Minister Edna Molewa’s opening statement during the High-Level Segment of the Second Session of the United Nations Environment Assembly (of UNEP)

The President of the United Nations Environment Assembly of UNEP,

Your Excellencies,

The Executive Director of UNEP,

The Deputy Executive Director of UNEP

Ladies and Gentlemen.

It is a privilege to address you on this important occasion. Discussions and decisions made at UNEA will guide the global environmental agenda going forward.

South Africa fully aligns itself with the Statements made by the Egypt on behalf of the Africa Group and by Argentina on behalf of G77 and China.

First, let me start by extending my appreciation to the government of our host country, Kenya and its People for their warm hospitality. On behalf of South Africa, I congratulate you, on your election as the President of the second session of the UNEA.

It would be amiss if I do not acknowledge the role of Mr Achim Steiner, the outgoing Executive Director of UNEP, whose inspiration and dedication has influenced how the international community addresses global environmental challenges. We thank you for your passionate leadership and wish you well in your future endeavours.

Following the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development by the United Nations General Assembly in September 2015 and the Paris Agreement in December 2015, the theme of this second session of UNEA “Delivering on the environmental dimension of the Post-2015 Development Agenda”cannot be more relevant. The implementation of these agreements will be key in addressing the ever-increasing global environmental challenges of our times and they re-commit the international community to a strengthened global partnership, bolstered by the necessary means of implementation to deliver on these sustainable development imperatives towards a sustainable future.

Mr Chair, at the AMCEN meeting held recently, we had agreed to cooperate in strengthening regional and national capacity for the implementation of the environmental dimension of Agenda 2063 and the Sustainable Development Goals as well as our own national development plans, in an integrated manner. In this regard, we call on the strengthening of existing regional institutional mechanisms in support of Agenda 2063.

In this regard, we reiterate our strong view that Adaptation must be given equal priority, as agreed in Paris. As the African countries we remain most vulnerable if Adaptation is not prioritised and implemented. We therefore urge the developed countries to ensure that the Means of Implementation is equally prioritised and provided.

The implementation of South Africa’s National Development Plan (NDP) at national and local level remains the cornerstone of our fight against the challenges of poverty, inequality, unemployment and sustainability. The SDGs, which fully align with our NDP objectives, enable us to build seamlessly from the MDGs.

In this regard, South Africa would like to reaffirm that we are in the process of ratification of the Paris Agreement and will be ready to implement our INDCs by 2020, as well as implementing our pre 2020 actions.

Mr President, in response to the call to turn our plans into action, partnerships and mobilisation of resources are critical in realising the SDGs.To this end we must implement the Addis Ababa Action Agenda (AAAA), adopted in July 2015, which is aimed at addressing the challenges of financing and creating an enabling environment at all levels for Sustainable Development, in the spirit of global partnership and solidarity.

The discussions at this gathering will underpin the important work that we are doing at the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HPLF) which provides political guidance and leadership for the implementation of the SDG’s.

Mr President, we need to decouple environmental degradation from economic growth in order to sustainably develop within planetary limits. The Reports by UNEP and the discussions emanating from the High-Level Segment will go a long way in us further understanding and implementing this path towards a sustainable future.

For South Africa and the SADC region, the illegal trade in wildlife remains a major concern, but I can assure you, Mr President, that with collaboration amongst our countries and strengthening of our enforcement capacities as well as enactment of tighter laws and systems established and implemented by all of us, we will triumph.

During the CITES COP17, scheduled to take place in South Africa in September 2016, we will ensure that in line with SDG 12 and 15, we tackle some critical wildlife challenges and opportunities. As a country, South Africa remains committed to addressing wildlife crimes in their entirety, including rhino poaching and the assistance of the international community in this regard is much appreciated.

Lastly Mr President, the importance of gender mainstreaming in environmental policy cannot be over-stated. This is acknowledged in SDG 5 stressing Gender equality and women’s empowerment. We therefore encourage the implementation of the ECOSOC resolution 2008/34 which encourages mainstreaming a gender perspective into all policies and programmes in the United National System including UNEA. This morning, the Network of Women Ministers and Leaders for the Environment undertook to propose a Resolution for consideration at UNEA with the view to accomplish this goal.

Mr President, we assure you of our support as we grapple with these critical environmental issues and we look forward to your leadership for a successful Assembly.

I thank you.

Source: Department of Environmental Affairs, Republic of South Africa

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