OUR BURNING PLANET OP-ED

Draft National Climate Change Adaptation Strategy introduces measures to adapt to effects of climate change

By Phumla Williams 28 May 2019
Caption
A photograph made available on 10 June 2013 shows power lines running to a coal power station in the early morning light near Johannesburg, South Africa, 06 June 2013. EPA/KIM LUDBROOK

The increased occurrence of disastrous weather conditions has moved our country to intensify its actions in the fight against climate change. South Africa has developed an adaptation strategy that will allow our nation to plan and respond better to the intensified impacts of climate change.

Climate change is wreaking havoc on global weather patterns. It has resulted in a shift in climate zones and placed ecological and marine systems across the world under great duress.

In South Africa, we have seen the effect for ourselves with parts of the country experiencing severe drought conditions while other areas have been hit by flash floods.

Earlier in 2019, neighbouring countries Malawi, Mozambique and Zimbabwe were struck by severe weather conditions. Cyclone Idai displaced hundreds of thousands of people and caused massive devastation.

South Africa, along with many other nations, united in providing assistance to our neighbours. However, the devastating effect of a changing climate and extreme weather continues to be felt across the Southern African Development Community.

The increased occurrence of these disastrous weather conditions has moved our country to intensify its actions in the fight against climate change. South Africa has developed an adaptation strategy that will allow our nation to plan and respond better to the intensified impacts of climate change.

The draft National Climate Change Adaptation Strategy introduces measures to adapt to the effects of climate change. It builds on the progressive, innovative and proactive policies that we already have in place to deal with an ever-changing climate.

It is guided by the overarching principle of sustainable development, which is the cornerstone of Vision 2030 contained in the National Development Plan.

The strategy defines the country’s vulnerabilities, charts how we can reduce these vulnerabilities and how we can turn them into opportunities. Our adaptation to climate change presents an opportunity to transform the economy, strengthen the social fabric and build a climate-resilient society.

Importantly, the strategy provides a common vision and rallying point for us to address climate change. It outlines the resources we need and demonstrates our progress on climate change adaptation.

It will also support South Africa in meeting its international climate change obligations and is in line with our commitment to the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, which is universally regarded as a seminal point in the fight against climate change.

The Paris Agreement aims to limit the global temperature increases to below 2̊C and mobilises financial and technological support, and capacity building for developing countries.

The draft National Climate Change Adaptation Strategy furthermore aims to achieve the stabilisation of greenhouse gas emissions and limit temperature increases to 1.5̊C. Once it is adopted for implementation, we trust it will contribute to the reduction of these gas emissions also to the region.

The draft was released on 19 May 2019 in the Government Gazette and will be open for public comment for 30 days. All South Africans are encouraged to comment on it and be part of our national response to climate change.

We can make this strategy a lived reality by changing the ways in which we interact with our environment. The manner in which we cool and heat our homes or handle our household waste can enhance efforts to transition to a lower carbon economy.

Let us take it on ourselves to go green so we can create a sustainable future for ourselves and our children. The challenge of saving our planet for future generations is very much in our hands and it begins with simple actions.

Illegal dumping has turned many of our communities into toxic waste dumps. Changing this sad state of affairs requires a united front. There is nevertheless a need for municipalities to make available more facilities for waste removal and waste management. However, communities have a role to play in making the effort to drop waste at designated waste-removal sites.

All of us should also use our collective power as consumers. Together we must insist that manufacturers use environmentally friendly packaging material, and that all product designs are environmentally friendly and recyclable so that we can end waste landfilling.

The National Climate Change Adaptation Strategy is our hope to transition to a lower carbon economy and sustainable development. It will also help us mitigate the impact of the severe weather conditions we are experiencing.

There is no time to waste. The clock is ticking and everyone has a role to play in supporting the National Climate Change Adaptation Strategy. Our actions today will determine our future, and that of generations to come. DM

Phumla Williams is the Cabinet spokesperson and acting director of the Government Communication and Information System.

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