Institutional Context for Climate Change

Resources: Appreciating Initiatives

South Africa is an Annex I Party to the UNFCCC and a signatory of other major international agreements on climate change including the Kyoto Protocol, Copenhagen Accord and Cancun Agreements. These agreements bind the South African government to commit to working with other Parties (i.e. countries) to limit average global temperature increases and address the impacts of climate change. Consequently, South Africa has included climate change as an important element in its institutional framework. In fact, the National Development Plan 2030 incorporates climate change as a major challenge to the country’s development goals (National Planning Commission of South Africa 2012).
In recognition of the importance to address the impacts of climate change, the South African government participated in the Climate Support Programme (CSP) to develop and implement an institutional framework for climate change adaptation (GIZ 2015). The CSP (2009 to 2016) is part of the International Climate Initiative (ICI) and is funded by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ). The lead executing agency is the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA). These efforts have resulted in the following documents that support South Africa’s development of an institutional framework for climate change adaptation:

  • The National Climate Change Response Policy (NCCRP) was a White Paper gazetted in 2011. It is a central document that describes the South African government’s responsibilities to address climate change. It is framed by a vision to transition the country to a lower carbon economy and climate resilient society. [link to document]
  • The Let’s Respond Toolkit, published in 2012, is a guideline for municipalities to address climate change adaptation and mitigation as part of the constitutional and legislative obligations of local government. [link to document]
  • The Long Term Adaptation Scenarios (LTAS) research reports, published in 2014, document the projected impacts of climate change on South Africa’s major sectors as based on extensive scientific research and modelling. The LTAS assessments are used as a basis for framing and strategizing climate change adaptation in South Africa. [link to documents]
  • A National Adaptation Strategy (NAS) and Provincial Climate Change Adaptation Strategies (PCCAS) are currently being developed and finalised. Three pilot provinces have been selected to implement their CCAS in early 2016. Two of these three pilot provinces, Mpumalanga and Limpopo, are in the Olifants Catchment.
  • Additional policies, namely Biodiversity Sector Climate Change Response Strategy, Climate Change Adaptation Plans for South African Biomes, and Strategic Framework for Ecosystem-based Adaptation, have been developed for the biodiversity sector to explicitly address climate change adaptation. These plans are still being finalized

A recent review by the GIZ examined the extent to which climate change adaptation has been integrated into existing sectoral policy instruments (GIZ 2013). They found notable gaps in existing South African policy to address climate change. For examples, policies for the disaster management sector were relatively well aligned with NCCRP; however, policies for agriculture, health and biodiversity were only moderately aligned, while policies for water and human settlement had limited alignment with the NCCRP. Furthermore, many of the policy instruments address climate change mitigation but have not meaningfully incorporated adaptation, or lack direct references to climate change adaptation. These limitations ultimately would hinder South Africa’s institutional capacity to implement climate change adaptation options.
To read a detailed summary of the GIZ review, please download our Adaptation Report .


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