Rapid urbanisation an extra obstacle to cities dealing with climate change


View of Johannesburg including the Nelson Mandela bridge. A number of cyclists rode through the city at night in memoriam of Olympic cyclist Burry Stander who had been killed by a taxi whilst on a training ride.

JOHANNESBURG – As day two of the COP21 climate change discussions started in Paris, France on Tuesday, African government officials in Sandton finalised a declaration statement on the impact of climate change on cities.

Some of the terms in the declaration related to resources for climate change adaptation and mitigation activities in Africa.

Mayors and and local government officials are leaving Johannesburg on Tuesday night to join the COP21 discussions in Paris.

The consensus of the session was that local governments will play a crucial role in dealing with the impacts of climate change.

“Cities are at the coalface of the climate change challenge,” City of Johannesburg MMC for Environment and Infrastructure Services Matshidiso Mfikoe told the Africities summit in Sandton.

Johannesburg is one of the largest emitters of greenhouse gases in Africa. Temperature increases are expected over the next four to five years.

“The largest increases will occur in spring and could be up to an average increase of 5.2ºC in 2081,” said Mfikoe.

Planning for climate change adaptation and mitigation will broken down by each department in the city of Johannesburg.

“Mayor (Parks) Tau gave us an ambitious target of reducing our greenhouse gas emissions by 65% in the next three years,” said Mfikoe.

The MMC explained that departments will be expected to include their mitigation activities in their business plans for the next three years.

These will be presented in January next year and the cost for mitigation must be allocated from existing budgets.

“We plan on a three-year scale but we are working towards our plan for 2040 and then towards Agenda 2063,” said Mfikoe

However, one of the greatest dilemmas African cities face in managing environmental sustainability is urbanisation.

“Currently 40% of Africa is urbanised. This is expected to increase by 60% by 2050,” said Arthur Minsat, an economist at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

Specific strategies are needed when planning for infrastructure development.

“Do we want to deal with development first and deal with the environmental consequences later, or do we want to synchronise our response to development?” asked Minsat.

Johannesburg is experiencing this predicament every day.

“Between 10,000 to 20,000 people come to Johannesburg every month. All our plans need to take into account this reality,” said Mfikoe.