Johannesburg - Johannesburg is the fourth best-placed city out of 21 in Asia, the Middle East and Africa because we are largely exempt from natural disasters.
However, scientific evidence suggests the city will face increasing changes to weather patterns.
Such were the issues discussed at the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group conference held in Joburg last week. It was the first time a conference of this type has been held in Africa with 42 cities and mayors attending.
In Joburg, over the last 50 years, rainfall patterns have shifted significantly bringing increased risks of flooding, as has been witnessed in recent weeks with the heavy rains.
Temperatures will increase over the next four decades by an expected 2.4° in the near future and 4.5° later on. Much of the change is predicted to happen in the last half of this century as a result of past and current greenhouse emissions.
Joburg is one of the largest greenhouse gas emitters in South Africa. The city is developing a comprehensive gas emissions inventory to better understand its carbon footprint.
It is one of the first cities in the Protocol for Community-Scale Greenhouse Gas Emissions to implement this to measure and manage its emissions.
A report issued by the city for the summit, says many of the city departments will need to introduce adaptation measures because “widespread poverty makes individual households and communities vulnerable to flooding and even small shocks and stresses”.
The poor are highly vulnerable to climate change, especially with increasing rain.
The city recently developed a flood risk assessment and is developing a disaster management plan for each city region.
“Increased floods will have an impact on the city roads and stormwater system, and infrastructure budgets need to be developed to finance improvements in stormwater capacity and new natural systems to minimise floods,” says the report.
The city has allocated R110-billion for infrastructure improvement in its seven regions over the next 10 years, and expenditure has begun.
Joburg has reduced its reliance on coal-generated electricity by 20 percent, using energy efficiency and demand management initiatives.
This was announced by city mayor Parks Tau at the opening of the summit.
Among other measures the city has taken is the establishment of corridors of freedom, which will see densification along transport corridors.
The Rea Vaya bus transit system was also set up to save carbon emissions.
Furthermore, the city has started implementing green fuel technologies by converting its vehicle fleet to a dual fuelling system using biogas.
Tau said: “The summit provided a unique platform for discussion and the sharing of best practice among decision-makers, and thought leaders on how we can develop and advance urban solutions, to combat and mitigate the impacts of global climate change.
“South Africa’s approach to climate change flows from the National Climate Change Response Policy, which aims to reduce the rate at which the country contributes to climate change, with a special focus on a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and developing adequate responses to its impact on society.
“Climate change will disproportionately affect the poor who have global solutions, achieved through the concerted efforts of all countries,” he said.
At the summit, the C40 group released a report called “Climate Action in Megacities”, which shows that C40 cities are taking significant actions such as implementing rigorous, energy-efficient regulations for buildings, bus rapid transit lines and flood risk mapping – to reduce carbon emissions and climate risks.
“Mayors have the power and the will to confront climate change and they are seizing every opportunity to take action,” said Michael Bloomberg, who was until recently New York City mayor and is the current president of the C40 board.
“C40 cities are doing more than ever to reduce emission and become resilient – that’s why they are increasingly being looked at for leadership by the international community,” he said.
Cape Town, Dar es Salaam and Nairobi have recently joined the network.
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