News and Events – May 2016

177 countries sign Paris Agreement

On April 22nd, known internationally as Earth Day, the UN Secretary General invited world leaders to sign the Paris Agreement.  At the signing ceremony, 174 countries signed, and three other countries signed shortly after.  In addition, 16 countries have submitted their ratifications, accounting for 0,04 per cent of global emissions. Nauru, Tuvalu and Marshall Islands declared on signing that ratification of the Paris Agreement will not “constitute a renunciation of any rights” concerning State responsibility for the adverse effects of climate change.  Several other countries, including Australia, Canada, China, France and the United States, announced plans to ratify during the course of the year and Brazil, the European Union and the Russian Federation pledged to “swiftly” complete the domestic steps necessary for them to ratify the agreement.  The Paris Agreement enters into force 30 days after 55 countries accounting for 55 per cent of global emissions deposit their instruments of ratification.  Signature is only the first step towards ratification.  The deadline for signature is 21 April 2017.

Environmental licences now automatically available to the public

Just ahead of Freedom Day, Centre for Environmental Rights (CER) announced that the Department of Environmental Affairs has now made environmental licenses available to the public automatically.   Previously access to such documents required that a request be submitted in terms of the Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA). CER has been campaigning for automatic access for some time, arguing that the public has a right to know what conditions are set in the licenses for environmentally harmful operations, and to be able to monitor compliance. CER considers this a step towards automatic access to licenses issued by other departments as well as reports and data on companies’ compliance with their environmental licence requirements.

For more information:

Northern Cape Vulnerability Assessment Workshop & Provincial Climate Change Dialogue

The Northern Cape Department of Environment and Nature Conservation is holding the final workshop for the Northern Cape Vulnerability Assessment in Kimberley on 2nd June 2016.  An overview of vulnerability assessments in all sectors will be provided, with a focused presentation on coastal management.  Documents are available for comment.

On the following day the Department of Environmental Affairs is holding a Provincial Climate Change Dialogue, also in Kimberley.
For more information about the workshops please contact

Leigh-Anne Groenewald:

SAFCEI breakfast fundraiser

The South African Faith Communities Environmental Initiative (SAFCEI) is holding a breakfast fundraiser to raise support for efforts to stop nuclear power plans for South Africa.  SAFCEI is working in partnership with Earthlife Africa Johannesburg to challenge government’s nuclear power procurement process through court action.

The power of now: Way Beyond Nuclear

Monday 23 May 2016

09:00 – 11:00

Vineyard Hotel, Claremont, Cape Town

Buy your tickets through Webtickets

For more information: / Tel 072-6212131

Extreme heat waves could become “normal” within 20 years

A study published in Environmental Research Letters shows that extreme heat waves could occur annually by 2040, and become as frequent as four times a year by 2100 in a 2 degree Celsius world.  This would strongly affect human life expectancy and crop production.  The study analysed the magnitude and spatial extent of the most extreme heat waves in Africa between 1970 and 2015.

More severe asthma linked to extreme heat and precipitation

A study by the University of Maryland School of Public Health shows increased risk of hospitalisation for asthma related to extreme heat and heavy rainfall, with particularly higher risk during summer.  Extreme heat during summer resulted in a 23 per cent increase in risk of asthma hospitalisation, and extreme precipitation during summer increased hospitalisation risk by 11 per cent.  There is higher risk among people between the ages of 5 and 17.  The study is published in Environmental Health.

How red knots are affected by climate change

Red knots are wading birds that breed in the Arctic and overwinter on the coast of Mauritania, Australia or South America. Newborn red knots depend for food on insect blooms that occur when the tundra melts at the start of spring.  As temperatures rise, spring and the associated insect blooms occur earlier, but the bird’s breeding times remains the same.  This means that red knots born in warm Arctic years are food deprived and therefore physically smaller.  When they overwinter in Mauritania, they feed on molluscs. Smaller birds have smaller beaks, which prevents them from reaching higher quality molluscs in deeper sands, and forces them to rely on lower quality molluscs higher up and seagrass.  They therefore have a lower survival rate.

Ice loss accelerating in coastal glaciers on Greenland

A study by the University of Dartmouth Department of Earth Sciences shows that Greenland’s coastal glaciers are accelerating their loss of ice mass.  This is a result of meltwater from the surface draining through faults in the ice and along the bottom of the glaciers.  Surface melt water drains to the bottom of the glacier through weaknesses, weakening the ice and causing fracturing.  Meltwater flowing to the bottom of the glacier then decreases the friction between the ice and its bedrock, and this causes the glacier to move faster.  Once the glacier reaches the ocean, warmer saltwater then causes melting of the glacier from below, and the freshwater contributes to breakdown of newly calved ice bergs and sea ice.  The study is published in Annals of Glaciology.

Southern African Adaptation Colloquium

The University of Witwatersrand, African Climate and Development Initiative and Adaptation Network are holding the second Southern African Adaptation Colloquium: Solution spaces and futures, learning together in a climate challenged world. It is an opportunity for people from various fields to share knowledge, learn from each other, debate and interact to find realistic and sustainable adaptation solutions to problems. The programme will feature local and international keynote speakers providing thought-provoking and challenging views on particular topics, information gathering sessions, discussion sessions and interactive working sessions

Johannesburg, 07 & 08 July 2016.

For more information please email

Adaptation Network Training Workshops

The Adaptation Network is holding a series of training courses during 2016.  These are aimed at sharing knowledge about adaptation practice and participatory approaches towards adaptation.

19 & 20 July 2016: Introduction to Adaptation, Tzaneen

28 & 29 July 2016: Forum Theatre for Adaptation, Cape Town

10 & 11 August 2016: Introduction to Adaptation, King Williams Town

19 to 22 September 2016: Adaptation Retreat, Nieuwoudtville

For more information please write to Noel Oettlé: