Climate change and pandemic need an inclusive, global push

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As South Africans, we have come to appreciate the strength of diversity. The culture of tolerance and respect for others underpins our democracy and is enriched by the diversity of language, race, religion, culture, sexual orientation and political beliefs in our country.

The benefits of diversity are equally true in the international sphere. Humankind has advanced by building on intellectual and material developments from different political, economic and cultural systems. Thus we embrace an inclusive international order where multiple viewpoints about what constitutes the good life may thrive.

It is in this context that SA was honoured to be invited as a guest to the Group of Seven (G7) summit last weekend. In discussing the summits special theme on “Open Societies”, I said the concept of open societies must mean respect for other nations diversity in democratic models, institutional arrangements, economic systems and developmental approaches.

The Covid-19 pandemic has revealed fault lines in our societies that have been ignored for too long. Protests across the world have also reminded us that the struggle for racial and economic justice is far from complete. Now more than ever we are reminded of the importance of a global human rights agenda that tackles social and economic injustice, systemic racism and gender inequality.

To emerge from this crisis and achieve a robust economic recovery demands that we act with solidarity and a common purpose. In Africa, a generation of economic growth now stands imperilled by the pandemic.

Lacking fiscal space, many African governments have not been able to inject sufficient resources to sustain economic activity. The agreement by G7 finance ministers and central bank governors to support a new $650bn allocation of IMF special drawing rights (SDRs) to all its members provides a critically needed pillar of the global recovery.

Proportionate to their quotas, African countries will receive an estimated $33bn of this allocation. Acknowledging that this would not be sufficient to support the continents recovery, and that rich countries do not need their full quotas of this new liquidity, calls have been made for Africa to receive at least $162bn (25%) of the allocation.

The pledge by G7 countries for $100bn to be made available to developing economies is a step in the right direction. The additional resources pledged by G7 development finance institutions and their multilateral partners to invest in the private sector in Africa will set our economies on a path of growth fuelled by home-grown entrepreneurship.

The measures announced by G7 leaders to support vaccination are integral to the continents recovery. The countries of the G7 have stepped up their commitments to various initiatives for donating vaccines, diversifying production of Covid-19 vaccines and other medical tools across the world. Whereas many rich countries have achieved a high degree of Covid-19 vaccine coverage, Africa has so far vaccinated only 2% of its people. The almost 1-billion additional doses offered by the G7 to underserved areas, including Africa, is an important element of the strategy towards closing this unconscionable disparity.

Addressing the intellectual property barriers and enabling the transfer of technology and know-how is fundamental for scaling up the manufacture of vaccines, medical products and equipment. Developing economies must also be able to participate across the whole value chain, beginning with raw materials and including distribution rights.

The international community has a moral responsibility to develop a multilateral response to this pandemic. It is unsustainable for Africa to import 99% of its vaccine needs. Concerted effort is needed to develop Africas manufacturing capacities to produce vaccines, diagnostics and therapeutics. It is also imperative that we find ways of acquiring vaccines through sharing, donation and manufacturing.

To this end, we are calling on members of the World Trade Organization (WTO) to engage in good-faith, solution-orientated discussions and conclude text-based negotiations on the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (Trips) waiver as a matter of urgency. This waiver should cover vaccines, diagnostics and therapeutics. We seek to highlight that this is a temporary, targeted and proportional response that recognises the unprecedented nature of the pandemic.

We welcome the renewed unity and commitment of the G7 countries to help address the climate change crisis and look forward to a successful outcome to the Conference of the Parties 26 (COP26). As a developing economy, we have taken some ambitious and progressive national actions to contribute our best effort to the global cause of addressing climate change under the auspices of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). African countries are among the leaders in ambition, despite their development challenges and carrying the least responsibility for causing climate change.

Adaptation and responding to the loss and damage already caused by climate change are critically important to Africa, and specifically the least developed countries and small island developing states. Scientists tell us the African continent is warming faster than other parts of the world and is thus particularly vulnerable to climate changes devastating effects. The on-the-ground realities of an already changing climate and Africas capacity constraints clearly demonstrate that Africa has special needs and circumstances that need to be recognised under the UNFCCCs Paris Agreement.

For these reasons and as the originator of the Paris Agreement through the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action, SA underscores the need for all parties to fully implement the agreement. Equal importance needs to be given to the three global goals on mitigation, adaptation and support for developing economies, with full transparency on both action and support.

With the able leadership of the UK as COP26 president, we have full confidence that trust among parties will be built in accordance with the UNFCCCs practice of inclusivity and transparency. We need a consensus-based and party-driven process, where all voices are heard and no-one is left behind.

It is important that the right of developing economies to policy space and sufficient time to achieve a just transition be respected. We should be careful not to advocate one-size-fits-all approaches to disinvestment from fossil fuels or impose nontariff barriers or discriminatory taxes that would unfairly harm developing economies.

We look forward to engaging at multilateral forums such as COP26 and the WTO on these and other matters as we strive to usher in a period of inclusive and sustainable development.

• Ramaphosa is SA president.


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