South Africa and climate change

South Africa and climate change

South africa and climate change


South Africa acknowledges that climate change due to the variance of solar energy being absorbed by the earth’s atmosphere caused by increasing greenhouse gases emission – is real, and imminent.  The drastic changes of warm and cold periods will affect its rainfall and its ecosystem.  “(Climate models predict that the mean air temperature over South Africa will increase with an estimated 2°C over the next century.).  Plants and animals may not be able to adapt as quickly to this “rapid” climate change as humans can, and therefore the whole ecosystem is in danger.” (South African Weather Service).

Either an increase or decrease in the amount of rainfall will manifest in the water resources of South Africa.  The dominance of diseases will be defined by the intensity of climate change, and so with its production and harvests of maize and wheat and grazing livestock.  The productivity of their forests and coastal zones and fisheries will definitely experience variable outputs.  And biodiversity will likewise be affected.  These are the areas that are considered to be the most sensitive to drastic global warming.

“The country’s mining and energy sectors – and the economy at large – are also vulnerable because of its high dependence on fossil fuels, which might have to be reduced if measures to mitigate climate change are implemented.”  (Jones, 2004)

“And, global climate change could affect the future of the Western Cape’s biggest and least exploited underground water source, the Table Mountain Group acquifer. The Water Research Commission has started a research programme to investigate the aquifer and its relationship with sensitive surface ecosystems like rivers and wetlands. The City of Cape Town had aimed to augment its bulk water supply with groundwater, like that from the acquifer, however, climate change predictions in the Western Cape could result in less groundwater recharge, thus making less groundwater available on a sustainable basis.”  (Climate Change News, 2003)

            In view of all these realizations, the South African government ratified the proponent international bodies and agreement on the curtailment of gas emissions to prevent the escalating global climate change. Starting with the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change signed in Rio de Janeiro, to the 1997 Kyoto Protocol to the subsequent conventions that updated, aligned and/or improved the agreement that subsequently transpired in Buenos Aires, The Hague, Bonn, Marrakesh.  Thus, the country recognizes and accepts its responsibility towards the Kyoto Protocol.

            In such acceptance of the reality and challenges of global climate change, South Africa finds it necessary to implement appropriate and reasonable and sustainable and equally realistic measures.  They have undertaken extensive studies to pinpoint how the country can meet its obligation to the Protocol and yet safeguard itself from vulnerabilities.  “Further, the South African economy is vulnerable to the possible response measures implemented by developed (annex 1) countries, since the economy is highly dependent on income generated from the production, processing, export and consumption of coal.  This vulnerability extends across virtually all facets of the mining and energy sectors.”  (A National Climate Change Response Strategy, 2004).


            The Kyoto Protocol recognized the land-use, land-use change and forestry sector that will help in managing emissions of greenhouse gases.  This is through increasing new plantations of trees (called “sinks”) or by minimizing deforestation.  Therefore, without specifically mandating a police towards the same, the Protocol simply obliges ratifying countries to come up with principles and activities that will meet emission targets.

            And thus in the case of South Africa, it recognizes that the drastic global climate change will affect its forests because a “…….reduction in highly suitable area for forests by 2050, forestry output could be decreased by as much as 43%, implying a loss of value in the order of 724 million per annum.  However, the shortcoming of the model outputs is that they are based on suitable areas, which are considerably larger than the current planted area. Even the highly suitable area is much larger than the planted area. Thus, a 43% reduction in the highly suitable area may not impact on the currently planted area, if the current plantations are at the core of the area which is not affected. This problem requires further spatial analysis. However, it is unlikely that the current area will not be impacted by shrinkage of highly suitable areas at all. Furthermore, most plantation areas would be subject to changes in productivity ……… Although this cannot be predicted for pines at this stage, half of the current productivity of eucalypts could be lost – amounting to a loss of approximately R362 million.”  (J. Turpie, H. Winkler, R. Spalding-Fecher ; G. Midgley, 2002)

            Therefore, in its 2004 response strategy South Africa prospected to look into changes in its forestry practices.  “More temperature tolerant cultivars within the current tree species could be selected, but it is more probable that more lucrative uses for the land, such as sub-tropical fruits, may compete for the land currently under tree plantations.  Genetic engineering could be used to develop more heat and drought resistant hybrids, which would allow the forestry industry to counter the threat of climate change and also to maintain current production areas.  However, it should be noted that current commercial forests make extensive use of exotic species, a practice that may influence biodiversity and other climate change sensitive factors such as excessive water use and soil properties.  Further, community based forestry, using indigenous species and knowledge, has demonstrable benefits.  In addition, a smaller scale approach can generate more employment, and may also be more compatible with a diversity of crops/species, thus serving adaptation and reducing vulnerability.  The benefits of all approaches need to be carefully evaluated as a matter of urgency and an appropriate action plan developed.”  (A National Climate Change Response Strategy, 2004).

            Therefore, the country’s impetus to its forestry activities will augment the emissions generated by South Africa – it being a major coal exporting country.  Thus trading of emissions will be considered due to the vulnerability of this particular industry of South Africa if it will be mandated with emission targets.


            From the onset, the Kyoto Protocol recognized the need for the establishment of an Adaptation Fund to assist developing countries that will be critically affected by the drastic climate change.  Such funding will enable them to offset any economic impact of any realignment of their micro and macroeconomic activities.  Such fund will favorably patronize and subsidize priority projects and programme of those affected countries based on needs and as support to building their capacities.

            To this end, the identified Annex I ratifying countries must meet their emission targets and thus report yearly on fulfillment of commitments.  Those who are non-Annex I will conversely report on their needs and issues whilst trying to adapt to the processes of meeting the reduction of greenhouse gases.  In addition, developing countries in annex I must remove subsidies for technologies that has ill effects on the environment; develop non-energy uses of fossil fuels, advanced fossil-fuel technologies and carbon capture/storage technologies; improve efficiency by building capacities and assist those non-Annex I developing countries highly dependent on fossil fuels to diversify their economies.

            Thus, South Africa is qualified to avail of funding assistance through the provisions of the Kyoto Protocol.  And upon availing of funding assistance, South Africa will ensure that it will be applied to projects that will sustain development needs. Together with UNIDO, South Africa has already come up in 2003 with a Clean Defense Mechanism Investment Guide.  Therefore, any investments or adaptation funding that will be generated must likewise redound to the satisfaction of donor parties.

            As per the investment and financial program of the United Nation’s Framework Convention on Climate Change, “……..the GEF had allocated (since its inception) a total of just over USD 3.3 billion to climate change projects from the GEF Trust Fund. Further co-financing in excess of USD 14 billion has been leveraged for these GEF projects, or USD 4.2 per dollar of GEF grant. However, in the last reporting period (from September 2005 to August 2006), this ratio was higher – USD 6.4 per GEF dollar.  Six project proposals approved in the recent Work Programme (June 2007) leveraged an exceptionally high amount of co financing, making this ratio USD 21.6 per GEF dollar.  The proposed programming for GEF 4 (for the period 2006 – 2010) climate change activities amounts to USD 990 million. ….even if not focused on climate change, the forestry activities financed through the biodiversity focal areas of the GEF account for an important part of financing of forestry mitigation activities and acts as an important catalyst for additional resources.  The focal areas for biodiversity, land degradation and international water are also important catalysts of financing for adaptation, as acknowledged in different sectors ……’Climate Change Focal Area Strategy and Strategic Programming for GEF-4’ Total allocations were USD 355 million, with leveraged funds more than USD 2.3 billion…..The RAF began implementation in GEF 4. Each eligible country can expect to receive

a minimum allocation of USD 1 million. The total amount that a country receives from the GEF climate change focal area cannot exceed a ceiling of 15 per cent of the resources available. China, India and the Russian Federation are likely to receive the most under the RAF formula, followed by Brazil, Mexico and South Africa……..” (Financial Cooperation Under The Convention And Its Kyoto Protocol, 2007)


“Climate Change:  what, when and where?”.  South African Weather Service


“The Impact of Climate Change on South Africa”.  03 November 2003.  Climate Change News.

Jones, Jonathan Spencer.  15 October 2004.  “Climate Change Strategy Launched by

South Africa”.  Science and Development Network;itemid=1671;language=1

Department of Environmental Affairs and Toursim, Pretoria 0001.  September 2004.

            “A National Climate Change Response Strategy”

Turpie, J., Winkler, H., Spalding-Fecher, R., Midgley, G.  February 2002.

            “Economic Impacts of Climate Change in South Africa:

A Preliminary Analysis Of Unmitigated Damage Costs”, p.39

Southern Waters Ecological Research ; Consulting ; Energy ;

Development Research Centre, University Of Cape Town

“Financial Cooperation Under The Convention And Its Kyoto Protocol.”.   21 Aug 2007. p. 162

   application/pdf/ financial_cooperation_under_the_convention_and_its_kyoto_protocol.pdf – 125.4KB – adaptation: 1, fund: 1, allocation: 5, adaptation fund…: 29


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