WITH less than four months until South Africa hosts one of the world’s biggest climate change indabas, government officials are confident that Durban is on track to welcome a visiting army of up to 25 000 people from nearly 200 nations.
That is how many foreign government ministers, officials, advisers, businessmen, lobbyists, journalists and assorted hangers-on are expected in the city from November 28 to December 9 for the 17th Conference of the Parties (COP17) of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.
Speaking at a media briefing at Durban’s Inkosi Albert Luthuli International Convention Centre venue yesterday, conference co-ordinator Salwa Dalalah said: “My sense is that we are on target and still have a few months to get there.”
Dalalah is leading a UN inspection team assessing Durban’s state of readiness to host the annual global climate change negotiations involving 194 nations.
She said the secretariat would provide working space inside the conference centre for about 15 000 accredited delegates and observers, although it was possible that 20 000 to 25 000 people could come to Durban for the conference and related events. The secretariat expects that 2 500 of these will be journalists.
Julie-May Ellingson, acting chief executive of the conference centre and head of the city’s special projects unit, acknowledged that holding an event of this magnitude would entail complex logistical arrangements.
“We have hosted similar large events such as the World Aids Conference and Commonwealth heads of government meeting, and we are working very closely with the UNFCCC to meet their requirements.”
Ellingson said one of the main priorities was to reduce congestion in the city centre through stringent restrictions on private vehicles and by providing a shuttle bus service.
A limited number of delegates could be accommodated in the CBD, and some visitors could expect to commute for up to an hour from outside the city.
She noted that several delegates attending the COP15 meeting in Denmark in 2009 had had to find accommodation in neighbouring Sweden.
Asked what arrangements had been made to avoid a repeat of the embarrassing King Shaka airport congestion during the World Cup, Ellingson said not all of the COP17 delegates would arrive simultaneously in Durban.
International Relations and Co-operation Department spokesman Clayson Monyela said: “From a logistical point of view (transport, security, health etc), I can assure you that everything is in place.”
Monyela’s comments followed reports that the environment department appeared to have been sidelined after President Jacob Zuma ordered that the International Relations Department take over leadership of the conference.