The City of Cape Town VS Climate Change

The City of Cape Town VS Climate Change

This Post was submitted by Climate Scorecard South Africa Country Manager Andrew John Hall

The City of Cape Town (CoCt), located in the Western Cape Province of South Africa, sets the standard for climate change adaptation and mitigation strategies; not only for South Africa, but for the African continent as a whole.  As a result of climate change the CoCt is projected to experience, inter alia: i) decreases in average annual rainfall; ii) increases in mean annual temperature; and iii) increases in both intensity and frequency of storms. For example, the CoCt recently experienced an unprecedented three-year compound hydro-meteorological drought as a result of consecutively below average annual rainfall. Otto et al. (2018), found that the occurrence of the aforementioned hydro-meteorological drought occurring had been increased by a factor of three; as a result of human-induced climate change. This drought brought climate change issues to the forefront in the CoCt.

The CoCTs current climate change strategy is “to become a city that is climate resilient, resource efficient and lower carbon, in order to enable sustainable and inclusive economic and social development, and environmental sustainability.” The strategy has 35 climate change combatting goals to reduce the wide ranging impacts associated with a changing climate.

The CoCt has a total carbon reduction target of 37% by the year 2040, and aims for carbon neutrality by 2050. The CoCts adaptation plans have a strategic focus on increasing temperatures, water shortages, rise of sea level and increased fire risk. Mitigation plans for the city focus on clean energy, zero carbon emissions and sustainable transport.

The sectors, within the CoCt, that make up the largest proportion of carbon emissions are: transport (29%), commercial (24%) and residential (18%). The use of electricity accounts for over half of the city’s GHG emissions.

Adaptation: The CoCt climate change policy has highlighted four different types of actions that would be required to place the City on a pathway to resilience:

  1. Governance: Adapting leadership, policy, regulations, laws and strategies and institutional arrangements for climate adaptation mainstreaming and enhancing the enabling environment for climate resilient development.
  2. Planning: Climate adaptive and transformational planning, strategy development and incentives that are jointly conducted and integrated across relevant sectors and departments to provide strategic direction for climate resilient infrastructure development and behaviour change.
  3. Infrastructure: Integrated infrastructure development and maintenance actions, balancing green and grey infrastructure, with nature-based solutions that limit the incidence of stranded economic assets and reduce or eradicate the impact of extreme climate events.
  4. Behaviour: Changing behaviour for climate adaptive decision making, planning and management by all stakeholders and social partners (government, labour, industry and civil society) through education, mobilisation and sensitisation toward the realisation of a social contract for climate resilience.

Mitigation: In achieving a carbon neutral green economy, the CoCt has identified three broad sectors in which emissions are concentrated:

Energy: The city will take active steps to expand zero carbon electricity provision in both the retail and supply sectors through direct procurement from Independent power producers. This will enable distributed generation, tariff and business model development, and technical preparation for an inverter-based grid. In the long term the city aims to support the development of a hydrogen economy that can supply molecular fuel for industry, transport fuel for heavy vehicles, and storage for building wind and solar capacity.

Transport, Buildings and Land-Use: The city aims to achieve clean and efficient urban transport through continued improvement of non-motorised and public transport. This is supported by improved transport governance, road space allocation, infrastructure investment, improved spatial form, efficient land use and improved urban management. Public investment will be prioritised and private investment incentivized within the existing built footprint and infrastructure deficits addressed inside the city’s Urban Inner Core (UIC). Key to reduced emissions is a switch to electro-mobility and emergence of net-zero carbon buildings off the back of clean energy.

Waste and the Circular Economy: Recovering and deriving value from Cape Town’s waste stream is a key element in the shift towards a circular economy, with multiple co-benefits with respect to cleanliness of the city, and reduced littering and illegal dumping. Improved resource efficiency through material recycling, reduced waste and diversion of organic waste.


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