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What Cape Town’s Drought Can Teach Other Cities About Climate Adaptation

Extreme weather events, such as Cyclone Idai that has recently devastated Beira, Mozambique, and Hurricane Harvey that hit Houston, USA, in 2017 are the types of climate extremes that cities increasingly have to prepare for.

Cities, particularly those with extensive informal settlements in the developing world, are being hit hard by these new climatic realities. Although rapid onset disasters often have devastating effects, slow onset climate events, such as drought, can also be detrimental.

Cities need to build their capacity to adapt to this range of impacts. One of the best ways to do this is to learn from other cities’ experiences. Drawing lessons from other places that have gone through climate crises is a good way to guard against future shocks and stresses.

One very recent case that cities around the world are watching is Cape Town’s severe drought and the threat of “Day Zero” – when the city’s taps were due to run dry. Although the city came close to having to turn off the taps, they managed to avoid it. After better rains in 2018 and significant reduction in water use across the city, the dams are now reassuringly fuller than they were in 2017 and 2018, although caution is still needed ahead of the winter rains.

A lot has changed and it’s important to reflect on and share.

Research has been conducted to establish some key lessons to be drawn from the Cape Town drought. Local governments must focus on several important areas if they’re to strengthen urban water resilience and adapt better to climate risk. These include improving data collection and communication, engaging with experts and enabling flexible adaptive decision making.

Governance must be strengthened. Although three years of low rainfall lead to very low dam levels, there were breakdowns in the interaction between national, provincial and municipal government that exacerbated the problem.

The findings

The research suggests that effective water management requires systems of mutual accountability between spheres of municipal, provincial and national government.

In South Africa, the national Department of Water and Sanitation is responsible for ensuring that there’s sufficient bulk water available, often in dams, that can be transferred to municipalities. The municipalities are then mandated to provide clean drinking water. This means that intergovernmental coordination across the spheres of government is vital.

As it stands, different spheres’ mandates overlap. This creates confusion and means the buck is often passed: one sphere of government will insist a particular competency isn’t its job, and hand the work on to another sphere.

For this to be resolved there has to be clarity on shared responsibilities and roles, as well as the development of mutual accountability. To achieve this, technical skills, personal and institutional relations need to be strengthened. This requires strong leadership.

Collaboration within municipal departments also needs to improve. The Cape Town drought highlighted the importance of this. Before 2017, there was limited collaboration between city departments on water issues. During the drought however, collaboration between certain departments increased considerably as the complexity of the crisis became clear.

Not only is collaboration within government important, it needs to extend beyond government. During a crisis, all of society needs to be engaged, including citizens and the business sector. Technical expertise need to be balanced with opportunities for a broader group to share its perspectives and concerns. Partnerships can help gather the range of perspectives and support needed to respond to complex problems.

Municipalities which, during the course of their normal business activities, have developed strong relationships with their stakeholders, will be better placed to respond effectively to a crisis. That’s because they will be able to harness stakeholders’ collective knowledge and contributions more easily.

In Nelson Mandela Bay, the Business Chamber has done this by strengthening relations with the municipality to help to facilitate the ease of doing business in the city. They recognize that all businesses require electricity, water, transport and logistics, for example, and so focus on improving these areas. The municipality developed task teams made up of volunteers from their member companies who have skills set in those areas.

Importantly, there is an agreement that the Metro places high level executives to sit in the task team meetings to ensure plans are put into practice. These types of relationships can be invaluable during a crisis.

Moving forward

While my study focused on Cape Town, its findings can be applied to other cities that want to strengthen their ability to adapt to climate change. Yes, cities need to pay more attention to how climate variability impacts on their resources, particularly water. But just as important is strengthening the governance of the water system. A well adapted city is one that understands who is responsible for what and has strong trust and partnerships between and within government.

In order to build capacity to adapt, new types of skills are needed. Local government needs to pay more attention to how to build partnerships, enable flexibility and support learning. These are the types of skills needed for a well adapted city, but still often lacking in local governments.

 

For information as to how Relocation Africa can help you with your Mobility, Immigration, Research, Remuneration, and Expat Tax needs, email marketing@relocationafrica.com, or call us on +27 21 763 4240.

Sources: [1], [2]. Image sources: Jason Blackeye [1], [2].

Climate Financing in Africa Accelerates Alongside Urbanization

When daily power cuts became the “new normal” in Zambia during a 2015 drought, farms, companies, schools, and households experienced anything but business as usual. Zambia’s energy is drawn primarily from hydro power, so when a dry spell plagues the nation, its economy—alongside the potential for long-term socio-economic development—dries up, too.

Although low rainfall that year was especially punishing, Zambia’s energy crisis has been a problem for over a decade because of the nation’s reliance on hydropower. In theory, diversification was possible: since the Zambian sun shines almost 65 percent of daylight hours, solar power was an attractive option. But scalability and affordability had posed challenges.

Scaling Solar, a World Bank Group program that helps developing countries procure grid-tied, private solar power, offers Zambia a solution. The program includes technical advice for large-scale adoption of solar technology and a set of pre-negotiated, template documents aimed at increasing transparency and reducing risks and costs for governments and developers. Financing, guarantees, and insurance to boost confidence about projects in new and challenging markets are also options.

Scaling Solar made it possible for Zambia to achieve some of the lowest solar tariffs in the region. The program has since expanded to Senegal, and mandates have also been signed in Ethiopia and Madagascar. Spreading renewables-based solutions across the continent is important because although Africa is responsible for only 4 percent of global greenhouse emissions, 65 percent of Africans are in some way impacted directly by climate change.

Identifying solutions to help Africans adapt and become more resilient to climate change is one of the objectives of the One Planet Summit taking place on March 14 in Nairobi. The event highlights Africa’s situation as a continent facing climate-related challenges and opportunities, and it will convene African leaders, entrepreneurs, donors, international organizations, and other stakeholders. It is co-hosted by the World Bank Group.

Shining a Light on African Sustainability

The One Planet Summit is built around the idea that resources and solutions for renewable energy already exist in Africa—but there is a need to accelerate financing and mainstream development as the region struggles with rapid urbanization and other challenges presented by global warming.

The figures are daunting. More than 470 million people live in sub-Saharan Africa’s cities, and this is expected to double over the next 25 years. By 2050, the region is expected to house 20 percent of the world’s urban residents. Climate change is a leading factor contributing to the trend toward urbanization, as extreme temperatures and unpredictable rainfall affect income from agriculture.

As urbanization continues, so does the demand for resources and impact on the environment. Currently, cities consume over two-thirds of the world’s energy and account for more than 70 percent of global carbon emissions. The concentration of people, industry, and infrastructure leaves cities especially vulnerable to climate change–and also uniquely placed to combat it.

Nairobi, the city hosting the One Planet Summit, is a good example of how climate-related challenges can open the doors for climate-smart investment. Although 70 percent of Nairobi’s installed electricity capacity comes from renewable sources, there are opportunities to attract investment in other sectors. IFC analysis found that Nairobi has a $8.5 billion climate investment opportunity leading up to 2030. The biggest investment opportunity—$5 billion—lies in electric vehicles, followed by public transport ($1.6 billion), green buildings ($1.1 billion), water ($360 million), renewable energy ($240 million), and waste ($140 million).

Together, these investment opportunities result from strong policy frameworks such as Nairobi’s Integrated Urban Development Master Plan. The plan focuses on sustainable transport, water and wastewater, power, municipal solid waste, and telecommunications. As with Scaling Solar, these initiatives—along with others that will be proposed and examined at the One Planet Summit—approach long-term climate and development challenges with a determination that sustainability, not crisis, will become the “new normal.”

To find out more about the One Planet Summit, click here.

 

For information as to how Relocation Africa can help you with your Mobility, Immigration, Research, Remuneration, and Expat Tax needs, email marketing@relocationafrica.com, or call us on +27 21 763 4240.

Sources: [1], [2]. Image sources: [1], Karsten Würth [2].

President Ramaphosa: South Africans Must Take Climate Change Seriously

It is time for South Africans to take climate change seriously, said President Cyril Ramaphosa on Thursday in his response to the debate on his State of the Nation Address.

He said if South Africa is a country that prioritises the interests of the poor and the vulnerable, then we need to act with greater urgency to respond to the effects of climate change and make our contribution to preventing it.

“The rural poor are most affected by the droughts that have become more frequent and which last longer,” he said.

“The urban poor is most affected by the impact this has on food prices and the availability of water.

“It is people who live in informal settlements who are most affected by the flooding that accompanies the increasingly extreme weather conditions.”

He said we are all affected in different ways by the environmental changes taking place on land, in our oceans and in the air.

“Unless we tackle climate change, we will not be able to meet our developmental objectives.”

He said South Africa ratified the Paris Agreement to Combat Climate Change as part of the global effort to dramatically reduce the rate of global warming.

Ramaphosa said as part of the country’s efforts to build a sustainable low carbon economy, we are taking steps to finalise the national Climate Change Bill, which will provide a regulatory framework for the management of climate change and its impacts.

“We are making a fair contribution to the global effort to stabilise greenhouse gases through our Nationally Determined Contribution to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.”

He said South Africa is due to be the next coordinator of the Committee of African Heads of State and Government on Climate Change, which is vital in ensuring that Africa remains united and speaks with one voice on the key climate change issues facing the Continent.

He also paid homage to the role Edna Molewa, who passed away last year, played in these efforts as Minister of Environmental Affairs.

“The progress we have made in responding to the various environmental challenges that confront our people is in no small measure thanks to the leadership and dedication of the late Minister of Environmental Affairs, Edna Molewa,” he said.

“She worked to ensure that the conservation of the environment became a catalyst to advance the objectives of the National Development Plan.”

“Taking our lead from her vision, we continue to encourage investment in cleaner energy through the renewable energy independent power producers programme.”

Ramaphosa said South Africa benefitted through the competitive bidding process from rapid, global technology developments and price trends, buying clean energy at lower and lower rates with every bid cycle.

“As a result, South Africa is now getting renewable energy at some of the lowest tariffs in the world.

“Under the renewable energy, a total number of 112 projects have been procured and it is envisaged that these projects will create 114,266 job years over the construction and 20 year operations period.”

A job year is equivalent to a full time employment opportunity for one person for one year.

Ramaphosa said government will work with all stakeholders to ensure that the gradual transition towards new forms of electricity generation creates jobs, develops new capabilities and does not negatively affect the livelihoods of communities.

While congresswomen Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is agitating for a Green New Deal in the United States, South Africans will have to do with the Good Green Deeds programme.

Ramaphosa announced that on March 8, this “landmark campaign” will be launched to “mobilise all South Africans to become environmentally conscious”.

“The Good Green Deeds programme is aimed at changing behaviour towards littering, towards illegal dumping, and towards waste in general,” Ramaphosa said.

He said it is part of government’s call and commitment “to clean South Africa, to make our cities, towns and rural areas places where it is safe and healthy for all to live”.

“Because of environmentally insensitive human action, the forces of nature conspired to set in motion the dramatic process of climate change,” Ramaphosa said.

“It is by conscious human action that its effects can and will be mitigated and ultimately reversed.”

South Africa’s current minister of environmental affairs is Nomvula Mokoyane. Several opposition speakers called for her head after she was mentioned by whistleblower Angelo Agrizzi in his explosive testimony at the Zondo Commission about the Bosasa-scandal. Allegations of corruption and mismanagement plagued her term as minister of water affairs and sanitation. Ramaphosa didn’t address these issues in his reply.

 

For information as to how Relocation Africa can help you with your Mobility, Immigration, Research, Remuneration, and Expat Tax needs, email marketing@relocationafrica.com, or call us on +27 21 763 4240.

Sources: [1], [2]. Image sources: Tim Johnson [1], [2].