Speaking notes for H.E. Minister Barbara Creecy of South Africa for the meeting of the Brazil, South Africa, India and China Group (Basic), taking place on the margins of the 78th session of the United Nations General Assembly, 20 September 2023
(Note: The meeting is likely to have a free-flowing interactive format to allow for strategic discussion and optimal use of the one-hour time slot, including media opportunity)
Minister Marina Silva, fellow BASIC Ministers,
South Africa appreciates Brazil’s initiative to convene this meeting shortly ahead of the United Nations Secretary-General’s Climate Ambition Summit, as this sends a powerful message of BASIC unity and solidarity and of our continued leadership on climate change. We support the adoption of the joint political declaration.
Minister Sillva, allow me to say how inspirational it is to see your return to the climate negotiations and the revitalisation of Brazil’s traditional role as a global leader on sustainable development and environmental issues, including climate change. We welcome Brazil’s offer to host COP30 and look forward to working closely with you ahead of and during COP28.
I fully support the views our negotiators have been discussing this year on the need to reinvigorate BASIC. We should return to the pre-COVID practice of holding in-depth discussions amongst our scientists, researchers, lead negotiators and ministers to broaden and deepen our cooperation and strengthen our collective voice at the UNFCCC. The global South needs BASIC more than ever and we must lead an effort to reclaim the political narrative on climate ambition that seems to currently be dominated by the global North.
South Africa further supports the BASIC countries playing a more active role on wider strategic issues of sustainable development, trade and international politics that impact on the climate actions and development imperatives of developing countries.
While it is probably not necessary to change the structure of our meetings to include other relevant ministers, we need to work in an integrated and coordinated manner with other relevant ministries and stakeholders, both within our respective countries and amongst BASIC countries.
In this regard, I would like to propose the following:
- That we recommend convening a leaders’ level meeting of BASIC so that the group can better function at the political strategic and macro-economic level that is necessary to address climate change, in the context of sustainable development. Ideally such a meeting could take place before or during COP28.
- The strategic topics where BASIC could work together include on developing common approaches and shared messages on the Global Stocktake, the International Court of Justice’s Advisory Opinion on State liability for climate change; strategic minerals required for the green transition and countering unilateral and discriminatory carbon border taxes, most notably the EU’s Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism (CBAM).
- On the Global Stocktake, we welcome the joint submission prepared by Brazil to the UNFCCC. Noting that this is the most strategic and high-profile agenda item for COP28, we support a proactive and leading role by our group in the negotiations.
- On the ICJ Advisory Opinion, we need to locate responsibility for climate change within the UNFCCC’s guiding principles of equity and CBDR&RC, with an emphasis on articulating the legal basis of historical responsibility. There is a risk that the narrative will be distorted towards responsibility being shared amongst current high emitting countries, without due regard to our right to development and development space.
- On strategic minerals, it is noteworthy how the BASIC countries and a small number of like-minded developing countries hold the lion’s share of the world’s resources. This gives us leverage and the potential to make these resources work for the sustainable development of our peoples. At the same time, there is a risk that, if we are not coordinated, the new green economy will simply mirror the inequalities of the current and previous development models, which are based on unbeneficiated raw material exports to the North.
- On carbon border taxes and CBAM, the window of opportunity is fast closing to pressure the EU and others that are waiting in the wings to impose unilateral taxes in the name of climate action, to either abandon their plans or adjust them to make them legal, fair and about climate change. According to our trade department, Africa stands to lose approximately $26 billion each year in direct taxes to the EU in the initial phase of the CBAM alone. Very soon others, including the USA, UK and Canada will follow the EU’s example and the list of taxed commodities will grow. The net impact will be to more than cancel out any climate finance and other support we have received from the global North and to undermine our sustainable development.
- The immediate and specific proposal on carbon border taxes and CBAM we would like to make is to introduce a request for a new agenda item at COP28. This would allow like-minded developing countries to rally behind BASIC and put pressure on developed countries to change their course. We could also speak to our colleagues in the trade and finance departments about the potential for the BASIC countries to work more closely together in other relevant multilateral and plurilateral fora.
- Finally, we note that Mexico has re-joined the G77 and China. Perhaps we should meet Mexico as the BASIC group and hear from them how they intend to position themselves in the UNFCCC? We see great opportunity, with the inclusion of Mexico, for reuniting and strengthening the voice of developing countries. However, currently they are full members of the OECD and as members of the Environmental Integrity Group they tend to be aligned to the European Union and the Umbrella Group in the negotiations.