South Africa is vulnerable to the impacts of climate variability and climate change. The impacts are already being felt, and future changes in climatic conditions are expected to create significant challenges for many communities and economic sectors. While South Africa had already taken several steps to build climate resilience and adaptive capacity in its provinces, in key sectors, and several municipalities, there was a clear gap in terms of unified, national-level guidance about strategic priorities for adaptation. Additionally, the South African government needed technical assistance to develop a national climate change adaptation strategy that could lay the groundwork for a national adaptation plan, in furtherance of its obligations under the UNFCCC.
South Africa has a rich history of thought leadership on climate change adaptation, with provinces, municipalities, and several key economic sectors all actively building adaptive capacity through a range of activities. Despite these initiatives, we found that climate change resilience has not been adequately or effectively integrated into the nation’s development agenda, and that a fresh approach is required to facilitate mainstreaming. To ensure that climate change adaptation doesn’t remain (as it does in many countries) a catchphrase within the environmental sector, but rather gets woven integrally into South Africa’s growth trajectory, we crafted a climate adaptation strategy that reframes climate change as a development challenge as well as a development opportunity; an opportunity that could enhance economic growth and enable the country to achieve its vision of a resilient future. By identifying a business case for action on climate change adaptation, our work has positioned South Africa at the vanguard of global strategic thinking on climate resilience and has changed the nature of the debate.