Durban, where the conference will take place between 28 November and 9 December, is expected to play host to about 20 000 delegates from 194 countries.
Explaining the significance of the conference, Nkoana-Mashabane said countries will talk to each other and negotiate with the aim to agreeing on measures to address the challenges of climate change.
“We all feel the impacts of climate change in the increased frequency and intensity of extreme weather events, coastal erosion and flooding as a result of rising sea levels, increase of the occurrence of certain diseases, loss of biodiversity and economic impacts, and an increase in the number of environmental refugees.
“Climate change has therefore become, without any doubt, the most pressing sustainable development issue of our times,” she said.
Finding consensus among the diverse group of the 194 member states of the United Nations Framework Convention for Climate Change (UNFCCC) would be no simple task, the minister acknowledged.
“The Conference in Durban will not be an easy meeting. However, it will be in Durban where parties will be held accountable to the global citizenry – ordinary people that suffer daily from the impacts of climate change and who have high expectations from their leaders to show leadership by being responsible, but also bold enough to find effective solutions to the threat that climate change presents to their livelihood, quality of life, dignity, and in many cases, their very existence on Earth,” she said.
COP17 will be an ideal opportunity to shape the future global response to climate change, the minister added.
“As the incoming COP17/CMP7 President, we have appealed to Parties arrive at COP17/CMP7 with the willingness to compromise and yield from their current positions…” Nkoana-Mashabane said.
“There is a resurging sense that agreement and progress in Durban are possible if Parties are willing to shoulder their responsibilities and properly fulfil their leadership roles,” she added.
The minister said during her recent visit to Panama – where a session of the UNFCCC in preparation for Durban took place - it was evident there that there was urgency among negotiators and groups to finalise text to serve as a basis for negotiations in Durban.
This, she added, gave her renewed hope that an acceptable and credible outcome could be reached in Durban.
“It is therefore our duty as incoming President of the Conference to spare no effort to make sure that Parties to the Convention find common ground and that they are able to agree on a fair, transparent and credible outcome we all want,” Nkoana-Mashabane said.