By Felix Donkor – 

The role of cities in the dynamics of climate change is well acknowledged and has also become exigent in the light of the recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), special report (48th Session of the IPCC). The report, which is in the context of strengthening the global response to the threat of climate change, sustainable development, and efforts to eradicate poverty, highlighted the impacts of higher global and local temperatures on various sectors key to the prosperity of people and economies.  These include sectors which are crucial to the economy of Gauteng, which is the economic hub of South Africa. Its economy is largely premised on fossil-fuel energy sources; hence, it is highly vulnerable to the impacts of climate variability and change. Climate change therefore poses a risk of undermining the sustainable development initiatives in South Africa and Gauteng Province.

The second annual Gauteng Climate Change Indaba took place at the Velmore Hotel, in Erasmia in Pretoria (13 November 2018). Ms Priscilla Pietersen (GDARD) gave the welcome and rationale for the event, which included showcasing Gauteng City Region’s climate change response efforts, raising public awareness around climate change issues and presenting the Gauteng City Region Climate Change Strategic Action Plan (CCSAP) and associated plans. Mr Steve Nicholls (NBI), the programme director, suggested the yearly forum provides a unique platform for the Gauteng government to mainstream climate change in decision making at the provincial level. Furthermore, it enables the province to effectively strategise its climate policies and protocols to be in conformity with the national climate change framework.

Participants were informed that temperature records indicate Gauteng is registering higher temperatures. This comes with several implications such as increased risks of heat waves, flooding, “mega-fires”, frost–free winters, bigger thunderstorms and more severe droughts. These scenarios bring to the fore disaster risk management and real on-the-ground responses to climate risk reduction. Ms Lindokuhle Ngubane expatiated on the Gauteng Disaster Management Plan. She added that Section 39 of the Disaster Management Act sought to develop a framework for provinces to integrate climate change disaster risk reduction (DRR) in their operations – which Gauteng, as a province, has been proactively engaged in. Fire stations were being strategically located in areas, including informal settlements, to forestall any related occurrences. Institutional arrangements have also been made to develop the requisite municipal capacities and emergencies. Other presentations touched on the Gauteng Green Strategic Programme (Dr Rethabilie Melamu), Gauteng Energy Security Strategy (Dr Isaac Salagae) and Gauteng City Region Over-Arching Climate Change Response Strategy and Action Plan (Mr Loyiso Mkwana).

The impacts of climate change are felt heavily at the grassroots level and amongst vulnerable groups, such as the youth. In a bid to enhance inclusiveness in its climate response framework, learners and other youth groups were invited inter alia and made contributions to the deliberations. For example, the Landcare programme shows teachers and learners to take care of the environment in a fun and interactive way. Ms. Rina Taviv of the Gauteng Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (GDARD) highlighted outreach initiatives which had been rolled out to raise awareness and keep all key stakeholders engaged. This includes collaboration with the Department of Education to increase climate awareness under the auspices of the Gauteng Climate Awareness Forum amongst others.

As a forerunner to the Katowice Climate Change Conference (UNFCCC COP 24) in Poland, some civic organisations which are active in the province and will be at the participating at Katowice cross-pollinated ideas on the side-lines and gave their reflections on the event:

I really liked the Gauteng Climate Change Indaba 2018 for upholding and rewarding the efforts of school children and working with school. By ensuring that our young people are at the forefront of driving climate change responses and empowering young people with skills to develop innovative and sustainable livelihoods, as well as by drawing in the distinct and unique experiences of both women and men from communities and households, we will definitely increase the effectiveness and sustainability of climate change responses – and thus have climate resilient cities and communities that are food, water,  and energy secure!”  (Bertha Chiroro Gender CCSA – Women for Climate Justice).