President Jacob Zuma will from today join world leaders in Cancun, Mexico for the United Nations Climate Change Conference.
Zuma is expected to participate in a Leaders Dialogue aimed at looking at actions that governments must take to move forward on a global agenda on climate change.
The Cancun conference is expected to produce an agreement on areas such as the deployment of clean energy technology, deforestation reductions and the ability of countries to lessen the impact of climate change.
However, some have said if such an agreement is reached it would be a somewhat watered down affair, while UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has said further delays threatened the health of the planet, the global economy and the well-being of the human race.
"I am deeply concerned that our efforts have been insufficient ... that despite the evidence ... and many years of negotiation ... we are still not rising to the challenge," Ban told a high-level segment of the conference, which began in the Mexican coastal city last month.
"We are here for a reason: to protect people and the planet from uncontrolled climate change. To do that, we need to make progress - in these global negotiations and through national actions each of you takes in your countries to curb emissions [of harmful gases] and increase resilience.
"The longer we delay, the more we will pay - economically ... environmentally ... and in human lives," Ban said.
Under the Kyoto Protocol to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), industrialized countries committed themselves to a reduction of greenhouse gases. The Protocol expires in 2012 and a replacement arrangement is under negotiation.
As the next host of the climate talks, South Africa is expected to provide political leadership in ensuring that Copenhagen commitments are inscribed in a legally binding agreement when it hosts the next climate change conference in Durban late next year, according to the department of International Relations and Cooperation.
The visit to Mexico by Zuma, said spokesperson Clayson Monyela, is also "aimed at deepening bilateral relations between the two countries and forging ways of working more closely on multilateral issues such as the UN and its member institutions." - Buanews