Developing a National Adaptation Strategy with stakeholders

By Rehana Dada

Under the leadership of the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA), South Africa is currently undertaking a process to develop a National Adaptation Strategy (NAS) that is intended to act as “the cornerstone for climate change adaptation in the country”. Consultations are underway with stakeholders at provincial level and with special interest groupings, with the intention of consolidating inputs and comments into a second draft in early 2017. After further stakeholder inputs to the next public draft, the intention is to produce a final document in March 2017.

The central principles used as common threads throughout the strategy are:

  • Development planning should prioritise climate-resilient development
  • Holistic societal resilience requires integrated sectoral and cross-sectoral approaches
  • Climate change adaptation and climate change mitigation are closely interlinked
  • Climate change adaptation planning must be adaptive, flexible and able to evolve

Many of South Africa’s provinces and district municipalities have developed and are already implementing adaptation strategies. With support from DEA, provincial adaptation plans were developed over the past 18 months or so in provinces where they did not already exist, and currently a number of new district municipality adaptation strategies are in development. Part of the intention of developing the NAS is to provide a reference point for adaptation work across the three levels of government, as well as across governance and economic sectors. In addition, it is intended to help link adaptation to national development goals and help shape effective implementation for adaptation activities, as well as allow for “more effective” participation in global responses to climate change.

The current draft of the NAS identifies the following national adaptation priority strategies:

  • Formalise climate change policy and legislation in the form of a National Climate Change Act that builds on the NCCRP White Paper and establishes the appropriate institutional arrangements for implementation, planning, engagement in research, and M&E. Such policy and legislation must enable the design and capacitation of appropriate institutions, facilitate cross-sectoral alignment in implementation, and integrate adaptation and mitigation efforts.
  • Integrate climate change adaptation within existing development planning and implementation processes, by including key approaches that enhance adaptive capacity, enhance livelihoods, and reduce the risk of and adverse effects from climate-related disasters. These include ecosystem-based adaptation (EbA), sound catchment management, community-based adaptation, conservation agriculture and climate-smart agriculture (CSA) (including forestry and fisheries), climate-proof infrastructure development and settlement planning, among others.
  • Launch a joint planning and implementation process, involving all sectors, that integrates and operationalises necessary systemic changes across government, taking into account both adaptation and mitigation outcomes, and that supports economy-wide resilient development.
  • Assess the cost of integrated systemic changes and build a case to secure international resources to support implementation.
  • Conduct a scoping process to consider climate change vulnerabilities in sectors (such as energy, mining and transportation) that have been underserved in previous climate vulnerability assessments.
  • Ensure that future planning, growth and development within sectors that have traditionally taken a mitigation focus (such as energy, mining and transportation) explicitly take into account future climate change impacts for the sector as well necessary adaptation measures, while simultaneously considering how these sectors can contribute to climate resilience in communities implicated by their development.
  • Strengthen EPWPs to support climate resilience in ecosystems and people (such as the Land User Incentives Programme), to ensure sustainable land management into the long term.
  • Mandate that all public infrastructure be planned, designed, operated and managed after explicitly taking current and predicted future climate change impacts into account, to ensure optimal performance and value-maintenance of infrastructure despite a changing climate.
  • Grow the knowledge base of climate change impacts and solutions, fill gaps in current knowledge and reduce long-term uncertainties by investing in R&D, especially in integrated assessment of impacts, impacts modelling and adaptation assessment.
  • Prioritise approaches that quantify socio-economic aspects of impacts to support key decisions. Create integrated knowledge management and information-sharing systems to improve access to climate change-related information and improve informed decision-making.
  • Build capacity to implement effective adaptation programmes across government and all sectors through focused and targeted training programmes and continuing education.
  • Implement an effective climate change adaptation response M&E system and ensure that it is fully integrated with all relevant aspects of the climate change framework.
  • Develop and implement an effective communication and outreach programme that informs all sectors and all levels of society about the risks and opportunities that exist due to climate change.

Sectoral adaptation priorities were also identified, with acknowledgement that sector departments, provinces and municipalities develop their own adaptation strategies and that the NAS “does not supplant or obviate existing sectoral climate adaptation strategies…. but rather emphasises the need for them to be actioned”.

The current draft of the NAS provides an overview of existing legislation, policies, institutions, and tools that are already in use in the different sectors as well as some that are being developed, and makes recommendations for governance and institutional arrangements for implementing adaptation at the national scale. It articulates the need to mainstream policies and interventions across government departments with participation from civil society and the private sector, and acknowledges the challenges relating to developing a single pathway for adaptation, as well as the need for adaptation and mitigation responses to reinforce each other.

The following recommendations are made for institutions across the three levels of government:

  • Integrate climate change mitigation and adaptation into policy and regulatory frameworks, and further into day-to-day operations in ways that permit flexibility, reassessment and redirection if indicated.
  • Coordinate their climate change adaptation programmes and interventions with other sectors or spheres of government to maximise mutual reinforcement of both adaptation and mitigation goals.
  • Ensure both internal and external communication about the adaptation measures being taken, as well as the expected benefits and actual results. This allows adaptation measures to be iterative, and widespread awareness allows broader participation, learning and engagement.
  • Commit to and operationalise measurement, reporting, verification and monitoring and evaluation to feed continuous re-evaluation in an effective way.

An implementation plan will be developed as part of the NAS process.

Download the current document at:

For more information or to submit comments please email Alinah Mthembu of Department of Environmental Affairs: