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Mbombela’s cool approach to climate change

Local government

Mpumalanga’s capital city is being proactive when it comes to managing changing.

The Mbombela Local Municipality in Mpumalanga is becoming an environmental pioneer amongst local municipalities, by developing strategies on how to deal with one of the biggest ecological threats facing South Africa: climate change.

Mbombela has made it clear that it wishes to become a more environmentally friendly city by investing in green initiatives. Having realised the increasing impact of global warming, the municipality approached environmental management consultants SRK Consultants to develop a climate change strategy and implementation plan.

“The strategy is meant to guide and equip the city to build climate resilience and improve the community’s ability to adapt,” said Khethiwe Malaza, head of the city’s Environmental Management Unit.

SRK Consulting applied its rapid vulnerability assessment (RVA) tool, a pioneering method which has huge potential to assist local governments in responding to climate change.

The tool is guided by the Department of Environmental Affairs’ “Let’s Respond Toolkit”, which helps municipalities to include climate change responses into their integrated development plans.

“The development of a comprehensive policy and strategy will enable the municipality, business and civil society to effectively respond to climate change pressures, risks and opportunities. This will allow us to make green investments and provide guidance on future development,” Malaza said.

The RVA tool assesses various regions and their exposure to climate change, as well as the potential economic and social impacts. SRK Consulting environmental scientist Warrick Stewart said that the tool takes various factors into account:

  • including exposure (how exposed the area is to climate change).
  • sensitivity (how sensitive the area is to climate change)
  • adaptive capacity (how well the area would be able to cope and adapt to climate change).

According to Malaza, the tool will assist the municipality with the biggest climate change threats to the area – floods and drought.

“Heavy rainfall will bring floods to the city, which could lead to an outbreak of dysentery diseases. The economy of the city relies heavily on both the agriculture and tourism sectors. In a case of drought, these two sectors will be most affected,” said Malaza.

Amongst the assessment’s findings, it was found that children, the sick and the elderly are most vulnerable to climate change. Rural areas will be most heavily impacted, while outdated infrastructure in certain areas makes them far less able to cope.

“We are already using the findings to inform actions we should take in our climate change response strategy,” he  said.

What is climate change?

A human-driven change in global or regional climate patterns, first apparent from the mid to late 20th century. The earth’s average temperature has risen by almost one degree Celsius since 1950, largely due to increased levels of carbon dioxide produced by the use of fossil fuels.


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