Adapting to climate change on the radar in Cape Town

19 June 2018 - 14:49 By Claire Keeton
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Image: Gallo Images/ IStock

Nearly 19 million people were displaced because of climate change in 2017‚ said a senior UN climate leader at the opening of a global conference on climate adaption in Cape Town on Tuesday.

“That is 2‚000 people an hour being displaced‚ 33 people a minute‚” said Ovais Sarmad‚ deputy executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)‚ emphasising the harmful impacts of climate change across the world.

“They are more visible than ever before‚” he said. “For the first time ever in February a ship crossed the Arctic Ocean. Arctic Sea ice is at a record low in both the Atlantic and the Pacific.”

Sporting suits‚ doeks and dreadlocks‚ some 1‚300 delegates are attending the conference which highlights the need to put climate adaption on an equal footing with climate mitigation as a strategy to manage climate change.

Climate adaption involves steps to prevent and adapt to extreme events – like droughts‚ floods‚ heatwaves and rising sea levels – as Cape Town has been doing to avoid Day Zero.

In a cheerful suit‚ Cape Town mayor Patricia de Lille said at the plenary that the city had learnt about adaption through necessity.

“We had to reduce our water demand and usage. In January 2016 it was 1.1 billion litres of water per day. As I speak today it is just over 500 million litres of water per day.

“I believe Cape Town will emerge as one of the most water resilient cities in the world on how to adapt and face climate changes‚” said De Lille.

These lessons are being shared among conference delegates from 67 countries.

A “community kraal” to provide shelter and encourage discourse‚ and an art exhibition made of plants‚ highlight the earth-friendly feel of the conference‚ which has the theme:  Adaptation Futures 2018 - Dialogues for Solutions.

Noel Oettie‚ programme manager of Adaption Network South Africa‚ introduced two community members to speak about their experiences from Indonesia and the Northern Cape.

“Adaption is about people not technology‚” said Oettie‚ stressing the need to collaborate in making changes. “If we persist in silos we might find ourselves sitting on the top of silos as the ocean rises.”

UN Environment climate change coordinator Niklas Hagelberg said the conference needed to crack two targets: to identify practical indicators on whether adaption is working and the financing of these interventions.

“If we don’t properly measure impact‚ it is really unlikely [the] private and public sector will invest scarce resources into something not that tangible. [Until now] 85% of all investments went to mitigation‚” he said.

He said that planning should take into account climate adaption and not‚ for example‚ build projects in Maputo which could be underwater in the future.


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