Climate change adaptation exists in a complex policy environment in South Africa. There are various levels and scales at which climate change adaptation research and response relates to policy. Here we provide some information on the international context against which South Africa is obliged to respond as a country in terms of adapting to climate change, as well the involvement of local government in international climate change initiatives which facilitate the implementation and achievement of effective responses.

The role of the Green Book in this policy context is to provide implementation support and to promote legislative and policy compliance, by providing an evidence base to conduct risk and vulnerability assessments and climate change response plans on local, provincial and national level.


South Africa has positively responded to the challenge of climate change as the country is a signatory of numerous global climate change responses commitments. To mainstream climate-resilient development, all government sectors and departments have to ensure that all policies, strategies, legislation, regulations and plans are aligned with the White Paper on National Climate Change Response Policy (NCCRP) published in 2011.

All national departments are further mandated to develop sector-specific climate change adaptation plans, as well as to monitor the progress made toward the goals of low carbon emissions and resilience to climate change. In addition to the development of climate change adaptation sectoral plans, the country also recognises the need to prepare for expected climate change impacts and risks.

The Long Term Adaptation Scenarios (LTAS) Programme has been a national process that was developed in response to the NCCRP. The LTAS in Phase 1 developed national and sub-national adaptation scenarios for the country focusing on water, agriculture, forestry agriculture and human health (DEA 2013). Phase 2 of the LTAS provided additional information on the climate change impacts and adaptation needs of the country, particularly around human settlements, economics and disaster risk management (DEA 2014). The policy imperatives that are contained within the NCCRP, and subsequent characterisation of sectoral vulnerability and climate change adaptation needs from the LTAS, have provided a platform for adaptation planning to occur at various spheres of government. Most notably, the NCCRP identifies the need for a national climate change adaptation strategy as a means to coordinate climate change adaptation and response across sectors and spheres of government.

The Department of Environmental Affairs published the National Climate Change Adaptation Strategy (NCCAS) in 2018. It provides a common vision for climate change adaptation and resilience based on the NCCRP and the adaptation component of the NDC. The NCCAS, in support of this vision, puts forth a number of strategic objectives and interventions that are linked to outcomes and an action plan.

In the same year, the Department of Environmental Affairs also published the Climate Change Bill for public comment. The Bill provides for a coordinated and integrated response to climate change across the different spheres of government, and for the effective management of climate change impacts through adaptation, as well as through contributing to global mitigation efforts.

The National Disaster Management Act of 2002, its amendment in 2015, and the Disaster Management Policy Framework of 2005 require all organs of state to develop disaster management plans and provide an indication of how they will invest in disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation, including ecosystem and community-based adaptation approaches. It is also required that each sphere of government establish the necessary structures to ensure coordinated disaster risk reduction, response and recovery.

The socio-economic sectors identified within the NCCRP have key legislation that regulates that particular sector. Whilst these policies are developed nationally, the legislation has a direct bearing in terms of spatial planning and climate change. Certain sectors have also responded to NCCRP8 calls in 2011 for the development of sector-based climate change adaptation plans by national departments, to be guided by the NDP.


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)

National Water Act (Act 36 of 1998)
National Water Resource Strategy

National Health Act of 2003 (Act No. 61 of 2003)
National Environmental Health Policy
National Climate Change & Health Adaptation Plan 2014

The Integrated Growth and Development Plan (IGDP) for the Department of
Agriculture Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF, 2012)
Climate Change Sector Plan for Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (CCSPAFF) 2015

Biodiversity Climate Change Response Strategy 2014
Climate Change Adaptation Plans for South African Biomes 2015
Integrated Coastal Management Act (Act No.24 of 2008)

Climate change cannot be decoupled from development concerns and goals, and all national level policies, plans and legislation acknowledge this. The national strategic and integrated policies and strategies that outline the country’s vision and development priorities include the National Development Plan (NDP), the Medium Term Strategic Framework (MTSF) and the National Spatial Development Framework (NSDF) that sets out strategic spatial development priorities. They document the transformative change required to become a climate-resilient country.

The National Development Plan (NDP) provides a long-term perspective to guide the country’s development trajectory such that poverty is eliminated and inequalities are reduced by 2030 (NPC 2012). Government sectoral plans have to ensure long-term alignment with the NDP so that the planning and implementation outcomes can be achieved. Furthermore, the NDP states that climate change is already having an impact on South Africa with marked temperature increases, rainfall variations and rising sea levels. The NDP further favours a low-carbon emissions economy and highlights the need to improve disaster preparedness in light of extreme climate events.

The Medium Term Strategic Framework (MTSF) provides a means for the government to articulate its commitment to implementing the NDP and delivering on its electoral mandate, as well as its constitutional and statutory obligations. The aim of the MTSF is to ensure policy coherence, alignment and coordination across government plans as well as alignment with budgeting processes. The current plan, the Medium Term Strategic Framework 2014–2019, includes considerations about spatial planning and climate change. It recognises that SA is vulnerable to the impacts of climate change on the economy, water, food security, health and natural resources.

Within the stated priority of protecting and enhancing our environmental assets and natural resources, the importance of addressing climate change is raised. In the sub-outcomes, for example, a proposed action is the development and implementation of sector adaptation strategies/plans for water, agriculture and commercial fisheries, human settlements, biodiversity and ecosystems, by 2019, and which include measures to enhance the resilience of communities and the economy to changing climate conditions.

At the provincial level, the Provincial Growth and Development Strategy (PGDS) plays a key role as an integrative policy and strategy instrument aimed at setting out the long-term provincial and regional visions, and coordination of provincial sector plans, as well as providing a mechanism for inter-district alignment and prioritisation. Provincial Spatial Development Frameworks (PSDF) mandate that provinces establish a cooperative governance framework for spatial planning and land-use management within their area of jurisdiction.

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.

Local government has been identified as a key player in the climate change adaptation
implementation space. As part of its developmental mandate, local government is responsible for
“service delivery and infrastructure investment; cross-sectoral integration and spatial development; alignment of government spending; and disaster management”
(Pieterse, n.d).

The Local Government Municipal Systems Act of 2000 (MSA) and the Spatial Planning and Land Use Management Act of 2013 (SPLUMA) require the municipal spheres of government to develop and implement a number of integrating ‘place-based’ spatially-focused plans to coordinate planning and investment through Municipal Spatial Development Frameworks (SDF) and Municipal Integrated Development Plans (IDP).


The Local Government Climate Change Support Program (LGCCSP) is an initiative of the Department of Environmental Affairs and the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ). The LGCCSP aims to build capacity and develop local adaptation responses to be mainstreamed into municipal IDPs. To support this goal of building capacity and mainstreaming of climate change into policy, a number of tools have been developed and are available through the Let’s Respond Toolkit (http://www.letsrespondtoolkit.org).

The goal of the South African Risk and Vulnerability Atlas (SARVA) is to support strategic decision-making on climate change through the provision of spatial and non-spatial information on the risks and vulnerabilities within key socio-economic sectors. The South African Risk and Vulnerability Atlas Geospatial Analysis Platform (SARVA-GAP) provides pre-defined maps and interpretations of key risk and vulnerability issues for global change in South Africa (DEA, 2017).

The Climate Change Adaptation Training Programme (https://climatechangetraining.org/) is a Department of Rural Development and Land Reform initiative aimed at developing capacity around vulnerability assessments, climate change adaptation and mainstreaming within the rural development and spatial planning context. Specifically the program provides information and interactive learning to aid development with respect to adaptation planning.


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. http://habitat3.org/wp-content/uploads/New-Urban-Agenda 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. http://habitat3.org/wp-content/uploads/South Africa_1.pdf

Lesolle, D. 2012. SADC Policy paper on climate change: Assessing policy options for SADC member states. www.sadc.int/REDD/index.php/download_file/134/

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. http://www.fes.de/afrika/content/downloads/Final_FULL_BOOK.pdf

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

Southern African Development Community (SADC). 2013. SADCREDD+ Network: SADC Programmes. http://www.sadc.int/REDD/index.php/regional-redd-activities/sadc-programmes

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

UNFCCC. 2015a. Historic Paris Agreement on Climate Change. http://newsroom.unfccc.int/unfccc-newsroom/finale-cop21/

UNFCCC. 2015b. Cities, Towns, Regions Partner to Achieve Paris Goals. http://newsroom.unfccc.int/climate-action/cities-towns-regions-partner-to-achieve-paris-goals/

Suggested citation:
Pieterse, A., Bruwer, A., van Huyssteen, E., Naidoo, S. & Thambiran, T. 2019.
Policy Implications. GreenBook. www.greenbook.co.za/policyimplications


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