United Nations (UN) Secretary-General, António Guterres, has told the climate summit that the time for action is now.

South Africa is a major carbon and sulphur emitter as it continues to rely heavily on coal-fired power stations and a centralised power utility.

Guterres says he recently visited the hurricane hit Bahamas and witnessed apocalyptic scenes.

“The destruction was not simply appalling, it was apocalyptic, make no mistake when we see those images, we are not just seeing damage. We are seeing the future, if we do not act now. This is not a climate talk summit. We have had enough talk. This is not a climate negotiating summit, because we don’t negotiate with nature. This is a climate action summit.”

Guterres says the time for climate action has come. This comes amid warnings from the UN that climate change is accelerating – with potentially catastrophic consequences.

International Relations Minister Naledi Pandor says government is fully aware that South Africa is one of the larger emitters of pollution due to its heavy reliance on coal. She was speaking on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly ahead of the Secretary-General Climate Action Summit.

“ I’m aware that in a week or two, the cabinet will be discussing its IRP, which is the Integrated Resource Plan on energy and will be adopting its policy framework in that regard. We are fully conversant with the fact that SA is one of the significant emitters because of our reliance on coal. We have a dilemma in that we have large deposits of coal as a natural resource in our country. However we fully recognize our responsibility to ensure that we do reduce emissions, that we cannot rely on coal, that we need to make a movement toward other sources of energy and we have been one of the biggest countries introducing renewables, particularly solar and wind and we would see that growing in the next few years.”

Pandor is leading South Africa’s delegation to the 74th session of the General Assembly. The delegation includes the Minister in the Presidency, Health and Environment among others, for a week-long programme that will culminate in her delivery of the country’s statement to the General Assembly next Saturday.

The protocol determines that heads of state and government receive preferential slots in the General Debate.

In addition to a number of bilaterals including with the UN Secretary-General, Minister Pandor will attend the Climate Action Summit, participate in two Security Council Ministerials on Peace and Security in Africa and another on cooperation between the UN and regional and sub-regional organisations. She will also attend a reception hosted for heads of delegation by United States President Donald Trump.

Pandor’s visit comes as South Africa is working to improve its international standing after a series of domestic incidents directed at foreign African nationals in the country.

Please note this story was corrected from an earlier version that incorrectly stated Minister Pandor was herself calling for no new coal-powered stations after 2020. This is in fact a call from the UN Secretary General.