South Africa's First National Climate Change report

Objectives and target audience
Themes and key messages
Looking back and looking ahead




South Africa’s National Climate Change Response Policy (NCCRP) (DEA 2011) commits the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) in Section 12 to publish annual progress reports on monitoring climate change responses. These documents represent the primary output of the Climate Change Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) framework and the 2015 annual report is the first of these progress reports. It focuses on providing a narrative of the information that the DEA’s Climate Change Branch has collated over the past few years. 


Objectives and target audience


The objective of this report is to communicate the progress and lessons learnt in tracking South Africa’s transition towards a climate resilient society and a lower carbon economy. As a knowledge product, this report aims to target people and institutions involved in technical, coordination and policy aspects of climate change, including those undertaking work relevant to these aspects of climate change. This annual report is seen as part of the broader programme to communicate regular reporting of climate change relevant information to the South African audience.

» download theme A: Synopsis [PDF - 1.85 mb]


Themes and key messages 


Theme B: South Africa’s Climate Change Monitoring and Evaluation System is made up of the following sections:


  • South Africa’s Climate Change Monitoring and Evaluation System which presents the objectives of the monitoring and evaluation (M&E) system, its benefits and an overview of the system,
  • The National Climate Change Response M&E System
  • Agriculture, Forestry and Other Land Uses (AFOLU): Demystifying the Measurement, Reporting and Verification of this Specialised Sector
  • The Greenhouse Gas Inventory Improvement Programme (GHGIP)


In summary form, some of the key messages from this theme are:

  • As required by the National Climate Change Response Policy (DEA 2011) and the National Development Plan 2030 (NPC 2011), South Africa has designed a National Climate Change M&E system composed of the National Greenhouse Gas Inventory system and the National Climate Change Response M&E system.
  • The main objectives of this Climate Change M&E system are to track South Africa’s transition to a climate resilient society, by tracking the country’s transition to a lower carbon economy and by tracking climate finance.
  • The benefits of the system include providing an evidence base for the impacts and the vulnerabilities brought about by climate change, providing learning for what has worked and what has not worked in climate change response, informing future responses to climate change, assessing the impact and need for climate finance as well as institutionalising the compilation of the national communications and the biennial update reports under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
» download theme B [PDF - 2.37 mb]


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Theme C: Climate Change Trends, Risks, Impacts and Vulnerabilities is comprised of two chapters, namely:


  • Observed Trends in the Climate of South Africa, which analyses observed temperature and rainfall trends over the past few decades and drivers of variability of South Africa’s climate.
  • Climate Change Risks, Impacts and Vulnerabilities in South Africa, emphasising climate change as a stress multiplier. 


Some of the key Messages from the Climate Change Trends, Risks, Impacts and Vulnerabilities theme are:

  • South Africa’s economy and its people face appreciable risks due to the potential impacts from ongoing climate change.
  • Model projections suggest significant warming and rainfall change for South Africa over the next several decades, even under strong international mitigation scenarios.
  • Temperature trends consistent with anthropogenic warming continue to be seen across South Africa, with the strongest trends in the west and east, but less so in the central interior.
  • There is no evidence to suggest a slowing of anthropogenic climate change trends in South Africa since 2000.
  • While average rainfall trends are ambiguous, there is mounting evidence that South Africa is likely to experience longer dry spells, fewer rain days and more intense rainfall events.
» download theme C [PDF - 3.2 mb]


Theme D: Tracking South Africa’s Transition to a Lower Carbon Economy reviews the following:


  • National Level Indicators, including sustainable carbon levels and comparisons with various trajectories, indicators of lower carbon consumption and productivity and lower carbon resourcing, followed by;
  • Key National and Industrial Mitigation Response Measures, looking at the mitigation impact of these measures and their impact on other sustainable development indicators, and
  • Low Carbon Development in Provinces and Cities, assessing actions taken by provincial governments, metros and secondary cities, followed by a wide-ranging;
  • Appendix on Response Measures by individuals, groups and sectors in energy efficiency, electricity generation and transportation, as well as a review of Clean Development Mechanism projects and the Extended Public Works Programme (EPWP).

Key Messages from the theme on Tracking South Africa’s Transition to a Lower Carbon Economy

While there is an overarching challenge of data availability and / or data quality in tracking South African’s transition to a lower carbon economy, a number of key conclusions can clearly be drawn from this theme:

  • In 2010, South Africa’s greenhouse gas emissions were within the national goal of the Peak, Plateau and Decline trajectory.
  • The implied “carbon budget” between the country’s 2010 emissions level of 518 MtCO2e and the maximum emissions level of 614 MtCO2e presented in the country’s Intended Nationally Determined Contributions under the UNFCCC in 2025 is about 96 MtCO2e.
  • There are many programmes and projects with mitigation impacts that are being implemented in the country, with the bulk of these being energy efficiency programmes and projects.
  • By 2014, a cumulative total of 611.5 MtCO2e had been mitigated through a number of major national level and industry programmes, with about 76 MtCO2e having been reduced in 2014 alone.
  • At least 40 000 jobs created by 2014 can be termed green jobs, having been created by programmes that have significant climate change mitigation impact.
» download theme D [PDF - 3.97 mb]


Theme E: The Adaptation Landscape: Desired Adaptation Outcomes, Adaptation Projects and Intended Nationally Determined Contribution consists of three interrelated chapters, the first being:


  • Desired Adaptation Outcomes (DAOs) for Monitoring and Evaluating Climate Resilience, which sets out to inform and focus M&E of South Africa’s progress towards a climate resilient society, with the Desired Adaptation Outcomes (DAOs) developed from sector specific adaptation priorities. Currently the sectors are biodiversity, water, health, human settlements and disaster management.
  • Climate Change Adaptation Projects, the second chapter, outlines the approach taken and presents results achieved to date by climate change adaptation projects, while the third chapter,
  • Setting the Scene for Monitoring Progress Toward Achieving the Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC) from South Africa, sets out the components and goals of the INDC for the period up to 2030.

Key Messages from the Theme on the Adaptation Landscape and the Way Forward

  • The DAOs describe a desired dynamic state that will enable South Africa to be resilient to climate change. The DEA is in the process of finalising these desired outcomes with a view to monitoring the country’s progress towards achieving them. During the 2016–17 financial year the work on DAOs will focus on three main activities, namely:
  • Further consultations with other key stakeholders with a view to broadening the buy-in and acceptance of the DAOs.
  • Identifying the information needed to understand each of the DAOs.
  • Identifying the information sources and understanding the availability and accessibility of the information required to understand each of the DAOs. 
» download theme E [PDF - 2 mb]


Theme F: Climate Finance is structured according to the sources of finance, covering:


  • Domestic Public Climate Finance to support the transition towards a lower carbon economy, and national public funding mechanisms to support the transition to a climate resilient society and economy as well as outlining challenges, gaps and key success factors on funding climate resilience. The focus then shifts to;
  • Bilateral and Multilateral Finance addressing issues on international finance mechanisms related to climate resilience as well as on bilateral finance, followed by short sections on Private Finance and; Civil Society Finance.


Key Messages from the Climate Finance theme

  • South Africa defines climate finance as all resources that finance the cost of the country’s transition to a lower carbon and climate resilient economy and society.
  • There are a number of financial tools that government has been using to fund the country’s transition to a lower carbon and climate resilient economy and society. While most of them have an indirect impact on climate change adaptation and mitigation, there are a number of quantifiable grants that have a direct climate change mitigation impact.
  • The main public climate finance grants that have a direct climate change impact include the Municipal Energy Efficiency and Demand Side Management (EEDSM) grants, the Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP) grants, the Eskom Integrated Demand Management (IDM) grants, the Department of Environmental Affairs’ Green Fund and funding for carbon capture and sequestration. Government has disbursed over R21 billion through these grants from 2009/10 to 2013/14.
» download theme F [PDF - 2.26 mb]


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Theme G: Climate Change Adaptation Governance and Management commences with a chapter on the:


  • Enabling Legislative Framework which starts by outlining the overarching legislation with explicit reference to climate change adaptation, with the emphasis on the Disaster Management Amendment Bill of 2015. The following section deals with overarching legislative instruments with implied provision for climate change adaptation including the Spatial Planning and Land Use Management Act, 2013, (Act No.16 of 2013); the National Environmental Management Act, 1998 (Act No. 107 of 1998); the National Water Act, 1998 (Act No. 36 of 1998) and the National Housing Code Technical and General Guidelines (Part 3). The second component of the Theme deals with the
  • Enabling Environment for Climate Change Adaptation Governance and Management in Spheres of Government, presenting first the methodology used to collect information on the enabling environment, followed by the perspective of National Departments on incorporating adaptation strategies into policy and planning, and on mainstreaming adaptation into policies and plans. This is followed by sections on climate technology transfer, on provincial and then municipal / local municipal perspectives.

Conclusions and Key Messages on Climate Change Governance in summary were that:

  • A considerable amount of work has been undertaken in spheres of government to create an enabling environment for climate change governance and management.
  • Most national sector departments prioritised in the NCCRP have developed climate change / adaptation plans and strategies; however, only a few sectors prioritised in the Policy have mainstreamed climate change into other policies and plans.
  • There are other sectors which were not prioritised in the NCCRP which have developed climate change plans / strategies and which have mainstreamed climate change into other policies, plans and strategies.
  • All provinces have developed climate change / adaptation strategies and plans. 
» download theme G [PDF - 2.32 mb]


Theme H: The Near-term Priority Climate Change Flagship Programmes


The flagship programmes contribute significantly to making South Africa’s climate action development and implementation process predictable, continuous and optimised by establishing a pipeline of investment-grade climate change response programmes and projects. The programmes provide the necessary infrastructure to enable climate action at scale.

Key Messages from the Near-term Priority Climate Change Flagship Programmes

  • South Africa already has a well-developed base for mitigating climate change and building climate resilience in the Near-term Priority Flagship Programmes which are strategic, large-scale measures of national significance. They are the game-changers in South Africa’s climate change response landscape and represent the low-hanging fruits that can potentially catalyse South Africa’s long-term climate action.
  • These climate change Flagship Programmes include both the scaling-up of existing climate change initiatives and new initiatives that are ready to come on stream by 2020.
  • The eight Near-term Priority Flagship Programmes are currently made up of 39 distinct components that can be regarded as sub-programmes, each of which can be disaggregated further into distinct measures. Many components of the Flagship Programmes have been implemented with notable success and signify remarkably bold steps towards a low carbon and climate resilient economy and society.
  • The NCCRP gives effect to the Flagship Programmes and recognises them as an integral part of South Africa’s climate change response policy. 
» download theme H [PDF - 3.79 mb]


Theme I: Key Outcomes of COP 21


Marking the culmination of a four-year negotiating round that started at the 17th Conference of the Parties (COP) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Durban in 2011, the “Paris Outcome” of the 21st COP is made up of three main elements:

  • The Paris Agreement: An enduring, legally binding treaty on climate action starting in 2020, the Paris Agreement will enter into force once 55 countries covering 55% of global emissions have acceded to it.
  • The COP Decision: This is a set of decisions that the COP agreed to prepare for implementing the Paris Agreement once it enters into force.
  • The Paris Action Agenda: These are additional commitments, which were taken at COP 21 parallel to the formal agreements, by countries, regions, cities, investors, and companies for additional climate action.

Key Messages from the Near-Term Priority Climate Change Flagship Programmes

  • The Paris Agreement is a political landmark. It is a remarkable turning point for climate action, sending clear signals that a low-carbon and climate resilient world is inevitable.
  • The Paris Agreement’s three fundamental aims are to: hold the increase in global average temperature to well below 2 °C above pre-industrial levels, and pursue efforts to limit it to 1.5 °C increase the ability to adapt to climate change impacts, and foster climate resilience and low greenhouse-gas emissions development, without threatening food production establish means of finance to achieve these goals.
  • The Agreement’s long-term mitigation goal to achieve a balance between anthropogenic emissions by sources and removals by sinks of greenhouse gas emissions in the second half of the century is buttressed by the Agreement’s objective of “making finance flows consistent” with low-carbon and climate resilient development. As UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon told the assembled delegates on 12th December: “What was once unthinkable is now unstoppable.” The question is “at what pace?” 
» download theme I [PDF - 4.93 mb]


Looking back and looking ahead


A vast amount of conceptual and technical effort has gone into this first Annual Report on Monitoring Climate Change Responses – effort initiated and led by the Department of Environmental Affairs and assisted by the many lead and contributing authors, as well as the wide range of institutions that have made significant inputs. The foresight of the GIZ in helping to fund this report is greatly appreciated.

In some Themes the conclusions and key messages already point to new initiatives that have been identified, while in discussion it has come to the fore that future annual reports will be focusing on, for example, the Flagship Programmes, on assessing the effectiveness of projects in enhancing climate resilience and on assessing the respective contributions of projects to the desired adaptation outcomes and to the goals identified in South Africa’s Intended Nationally Determined Contribution. Future reports will also focus on issues of practical adaptation and on bringing readers up to speed with implications of the Paris Agreement for South Africa.

In closing, we reiterate what has already been stated in the annual report, namely:

South Africa’s National Climate Change Response M&E system, and its associated Annual Climate Change Report, presents an opportunity for owners and implementers of climate related programmes to not only showcase their work, but also to learn from the lessons generated by others in the past.


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