Remarks by President Cyril Ramaphosa at the Climate Ambition Summit, New York, USA, 20 September 2023

Remarks by President Cyril Ramaphosa at the Climate Ambition Summit, New York, USA, 20 September 2023


President of the UN General Assembly, Amb Dennis Francis,

UN Secretary-General, Mr António Guterres,

Your Excellencies,


We have witnessed with increasing alarm the effects of climate change, environmental degradation, unsustainable production and resource scarcity on human health and well-being.


As countries across the globe seek practical ways to build back better from the COVID-19 pandemic and multiple crises, we are presented with an unprecedented opportunity to set the global economy on a more equitable, environmentally sustainable and low-carbon developmental trajectory.


Despite having little responsibility for causing global warming, Africa is warming faster than the rest of the world. Like other parts of the Global South, the continent is significantly affected by climate change.


As such, climate actions cannot be separated from the drive for sustainable and inclusive development.


The science sends a clear message that the world is not on track to meet the goals contained in the Paris Agreement.


This Climate Ambition Summit must therefore instil the necessary urgency and propel the actions that we need now to prevent the destruction of our planet and the devastation of our societies.


Developed economy countries in particular must act with urgency to accelerate the reduction of emissions, fulfil their obligations and honour past promises.


Earlier this month, African leaders adopted the Nairobi Declaration on Climate Change and Call to Action, which recognises that decarbonising the global economy is an opportunity to contribute to equality and shared prosperity.


To achieve this vision of economic transformation, African leaders have called on the international community to support efforts to massively increase Africa’s renewable energy capacity by 2030.


They are seeking investment in smart, digital and efficient green technologies to decarbonise the transport, industrial and electricity sectors in African countries.


They have called for support to strengthen actions to halt and reverse biodiversity loss, deforestation and desertification. And to boost agricultural yields through sustainable agricultural practices.


Structural reform is needed to promote transitions that are just and inclusive.


Global and regional trade mechanisms must enable products from Africa to compete on fair and equitable terms. Trade-related environmental tariffs and non-tariff barriers must be the product of multilateral agreements. They must not be unilateral, arbitrary or discriminatory.


The multilateral financial system must build resilience to climate shocks and better leverage the balance sheets of multilateral development banks to scale up concessional finance. Developing economy countries also require new, predictable public finance to support climate adaptation and build resilience to loss and damage.


The system needs to provide interventions for debt management and relief to prevent debt default. The actions necessary now must not place an undue burden on the citizens of tomorrow.


Financing for climate action should respect the right of all countries to pursue their own development pathways while taking into account their specific national circumstances.


As South Africa implements its ambitious Nationally Determined Contribution, which is aligned to the Paris Agreement temperature goals, we see new opportunities for green growth and development.


With abundant solar and wind resources, with significant reserves of critical minerals, South Africa is positioning itself to be a leader in renewable energy, green hydrogen and sustainable industrialisation.


Due to regulatory changes and a surge of investment, South Africa has a confirmed pipeline of renewable energy projects in development that are expected to produce in excess of 10 gigawatts of electricity.


South Africa has established a Just Transition Framework to ensure that climate actions adhere to principles of procedural, restorative and distributive justice.


We are committed to building resilience to the impact of climate change and reducing our emissions in ways that are appropriate to our national circumstances and development pathways.


As South Africa, and as the African continent, we are working to give substance to our assertion that no country should ever have to choose between development aspirations and climate action.


This Summit must demonstrate that the leaders of the world are committed to ambitious climate actions that are inclusive, comprehensive and leave no one behind.


I thank you.


Issued by: The Presidency