Home / Experts / Global Warming / Dr. Anna Taylor / A “WICKED” CLIMATE CHANGE PROBLEM IN THE CITY WITH DR. ANNA TAYLOR (CoCT)


Dr. Anna Taylor, African Centre for Cities (ACC) and CSAG, University of Cape Town has been in a close partnership with the City of Cape Town municipal government, working as an embedded researcher to analyse and contribute to the further development of climate adaptation processes and adaptive pathways, both at a strategic city-wide level and within the fields of storm-water management and coastal management. She looks into what climate science can and cannot tell us, and how can we respond when there is uncertainty – looking in particular at Cape Town.

Climate science finds it difficult to provide precise forecasts of what is in store for people, which presents a challenge to those who are developing climate change responses: how do we build resilience to an uncertain future, especially when there are competing demands on public and private finance and human resources?

In some key questions, she addresses how a ‘Complex organisation such as City of Cape Town (CoCT) responds to the ‘wicked’ climate change program’, as follows:

Q: Why is Climate Change a ‘wicked’ problem? * Wicked vs Tame problems – not as in evil but as in ‘resisting resolution’, i.e. untameable, * Interconnected with other problems, e.g. poverty, food security, water shortages, globalisation, congestion, population growth, etc., * Every intervention to address a wicked problem is a “one-shot operation” – there is no opportunity to learn by trial and error, every attempt changes the problem, * Climate change – ‘A Super wicked problem’? – additional characteristics that identify it in a higher category are – Time is Running out – No central authority – Those seeking to solve the problem, are also causing it – Policies discount the future irrationally.

Q: Why is the CoCT a complex organisation? * Large, political and administrative/technical organisation, * Political: Exec. Mayor, Exec. Dep. Mayor, Mayoral Committee of Senior Councillors, 4 ‘Mini-Mayors’, 116 Ward Councillors and 115 Proportional Representative Councillors = 231 full Council (13 parties), Speaker and Chief Whip, * Administrative: City Manger, Dep. City Manager, 27,000 City officials in 47 depts., Exec. Management Team, * Interface: 21 Portfolio Committees and Special Committees, Strategic Policy unit.
Since the formation of the Uni-City in December 2000, the latest of many phases of integration and restructuring, when 61 local, racially-segregated municipalities were ultimately unified into one metropolitan municipality. The CoCT must ensure that all its policies, strategies and plans align with National and W/Cape provincial legislation and policy as a constitutional requirement of co-operative governance.

Q: What is CoCT doing to tackle Climate Change? * Dating back to 2001, the need for a Climate Change Strategy was included in the IMEP, only picked up in 2004/5 with activity picking up with the past 10 years, * This Strategy includes many sectors, i.e. transport, spatial planning, water, human settlements/housing, biodiversity, storm- water, disaster management, coastal management, electricity/energy and health, * Interventions, viz; Strategies, Plans, Projects, Sectoral policies, CC policy, Networks and Organisation redesign.

Q: How is CoCT tackling Climate Change? * Led by the Environmental Resource Management dept. – climate change was initially seen as an environmental issue, not a development issue, * Events were often important windows of opportunity, e.g. 2004 Flood, COP 17 in 2011, World Design Capital 2014, 100 Resilient Cities 2016 and current drought, * Leverage additional funding, * Grab attention, * Generate momentum (dissipates quickly), * Poor coordination cannot be done by one person, have reporting forums – not learning forums (compliance culture), * Groupings need time and space to mature and build trust.

Q: How does Cape Town stack up? Associated difficulties with – * Poor and uneven data (spatial and temporal), * Not comparing Like with Like (different political, administrative and legal systems, territorial boundaries, levels of decentralisation, levels of investment and public finance), * Translating theory into practice and vice versa, * Politics, * Diplomacy, * Advocacy, * Marketing (internationalisation, status, investment).

Some focused attributes of a ‘Well Adapting’ municipality – * Champions – Technical and Political, * Clear Objectives stated and reviewed, * Comprehensive Risk and Vulnerability assessments, * Guidance and Training – Technical and Political.

Cape Town now has its own draft Climate Change policy that is currently going through review, it has been through public participation and is yet to go to Council for ‘adoption’, this being a fairly unique situation, as not many cities have a policy at the city scale on Climate Change – that fact alone sets Cape Town apart!

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Strengthening climate resilience in African cities
African Centre for Cities (ACC)

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