Deputy Minister Makhotso Sotyu’s address on the occasion of annual Garden Route Fire Commemoration event and Climate Change Indaba 2021.

09 June 2021


His Excellency Executive Mayor of the Garden Route District Municipality: Councillor Memory Booysen
Municipal Manager: Mr Monde Stratu
Honourable chancellors
Head of departments
Government officials
Secretariat and chairperson of the Garden Route Environmental Forum, and
Distinguished guests

Ladies and gentlemen

I would like to extend my sincere greetings to everyone who joined us today on this remarkable annual event on Climate Change and Disasters Management (CCDM). Allow me once again to take this opportunity to acknowledge the Garden Route Environmental Forum (GREF) for organising this event purposed to improve planning, advance disaster management, awareness creation and information sharing on climate change associated risks and intervention measures at the district level. 

The environment and climate change is a cross-sectoral matter, of which the constitution of the country (section 24) requires that all spheres of government (national, provincial and local government) undertakes the mandate to ensuring that the environment is well protected and managed for the benefit of the current and future generations. Hence the DFFE works closely with all spheres of government towards the fulfilment of this constitutional mandate.

Ladies and gentlemen

The debate of whether climate change is real or not is long over. Scientists are now in consensus that humankind is the cause. The biggest question we should be asking is how much of the impacts will still take place and how do we adapt. Climate change is already a measurable reality and along with other developing countries, South Africa is extremely vulnerable to the impacts of climate change due to its socio-economic and environmental context.

The warming of the climate system is leading to rising temperature, changing precipitation and climate extremes, sea level rise, with associated increases in risks to people and ecosystems from floods, droughts, heat waves, storm surges and cyclones, among others. Climate change exacerbates the existing pressures facing our earth and societies, such as increased population, accelerated urbanisation and unsustainable lifestyle.

Climate change is a key concern within South Africa. The annual temperatures have increased by at least 1.5 times the observed global average of 0.65ºC over the past five decades and extreme rainfall events have increased in frequency. These changes are likely to continue, as the South African Long Term Adaptation Scenarios suggest warming relative to 3–6ºC by 2081–2100 in the interior, yet less certain precipitation changes in terms of both direction and magnitude.

Whereas the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change suggested that by 2100, temperature warming is projected to reach around 3 to 4°C along the coast and 6 to 7°C in the interior. With such temperature increases, life as we know it will change completely: parts of the country will be much drier and increased evaporation will ensure an overall decrease in water availability.

Many regions of the world have already experienced greater regional-scale warming, with 20–40% of the global population (depending on the temperature dataset used) having experienced over 1.5°C of warming in at least one season. Temperature rise to date has already resulted in profound alterations to human and natural systems, including increases in droughts, floods, and some other types of extreme weather; sea level rise; and biodiversity loss – these changes are causing unprecedented risks to vulnerable persons and populations. The most affected people live in low and middle income countries, some of which have experienced a decline in food security, which in turn is partly linked to rising migration and poverty, according to the IPCC report of 2018.

The science is clear that action to address the causes and impacts of climate change by a single country or small group of countries will not be successful. Climate change is a global problem as the world shares one atmosphere, therefore we will have to solve this problem together through the concerted and cooperative efforts of all countries. This is a global problem requiring a global solution.

The Paris Agreement sets out the global temperature increase to below 2°C above pre-industrial levels. Should multi-lateral international action not be achieved, the potential impacts on South Africa in the long-term are significant and potentially catastrophic.

To address the shocks of climate change, the South African Government developed the National Climate Change Response Policy (NCCRP) White Paper in 2011 to facilitate the long-term, just transition to a lower-carbon economy and climate resilient society. The implementation of the NCCRP includes the development of a set of long term adaptation scenarios for key sectors, on the basis of a set of consensus locally relevant climate scenarios that would inform an integrated approach to planning and implementation of South Africa’s adaptation responses.

The overall approach to implementation is developmental; climate change responses are prioritised where they have significant mitigation and adaptation benefits, including economic growth, job creation, public health, risk management and poverty alleviation.

In 2019, the country further developed the National Climate Change Adaptation Strategy (NCCAS) as a policy directive for the implementation of the National Climate Change Response Policy. The National Climate Change Adaptation Strategy sets out the national priorities for building climate resilience. 

The strategic objectives of the NCCAS are to: (1) build climate resilience and adaptive capacity to respond to climate change risk and vulnerability; (2) promote the integration of climate change adaptation response into development objectives, policy, planning and implementation; (3) improve understanding of climate change impacts and capacity to respond to these impacts; and (4) ensure resources and systems are in place to enable implementation of climate change responses.

The department has further introduced the provincial and local government climate change support programmes. These programmes provides guidance on strengthening policies at the subnational level and on how to integrate/ mainstreaming climate change into municipal planning processes. Some of the approaches include providing stakeholders with step by step guidance on conducting climate change vulnerability assessment and how to develop change response plan/strategies.

In order to transition from policy to planning, dffe further assisted municipalities on the development of climate change project proposals in order to access climate finance opportunities. Thus far, all provinces and district municipalities in the country have undertaken risk and vulnerability assessments and developed climate change response strategies through this programme.

The DFFE is finalising the development of the disaster management plan which required in terms of Disaster Management Act No 57 of 2002 and the National Policy Framework for Disaster Risk Management 2005. The plan focuses on providing a coordinated and integrated approach to Disaster Management, as well as preventing or reducing disaster risk and facilitating emergency preparedness to respond to disasters rapidly and effectively. The plan acknowledges various committees and forums that the implementation of this plan will have to interface with at local government level.

The department is finalising the climate change bill to enable a coordinated and coherent approach to addressing climate change across the spheres of society. The climate change bill will strengthen climate change governance in the country. Furthermore, the honourable President has established the Presidential Commission on Climate Change to provide advisory to government on a just transition to a low carbon and climate resilient society.

Through donor support we are working on the design of an adaptation project to focus on addressing fires within the garden route. The departmental team has engaged significantly with key stakeholders and will finalise the project design in due course.

Currently the department is revising the National Coastal Management Programmes (NCMP) as per requirement of Integrated Coastal Management Act (ICM Act). The review of the NCMP will inform the review and development of the Provincial and Municipality Coastal Management Plans. The 2nd NCMP will also focus on the oceans economy and the district-delivery model primarily aimed to address poverty and livelihoods support.

The department is also working closely with the South African National Parks (SANParks) to develop a draft coastal management line (“CML”) for the Garden Route National Park (“GRNP”) to manage the risks from the likely future negative effects of climate change, such as changes in dynamic coastal processes and sea-level rise, in the park. The declaration of CMLs seeks to minimise the human-environmental conflicts that occur on the coast by providing a management measure to control coastal development with the intention of avoiding the risks emanating from coastal processes that could impact on property, human life, social dynamics, pristine environment and economic opportunities.

Ladies and gentlemen

Climate change is not just an environmental issue, as too many people still believe. It is an all-encompassing threat to the very ground millions of people live on, and to the global economy. Our country is facing the bleak of climate change such as of storms, wild fire, droughts, floods and rising sea levels. If this challenge is not addressed, large parts of the country will become uninhabitable because it will be either flooded or hardly receive any rainfall at all.

I would therefore like to commend the GRDM for taking this initiative and establish the GREF to support the country’s efforts to tackle climate change. There are so many lessons that can be shared as well as information exchange on how the GRDM dealt with the 2017 Knysna fires. The amount of research on climate risks, projections and extreme events available will be useful to share with other stakeholders grappling with related challenges.

Although climate change is a global phenomenon and complex in nature, its impacts and effects are also experienced locally where people’s lives and livelihoods are directly affected. Therefore, in addressing the impacts of climate change, we need to think globally but act locally, particularly at municipality level.

Thank You!