Cities as decisive actors for localising NDCs in South Africa

Cities need to be engaged in the implementation of the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC) of their country in order to reach the set targets. A workshop in October 2018 with several representatives of South African cities shed light on the need and will of the local level to be more included in the entire NDC process.

Currently 64% of South Africans live in urban areas. This is expected to to rise to 80% by 2050. South African cities currently account for half of the national energy consumption and produce 70% of the country’s economic wealth. At the same time, cities and towns have to adapt and become more resilient to the associated impacts of climate change. Thus they have an important role to play to implement South Africa’s Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) and achieve its climate change goals.

Yet, there still is a need to raise awareness for the NDC amongst cities and local government in South Africa. Regular dialogue and co-ordination between the 3 levels of government has been limited so far with no clarity on the role of cities.

A peer-to-peer exchange event for Localising NDCs was set up in October 2018 in Durban, South Africa with the South African Local Government Association (SALGA), the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) and supported by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) project "Cities Fit for Climate Change". The objective of this exchange was to provide a platform for city practitioners to learn about and engage further on the NDCs. Specifically to understand how cities can contribute by contextualising the NDC and its goals in terms of city development agendas.

The event included 30 representatives from South African cities and towns, supporting organisations such as ICLEI, South African Local Government Association (SALGA) and the South African National Treasury’s Cities Support Programme. Presentations were provided by the support organisations on the status of the NDC and to share good practice on cities contributing globally. Facilitated discussions were then held and case studies were presented from the City of Tshwane on Green Procurement and the National Treasury on the use of public finance to support climate related activities.

Participants highlighted the need to de-mystify the NDC. Further, there is a need to make the NDC less political and more technically accessible to create levers and entry points for cities. For example, in South Africa, there are absolute targets for GHG emission reductions and cities want to determine what their contribution could be to achieve these targets. The representatives present acknowledge the importance of the dialogue and requested for more such exchanges to take place. Specific platforms for exchange between cities and national government could be used to foster regular dialogue and co-operation.