It is “becoming increasingly clear” that if South Africa does not adapt to climate change the country’s ability to deliver on its developmental priorities such as housing and water, energy and public health services will be undermined, according to Water and Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa.
Scientists say South Africa is “especially vulnerable” to climate change’s effects simply because of its position in global climate “belts”.
“In South Africa, our efforts at promoting sustainable development focus on ensuring access to housing, water, sanitation, food security, energy, transport, education and public health services, as well as creating employment opportunities and nurturing our ecosystem services.
“However, it is becoming increasingly clear that if we don’t take early action to adapt, our ability to deliver on these fundamental developmental priorities, at all levels, may be undermined by short-, medium- and long-term climate impacts,” Ms Molewa told a Southern African meeting of politicians and scientists in Centurion.
Monday was the first time South Africa had hosted a regional meeting aimed at reflecting on, and sharing, knowledge and experience of climate-related extreme events and their implications for society and development, she said.
Ms Molewa said it was “clear that the only choice for humanity” was to take practical action, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, preparing for extreme events and otherwise adapting to climate change’s impacts.
South Africa’s National Climate Change Response Policy was aimed at effectively managing “the inevitable climate-change impacts through interventions that build and sustain South Africa’s social, economic and environmental resilience and emergency response capacity”; and at making “a fair contribution” to the global effort to stabilise greenhouse gas concentrations “within a time frame that enables economic, social and environmental development to proceed in a sustainable manner”, she said.
Climate scientist Guy Midgley said South Africa’s geographical position and scientific community meant it was well placed to contribute to global efforts to adapt to and mitigate climate change’s efforts.
South Africa pledged, at the 2009 United Nations climate change talks, to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions trajectory by 42% from “business as usual”, by 2025. South Africa is one of the world’s top 15 greenhouse gas emitters — and Africa’s largest — although the US and China account for 45%, as measured by the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC)’s recently released Special Report on Managing the Risks of Extreme Events and Disasters to Advance Climate Change Adaptation noted “high confidence” that economic losses from weather- and climate-related disasters, while variable, had “increased overall”, that these losses were greater in developing than developed countries and that “more than 95% of deaths from natural disasters” took place in developing countries. The report was discussed at Monday’s meeting.
The IPCC is a scientific intergovernmental body first established in 1988 by two United Nations organisations, the World Meteorological Organisation and the United Nations Environment Programme, and later endorsed by the UN General Assembly.
By Sue Blaine. Source: Business Day
Water and Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa. Image: Financial Mail