As climate change accelerates, South African businesses and cities need to take action to build resilience in the face of the direct impacts on agriculture, forestry, fisheries, tourism, the insurance sector, water supply, human settlements, and human health – and the knock-on impacts on other sectors.
Roleplayers need to act decisively to reduce the emissions that cause climate change. This involves a shift in our energy systems from fossil fuels of oil, coal and gas to renewable energy sources such as solar, wind and waves; plus reduced emissions from every sector, such as transport, industry, construction, agriculture, and land use. Globally, investors and trading partners are looking for low-carbon opportunities, goods and services, and South Africa’s economy risks being stranded in a carbon-intensive backwater. This while the areas for economic growth and greater returns on investment off a low base lie in the low-carbon economy waiting in the wings.
South Africa is one of the 195 governments which have made commitments under the Paris Agreement, which was signed at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change conference in 2016. However, there’s still a major gap between the total of current pledges and what is needed to ensure a safe and flourishing future for everyone. Action and a push from below is needed to drive better pledges, in the form of Nationally Determined Contributions as appropriate by developed and developing economies.
The scientific body, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, tells us that it is still possible to limit the increase in global average temperature to 1.5 °C, which means an increase of about 3 °C in our hotter southern Africa. But only if we act over the next ten years to reach net-zero emissions by mid-century.
Limiting the increase to 1.5 °C is just possible – but only if we take strong action now across all levels of government and all segments of society. Leaders from business, regional and local governments, supported by academic institutions and civil society, have a vital role to play.
It’s all hands on deck now! These actors will lead the way by setting ambitious climate goals for themselves, by collaborating to deliver action on the ground and by working together to strengthen climate action at a national level.