‘A city of hope and potential’ — Nelson Mandela Bay launches climate-resilient strategy
The Nelson Mandela Bay metro on Wednesday began the process of designing a climate-resilient strategy for the city which, because of its reliance on the automotive industry, is likely to be hard-hit by the effects of climate change and efforts to mitigate against it.
‘I see the city as a city of hope and potential. Seize the moment and take agency. Don’t wait for Pretoria or Bhisho.”
This was the encouragement from the executive director of the Presidential Climate Commission, Dr Crispian Olver, at the launch of Nelson Mandela Bay’s collaborative project to design a climate-resilient strategy in one year.
Olver said a successful climate-resilient strategy would need the help of business and a “rich fabric of society”.
“All these sectors must show leadership. I want to say we are all in charge. Driving this will need equal partnerships.”
He said Nelson Mandela Bay had the potential to become SA’s renewable energy capital as it could provide wave, solar and wind power.
“This is a revolution akin to the big economic revolutions,” Olver said.
He said some sectors would grow dramatically and others would decline.
He was doubtful that coal would remain viable. “Fossil fuels will go first and then liquid fuels. Gas will fade eventually.”
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He said these changes would have a massive impact and the workers in the value chain were most at risk.
“One of the things that keeps me awake at night is the auto industry,” Olver said. Nelson Mandela Bay is heavily reliant on the motor industry, with the sector providing between 30,000 and 40,000 jobs in the metro.
“The auto industry must move,” he said. “They must make decisions now. If we are not careful, these investments will be made elsewhere.”
He said several factors negatively affected the automotive industry, including a lack of energy and water security, the “parlous state” of SA’s ports and its declining security situation.
There was “naked competition” for supply chains for electric vehicles.
“We must actively help people to transition and train people,” he said. “We must help communities and workers to navigate this.”
Nelson Mandela Bay Business Chamber’s climate change lead, Dr Gary Koekemoer, said the multi-stakeholder sign-up made this development unique as the climate-resilient strategy would not be driven only by the municipality.
The World Bank’s senior adviser and climate adaptation lead on the South African Presidential Climate Commission, Dhesigen Naidoo, said there were several reasons the strategy was launched in Nelson Mandela Bay.
He said the metro, which is heavily reliant on the motor industry and components manufacturing, was likely to face a “double whammy” as it would feel the impacts of climate change and be economically affected by the global response to climate change.
“But another reason is also its people,” he said. “There is an enthusiasm, a level of organisation and activism.”
Naidoo said Nelson Mandela Bay faced the possibility of going the same way as the US city of Detroit, which went into a steep decline when its automotive industry failed.
However, he said, “On the back of a resilience strategy, it can become a Tokyo”, referring to the Japanese city that is a global force in the automotive industry and a hub of technological innovation.
“You must be really successful, really quickly,” Naidoo said. “We want to show that a development and climate-resilience strategy that can address inequality can make a difference. The level of difference it makes will depend on what you do.
“We need to change the world and we need to change it our way.”
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The chairperson of the Nelson Mandela Bay Climate Coalition and the CEO of the Wilderness Foundation Africa, Dr Andrew Muir, said Nelson Mandela Bay was used to natural disasters. “It has always been part of life in the Bay.”
He said climate change was not bad weather.
“The metro is getting hotter at an unnatural rate. It requires urgent intervention.”
Muir said future weather scenarios for Nelson Mandela Bay included a 2.2 to 2.5 ℃ increase in temperature, the sea temperature increasing by 2℃ and the sea level rising by between 0.75m and 1m, with significant changes in rainfall including “rain bomb” events where between 200mm and 400mm would fall within a day.
“We will have variable weather on steroids,” he said.
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“There is a threat and an opportunity,” he said. Muir pointed out that Nelson Mandela Bay was the only place in South Africa where five biomes converged. He said there were enough skills and know-how in the manufacturing, scientific, education and social sectors to fight climate change.
“We also know how to work together,” Muir said.
He said the deadlines they had set would see the production of a final climate-resilience report for the metro by February 2025. The key principles to be addressed by this report are understanding the ecosystem, sustainable development, “think local, act global”, a just transition, collective stewardship and accountability.
“Nobody can be left behind,” Muir said.
The climate champion for Nelson Mandela Bay, Lusanda Msebi, said she hoped that there would be more than just listening. “Our youth is behind. We need skills development,” she said.
Monga Peter from the Nelson Mandela Bay Civil Society Coalition said they supported the strategy as long as “everyone is taken on board” and there was engagement.
“It is an all-hands-on-deck situation,” he said. “This city doesn’t have a deficit of plans, but what is missing is action.” DM