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Climate Change in the City – What Keeps me Awake at Night!

In this 2017 UCT Summer School Series, Day 3 ~ Ms Helen Davies (BSc. (Hons.), MSc, MBA) presents on Framing the policy of Climate Change in terms of our understanding, viewpoint and approach to, as well as the current context in terms of GHG emissions and of climate change Adaptation – key future risks that City of Cape Town (CoCT) is facing in medium and long term scenarios, including ‘What Keeps me Awake at Night’ – which addresses the GAP between where we are trying to go and what has been implemented to date.

In terms of framing the policy, very simply, the most likely projected climatic changes would be; potentially a decrease in average annual rainfall and seasonality thereof, which would present as increased storm events, frequency and magnitude, also, increased temperatures – not just average temperatures, but also increased numbers of days of heat waves (extreme temperature days), increased average wind speeds including number of days with extreme winds, and lastly a mean sea level rise.
Future key impacts we are likely to see and experience in the short to medium term from Climate Change are potentially: infrastructure flooding and damage, drought, species losses, storm surge erosion on coastlines, increase in health impacts and increased wild-fires. There would also be a potential increase in property insurance premiums, legislative issues for CoCT in terms of approving developments which could pose a major risk factor and the liability thereof, an increase in social unrest due to food security (accessibility, availability and price), downtime of major harbour operations due to increased wind speeds, leading to an increased number of operational days lost and in terms of the smaller fishing harbours, there will be loss of fishing days due to high winds and storm surge.

With numerous countries, including South Africa, responding to Climate Change, we could be facing increased prices through implementations like carbon taxes, etc. Electricity prices are already on the increase, however, with increasing water security issues, there could well be an even bigger increase in electricity prices, and lastly, the threat of a huge increase in immigration, we are already seeing massive climate refugee migration happening across the globe, which is something CoCT will have to look seriously at, particularly with our agricultural environment being under threat.
Looking at the GHG situation, the latest figures in terms of Total Energy consumption growth (26,8%) versus Annual Average Energy consumption growth rate (2,18%) between 2001-2012, in terms of the Average Annual Population (2,6%) and Economic (4%) growth rates, our energy consumption is not growing in tandem – Good News!, but we need to see more of this ‘de-coupling’, i.e. economic and population growth increasing but no consequent energy growth.

The City’s Climate Change Policy Approach addresses amongst others; socio-economic issues with environmental consequences, Climate Change impacts already being felt, natural environment and resource efficiency – if managed well will build resilience, by 2030 it is estimated that two-thirds (⅔) of world’s population will be in cities, etc.
This policy is twofold, viz;
Adaptation – Prepare for change at local level to reduce risks and build adaptive capacity.
Mitigation – Contribute to global efforts to reduce GHG emissions.

The big question remains, which is ‘Who has what mandate and what responsibility’? In Closing the Gap, we are all working together in order to identify who plays what role and these vital questions which will define and clarify our success at working together to slow down the march of Climate Change in not only our province and country but Africa too and contribute to reducing GHG emissions worldwide.
The questions….
How to bring everyone along?
How to enable innovation?
How to develop and use alternate forms of financing, e.g. Green Bonds?
‘Everything is only possible in collaboration with Others’!

Cape Town~Low-Carbon Central City Strategy 2014
Future Climate for Africa

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