EMG Climate 01Global warming is affecting South Africa’s weather patterns and predictions are that changes will become more pronounced over the next decades. The specific predictions are complex and couched in uncertainty, but there is general consensus that average temperatures will increase, particularly over the interior of the country. Changes in rainfall patterns are less certain, but it is likely that the western parts of the country will become drier and the central and eastern parts somewhat wetter. Shorter rainy seasons and an increase in severe weather events (droughts, floods, storms, tornados, etc.) are also likely to be part of the change.

The agricultural sector is obviously the most directly affected by climatic changes and it poses problems for rural economies, but, as we have seen with the current drought, the knock-on effects are felt in urban areas too, particularly with rising food prices.

National government is responsible for laws and policies to reduce carbon emissions.

But local authorities are responsible for limiting damage due to natural events

....by enforcing building codes; controlling settlement in unsuitable areas; maintaining roads, bridges, and other lines of communication; maintaining water supplies and waste removal; etc.

The African National Congress (ANC) acknowledges that local authorities have a central role to play in adapting to a changing climate. But they don’t say what this role is. Under the ANC’s rule, municipalities will work more closely with provincial and national government to develop their mitigation and adaptation measures. You decide whether this is a good or bad thing!

The Democratic Alliance (DA)’s manifesto promises a lot, and by way of example, showcases its state-of-the-art Disaster Risk Management Centre in the City of Cape Town, by implication suggesting that such centres will be rolled-out in any other municipalities it governs. On the other hand, the actual words “climate change” do not appear anywhere.

The Economic Freedom Front (EFF) promises that no pothole will last more than 48 hours. Unfortunately, the kinds of floods we can expect may well wash the entire road away, unless they have already met another promise to “…construct and maintain storm water systems to avoid all forms of floods and heavy rains which might destroy infrastructure.” However, there is no real evidence that their vision integrates the kind of disaster management that may be needed.

The United Democratic Movement (UDM) insists each local government must have its own disaster management strategies in place, with rapid response systems to coordinate movement or evacuation when necessary.

But, adapting to climate change requires much more than ensuring flood-proof infrastructure and effective disaster relief systems. A truly resilient urban or rural community will be one where relationships and support structures within the community are good, and where relationships between citizens and authorities are open, honest and productive.

Some questions for your newly elected councillor:

  • How ready is the municipality for the challenges of climate change?
  • How do you intend to minimise damage caused by natural disasters and climate change?
  • What disaster relief strategies do you have in place
  • How do you envisage this community becoming resilient in the face of climate change?

Back to Introduction

Water & Climate Change - Resources

Water and climate change - an exploration for the concerned and curious (2011) ed. Jessica Wilson, EMG, Cape Town - Hardcopy for R60, or download it in sections -- Main Text (2.1MB), Photo Essay (2.4MB), Guest Essays (380KB)  

Water demand management's shadow side: Tackling inequality and scarcity of water provision in Cape Town (2012) Taryn Pereira and Jessica Wilson, EMG Water & Climate Change Research Series Report 7 (315KB PDF)

The Energy-Water Nexus: Energy demand on water resources (2012) Brenda Martin & Robert Fischer, EMG Water & Climate Change Research Series Report 5 (973KB PDF)

You can't have your gas and drink your water (2012) Liane Greeff, EMG Water & Climate Change Research Series Report 6 (1.3MB PDF)

Drought in Eden: An exploration of municipality responses, community impacts and lesson for water and climate change from the 2009/10 drought in the southern Cape (2010) Taryn Pereira (1.8MB)

Climate Change and Water Services in SA (2009) Jessica Wilson & Taryn Pereira, EMG (500KB)

Climate change mitigation in the water sector: or how to reduce the carbon footprint of water (2009) Taryn Pereira, EMG (1.7MB)

Household Impacts of Water management Devices (2009) Taryn Pereira, EMG (128KB)

Water Handbook for South African activist and decision makers in urban areas (2008), Jessica Wilson EMG (2nd edition)

Straight Talk: To strengthen delivery in the water services sector (2009) Water Dialogues SA Syntheses Report, Ed. Mary Galvin,Water Dialogues SA

The story of an international multistakeholder process (2009) Chapman & Mancini  The Water Dialogues, London

A guide to multistakeholder work (2009) Hilary Colby, The Water Dialogues, London

Thirstyville is not for sale (2003) Illustrated by Carlos Amato, EMG