Local governments in Africa commit to accelerating climate actions

BLOG POST | Oct 30, 2015

EThekwini Municipality in partnership with ICLEI Africa co-hosted the first Southern African Regional Technical workshop on the implementation of the Durban Adaptation Charter. The technical workshop was themed: Accelerating local climate action through implementation of the Durban Adaptation Charter (DAC). The Durban Adaptation Charter is an agreement by local governments to prioritise climate change adaptation at the local level and was initiated during the UNFCCC COP 17/CMP 7 which took place in Durban South Africa in December 2011. The focus of the regional workshop was twofold:

  1. Capacity building for sub-national and national governments, technical experts, development partners, business, industry and civil society around climate change,
  2. Facilitate acceleration of local climate action through the implementation of the Durban Adaptation Charter (DAC).


The three day technical workshop was convened under the auspices of ICLEI's biennial Local Climate Solutions for Africa Initiative and took place from 14 – 16 October 2015 at the International Convention Centre in Durban, South Africa. 


Evidence from climate research indicates that no continent will be struck as severely by the impacts of climate change as Africa. Given its geographical position, the continent will be particularly vulnerable due to the considerably limited adaptive capacity, exacerbated by widespread poverty and the existing low levels of development. This has positioned Africa at the heart of the climate challenge and one of the key messages from the workshop was the clarion call to action from the local government level. Mario Molina, Director of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps summed up the call in three statements: We must change; We can change; BUT Will we change? The answer to this question for local governments and the world at large is still pending although local governments have the will of the people to change.


 During the workshop the importance of institutional preparedness was emphasised and that unclear institutional structures could be a hindrance in working towards building resilient communities. Vhalinavho Kavhagali, Director Climate Change, Department of Environmental Affairs, South Africa, emphasised the need for coordinated planning across the different spheres of government and in particular the role of local governments in contributing to realisation of plans as set out in the country’s national development plans. He indicated the Durban Adaptation Charter as a platform to unlock implementation and planning process from the local level upwards towards a more resilient and low carbon economy future in Africa.


Included in the workshop programme was a site visit to either the Mariannhill Landfill Site or Buffelsdraai Landfill Site Community Reforestation Project. The Mariannhill Landfill site is a recipient of global awards of excellence that address various aspects of the landfill operations including waste to energy, recycling ecological restoration, long term planning horizons, community involvement and small business development. The Buffelsdraai Landfill site is also a recipient of various international awards including a Gold Standard for ensuring exceptional climate change adaptation benefits and for the benefit to local communities.


At the conclusion of the Regional Workshop, local governments in attendance renewed their commitments to implementing action towards building resilience to climate change and are inviting local governments from across the globe to follow suit. Tiyende, a Nyanja word meaning “let’s go together” was adopted as the underlying word to guide discussions throughout the workshop. The word resonated with the dialogue as most speakers highlighted local governments as facing a common challenge and therefore had to seek and share solutions together.


Several special side events towards supporting local government’s efforts towards building climate resilience were held at the sides of the workshop. Preceding the workshop on 13 October, the Durban Adaptation Charter Secretariat hosted a one day workshop to provide training for the operationalisation of climate change Compacts in South Africa. This approach promotes an integrated response to climate change between sub-national Compact partners from neighbouring regions within countries.  The training was provided by the architect of the first Compact, Ms Susanne Torriente from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA. A dinner was held on the first evening of the workshop to celebrate the launch of the Central KwaZulu-Natal Climate Change Compact which is also the first one in South Africa.


Delegates from South Africa local governments attended also attended a special workshop side event as was organised by SALGA in partnership with ICLEI, City of Tshwane, Department of Environmental Education and South Africa Cities Network. The meeting served as a platform for local governments in South Africa to touch base and collectively deliberate on the mandate of SALGA for the upcoming UNFCCC COP 21/CMP11 in Paris in November.


The workshop was attended by over 200 delegates from over 21 countries representing over 52 local governments from around the world although the largest contingent was from Southern Africa.


Visit the gallery here.

Key quotes from the workshop:

“Number of important climate conferences in 2015 and 2016 that will be setting the agenda for the next 20 years, the voice of local governments especially from Africa has to heard to contribute to a favourable outcome” - Cllr James Nxumalo, Mayor of eThekwini Municipality


“If we get scared into inaction, and lose hope sitting at home depressed, then none of these policy and technology responses will be implemented. It’s about trusting the human spirit” - Mario Molina, Climate Reality Project


“Beliefs, values and well-being are important. Well-being is going to become an important layer in the complex situation of adapting to climate change” - Prof Coleen Vogel


“In our small town, I am jack of all trades, the general practitioner” - David Uushona, Walvis Bay Municipality, Namibia


“When spider webs unite, they can tie up a lion” - Hastings Chikoko, Africa Regional Director, C40 Cities


For more information please contact ICLEI Africa iclei-africa@iclei.org, 0027 21 202 0392


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