. That is why trust, long-term partnerships, inclusiveness, action and solidarity are the tenets of the SA-French relations.

• Pompili is French minister of ecological transition.

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