South Africa is ready to host the high-level UN climate summit in Durban in November, insists the minister of international relations, Maite Nkoana-Mashabane.

On Friday, the Mail and Guardian reported that there were concerns that South Africa was behind in its preparations for the 17th Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP17). Tensions had emerged between the two government departments in charge of organising the event, which runs from November 28 to December 9, it was reported.

The department of environmental affairs is leading South Africa’s delegation at COP17 while the department of international relations is organising the logistics of the conference. On Tuesday Nkoana-Mashabane denied that there was a "turf war" between the departments but admitted they had "picked up on unease on the general state of readiness". The minister said the state wanted to "clarify and demystify" the preparations for the conference.

She said they were finalising accommodation arrangements, security arrangements, and a communication plan. Visas for delegates would be free, she said, and said the government had already reserved 20 000 hotel beds and had asked airlines to increase flights to South Africa.

Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa said the South African delegation was in the process of compiling the South African position for COP17, which would be taken to Cabinet for approval in October. She said Africa would speak with "one voice" at the conference adding that "Africa is the continent most affected by climate change".

Delegates at the previous two UN climate change conferences, in Copenhagen in 2009 and Cancun in 2010, did not agree on a legally binding treaty to reduce carbon emissions. Molewa said that it was not expected that a legally binding deal would be reached at COP17 in Durban either. But she said one aim of the conference would be to work out what to do when the Kyoto treaty -- the international agreement to reduce greenhouse gases -- expires late next year. "We don’t want South Africa to be the death of Kyoto protocol," said Molewa.

Emission reduction plans

Determining what should happen after Kyoto expired would include working out an "emission reduction regime" for countries that were not signatories to the treaty, she said, adding that all 54 African countries had agreed on an African position and would lobby for contributions towards an Africa Green Climate fund to mitigate and adapt to climate change.

However, Molewa said South Africa hoped to cut its carbon emissions 34% by 2020. She added that the rolling out of renewable sources of energy, including wind power, was "well underway". Emission cuts would be achieved through "nationally appropriate mitigation actions" in the transport, agriculture and energy sectors. "The extent to which this commitment is achieved depends on the provision of finance, technology and capacity building support by developed countries, and through the United Nations climate change regime," she said, adding that heads of African states would meet in Mali for two days in September to finalise the African point of view.

The chief executive of Impala Platinum, David Brown, told reporters that a forum of CEOs had been created so that a "united business voice" could represent industry in the talks. The forum of 40 chief executives would also support the government in hosting the event and share best business practices in mitigating the effects of climate change. Molewa also said organisers of COP17 would have more meetings with civil society and environmental organisations following criticism that they had only met once with civil society groups involved in COP17 since April.