Draft climate change strategy in Parliament

…….article June 2019…..

Plan to counter climate change underway…

The inevitability of climate change and the need to plan for its effects on the lives of South Africans is now to be tackled, according to the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA).  A draft National Climate Change Adaptation Strategy (NCCAS) was published for general comment during parliamentary recess.

This was probably the last public act of past minister of environmental affairs, Nomvula Mokonyane, the baton now having passed to recently appointed Minister Barbara Creecy.  There is probably little room for major directional change as result of public submissions, since the road map to its creation is generally well understood.

Almost final 

Government’s NCCA Strategy, viewed by many as a professional and well written document which includes illustrated graphs and full-colour coded diagrams, is a ten-year plan to be reviewed every five years.  It is to be produced by DEA, the strategy being stated “providing a common vision of climate change adaptation and climate resilience for the country”.

The objective, of course, is the global requirement of achieving the stabilisation of greenhouse gas emissions and limiting temperature increases to 1.5 ° celsius.

The problems

Being a strategy to adapt to a situation and bring about change, the implications for and the effects of climate change upon South Africa are first listed.     Named are such matters as social and societal impact issues, the impact of climate change upon energy planning and economic development generally, and the need for co-ordination arrangements between all spheres of government, SOEs and the private sector.

DEA points out, “The NCCAS not only serves as an adaptation plan but also fulfills South Africa’s commitment to its international obligations as outlined in the Paris Agreement under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).”

What it needs

The notice calling for comment says, “The NCCAS focuses on context, strategic focus, the need to reduce vulnerability and build adaptive capacity, early warning systems, adaptation planning, research, governance and legislation and both a finance and an implementation framework.”

The department’s experts have at the same time issued a supporting statement on climate change itself as a subject, which confirms that “worrying” weather patterns are seemingly not about to get any better, increases in annual-average near-surface temperatures are the order of the day and projected to occur over large parts of South Africa, particularly the western interior and northern parts of SA.

Facts evident

The statement adds in the briefing, “Climate zones across South Africa are already shifting and noticeable, ecosystems and landscapes are being degraded, veld fires are becoming more frequent and over-used natural terrestrial and marine systems are under stress.”

It was for these reasons, DEA’s statement concludes that South Africa must take immediate action by planning for climate change and intensifying response to forthcoming impacts, given the extreme weather events that are increasing in the country and which mirror similar changes elsewhere in the world.

No maybe

“Heat wave conditions will be much more likely, the dry spell duration will lengthen slightly, and rainfall intensity is increasing in SA”, says DEA.   The NCCAS warns throughout its presentation that the poor are the most vulnerable to any climate change impact.

Reading between the lines, the NCCAS is no coded message.  It indicates clearly that failure to tackle higher temperatures and unpredictable rainfall could lead to troublesome reactions from poorer sections of the community.  A clear warning is contained in the entire presentation that events being a threat to national security could be the price to pay if no serious counteractions are taken.

DEA says that the NCCAS as proposed will provide “a common reference point for climate change adaptation efforts in South Africa and promote coherence and coordination on climate change adaptation activities between different institutions and levels of government.”

Action will pay off

A positive note is also found in the proposals when it is stated, “The NCCAS is designed to give South Africa an advantage going forward in economic terms”.  It is pointed out that the flip side of adaption to climate change presents many investment opportunities, they claim.  Infrastructural changes are called for, DEA says.

“New funding flows to support adaptation will represent one of the biggest accelerations of development investment since the achievement of democracy in South Africa. The scenarios adopted will provide not only a unique opportunity to both ensure climate resilience but will achieve development aspirations.”

A little “over the top” perhaps, but a carrot that is provided.

The equation

The comment period is until 5 June at which point DEA will consider responses and submit their final strategy plan to Parliament for debate.  Clearly compliance is also seen by DEA as a priority in terms of UNFCCC undertakings made in the Paris Agreement to have such a strategy and plan.

 

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