Addressing a national climate change adaptation strategy

May 20th, 2019, Published in Articles: EE Publishers, Articles: Energize

Recent severe weather events, which resulted in the loss of life and the destruction of property in Mozambique, Malawi, Zimbabwe and South Africa, have raised concerns about climatic changes in the region. The Department of Environmental Affairs published its draft National Climate Change Adaptation Strategy document recently which outlines the Department’s goals, vision, objectives and intervention strategies.

This is an introduction to the official document

Click here to download the full document

South Africa is experiencing significant effects of climate change particularly as a result of increased temperatures and water variability. The observed rate of warming has been 2°C per century or even higher – more than twice the global rate of temperature increase for the western parts and the northeast. There is evidence that extreme weather events in South Africa are increasing, with heat wave conditions found to be more likely, dry spell durations lengthening slightly and rainfall intensity increasing.

Climate zones across the country are already shifting, ecosystems and landscapes are being degraded, veld fires are becoming more frequent, and overused natural terrestrial and marine systems are under stress. According to the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) climate change is likely to increase the frequency and magnitude of many extreme events and will certainly increase the risk of slow-onset events such as sea level rise and drought.

Climate change has the potential to redress the gains made on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and impede the country’s ability to achieve its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). It also poses risks to opportunities for socioeconomic development. There is increasing international recognition that strong and sustainable socioeconomic development can reduce vulnerability to climate change and ensure resilience.

Adaptation to climate change presents South Africa with an opportunity to transform the economy, strengthen the social and spatial fabric, and become more competitive in the global marketplace. The National Climate Change Adaptation Strategy (NCCAS) provides a common vision of climate change adaptation and climate resilience for the country, and outlines priority areas for achieving this vision.

The NCCAS’s vision draws on South Africa’s National Climate Change Response Policy (NCCRP), the National Development Plan (NDP), the adaptation commitments included in its Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC), sector adaptation plans, provincial adaptation plans and local government adaptation plans.

The NCCAS is an important step forward for South Africa, as it:

  • Acts as a common reference point for climate change adaptation efforts in South Africa in the short to medium-term, providing guidance across all levels of government, sectors, and stakeholders affected by climate variability and change.
  • Provides a policy instrument which national climate change adaptation objectives for the country can be articulated to provide overarching guidance to all sectors of the economy.
  • Facilitates the degree to which development initiatives at different levels of government and business integrate and reflect critical climate change adaptation priorities, and thus inform resource allocation by the various stakeholders towards climate change resilience.
  • Guides stronger coherence and coordination on climate change adaptation activities between different institutions and levels of government.
  • Supports South Africa in meeting its international obligations by defining the country’s vulnerabilities, plans to reduce such vulnerabilities and leverage opportunities, outlining the required resources for such action, whilst demonstrating progress on climate change adaptation.

The NCCAS serves as South Africa’s National Adaptation Plan and fulfils South Africa’s commitment to its international obligations as outlined in the Paris Agreement under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The NCCAS will be used as the basis for meeting South Africa’s obligations in terms of the adaptation commitments outlined in the NDC.

The NCCAS is a ten-year plan which will be reviewed every five years. The NCCAS is divided into sets of strategic objectives, strategic interventions and strategic outcomes with associated actions. The document is directed not only at national government departments but speaks to all of South African society, not just the key relevant sectoral institutions, provincial and local governments, and non-governmental entities including the private sector, the research community and civil society.

Context and goals

South Africa is a party to UNFCCC which aims to achieve the “stabilisation of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic [human induced] interference with the climate system” (UN 1992, 4). Under the UNFCCC, it is envisaged that: “Such a level should be achieved within a time frame sufficient to allow ecosystems to adapt naturally to climate change, to ensure that food production is not threatened and to enable economic development to proceed in a sustainable manner” (UN 1992, 4).

The two key Conference of Parties (COPs) to the UNFCCC which prioritised the importance of climate change adaptation were COP16, held in Cancun in 2010, and COP21, held in Paris in 2015. COP16 resulted in the adoption of the Cancun Adaptation Framework, which placed climate change adaptation on the same level of importance as climate change mitigation for the first time.

It also established the National Adaptation Plan process. The Cancun Adaptation Framework laid the foundation for the Paris Agreement, an outcome of COP21. The Paris Agreement elevates the importance of climate change adaptation through the establishment of a “global goal on adaptation of enhancing adaptive capacity, strengthening resilience and reducing vulnerability to climate change” and provides extensive guidance on how countries should approach adaptation as a priority (UN 2015a Article 7).

As a signatory, South Africa is required to compile a set of Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) which outline the country’s contributions to the global goals to reduce national greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to the impacts of climate change.

South Africa’s goals, as outlined in its NDC document, are:

  • Develop a National Adaptation Plan and begin operationalization as part of implementing the NCCRP for the period from 2020 to 2025 and for the period 2025 to 2030.
  • To take into account climate considerations in national development, sub-national and sector policy frameworks for the period 2020 to 2030.
  • Build the necessary institutional capacity for climate change response planning and implementation for the period 2020 to 2030.
  • Develop an early warning, vulnerability and adaptation monitoring system for key climate vulnerable sectors and geographic areas for the period 2020 to 2030, and reporting in terms of the National Adaptation Plan with rolling five-year implementation periods.
  • Development of a vulnerability assessment and adaptation needs framework by 2020 to support a continuous presentation of adaptation needs.
  • Communication of past investments in adaptation for education and awareness as well as for international recognition. Africa is likely to experience changes in climate earlier than other regions, and therefore adaptation measures are urgently required on the continent.

The costs of adaptation in Africa could increase to US$100-billion per annum by 2050 in a world that experiences more than 4°C warming by 2100. Increased funds from developed countries for adaptation in African countries would help to fund these costs. However, finances for adaptation are required from continental and national levels as well. The SADC Climate Change Strategy and Action Plan (2015) emphasises the need for enhanced climate change adaptation responses in Africa due to the wide range of pressing vulnerabilities. The CCSAP aims to coordinate regional and national climate change responses in Africa, and to “climate proof” SADC’s policies, strategies and protocols.

Vision of the NCCAS

To transition to a climate resilient South Africa, which will follow a sustainable development path, guided by anticipation, adaptation and recovery from a changing climate and environment to achieve our development aspirations. This vision will be realised by the achievement of the following objectives and interventions.


  • Build climate resilience and adaptive capacity to respond to climate change risk and vulnerability.
  • Promote the integration of climate change adaptation response into development objectives, policy, planning and implementation.
  • Improve understanding of climate change impacts and capacity to respond to these impacts.
  • Ensure resources and systems are in place to enable implementation of climate changes responses.


  • Reduce human and economic vulnerability, ensure resilience of physical capital and ecological infrastructure and build adaptive capacity.
  • Develop a risk, early warning, vulnerability and adaptation monitoring system for key climate vulnerable sectors and geographic areas.
  • Develop a vulnerability and resilience methodology framework that integrates
  • biophysical and socio-economic aspects of vulnerability and resilience.
  • Facilitate mainstreaming of adaptation responses into sectoral planning and implementation.
  • Promote research application, technology development, transfer and adoption to support planning and implementation.
  • Build the necessary capacity and awareness for climate change response.
  • Establish effective governance and legislative processes to integrate climate change in
  • development planning.
  • Enable substantial flows of climate change adaptation finance from various sources.
  • Develop and implement a monitoring and evaluation system that tracks implementation of adaptation actions and their effectiveness.

The document contains specific actions which should be undertaken and includes proposed key messages for a climate change communication and outreach programme as well indicators for monitoring and evaluating the NCCAS strategic outcomes.

This is an introduction to the official document

Click here to download the full document

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