Vulnerable municipalities lack climate change strategies

By Rehana Dada, based on Mankolo X. Lethoko (2016)

Mainstreaming of climate change into existing development planning is widely considered the most efficient way to use resources to address climate change impacts, and particularly to implement climate change adaptation measures.  Although significant progress is being made in South Africa to mainstream climate change, for example through the Department of Environmental Affairs’ cities programme, many municipalities lack policies that are relevant for or specific to climate change.  A paper published in April this year shows, for example, that seven municipalities in Limpopo Province that have high vulnerability to climate change impacts have not institutionalised climate change into their daily operations, planning and decision making, or included adaptation and mitigation strategies in their Integrated Development Plans (IDPs).

Author of the paper, Mankolo Lethoko of University of Limpopo, conducted an in-depth analysis of IDPs of Greater Giyani, Ephraim Mogale, Greater Letaba, Thulamela, Aganang, Fetakgomo, and Elias Motsoaledi to assess how climate change was being integrated.  He explains in the paper that IDPs are the principal instruments that guide and inform budgeting, management and decision making related to service delivery and development, and the process of developing IDPs enables municipalities to work with all stakeholders, including communities, to address poverty and grow the local economy.  He refers to the National Climate Change Response Paper which commits the South African government to mainstream climate change response into all sectors and levels of government, and suggests that IDPs are the most relevant tools for assisting municipalities to plan and budget for climate change.

Lethoko writes that all seven municipalities list climate change challenges in their IDPs but do not include strategies for adaptation or mitigation. All considered water scarcity a challenge, and six listed waste management as problematic.  With regards to pollution, some referred to air quality and others included water and surface pollution. Only Aganang had an Integrated Waste Management Plan and only Greater Letaba had an Environmental Management plan, however both require updates to include climate change.  Only Fetakgomo lists its vulnerability status.  In general, writes Lethoko, there was no structured way of presenting environmental plans in the IDPs, and none discussed strategies to address climate change.

Lethoko writes: “A number of challenges that these municipalities were experiencing in addressing climate change surfaced. Amongst such challenges could be listed: low local human capacity to undertake this kind of planning; limited knowledge and understanding of climate issues at local level; limited financial resources and competing resources which often result in medium- to long-term planning being side-lined; projects that do not fit into the short political life of decision makers are not implemented. It is difficult to convince decision makers to consider a need for a climate strategy when climate projections cover a longer time horizon than political and development agendas of municipalities.”

As quoted in Lethoko’s paper, Pierre Mukheibir and Gina Ziervogel suggest the following to guide the development of a municipal adaptation plan :

  1. Assess current climate trends and future projections for the geographical region;
  2. Undertake a climate vulnerability assessment of the municipal area. Many cities will not have collected and analyzed this information and would therefore have to develop this assessment from scratch:
    1. identify current sectoral and cross-sectoral vulnerabilities based on current climate variability risks and trends;
    2. identify future potential vulnerabilities based on future projected climate scenarios and future climate risks;
    3. capture this information on local vulnerability maps using GIS and other tools. The climate impact assessment would include sea-level rise, drought and flood- prone areas;
  3. Review current development plans and priorities. Most municipalities would be able to find this information in their various strategic plans;
  4. overlay development priorities, expected climate change, current climate vulnerability and expected future climate vulnerability using GIS for spatial interrogation, and other participatory and quantitative assessments for further analysis. These various overlays will assist in identifying hotspots where adaptation activities should be focused;
  5. Develop adaptation options using new and existing consultative tools. These options should integrate climate-sensitive responses with development priorities and focus on areas that are highly vulnerable to climate variability;
  6. Prioritize the adaptation actions using tools such as multi-criteria analysis (MCA), cost- benefit analysis (CBA) or social accounting matrices (SAM);
  7. Develop programme and project scoping and design documents together with associated budgets. This document will be the Municipal Adaptation Plan (MAP) (Figure 1);
  8. Implement the interventions prioritized in the MAP;
  9. Monitor and evaluate the interventions on an ongoing basis; and
  10. Regularly review and modify the plans at predefined intervals.

Source: Mukheibir P and Ziervogel G. 2007. Developing a Municipal Adaptation Plan (MAP) for climate change: the city of Cape Town. Published in Environment and Urbanization, April 2007.

The paper concludes: “…there is a need for an extensive engagement process to bring politicians and decision makers on board in terms of climate adaptation and mitigation. However, the reality is that scientific evidence confirms that climate change impact can already be felt in various spheres of people’s lives all over the world and that most of the warming observed in the past is because of human activities. This situation implies that societies and municipalities have to make plans to adapt and mitigate the impact of climate change before it is too late.”

The paper is titled Inclusion of climate change strategies in municipal Integrated Development Plans: a case from seven municipalities in Limpopo Province, South Africa. It is published in Jàmbá – Journal of Disaster Risk Studies.