SA needs to undertake long term planning to ensure that it can adapt to impact of climate change

●       PwC analysis shows that carbon intensity of the global economy fell by 2.6% in 2016 a clear step change from business as usual.

●       Country progress on average falls a long way short of the 6.3% reductions needed every year to limit warming to two degrees.

●       South Africa’s results in the PwC Low Carbon Economy Index (LCEI) over the last eight years shows evidence of progress in transitioning to a less carbon intensive economy as a result of a decrease in intensity since 2009. However, this progress stalled after an increase in carbon intensity coupled with limited economic growth from 2015 to 2016.

●       There is a clear imperative to focus efforts on long term resilience planning to ensure that as a country, South Africa, will be ready to adapt to future climate change impacts.

Now in its ninth year, the Low Carbon Economy Index tracks G20 countries’ progress in reducing the carbon intensity of their economy – i.e. energy-related greenhouse gas emissions per million dollars of GDP. Countries at the bottom of the Index, including Indonesia, Argentina, Turkey and South Africa, all had emissions growth which exceeded their GDP growth.

Jayne Mammatt, Director of Sustainability and Climate Change at PwC, commented: “Since human-induced climate change is already well underway and mitigation levels are still too slow to achieve the global goals of less than two degree average global warming, South Africa needs to shift more attention to implementation of adaptation measures that aid in building resilience.”

It is likely that the country will experience a combination of physical (e.g. extreme weather events), policy (e.g. for a low carbon transition) and markets and technology (e.g. emerging technologies and new business models) risks.

The Department of Environmental Affairs’ (DEA) National Adaptation Strategy identifies drought, flash floods and veld fires as the climate scenarios which will worst affect South Africa.  To be resilient, some fundamentals that South Africa therefore needs to have in place are an energy mix with a substantial quantity of energy derived from different renewable sources, a plan to ensure sustainable water supply during times of drought, the necessary firebreaks in place, and adequate emergency services and disaster funds in place to react when natural disasters strike.  A resilient country will also need to have the necessary measures in place to support sectors that are sensitive to climate change (e.g. agriculture) to adapt effectively.

Mammatt added: “Many opportunities exist in South Africa to adapt to climate change.  However, this requires more from all role-players within South Africa, as it forms an important part of achieving the interlinked Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).”

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