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COP21: SA delegation happy with Paris agreement

The accord represents the world’s first universal climate deal.

Environmental activists and supporters take part in a rally calling for action on climate change in New York on 29 November, 2015, a day before the start of the COP21 conference in Paris. Picture: AFP.

PARIS - South Africa has hailed the Paris agreement, signed on the weekend at the COP21 climate talks after nearly two weeks of intense negotiations as an enormous success.

The accord represents the world's first universal climate deal, which includes all countries in the fight against climate change and its impacts.

Environmental affairs minister Edna Molewa said, "This deal actually puts confidence, first of all, in our country's ability now to say we're one and one with the whole world. The universal agreement that will ensure that it's not only South Africa but all of us are going to act on climate emission reduction."

Molewa said the deal is not perfect but it's a good foundation for future action.

"I just wish I could jump high now, I haven't thought about the celebration, but even if it's screaming in the room."

Molewas was speaking just after the agreement was adopted.

She said the hard work now begins, making sure the elements of the deal are implemented.

On Saturday, the global climate summit in Paris produced a landmark accord that set the course for an historic transformation of the world's fossil fuel-driven economy within decades in a bid to arrest global warming.

"This accord isn't perfect," Xie told reporters late on Saturday following the talks. "There are parts of it that need to be improved. But this doesn't affect the fact that history has taken a huge step forward, and so we are satisfied.

"It should provide a lot of impetus for China's own green, low-carbon development and as we implement it, it will promote our own domestic sustainable development," he added.

Throughout the negotiations, Chinese delegates repeated the mantra of "differentiation, transparency and ambition" as the key interlocking elements of any deal, and also sought to ensure that China's sovereignty remained intact.

China, in the midst of a painful economic restructuring programme that has slowed growth, sought to maintain as much policy flexibility at home as it could, particularly on the thorny issue of five-year reviews, arguing that any adjustments to its 2020-2030 climate goals should be voluntary.

Beijing helped secure an exception to the five-year review with a multi-track system that said "developing countries shall be provided flexibility" and could make the reviews optional, though Chinese officials said they were still assessing the details. Details such as how national emissions-reduction efforts will be measured and verified, another issue that put the United States and China at odds, are yet to be worked out.

In Beijing, foreign minister spokesman Hong Lei said the Paris agreement was a "new starting point for international cooperation on climate change".

On financing, regarded as a crucial factor, China was less pleased as the deal in its view did little to meet and extend a previous pledge for the industrialised world to provide at least $100 billion a year to poorer nations by 2020.

"On funding, we aren't that satisfied, especially when it comes to pre-2020 funding which is relatively weak," said Zou Ji, deputy director of China's National Centre for Climate Change Strategy, a government think tank.

"On post-2020 funding, they have written in the principle that developed countries have to provide support to developing countries but there are a lot of specifics that were impossible to put in the agreement."