by Claire Davis-Reddy, Amy Pieterse and Willemien van Niekerk

The GreenBook presents a range of appropriate and locally relevant planning and design actions that can be used to reduce the vulnerability of South African settlements to climate risks and exploit opportunities for sustainable development. The actions, provided through the Adaptation Actions Tool, include a wide range of measures that can be undertaken to address adaptation needs and exploit opportunities for climate-resilient development. The actions translate a number of the sectorial adaptation priority strategies outlined in the South African National Climate Change Adaptation Strategy (Department of Environmental Affairs 2016) into targeted response measures for settlements. In support of implementation, information is provided on how to deal with uncertainty as well as on the mechanisms that support climate change adaptation, such as disaster risk reduction, funding, capacity building, and monitoring and evaluation.


Climate change adaptation relies on modelled projections of future conditions, which embody uncertainty. Whilst local government is accustomed to uncertainty and for some local municipalities climate variability has long been an important component of planning, the challenge now is that climate change poses greater risks in terms of the higher frequency and intensity of weather-related events. Additionally, a single climate parameter can have a multiplicity of direct and indirect location-specific impacts in different contexts and becomes more complex when there is a combination of climate change indicators.Uncertainty is crucial to understanding future climate change, especially when selecting adaptation actions and designing adaptation strategies that will benefit both present and future socio-economic situations. When making decisions regarding climate change, the likely impacts can be judged against both the certainty of the impact occurring, the timescales over which the impact will occur, the scale of the impact and the intensity (significance) of the impact. Impacts with high certainty but low intensity may often be ignored. Impacts with high certainty and high intensity should always be avoided. However, impacts with low certainty but very high intensity are most problematic from a decision perspective. In essence, it depends on how large a risk needs to be before it becomes an unacceptable risk.
An effective way to deal with uncertainty is to adopt a flexible or adaptive management approach.
An adaptive management approach involves implementing the selected adaptation actions in an incremental manner to monitor their success and associated challenges. This approach promotes learning and the advancement of research and technology to improve adaptation actions (Department of Environmental Affairs, 2018).


Addressing climate change requires an integrated approach and several key enablers are required to develop a balanced and effective response to climate change.

  • Disaster risk reduction +

    Both disaster risk reduction (DRR) and climate change adaptation (CCA) aim to mitigate climate-related risks by reducing and modifying environmental and human factors to support sustainable economic and social development (Davis-Reddy & Vincent, 2017). There are many examples of actions that are considered to be both CCA and DRR (including identifying flood lines, implementing water conservation measures, and creating and maintaining firebreaks).

    Integrating CCA and DRR into development planning is key and will reduce future losses from climate extremes. It will also assist in reducing competition for resources as well as removing redundancy or the duplication of efforts by the different sectors and departments. The Disaster Management Amendment Act (Republic of South Africa, 2015) provides measures to reduce the risk of disaster through adaptation to climate change, which includes managing water resources and improving insurance coverage for example. In addition, the National Climate Change Response (NCCR) White Paper (Department of Environmental Affairs, 2011) emphasises disaster management and disaster risk reduction as a key area of development for the country. This commitment is demonstrated by national government’s investment in disaster risk reduction and emergency response, which has risen from US$ 0.02 bn. to US$ 0.7 bn. between 2010 and 2015 as part of the total increase of investment in adaptation which rose from US$ 1.64 bn. to US$ 2.31 bn. (Engelbrecht et al., 2017 in press).

    Important DRR tasks to support the implementation of adaptation actions at the local level are to (Department of Environmental Affairs, 2014):
    - Mainstream disaster risk reduction (not simply disaster response) into policy and planning at the local settlement level. This includes improved planning, with proper sector plans that include implementation actions and timelines.
    - Support the continued shift from a reactive to a proactive approach to disaster management.
    - Improve DRR coordination within and between government departments as well as between line departments and provincial and municipal departments.
    - Improve the delineation of roles and responsibilities around DRR, emphasising the importance of DRR within all sectors.
    - Support the establishment of DRR structures, including forums and nodes, at all levels.
    - Continue development of early warning systems (EWS) to ensure timeous and effective dissemination of practical information to all population groups. The rollout of EWS in vulnerable areas is critical and can be undertaken in partnership with civil society and with the support of government and NGOs. An example of the integration of CCA and DRR at the municipal level is eThekwini Municipality’s Municipal Climate Protection Program (MCPP), initiated in 2004 (ICLEI, 2012:6; Engelbrecht et al., 2017 in press). The program seeks to mainstream climate change adaptation in the general city planning and development framework and attempts to harmonise local urban responses to climate change with key development priorities.

  • Funding mechanisms for CCA at the local-level +

    Access to and the availability of financial resources dedicated to climate change adaptation planning (e.g. for the development of impact and/or vulnerability assessments) and for the implementation of specific adaptation actions and programs are key determinants of adaptive capacity. It has been reported in the SANAs Report (Department of Environmental Affairs, 2015) that no funding by national government is provided to provincial environmental departments for climate change adaptation planning and development. The report highlights that in particular Limpopo, the Northern Cape, Gauteng, the Free State and Mpumalanga have found it challenging to finance adaptation initiatives. The Western Cape is currently the only province that has a budget allocated for the provision of climate change response initiatives through its environmental department (Department of Environmental Affairs,2015). However, the funding remains minimal. Several provinces have been able to secure funds through the Green Fund (e.g. the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal) and some are in the process of developing strategies for accessing international funding options (Department of Environmental Affairs, 2018). The Western Cape and Gauteng have started to investigate potential climate change response funding options such as green and climate bonds, commercial finance through debt and equity, municipal revenue sources or a carbon tax (Department of Environmental Affairs, 2018).

    Some municipalities have received financial support from SALGA, DEA and civil society for mainstreaming climate change adaptation into municipalities (Department of Environmental Affairs, 2016). While some of the larger metropolitan municipalities and one district municipality 1 have been able to secure international funding for initiating adaptation activities, small municipalities have almost no direct financial resources for the implementation of climate change activities (Ziervogel et al., 2014).

    There are more than 60 different international funds available for developing countries through bilateral, multilateral and private sources but access to these funds is often complicated by an array of eligibility requirements (Davis-Reddy and Vincent, 2017). The funding for adaptation disbursed through UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) mechanisms includes the Adaptation Fund, the Green Climate Fund (the largest of these funds), the Global Environment Facility, and the Special Climate Change Fund. Other funding mechanisms not within the UNFCCC include the Pilot Programme for Climate Resilience, which is part of the World Bank Climate Investment Funds (Nakhooda et al., 2014). Furthermore, of the estimated anticipated US$ 80–100 billion of climate change adaptation costs available under the climate finance fund, an estimated 80% will be allocated to urban areas (Brugmann, 2012). Other examples include the ClimDev Special Fund multi-donor trust fund administered by the African Development Bank (AFDB), the Climate Change Fund under the New Economic Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) and the African Climate Change Fund under the AFDB (Davis- Reddy and Vincent, 2017).

    Currently, most of the funding mechanisms available to local government sit either within mitigation, adaptation, DRR, or within planning and development. There are few funding1 The uMgungundlovu District Municipality has been able to secure US$ 7.5 million for the implementation of the “Building resilience in the Greater uMngeni Catchment, South Africa" Project from the Adaptation Fund.mechanisms that are available for integrated responses to development and climate change. The Department of Environmental Affairs and the National Treasury have made progress in this respect through their efforts.

    However, the onus rests largely on local governments, officials and professional to identify funding opportunities beyond the funding silos. To assist in the implementation of adaptation actions local government needs to:
    -Develop the mechanisms and capacity to mobilise resources for climate change adaptation through public and private investments, insurance arrangements, and international funds
    - Develop procedures to monitor and track spending on adaptation and DRR projects
    - Strengthen cross-sector and department collaboration to share the cost of adaptation and DRR
    - Understand the costing of each adaptation action selected for implementation
    - Review existing budgets and sector-department mandates to assess alignment with local plans and priority needs for adaptation actions
    - Ensure that actions are integrated into budgets and financing plans in the IDPs.

    Eden District Municipality provides an example of collaboration between a local municipality and private insurance company (Department of Environmental Affairs, 2014) where, instead of increasing the insurance premiums, Santam supported a project to assess landscape- wide measures to reduce the risks of extreme weather events. Through the project, “proximate drivers” of climate risks, as well as direct and indirect response measures, were identified (e.g. supporting the Working for Water programme). An early warning display system, designed by the Eden Municipality, was installed to warn and alert the public of severe weather. This LED display system is linked to the Eden Disaster Management Centre in George from where information is uploaded on the early warning display units.

  • Capacity building, awareness raising and communication +

    The importance of having people with the necessary awareness, skills and knowledge available to develop climate change responses, mainstream and implement climate change adaptation interventions, and access larger networks and partnerships is recognised in the National Climate Change Response Plan (Department of Environmental Affairs, 2011). Building capacity and raising awareness within all spheres of government around climate change gets increasingly important as various sectors, and even different spaces, require differentiated adaptation responses to climate change. It adds a new urgency for intergovernmental spatial alignment and a shared understanding of regionally diverse and location-specific implications of climate change; not only to support local government in delivery and implementation but also to inform and influence spatially-targeted investments, such as major infrastructure projects and mega housing projects.

    Efforts must be directed to develop and implement:
    - Awareness and communication programmes: To build awareness of climate change in communities in relevant urban settlements, focusing on those communities that are most vulnerable to climate change impacts – for example, the poor and marginalised, those living within or near a 100-year flood line, those living in areas most prone to losing access to water in times of drought. The programme could include websites, public information meetings, posters and message boards, as well as physical site(s) where practical actions to address climate change can be demonstrated.

    - Capacity building: Capacity development should be undertaken with the different stakeholders and professionals involved in spatial planning, climate change and disaster management. Capacity can be built through formal training programmes, “learning by doing” over the long term through the implementation of local projects, technical assistance, and support services.

    - Stakeholder participation: All relevant stakeholders concerned with climate change should be informed and consulted in order to be given an opportunity to take part in the decision-making process so as to ensure that adaptation measures account for the interests of all actors and to ensure the implementation of socially agreed upon adaptation measures. Such a participatory approach should be promoted across sectors and between administrative levels.

    - Cross-sector collaboration and intergovernmental alignment: Adapting to the changing climate requires effective governance, coordination and collaboration among a variety of stakeholders, sectors and levels of government. This provides new opportunities for learning, training and applying the latest research information. It allows costs for adaptation actions to be reduced by sharing among other institutions and departments.

  • Monitoring and evaluation +

    The implementation of adaptation actions is an on-going process that requires effective monitoring and evaluation (M&E) to understand the progress being made to achieve the goals of the specific action (Department of Environmental Affairs, 2018). The need for M&E is particularly important because of the complexity and inter-related nature of adaptation measures, the uncertainty relating to the impacts of climate change, and the number of stakeholders involved with its execution. The information generated from M&E processes will assist in securing the future support, both political and financial, that is needed to support ongoing adaptation. It is imperative for local settlements to establish mechanisms for measuring the outcomes of adaptation actions.

    A common set of metrics to measure the success of adaptation actions is currently not available for South Africa but decision-makers can use the following guidelines when setting up an M&E system so that it is:

    - As simple as possible

    - Related to the available resources to conduct the monitoring and evaluation

    - A supportive management tool to facilitate rapid learning and support management functions

    - A base to promote results-based programmes and project implementation in a complex regional environment

    - Based on manageable processes and measurable and verifiable indicators, where possible, to inform management and mobilise appropriate and purposeful interventions.




Brugmann, J. 2012. ‘Financing the resilient city’, Environment and Urbanization, vol. 24, no. 1, pp. 215–232.

Davis-Reddy, C. & Vincent, K. 2017. Climate Risk and Vulnerability: A Handbook for Southern Africa, 2nd edn, Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. Pretoria: South Africa.

Department of Environmental Affairs. 2018. National Climate Change Adaptation Strategy. Department of Environmental Affairs. Pretoria: South Africa.

Department of Environmental Affairs. 2016. First Annual Climate Change Response Report, Theme E: Climate Change Adaptation Governance and Management. Department of Environmental Affairs. Pretoria: South Africa.

Department of Environmental Affairs. 2015. Situational Analysis and Needs Assessment (SANAs) Report. Department of Environmental Affairs. Pretoria: South Africa.

Department of Environmental Affairs. 2014. Long-Term Adaptation Scenarios Flagship Research Programme (LTAS) for South Africa: Climate Information and Early Warning Systems for Supporting the Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Sector in South Africa under Future Climates. Department of Environmental Affairs. Pretoria: South Africa.

Department of Environmental Affairs. 2011. National Climate Change Response White Paper. Department of Environmental Affairs. Pretoria: South Africa.

Engelbrecht, F.A., Thambiran, T. & Davis, C.L. 2017 in press. Chapter 3: Climate Change over South Africa: From trends and projected changes to vulnerability assessments and the status quo of national adaptation strategies. Department of Environmental Affairs. South Africa's 3rd National Communication to UNFCCC.

ICLEI. 2012. ICLEI Case Study No.139 – A municipality’s climate protection program in eThekwini. Available: [2017, 14 April].

Juhola, S., Glaas, E., Linnér, B.O., Neset, T.S. 2016. ‘Redefining maladaptation’. Environmental Science & Policy, vol. 55, part 1, pp.135–140.

Nakhooda, S., Norman, M., Barnard, S., Watson, C., Greenhill, R., Caravani, A., Canales, Trujillo, N. & Banton, G. 2014. ‘Climate Finance: is it making a difference?’. A review of the effectiveness of the Multilateral Climate Funds. Overseas Development Institute: London.

Republic of South Africa. 2015. Disaster Management Amendment Act No.16 of 2015. Pretoria: Government Printers.

Ziervogel, G., Archer van Garderen, E., Midgley, G., Hamann, R., Taylor, A., Stuart-Hill, S., Warburton-Toucher, M. & Myers, J. 2014. ‘Climate change impacts and adaptation inSouth Africa: current approaches and future challenges’. WiRES Climate Change, vol. 5, issue 5, http://doi: 10.1002/wcc.295.

Suggested citation:
Davis-Reddy, C., Pieterse, A., & Van Niekerk, W. 2019.
Adaptation Support. GreenBook.

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