8 of 17: South Africa’s leaders on COP17

In the 8th article in our series of 17 Sustainable Ideas for COP17, we share the statements made by the Mayor of Cape Town and Durban as well as the President of South Africa, Jacob Zuma, in the lead up to COP17. Joe Peach of This Big City looks at the key statements made by each leader.

In a country which still generates 90% of its electricity from burning coal, acting on sustainability is clearly yet to become a major priority in South Africa. But the country’s leaders are watching COP17 closely. President of South Africa, Jacob Zuma, got straight into the subject during his opening address:

For most people in the developing world and Africa, climate change is a matter of life and death. Durban must take us many steps forward towards a solution that saves tomorrow today.

President Zuma also addressed the failings of the Kyoto Protocol, and the importance of economic sustainability in creating a truly sustainable world:

“You have before you the responsibility to re-affirm the multilateral rules-based system anchored by the Kyoto Protocol and to provide the funding needed to address impacts of climate change through activating the Green Climate Fund.”

Patricia de Lille, Mayor of Cape Town, emphasised the importance of cities in achieving change, despite not being part of the negotiations at COP17:

“We think of development differently in Cape Town. The city may not be a party to the negotiations, no cities are, but cities are the very engines of global development. They are the flash points of economic growth and, as with many things, the practical means of implementation must fall to them. As such, the City knows that COP17 is not just about talking. It is about a way of thinking.”

The Mayor of Durban, who is obviously watching closely, has kept his commentary more closely related to the functionality of the event than on environmental issues in recent days. Just a few days before COP17 started, Mayor James Nxumalo commented:

“We are in the process of meeting all the responsibilities expected of us as the host city and are now getting ready to stand back, open our arms and welcome the world to Durban.”

And then again during a press conference on Friday, Mayor Nxumalo expressed his relief that ‘the first few days of the conference have passed without any hiccups.’ During that same press conference, the importance of good governance in creating sustainable cities was repeatedly mentioned. Perhaps Mayor Nxumalo wasn’t paying attention.

Read the full statement released by the Mayor of Cape Town, Patricia de Lille at the City of Cape Town website.


17 Sustainable Ideas for COP17 is a collaboration between This Big City and Future Cape Town running alongside the United Nations Climate Change Conference from November 28th to December 9th.