South Africa: Tackling Climate Change a Top Priority

Some of the desert locusts which have invaded Gurar in Kenya's Wajir North (file photo).

Even as the country continues to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, tackling climate change is a national priority for South Africa.

"To fully appreciate the devastating impact of climate change on lives and livelihoods in South Africa one need only look at the prolonged drought in parts of the Eastern, Northern and Western Cape," President Cyril Ramaphosa said.

In his weekly newsletter, he said the coming of the rains last year broke a seven-year drought, the longest in over a century.

"It wreaked havoc on communities across these provinces. It caused water shortages, widespread crop failure and negatively affected both commercial and subsistence farming.

"It drove up food prices, particularly of basic staples such as maize meal, contributing to food insecurity in poor households. It affected the broader economy, as the yield of key agricultural exports declined," President Ramaphosa said.

Drought is widely recognised as one of the extreme weather conditions caused by climate change.

"Understanding this cascading effect is vital. Climate change doesn't just affect weather patterns. It affects nearly every aspect of our lives, from the food we eat, to the water we drink, to where we live. It affects human health, economic activity, human settlement and migration.

"Climate change does not respect borders. It is a global problem, which requires global solutions.

"Unless we act with urgency, we could find our developmental gains being reversed and our ability to overcome poverty, joblessness and inequality severely constrained."

He said an important part of the response is the Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC), which outlines targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Last month, the Minister of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment, Barbara Creecy, officially launched South Africa's updated draft NDC for public consultation. Approved by Cabinet on 24 March 2021 to be released for public comment, the updated draft NDC is the cornerstone of South Africa's climate change response.

The launch of the updated NDC is the start of a consultation process that will consist of a number of virtual consultations until the end of May 2021.

The consultations will be with other government departments through the inter-governmental committee on climate change (IGCCC), broader stakeholders through the National Committee on Climate Change (NCCC) and a number of targeted virtual consultations with interest groups and representative formations including business, labour, civil society, the agricultural and energy sectors.

President Ramaphosa said as a country, South Africa is committed to contributing its fair share to the global climate effort.

"Business has a particularly important role. A number of South African companies are already addressing sustainability and climate change issues as part of their financial reporting. Business can also play a role in providing adaptation support to communities.

"We need greater investment in climate resilient systems and processes, from smart agriculture, to clean energy, to green infrastructure to public transport," President Ramaphosa said.

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