The South African Presidential Climate Change Commission’s draft document on a “Just Transition Framework for Stakeholder engagement”- is open for comment until the 29th of April 2022. The Framework includes a section outlining the roles of provincial and local government and the private sector.
This presents an opportune moment to reflect on the capacities of municipalities to fulfil their new and existing climate change-related mandates and on the opportunities that cross-sectoral collaboration can bring to collaborative governance.
Climate Change remains one of the biggest threats to our existence, with the potential to reverse some of our advances in working towards a more just and equitable world.
In a country like South Africa, where too many people are concerned about what to feed their families that evening, it is challenging to build a social compact around climate change, which falsely appears only to be a problem that we have to worry about in the future.
In reality, communities are already experiencing the impacts of climate change regarding access to essential services like water and subsequently sanitation, air and water pollution, exposure to rising temperatures, droughts, fires, and extreme weather events – the list continues. The situation is likely to worsen, especially for communities living in rural areas or already experiencing social exclusions and vulnerabilities.
In this context, the South African climate change policy response has always been developmental in that it envisages new pathways for social and economic growth. Provincial and local governments have essential roles in achieving the country’s climate-related goals and their service delivery and public participation mandates. Considering the status quo of many of our municipalities, this paints a daunting picture.
The climate and development linked response does hold specific opportunities. One of these is facilitating cross-sectoral relationships to unlock resources and expertise in addressing community-driven and climate-related development challenges. Facilitating engagements between Independent Power Producers, Local Governments and Civil Society Organisations around issues within the “climate and development nexus” holds the potential to create space of shared interest and solution orientated thinking while inadvertently supporting good, local governance.
Fostering Inclusive Growth through Climate Change Champions
DWF, through its EU co-funded Climate for Growth project, is seeking to take advantage of this alignment of interest and policy to support local government in addressing social development and their public participation mandates. The project runs in the Northern and Western Cape Provinces until Feb 2024. A project Steering Committee is being set up, which hopes to align with existing local and provincial coordinating structures, and aims to ensure the possibility for replication and roll out.
Since its inception, the project has been conducting climate literacy initiatives with existing and new CSO partners in the provinces. These CSO partners work with vulnerable and at-risk populations, who are likely to be disproportionately affected by climate change. During facilitated knowledge co-creation processes, overlapping issues in local government planning processes will be identified. At the same time, the project will engage with Independent Power Producers representatives working on making meaningful contributions through the SED spend obligations of IPPs.
Through existing democratic avenues or “invited” spaces for public participation, such as those within the various stages of the IPD processes, the project supports relationships and a culture of collaborative governance. The project also co-creates innovative, “invented” spaces where CSOs can engage with public and private decision-makers in a structured and facilitated manner. This can foster co-designed, solution-orientated thinking to prioritise at-risk communities in the climate change response and support cooperative and accountable governance approaches.
Overlapping interests in the Climate and Development Nexus
Independent Power Producers (IPPs) are essential in the country’s ambitions to meet its emission targets. In SA’s policy, climate change goals are inextricably tied to the country’s economic and social development ambitions. The 2011 Renewable Independent Power Producer Programme (REIPPP) brings additional power onto the grid. Still, it includes a broader mandate related to the national development objectives of job creation, social upliftment and broadening of economic ownership. One of the ways this is promoted is through the Social Economic Development spend requirements of IPPs.
Provincial and local governments share the majority of climate-related mandates in the Constitution, Climate Change Bill and policies. Issues around air pollution (climate change mitigation) and most of the services we rely on daily are assigned to local municipalities. Provinces are meant to provide oversight and coordination. Local government is also envisaged as the critical entry point for communities and private entities to participate in local governance driven interventions with municipal planning, implementation and evaluation processes can foster transparency, sustainability and legitimacy of initiatives.
In many parts of the country, Civil Society Organisations provide many of the services that the government is supposed to provide. CSOs are essential partners in understanding community needs as they are organised around issues affecting their society that are not being addressed. Many CSOs have a keen interest in being directly involved in creating working partnerships, especially at a local government level, where the impacts of governance failures are most acutely felt.
The potential for climate change to direct new pathways to economic and social development requires working partnerships across the public, private and community sectors. Achieving greater legitimacy, long term sustainability, and system changes need to involve Civil Society Organisations – who are directly working on addressing South Africa’s key developmental challenges – in climate change-related planning and resource allocation processes within the private and public sectors.