Climate Change: Adaptation & Policy

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SANBI's role in Climate Change Adaptation and Policy

Background: Mitigation and Adaptation to Climate Change


Adaptation to climate change refers to activities required to respond to the impacts of changes in climate on natural and human systems.

During 2011 SANBI was accredited as South Africa's National Implementing Entity for the Adaptation Fund - the agent to facilitate and oversee funding for selected approved climate change adaptation projects.


Mitigation in the context of climate change refers to measures taken that lead to the reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. During 2006 - 2008, South Africa's Minister of Environmental Affairs and Tourism led a national effort to assess the viability of a South African commitment to a low-carbon development trajectory via the Long Term Mitigation Scenario process.

This Cabinet-approved process will set our country on a path towards peak greenhouse gas emissions by the period 2020-2025. This should be followed by a plateau in emissions and a decline by 30-40% below 2003 levels, by 2050 (ultimately a 60-80% decline by 2100).

Under the Copenhagen Accord in December 2009, South Africa committed to potential mitigation actions leading to a 34% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions relative to "Business As Usual" by 2020, and 42% reduction by 2025.

If these ambitious mitigation efforts are matched by both the developing and developed countries of the world, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) informs us that there is even a chance of avoiding warming the globe by 2°C above the long term pre-industrial global average temperature. But there are still no guarantees that we will achieve these ambitious targets, and even if we do, the threats to biodiversity loss will not be eliminated. Mitigation efforts need to be matched by adaptation efforts that will allow us to reduce the adverse impacts of climate change.

What we do - CCA's contribution

Together with other climate change-focused scientists in South Africa, our group provides significant data and policy guidance to inform and support pivotal Cabinet aspirations that strive towards a low carbon economy. At the same time, our work is important in developing the concepts and practical approaches to adaptation strategies for climate change. This applies not only for local authority and national planning, but also in the international forums of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

Our traditional focus on climate change impacts and vulnerability is therefore expanding in order to better understand biodiversity conservation adaptation measures. We aim to give robust policy recommendations in this area.

In the policy arena, CCBA staff have served in lead roles in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and South Africa's National Climate Change Committee (NCCC). They also co-ordinate and contribute to numerous national and regional policy documents.

Members of the CCA team have led the process of producing South Africa's Second National Communication (SNC), which is a report to the Conference of the Parties (COP) on strategies dealing with mitigation and adaptation to climate change, the status of the country's greenhouse gas inventory, and any other information relevant to the objectives of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) which was published in 2011.

A recent development, as more global attention falls on the impacts of climate change on the environment and human society, is that interest in programmes for adapting to climate change is increasing. Here SANBI will be playing an important role as South Africa's National Implementing Entity (NIE) for the Adaptation Fund, in facilitating limited funding for approved projects.

Long Term Adaptation Scenarios (LTAS) Project

SANBI has been specifically mandated by the National Climate Change Response White Paper to lead the national Long Term Adaptation Scenarios (LTAS) programme, which is a Flagship activity identified in the White Paper.

As a core part of fulfilling this mandate, SANBI's Climate Change Adaptation Division has been enlisted by the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA), through financial support from the Deutsche Gesellschaft fur Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH to assist the LTAS process through co-ordinating the evaluation of the socio-economic and environmental implications of potential impacts of anticipated climate change and climate variability, and the adaptation response options available, for identified sectors in South Africa, over the short (next decade), medium (next two to three decades) and long term (mid-century to end of century), as dependent on IPCC A2 (business as usual) forcing scenarios.

The first phase, completed in June 2013, developed a consensus view of climate change trends and projections for South Africa. It summarised key climate change impacts and identified potential response options for primary sectors, namely water, agriculture and forestry, human health, marine fisheries, and biodiversity.

The second phase which is nearing completion towards the latter part of 2014 will use an integrated assessment approach and model to develop adaptation scenarios for future climate conditions using the information, data and models from Phase 1 and inputs from stakeholder consultations and task-team workshops. The final output of the LTAS project will be seven technical reports; including one main report describing South Africa’s long term adaptation scenarios.

More details about the LTAS project.

National Implementing Entity for the Adaptation Fund

Towards the end of 2011 SANBI was accredited as National Implementing Entity (NIE) for the Adaptation Fund. In fulfilling its role as NIE, SANBI will facilitate funding from the Adaptation Fund for approved climate change adaptation projects. 

A call for concept proposals was put out toward the end of 2012 and the response to this initial call was overwhelming, with a rich variety of concept proposals received. These went through a process of careful review and evaluation against key criteria drawn from the Investment Framework and based on guidelines provided by the Adaptation Fund Board (AFB).

Two concepts were selected as a result of this process. They were titled: “Building resilience in the greater uMngeni catchment, South Africa” and a Small Grants Facility type project covering the Namakwa and Mopani Districts: “Taking adaptation to the ground: a small grants facility for enabling local level responses to climate change in South Africa”.

These were subsequently developed into concept proposals which were submitted to the Adaptation Fund Board for consideration at the 21st AFB meeting early in July 2013, when both concepts were approved for further development as project proposals.

Currently both projects are in the process of being developed into full Project Proposals to be submitted at the end of August 2014, for consideration by the AFB during its upcoming meeting in October.

For further information on SANBI's role as the Implementing Entity for the Adaptation Fund, visit our NIE pages.

Second National Communication

South Africa's Second National Communication (SNC), a report on South Africa's status and response to Climate Change issues was published ahead of the UNFCCC's COP 17 Meeting in Durban, in November/December 2011.

Downloads and links

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Last updated on 09 November 2015
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