ETHEKWINI adapts to cli­mate change

Public Sector Manager - - Contents - Writer: Su­laiman Philip

The city of ETHEKWINI's Com­mu­nity-Ecosys­tem-based Adap­ta­tion pro­gramme has helped it plan bet­ter for a chang­ing cli­mate

Ethekwini's Com­mu­nity-Ecosys­tem-based Adap­ta­tion pro­gramme has helped the city to plan bet­ter. Ecosys­tem-based adap­ta­tion is the the­ory that healthy sus­tain­able ecosys­tems make it eas­ier for

com­mu­ni­ties to adapt to a chang­ing cli­mate.

Dur­ban is more than the largest city and port along the east coast of Africa. Like many African cities it is deal­ing with devel­op­men­tal chal­lenges as a re­sult of rapid ur­ban­i­sa­tion and the obli­ga­tions that fall on the mu­nic­i­pal­ity.

De­spite be­ing the poor­est ma­jor metropoli­tan area, Dur­ban has be­come a South African leader in adapt­ing to the chal­lenges of cli­mate change. In spite of chal­lenges – poverty and the spread of in­for­mal set­tle­ments among them – the city con­tin­ues to ex­plore and im­ple­ment ways to adapt.

By im­prov­ing its sys­tems, adapt­ing its in­sti­tu­tions and im­ple­ment­ing in­no­va­tive and flex­i­ble plan­ning the city is build­ing a more re­silient econ­omy and city. How­ever, the city has high lev­els of poverty and unem­ploy­ment so the re­sponses it adopts for cli­mate change need to be re­spon­sive to these needs.

As Ms Nongcebo Hlongwa, Cli­mate Pro­tec­tion Sci­en­tist with the Cli­mate Pro­tec­tion Branch of the En­vi­ron­men­tal Plan­ning and Cli­mate Change Depart­ment, ex­plains, “Our re­sponses need to not only ad­dress en­vi­ron­men­tal change is­sues but should also ad­dress the eco­nomic and so­cial chal­lenges. This has been the ap­proach adopted by the city. The Mu­nic­i­pal Cli­mate Change Pro--

gramme calls for both mit­i­ga­tion and adap­tion re­sponses and as the re­sult equal em­pha­sis and the in­te­gra­tion of these ap­proaches at project level has been vi­tal.”

So­cial chal­lenges

Ur­ban­i­sa­tion is chang­ing the face of Dur­ban, as it has most of Africa's pop­u­la­tion cen­tres. In-mi­gra­tion and the re­sult­ing un­planned in­for­mal set­tle­ments have over­whelmed the city's abil­ity to sup­ply ba­sic ser­vices.

The ef­fects of a chang­ing cli­mate has been swamp­ing the city's in­fra­struc­ture. ETHEKWINI has brought con­sid­er­able hu­man re­sources to bear and has im­ple­mented a num­ber of en­vi­ron­men­tal pro­grammes and projects to im­prove the qual­ity of life in the city.

As Hlongwa points out, “Ur­ban­i­sa­tion per se is not the chal­lenge, but un­planned ur­ban devel­op­ment. Dur­ban is ad­dress­ing ur­ban devel­op­ment through en­gag­ing with novel gov­er­nance par­tic­i­pa­tor ap­proaches.”

The city's Com­mu­nity- Ecosys­tem­based Adap­ta­tion (CEBA) pro­gramme along with ex­ten­sive and on­go­ing re­search has helped the city to plan bet­ter. Ecosys­tem-based adap­ta­tion is the the­ory that healthy sus­tain­able ecosys­tems make it eas­ier for com­mu­ni­ties to adapt to a chang­ing cli­mate.

Dur­ban is a bio­di­ver­sity hotspot split be­tween three ter­res­trial biomes sa­van­nah, for­est, and grass­land - and sup­ports over 2 000 plant species, 97 km of coast, 18 rivers, 16 es­tu­ar­ies and 4 000 km of river shore­line. This green in­fra­struc­ture com­ple­ments the city's hard, or con­crete-based, in­fra­struc­ture so­lu­tions.

Cli­mate change in­flu­ences city plan­ning

In 2009 the Pres­i­dency an­nounced that South Africa would com­mit to re­duc­ing its green­house gas emis­sions by 34 per cent by 2020. With fi­nan­cial, tech­ni­cal and ca­pac­ity build­ing sup­port from de­vel­oped na­tions, South Africa would com­mit to a 42 per cent re­duc­tion by 2025.

Cities like Dur­ban have an ad­van­tage over na­tional gov­ern­ments in their abil­ity to for­mu­late and en­act pol­icy. Be­ing phys­i­cally closer to the pop­u­la­tions they an­swer to makes it eas­ier to cre­ate and de­liver re­source­ef­fi­cient and less pol­lut­ing so­lu­tions.

The con­se­quences of pol­icy are ob­serv­able and co­op­er­a­tion be­tween of­fi­cials and the cit­i­zens they an­swer to can lead to in­no­va­tive ideas on waste man­age­ment, ur­ban plan­ning and trans­port so­lu­tions and how to de­velop and im­prove ex­ist­ing in­fra­struc­ture.

ETHEKWINI has cham­pi­ons driv­ing the gen­er­a­tion and im­ple­men­ta­tion of so­lu­tions and plans in the ab­sence of for­mal agree­ments, pol­icy and leg­is­la­tion. “Lo­cal gov­ern­ments can use their own man­dates. For ex­am­ple, in South Africa lo­cal gov­ern­ments have a man­date for plan­ning, to drive cli­mate change ac­tion.”

For its part, the city has im­ple­mented air-qual­ity reg­u­la­tions that have low­ered the con­cen­tra­tions of ma­jor pol­lu­tants. Over the last decade it has be­come the leader among African cities in un­der­stand­ing and mit­i­gat­ing the ef­fects of green­house gas emis­sions.

These reg­u­la­tions have low­ered the sul­phur diox­ide lev­els in the city from in­dus­trial and agri­cul­tural op­er­a­tions – sugar cane crop burn­ing was a large source of emis­sions. It is also start­ing pro­grammes for the cap­ture of land­fill meth­ane on­site.

As early as 2006 cli­mate change be­gan to in­flu­ence the city's think­ing on ur­ban plan­ning. In 2007 the Mu­nic­i­pal Cli­mate Pro­tec­tion Pro­gramme was in­tro­duced, which led to the es­tab­lish­ment of the En­vi­ron­men­tal Plan­ning and Cli­mate Pro­tec­tion Depart­ment.

As Hlongwa points out, “Dur­ban's ap­proach to tack­ling cli­mate change has been to play to our twin strengths of our peo­ple and nat­u­ral en­vi­ron­ment. In­sti­tu­tional com­mit­ment, both po­lit­i­cally and ad­min­is­tra­tively, is an im­por­tant in­gre­di­ent for this plan. With­out this com­mit­ment, the al­lo­ca­tion of re­sources is un­likely. It also as­sists with el­e­vat­ing the is­sue of cli­mate change and ur­gency for ac­tion.”

Re­search helps

Hlongwa points out that the city would not be able to re­spond as well as it has to the myr­iad chal­lenges it faces if it were not for its com­mit­ment to re­search. There are other chal­lenges – se­cur­ing fund­ing, po­lit­i­cal sup­port and en­gag­ing with res­i­dents – but hav­ing re­search avail­able makes them eas­ier.

One of the more in­no­va­tive projects is the Metropoli­tan Open Space

Sys­tem. It of­fers mit­i­ga­tion and adap­ta­tion ben­e­fits to the city by act­ing as a car­bon sink (nat­u­ral or ar­ti­fi­cial reser­voir that ac­cu­mu­lates and stores car­bon-con­tain­ing chem­i­cals) and pre­serves large ar­eas of nat­u­ral habi­tat.

“This sys­tem also plans an im­por­tant role in tem­per­a­ture reg­u­la­tion for the city and as­sist­ing with min­imis­ing the heat is­land ef­fect ex­pe­ri­enced by many cities from around the world.”

If we do noth­ing

Cities in the global south will bear the brunt of cli­mate change and will ex­ac­er­bate poverty. A four-de­gree in­crease in global tem­per­a­tures would raise sea lev­els and the city up to the city hall would be sub­merged.

“The city's obli­ga­tion is to all its res­i­dents. We have a man­date to en­sure their safety and the de­liv­ery of ser­vices. If we did not plan for cli­mate change we would in the long run not be able to meet our le­gal man­date. In ad­di­tion, it will re­sult in so­cial, eco­nomic and in­fras­truc­tural losses that could have been oth­er­wise pre­vented by the city, thus plan­ning for change in­clud­ing en­vi­ron­men­tal change is one of the mu­nic­i­pal­ity's re­spon­si­bil­i­ties.”

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