GO BIG OR GO HOME

CityPress - - Busi­ness - YOLANDI GROE­NEWALD busi­ness@city­press.co.za

In de­vel­op­ing coun­tries, the cost of adapt­ing to cli­mate change could rise to be­tween $280 bil­lion (R4.2 tril­lion) and $500 bil­lion a year by 2050, a new re­port has warned, as South African cities pre­pare for the worst.

The UN En­vi­ron­ment Pro­gramme re­port, re­leased at the bi­en­nial Adap­ta­tion Fu­tures 2016 con­fer­ence in Rot­ter­dam, warns that the fig­ure is four to five times greater than that of pre­vi­ous es­ti­mates.

“Pre­vi­ous global es­ti­mates of the costs of adap­ta­tion in de­vel­op­ing coun­tries have been placed at be­tween $70 bil­lion and $100 bil­lion a year for the pe­riod from 2010 to 2050. How­ever, the na­tional and sec­tor lit­er­a­ture sur­veyed in this re­port in­di­cates that the costs of adap­ta­tion could range from $140 bil­lion to $300 bil­lion by 2030, and be­tween $280 bil­lion and $500 bil­lion by 2050,” the re­port said.

Adap­ta­tion will cer­tainly be a heavy fi­nan­cial bur­den for the South African del­e­gates hop­ing to learn valu­able les­sons in Rot­ter­dam this month.

Yet there were op­por­tu­ni­ties, said De­bra Roberts, an eThek­wini Mu­nic­i­pal­ity of­fi­cial and South African cli­mate change ne­go­tia­tor. “It is ei­ther go big, or go home,” she said. Roberts told del­e­gates that the bat­tle for sus­tain­able devel­op­ment would be won in the bal­loon­ing cities of Asia and Africa, and that an adap­ta­tion re­sponse plan was key for the cities’ fu­tures.

She said the ele­phant in the room was that many of th­ese cities did not have a clear adap­ta­tion­im­ple­men­ta­tion strat­egy.

“The Paris agree­ment has to be lined with lo­cal ac­tion,” she said.

Al­though the land­mark Paris agree­ment signed in De­cem­ber will force coun­tries to curb their emis­sions to avoid run­away cli­mate change, sci­en­tists warn that cli­mate change is al­ready hap­pen­ing.

Pre­par­ing for the worst took cen­tre stage in Rot­ter­dam, the new poster child for cli­mate pre­pared­ness.

The Dutch city is tak­ing a lead with its in­no­va­tive coastal en­gi­neer­ing, which makes liv­ing be­low sea level pos­si­ble.

South African cities are crunch­ing their adap­ta­tion num­bers, al­though with less re­sources than the Dutch. Jo­han­nes­burg and Dur­ban’s plans were lauded at the con­fer­ence, but del­e­gates were con­cerned about the fi­nanc­ing.

Jo­han­nes­burg Mayor Parks Tau said that even if emis­sions were sta­bilised rel­a­tively soon, cli­mate change and its ef­fects would last for many years, and adap­ta­tion would be nec­es­sary.

“Cli­mate change adap­ta­tion is es­pe­cially im­por­tant in de­vel­op­ing cities, be­cause those cities are pre­dicted to bear the brunt of the ef­fects of cli­mate change,” he said.

Al­though by in­ter­na­tional stan­dards Jo­han­nes­burg has rel­a­tively lim­ited ex­po­sure to the most se­vere con­se­quences of cli­mate change, floods are keep­ing the city’s plan­ning com­mit­tee up at night.

The Jo­han­nes­burg may­oral com­mit­tee es­ti­mates that it would cost the city R116 mil­lion to be flood-ready.

Heat­waves and ex­tremely cold win­ters are also on the cards for the city in fu­ture.

Mzuk­isi Gwata, the City of Jo­han­nes­burg’s pro­gramme man­ager of Cli­mate Change Adap­ta­tion, said it was im­por­tant to main­stream cli­mate change adap­ta­tion into poli­cies the city was im­ple­ment­ing.

The city’s cli­mate change adap­ta­tion plan in 2009 out­lined how Jo­han­nes­burg should map flood-prone ar­eas, de­velop early warn­ing sys­tems and raise aware­ness in vul­ner­a­ble com­mu­ni­ties, par­tic­u­larly Alexan­dra town­ship.

Gwata said the city in­tended to in­vest R110 bil­lion in in­fra­struc­ture over the next 10 years, and new in­fra­struc­ture would have to be cli­mate-smart, tak­ing into ac­count the emerg­ing threats.

Dur­ban is in even greater jeop­ardy than Jo­han­nes­burg as sea lev­els rise, but the city won praise at the con­fer­ence for its com­mu­nity-cen­tred adap­ta­tion plans.

The eThek­wini Mu­nic­i­pal­ity is ex­pect­ing sea lev­els to rise by up to a me­tre by 2100.

Rain­fall is also likely to in­crease, but this will fall over shorter time pe­ri­ods, which means that stream flows will be higher and faster, in­creas­ing the strain on the city’s stormwa­ter sys­tem.

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