UNFCCC Kyoto Protocol & Paris Agreement

South Africa is a signatory of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the Kyoto Protocol and the Paris Agreement. The UNFCCC entered into force in 1994 as a framework for international cooperation to combat climate change by limiting average global temperature increases and cope with the associated impacts. The South African Government ratified the UNFCCC in August 1997. Negotiations to strengthen the global response to climate change led to the adoption of the Kyoto Protocol in 1997, an international agreement linked to the UNFCCC, which commits its Parties by setting internationally binding emission reduction targets. The South African Government acceded to the Kyoto Protocol in July 2002.

The Paris Agreement, the latest step in the United Nations’ climate change regime, was adopted at the 21st session of the Conference of the Parties (COP21) of the UNFCCC, which was held in Paris between 30 November and 13 December 2015. The Paris Agreement’s main aim is to keep the global temperature rise this century to well below 2 degrees Celsius, as well as to drive efforts to3 limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels (UNFCCC, 2015a). Central to the implementation of the Paris Agreement are countries’ Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). The NDCs of each country express national climate-related strategies, policies and actions with South Africa’s first NDC including a commitment to peak, plateau and decline its emissions trajectory in the near term, but did not specify an emissions reduction target for 2030.

Urban areas are important to implement the Paris Agreement since urban areas represent an estimated 70% of global energy-related emissions, and the achievement of this sector’s potential 80% reduction in CO2 emissions by 2050 will be critical to the success of the Paris Agreement (UNFCCC 2015b). Urban areas are also at the centre of converging global frameworks, such as the Sustainable Development Goals and the New Urban Agenda, and it is through the multiplier effect of cross-sector and multilevel action that ambitious climate goals can be achieved.

Sustainable Development Goals

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, also adopted in 2015 by UN member states, acknowledges global poverty and inequality and builds on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The framework of the 2030 Agenda is anchored around 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs) with a total of 169 targets that cover economic, social development and environmental protection. The Paris Agreement is important to the 2030 Agenda since climate action influences the achievement of the 17 SDGs of the 2030 Agenda, and climate change is also recognised as one of the 17 goals (Goal 13). Goals 9 and 11 speak directly to settlements in terms of building resilient infrastructure (Goal 9) and making cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable (Goal 11). The targets in the Sendai Framework, including a substantial reduction in mortality and the numbers of people affected by disasters, in economic losses and damage to critical infrastructure, are re-affirmed under Goal 11 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The Sendai Framework

In terms of disaster risk, the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015–2030 (Sendai Framework) was adopted by the UN Member States at the 3rd UN World Conference for Disaster Risk Reduction (WCDRR) in March 2015 in Sendai, Japan. The framework is a 15-year non-binding agreement that recognises that the state has a primary role to reduce disaster risk; however, responsibility is shared with other stakeholders including local government and the private sector. The Framework acknowledges that disasters, many of which are exacerbated/ aggravated by climate change and have shown to be increasing in frequency and intensity, significantly impede progress towards sustainable development.

It acknowledges and emphasises the importance of climate change and sustainable development for disaster risk reduction and vice versa. The Framework includes seven global targets and four priorities for action, accompanied by a comprehensive set of guiding principles that give direction to actions to reduce the impact of disasters, while also addressing the underlying drivers of disaster risk and safeguarding current and future development gains. Countries should align their DRR strategies and plans with the Sendai Framework when implementing the Framework within their regions. In Africa, a Programme of Action for the Implementation of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015–2030 is in place. It is intended to provide guidance and direction for actions by all parties at the continental, regional, national and sub-national/local levels in Africa to prevent and reduce the risk of disasters in line with the Sendai Framework.

The post-2015 frameworks provide an opportunity for joint, cohesive action. Together, the Sendai Framework on Disaster Risk Reduction, Sustainable Development Goals, Paris Agreement on climate change and the new Urban Agenda (Habitat III) cover a spectrum of risks. In a significant shift, they even acknowledge and cross-reference each other, looking at underlying vulnerabilities and cross-cutting issues. The Sendai Framework deliberately pursues coherence across the international agendas and identifies measures for integration at all levels.

The New Urban Agenda

The New Urban Agenda was adopted at the Third United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development, known as Habitat III, which was held in Quito, Ecuador from 17 to 20 October 2016. The New Urban Agenda is intended to be an action-orientated document that sets global standards of achievement in sustainable development and will be used by the United Nations as a key instrument for national, sub-national and local governments and all relevant stakeholders to achieve sustainable urban development (Habitat III 2016). The Agenda also calls for exploring and developing feasible solutions for climate and disaster risks in cities and human settlements. South Africa’s national report for this conference (Habitat III-SA, 2016) highlights the country’s issues related to urban demographics, land and urban planning, environment and urbanisation, urban governance and legislation, the urban economy, housing and basic services, and the challenges associated with each of these issues. Issues highlighted in the national report that link to the environment and urbanisation include South Africa’s approach to addressing climate change, disaster risk reduction, reducing traffic congestion, and air pollution. The country’s challenges, which could be addressed by a New Urban Agenda, highlight the importance of a pro-poor adaptation agenda, and the need to review the impacts of macroeconomic policies on the poor and the impacts of these policies on the adaptive capacity of the poor to climate change impacts, as well as reviving the land and agrarian reform agenda, building the institutional capacity at local level for the implementation of climate change adaptation measures, and improving access to information, and improving the understanding of climate change adaptation needs from a local perspective. In addition, the new agenda should address disaster risk in terms of strengthening the integration of planning within organs of states, the provision of assistance to local communities for mapping hazards and risks, and increasing the number of public information and education programmes to better inform communities to reduce risks at a community level (Habitat III-SA, 2016).

Project finance

Project manager

Willemien van Niekerk

Willemien van Niekerk

Alize le Roux

Technical coordinator

Amy Pieterse

Project coordinator

Gerbrand Mans

Sibusisiwe Makhanya

Project monitoring and evaluation

Spatial Planning and Land Use Management Act (SPLUMA), No16 of 2013
Climate Change Adaptation Sector Strategy for Rural Human Settlements
Integrated Urban Development Framework (IUDF)

We measure ourselves against international standards and conventions in respect of practices, systems and products.
We conduct our business on a scientifically sustainable basis.We continually look out for new and better methods and systems.
We strive to do the right things and to do things right.

We maintain high standards of strategic planning and management.
We realise our objectives of creating economic value, and social and environmental responsibility through our management standards which:
We enable our employees to do their work conscientiously and honestly, enhances productivity and guarantees increased income;
We create fair and beneficial relationships with our clients.
We want to operate and manage in a way which prevents and eliminates corruption and fraud.

We want to create a safe environment.
We want to contribute to the creation of a stable social, political and economic environment
Develop the ZZ2 System through innovation and entrepreneurship.
Create exceptional value for our customers.Increase productivity and efficiency through innovation and change, with the aim of being excellent in all that we do.
Live up to our value system of a sustainable and living open system.

We want to create a safe environment.
We want to contribute to the creation of a stable social, political and economic environment
Develop the ZZ2 System through innovation and entrepreneurship.
Create exceptional value for our customers.Increase productivity and efficiency through innovation and change, with the aim of being excellent in all that we do.
Live up to our value system of a sustainable and living open system.


Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA). 2013. Long-Term Adaptation Scenarios Flagship Research Programme (LTAS) for South Africa. Department of Environmental Affairs: Pretoria.

Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA). 2014. Climate Change Adaptation: Perspectives on Urban, Rural and Coastal Human Settlements in South Africa. Report No.4 for the Long Term Adaptation Scenarios Flagship Research Program (LTAS).

Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA). 2017. Draft Third National Communication on Climate Change Report to the UNFCCC. Published for public comment. Department of Environmental Affairs, Pretoria.

Habitat III. 2016. The New Urban Agenda Explainer. Explainer_FInal.pdf

Habitat III-SA. 2016. South Africa’s Report to the ThirdUnited Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development (Habitat III). ISBN978-0-620-63626-1. Africa_1.pdf

Lesolle, D. 2012. SADC Policy paper on climate change: Assessing policy options for SADC member states.

National Planning Commission of South Africa (NPC). 2012. National Development Plan 2030: Our future - Make it work. The Presidency

Pieterse, A., van Niekerk, W. & du Toit, J. Forthcoming. ‘Creating resilient settlements through climate change adaptation planning’, Conference Proceedings: Planning Africa Conference 2018, South African Planning Institute. 15 – 17 October 2018, Cape Town

SADC-CNGO and FES. 2011. Climate change effects in Africa. SADC-CNGO Policy Paper Series – Regional Policy Paper 5. Southern African Development Community Council of Non-Governmental Organisations SADC-CNGO and Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES), Botswana Office.

Southern African Development Community (SADC). 2012. Regional Infrastructure Development
Master Plan.

Southern African Development Community (SADC). 2013. SADCREDD+ Network: SADC Programmes.

Southern African Development Community (SADC). 2016. Regional Strategic Action Plan on Integrated Water Resources Development and Management PhaseIV, RSAP IV, Gaborone, Botswana

UNFCCC. 2015a. Historic Paris Agreement on Climate Change.

UNFCCC. 2015b. Cities, Towns, Regions Partner to Achieve Paris Goals.

Suggested citation:
Pieterse, A., Bruwer, A., van Huyssteen, E., Naidoo, S. & Thambiran, T. 2019.
Policy Implications. Green Book.