South Africa is both vulnerable to climate change impacts and a major greenhouse gas emitter. In its transition towards a low-emission society, national, provincial and local governments will need to strike a delicate balance between the country’s mitigation commitments, adaptation needs and ambitions to create an inclusive economy. How can South Africa coordinate ambitious climate action across sectors and governing levels? How can sub-national governments finance and implement climate action?
The authors of the report review South Africa’s climate change policies and actions through a multi-level governance lens. They note the important progress South Africa has made in developing its policy and institutional architecture in response to climate change. Promisingly, a growing number of local officials are also recognising climate action as a local governing mandate; yet there is a lack of clarity regarding specific roles and responsibilities of sub-national governments. The national government is advancing a National Climate Change Bill and a National Adaptation Plan, but vertical integration lags as multi-level governance has yet to be effectively institutionalised.
As sub-national governments tackle the complexities of a changing climate, they confront overlapping mandates, frustratingly inaccessible finance options and a fragmented governance system in which they feel disempowered. Small and rural municipalities generate little or no revenue, operate with small budgets and often lack authority to intervene in the provision of water, energy, transportation and land-use/urban planning. A conflict of interest between revenue-generating service delivery and potential mitigation or climate proofing of the corresponding sector is a persistent barrier to action.
The study is part of a series of four country studies and one synthesis report that explore how multi-level climate governance enables local climate action in Kenya, Philippines, South Africa and Vietnam. The studies are based on the four-year project known as V-LED, or Vertical Integration and Learning for Low-Emission Development in Africa and Southeast Asia. From 2015 through 2018, V-LED aimed to stimulate local climate action by rallying ambition and connecting national institutions, local governing units, communities and businesses. Based on experience gained from this project and additional research, the study analyses multi-level climate governance and finance in practice, highlighting encouraging practices and continuing challenges for municipal climate action.