Climate Justice in South Africa

Climate Justice in South Africa


  • Food Insecurity in Limpopo Province
  • Increased Coastal Flooding in Western Cape Province
  • Increased Heatwaves in Urban Areas



Food insecurity in the Limpopo province

It is anticipated that nine out of ten most at-risk cities and towns in 2050 in South Africa will be in the Limpopo province [1]. Limpopo is one of the nine provinces of South Africa and is in the northernmost part of the country. In Limpopo, there is a region known as Makhado which consists of approximately 134,889 households. The agricultural sector is one of the largest employers in this region. However, due to climate change, there is insufficient rainfall for the production of crops, and this is causing food insecurity in the region. Since women in that region are more involved in food production and security, they are being much more affected than men by the impacts of climate change [2]. If actions are not taken to assist women in the Makhado region, this might result in famine and poverty.

Increased coastal flooding in the Western Cape province

Flooding is on the increase in Western Cape province due to adverse weather conditions induced by climate change, with the frequency of floods in the Western Cape province being higher during the last 4 decades. Flooding in the Western Cape mostly affects regions situated near the coast, namely, Knysna, George, Hermanus and Cape Flats in Cape Town [3]. These regions have a combined population of approximately 840,000 [4, 5]. If actions are not taken to combat coastal flooding in the Western Cape, this can result in infrastructural damage, people being left homeless, and human fatalities. Moreover, since Knysna, George, and Hermanus rely heavily on the tourism sector, increased flooding will affect the economy of these regions.

Increased heat waves in urban areas

People living in urban areas in South Africa are becoming increasingly vulnerable to heat waves due to increasing temperatures induced by climate change. In urban areas, the materials used in buildings and roads absorb and retain heat, leading to the urban heat island effect. This in turn results in heat waves. From 1997 to 2013, approximately 30,000 deaths in South Africa were directly linked to an increase in temperature. Around 500,000 people living in informal dwellings in Upington, Kimberley, Mahikeng, Bloemfontein, Botshabelo, Lephalale, Musina, and Mbombela are the most vulnerable to heat waves [6]. If appropriate actions are not taken to mitigate climate change, there will be an increase in deaths induced by heat waves. According to the World Health Organization, it is estimated that heat-related deaths in people above 65 years old will increase to 116 deaths per 100,000 in South Africa by 2080 [7].

In order to address the needs of climate at-risk populations in South Africa, a few programmes such as the C40 initiative and the FruitLook programme have been implemented in the country.


C40 initiative

The C40 initiative is a global network of mayors who are committed to mitigate climate change. Cape Town, Durban (eThekwini), Ekurhuleni and Tshwane are members of the C40 initiative while Johannesburg is a steering committee member. Some of the declarations that have been signed by some of these cities include the Green and Healthy Streets Declaration under which mayors are committed to transforming cities into greener and healthier places such as shifting to zero emission vehicles and the Net Zero Carbon Buildings Declaration under which mayors are committed to enacting regulations and policies to ensure new buildings and all buildings operate at net zero carbon by 2030 and by 2050, respectively [8]. Moreover, Durban is establishing a business case for a Transformative River Management Programme to enable 7 400 km of streams and rivers in the city to better adapt to the flooding, drought and higher temperatures induced by climate change and this project is estimated to cost 1 billion USD over 10 years [9].

FruitLook programme

The objective of the FruitLook programme is to increase water efficiency in agriculture by providing almost real-time data to farmers on the growth, moisture, and minerals of their crops. The Western Cape Department of Agriculture is funding the FruitLook programme [10].

South Africa needs to implement better food security strategies and flood warning systems and make a quicker transition to renewable energy in order to protect at-risk populations. Adequate investment and proper allocation of resources are needed.


Thekwini Metropolitan Municipality

Email: [11]

Western Cape Department of Agriculture

Email: [12]



This Post was submitted by Climate Scorecard South Africa Country Manager Deepti Charitar


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