Emergency response required for climate change adaptation

Minister of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment, Barbara Creecy, has emphasised the importance of accelerating efforts to adapt to the reality of a rapidly changing climate, and to close the existing adaptation gap in this decade.

This as a recently released report on climate change shows that more than a century of burning fossil fuels and unsustainable energy and land use worldwide, particularly in developed countries, has led to global warming of 1.1°C since the start of the industrial revolution.

This has resulted in more frequent and more intense extreme weather events, with devastating impacts on people and nature in every region of the world.

The Minister said events like cyclone Freddy, which recently killed hundreds of people in Malawi, Mozambique, South Africa and Zimbabwe, are a reminder that despite some progress being made in reducing climate risks, developed nations remain ill prepared for the existential threat posed by climate change.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Summary for Policy Makers and a longer synthesis report of the Sixth Assessment Cycle was released on Monday, 20 March.

It brings together the work of leading global scientists over the past six years.

The IPCC found that with every increment of warming, the risks, impacts and related losses and damages escalate. When these risks combine with other adverse events, such as pollution and loss of biological diversity, they cascade across sectors and regions, and become increasingly difficult to manage.

“Nothing less than an emergency response will suffice. However, as pointed out by this IPCC report, the options open to us to adapt are becoming more constrained and less effective with every increment of warming.

“The IPCC indicates that climate resilient development will become progressively more challenging, particularly beyond 1.5°C.

“Without urgent, effective, and equitable action to reduce emissions and adapt, climate change increasingly threatens ecosystems, biodiversity, and the livelihoods and wellbeing of current and future generations.

“This tells us that both accelerated adaptation efforts and deep, rapid and sustained greenhouse gas emissions reductions in all sectors are required this decade. Unless the international community acts with urgency to reduce emissions, we will not succeed in keeping warming to under 1.5°C, and greater impacts and loss and damage will follow,” the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment said.

According to scientists, global emissions should already be decreasing and be cut by almost half by 2030.

Ultimately, the only way to stabilise warming is to reach net zero CO2 emissions. To limit warming to 1.5°C would require net zero CO2 in the early 2050s, followed by net negative CO2 emissions in the decades thereafter.

“South Africa through its Nationally Determined Contribution and the Just Transition Framework is committed to doing its fair share to contribute to limiting global warming to 1.5°C and reaching net zero CO2 emissions by 2050,” the Minister said.

Through the Just Energy Transition Investment Plan, South Africa has identified measures in the electricity, transport and hydrogen sectors and value chains to contribute to decarbonisation of the economy.

The plan will require over R1.5 trillion to be fully implemented.


South Africa has challenged its partners and multilateral development banks to increase finance for climate investments. This is important to achieve global climate goals.

“The IPCC indicates that these finance gaps and opportunities are greatest in developing economies. A rapid scaling up of finance flows from global capital markets, and supporting public funding from developed economies for enhanced mitigation and accelerated adaptation, can act as a catalyst for accelerating the global shift to sustainable development.

“More importantly, the IPCC indicates that grant-based public financing is crucial to accelerate adaptation activity, which is severely underfunded. The greatest gains in wellbeing can be achieved by prioritising finance to reduce climate risk for the most vulnerable regions (especially in Sub-Saharan Africa), and for the most vulnerable, low-income, and marginalised communities, including people living in informal settlements,” the department said.

Mitigation faces a different challenge, which includes leveraging private finance through public financing by reducing some of the risks inherent in upscaling mitigation, especially in newer sectors, and in developing regions, including those facing debt and public financing macroeconomic constraints.

Creecy paid tribute to the South African team that played a crucial role in this sixth assessment cycle, from authors to reviewers and the team guiding the report through its final approval process.

She thanked Professor Debra Roberts, who is the South African candidate for the chairpersonship of the IPCC during its seventh assessment cycle.

“Under Prof Roberts’ leadership as the current co-chair of Working Group II of the IPCC, we had more African authors contributing to the IPCC than in any other assessment cycle to date,” Creecy said. – SAnews.gov.za


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