The Road to Copenhagen: Climate Change, Energy and South Africa’s Foreign Policy

Image: Flickr, charlotteshj
Image: Flickr, charlotteshj

The Copenhagen climate change conference set for December 2009 is one of the most significant negotiations since the agreement in Kyoto.

Ahead of the conference, South Africa has pursued an active role, indicating its willingness to undertake further responsibility. Drawing on Robert Putnam’s metaphor of the two-level game, the analysis considers the challenges facing South Africa in balancing domestic priorities with growing international pressure to reduce carbon emissions. Through the analysis, this paper argues that in its current position, South Africa’s credibility in calling for greater international commitment to carbon emission reductions at Copenhagen may be undermined by the government’s slow progress in defining and mainstreaming climate change considerations into the country’s social and economic development priorities. The climate change–energy nexus has proved to be particularly problematic for South Africa, with a number of key decisions taken indicating the continued prominence of fossil fuels, particularly following the 2007/08 energy crisis. As we approach Copenhagen, South Africa has expressed a number of ambitions and released a number of detailed policy frameworks on climate change, yet questions remain as to whether it will be able to deliver on these. Without effectively addressing the complex interplay between both levels of the two-level game, South Africa may lose out on a significant opportunity to shape the future of the global climate change regime.

SAIIA sincerely thanks those who acted as peer reviewers for these papers.

12 Oct 2009