South Africa appears to have softened its stance on carbon emissions, saying it would support cuts to prevent global warming.The apparent change comes against the backdrop of international meetings designed to set targets to cut harmful emissions, and that have pitted poorer nations against Western countries on how best this could be achieved beyond 2012.
South Africa, which relies largely on coal-fired power stations, said earlier this month it would not agree to any emission-cutting targets if it hurt economic growth.
President Jacob Zuma, who urged that a "just and equitable" settlement be reached at December's climate change talks in Copenhagen, is currently at a U.N.-backed climate summit where negotiations are centered on the role of developing nations can play with developed nations to reduce emissions.
"On global warming, cabinet would like to correct the wrong impression that had been created that South Africa was opposed to targets being set on global warming," cabinet spokesman Themba Maseko told journalists.
"The correct position is as follows: South Africa was not in favor of supporting targets that are imposed by developed nations on developing nations to reduce carbon emissions," he said.
South Africa, often commended for being most active among developing countries in fighting climate change, set a target to cap emissions by 2020-25, and to reduce them by mid-century.
China laid out a plan to curb emissions by 2020 as U.S. President Barack Obama called on all countries to act now to tackle global warming.
Maseko said South Africa, in its first recession in 17 years, would take responsible and measurable action to reduce the country's future emissions.
He said the country, which has embarked on a new multi-billion coal-power station building program to meet rising electricity demand, has already approved energy and long-term climate mitigation policies.
"South Africa's strategic framework is based on the fact that our emissions are to peak between 2020-2025, stabilize for a decade, before declining in absolute terms toward the mid-century," Maseko said.