Waging war on Durban’s poison

Can cities in developing countries, including South Africa, realistically be expected to reduce their toxic greenhouse gas emissions when they have more urgent problems deriving from poverty, disease and inequality?

Emphatically yes, said a major new study released in Durban on Tuesday.

The Academy of Science of South Africa’s (Assaf) 250-page study, Towards a Low-Carbon City: Focus on Durban, comes in the run-up to the city’s hosting of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP 17) later this year.

Cities globally account for 80% of toxic greenhouse gas emissions, so it should be they who take the lead in reducing their carbon footprints. And South Africa has announced its target of a 34% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2020

But it is widely acknowledged that African countries, with their vulnerable populations, will be hardest-hit by the effects of climate change, said Assaf president Professor Robin Crewe. This is because African countries have fewer adaptive options than developed countries do.

Yet the transition to “low-carbon” cities on the continent can be seen as an economic opportunity, not a burden, Assaf’s report argues: “A low-carbon pathway should not be viewed as one that precludes economic growth, but rather as an opportunity to deliberately shape future development such that it accords with low-carbon principles.”

The eThekwini municipality commissioned Assaf to identify ways of putting Durban on the low-carbon path. The city wants to “reduce its greenhouse gas emissions and increase its carbon sinks, while simultaneously adapting to anticipated climate change impact”, the study notes.

Assaf, which advises government on critical scientific issues, said the rhetoric of climate change policy should shift from “limitation”, “constraint” and “reduction” to an emphasis on investments in new technology and creating low-carbon jobs.

“Low-carbon development also offers significant co-benefits that are pertinent for developing countries, such as improved public health as a result of reduced air pollution, greater agricultural productivity, and greater water and energy security, among others,” the study says.

It makes 12 specific recommendations for putting Durban on the low-carbon path — ones it says other developing cities could adopt. The city must shift towards a green economy by ensuring that every action, investment, regulation or decision contributes to building an economy that is “low-carbon, resource-efficient and socially inclusive”.

Professor Roseanne Diab, CEO of Assaf, said at Tuesday’s launch that the move to a green economy is “critical and not just rhetoric”.

“A green economy has the potential to bring about employment opportunities,” she said. “We were mindful of the fact that we were dealing with a high rate of unemployment and poverty in Durban. We knew that the reality on the ground needed to be brought into the recommendations.”

Other recommendations included the need to emphasise climate change co-benefits, for example, improved public health as a result of reduced air pollution, greater agricultural productivity, and greater water and energy security.

The “win-wins” and “trade-offs” across the municipality need to be highlighted. If a city is “focusing on more pressing issues, if public awareness is poor and if resources are scarce, then emphasising co-benefits can elevate the issue of climate change to a higher level”, Diab said.

“Durban has a subtropical climate that is favourable [to produce] renewable energy from biomass — and if we can’t do this in Durban then where can we do it?” she asked, illustrating one of the business benefits the transition to a low-carbon city could offer.

Innovation through partnerships must also be encouraged, the study recommends. The eThekwini municipality should foster technological and social innovation by linking up with local universities, businesses and communities.

The report says land use has a substantial effect on greenhouse gas emissions and Durban needs to combat urban sprawl. So too, it must pay urgent attention to industry — responsible for 45% of the greenhouse gas emissions in the city — and the transport sector, next in line with 25%.

Speaking at Tuesday’s launch, eThekwini municipality councillor Tex Collins welcomed Assaf’s recommendations. “We need to change political ideology to make this work. I can tell you that I am going to take this [the report] and shove it down everybody’s throats,” he said.

Advertisting

Workers’ R60m ‘lost’ in banks scam

An asset manager, VBS Mutual Bank and a Namibian bank have put the retirement funds of 26 000 municipal workers in South Africa at risk

‘Judge President Hlophe tried to influence allocation of judges to...

Deputy Judge President Patricia Goliath accuses Hlophe of attempting to influence her to allocate the case to judges he perceived as ‘favourably disposed’ to former president Jacob Zuma

SAA grounds flights due to low demand

SAA is working to accommodate customers on its sister airlines after it cancelled flights due to low demand

Lekwa municipality won’t answer questions about why children died in...

Three children are dead. More than a dozen homes have been gutted by fires in the past six months. And, as...
Advertising

Press Releases

Mint Group unveils Finance and Operations business

ERP specialist Andre Pearce will spearhead the Mint ERP business.

MTN unveils TikTok bundles

Customised MTN TikTok data bundles are available to all prepaid customers on *136*2#.

Marketers need to reinvent themselves

Marketing is an exciting discipline, offering the perfect fit for individuals who are equally interested in business, human dynamics and strategic thinking. But the...

Upskill yourself to land your dream job in 2020

If you received admission to an IIE Higher Certificate qualification, once you have graduated, you can articulate to an IIE Diploma and then IIE Bachelor's degree at IIE Rosebank College.

South Africans unsure of what to expect in 2020

Almost half (49%) of South Africans, 15 years and older, agree or strongly agree that they view 2020 with optimism.

KZN teacher educators jet off to Columbia University

A group of academics were selected as participants of the programme focused on PhD completion, mobility, supervision capacity development and the generation of high-impact research.

New-style star accretion bursts dazzle astronomers

Associate Professor James O Chibueze and Dr SP van den Heever are part of an international team of astronomers studying the G358-MM1 high-mass protostar.

2020 risk outlook: Use GRC to build resilience

GRC activities can be used profitably to develop an integrated risk picture and response, says ContinuitySA.