Contributing towards climate change adaptation

South Africa has various multi-sectoral programmes currently under implementation aimed at, among other things, to contribute towards climate change adaptation and mitigation.

Addressing the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Symposium on Ecosystem-based Adaptation (EbA) on Wednesday, Minister of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment Barbara Creecy said many of these programmes link biodiversity conservation with socio-economic development in line with government priorities.

They include the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment’s Environmental Programmes, including Working for Water, Working for Wetlands, Working for Land and others, that implement restoration activities in support of the Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP), which contributes to supporting adaptation and reducing climate disasters.

“These also respond to the seven government priorities including alleviating poverty and uplifting households, especially those headed by women through job creation and skills development,” Creecy said.

Climate change is one of the major drivers of change resulting in the deterioration of ecosystem structure, function, goods and services.

“The need for urgency to address climate change is also supported by the 2021 Global Risk Report of the World Economic Forum (WEF), which places climate action failure and biodiversity loss among the top ten global risks.

“This was also corroborated by South Africa’s National Biodiversity Assessment (NBA, 2018), which highlights habitat loss and climate change among the top five pressures faced by the country’s terrestrial ecosystems and species,” the Minister said.

South Africa is endowed with rich diversity of flora and fauna and this has earned the country a spot among a group of the mega-biodiverse countries globally.

“Biodiversity provides a wide array of benefits to the economy, society and human wellbeing. As a result, maintaining intact ecosystems and species populations, and ensuring connectivity across landscapes and seascapes, is vital for preserving adaptive capacity of nature to climate change, which in turn will enhance human adaptive capacity and resilience.

“It is to this reason that the South African government recently adopted the National Climate Change Adaptation Strategy (NCCAS), which provides an enhanced opportunity to transition the country towards climate-resilience and for us to achieve our obligations to the Paris Agreement through the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs),” the Minister said.

The NCCAS will follow a sustainable development path, guided by anticipation, adaptation and recovery from a changing climate and environment to achieve our sustainable development aspirations.

“Anchored by nine strategic interventions, which will be implemented across 11 sectors, the NCCAS provides a common reference point for climate change adaptation efforts in South Africa, including EbA. Biodiversity and ecosystems are recognised as one of the 11 important sectors in which resilience is paramount.

“Ecosystem-based Adaptation (EbA), which entails the use of biodiversity and ecosystem services in helping people to adapt to the effects of climate change, offers a good opportunity to actively leverage the functionality of ecosystem goods and services in our climate change response,” the Minister said.

More importantly, the EbA can be applied on diverse land and seascapes, including natural areas, human modified landscapes such as agricultural areas and urban regions and it is also cost effective.

In South Africa, EbA is recognised for its potential to support poor and rural communities who are more directly dependent on natural resources and ecosystem services in adapting to climate change.

The co-benefits of EbA contribute towards a broader set of socio-economic and development goals, including job creation, poverty reduction and rural/peri-urban development.

“As a result, the South African Government has been championing the Ecosystem-based Adaptation approach with specific focus on the investments in the conservation and protection of ecosystems, mainstreaming of biodiversity across sectors and programmes for restoration and rehabilitation of degraded or stressed ecosystems,” the Minister said.