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Cablegate: Climate Change Impacts, Adaptation and Mitigation In

R 081437Z JUL 08
FM AMEMBASSY PRETORIA
TO SECSTATE WASHDC 5001
INFO AMCONSUL CAPE TOWN
AMCONSUL DURBAN
AMCONSUL JOHANNESBURG
AMEMBASSY GABORONE

UNCLAS PRETORIA 001474


DEPT FOR OES/PCI, OES/ENV, AND AF/S

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: SENV SOCI SF
SUBJECT: Climate Change Impacts, Adaptation and Mitigation in
Kwazulu-Natal Province

1. Summary. EST Officer met with KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) Department of
Agriculture and Environmental Affairs (DAEA) Environmental Services
(South Region) Manager Sharon Allan to discuss climate change
impacts, adaptation and mitigation within KZN province, with an
emphasis on the eThekwini Municipality (metropolitan Durban and
suburbs). EThekwini Municipality commissioned a 2004 climate change
study which predicted serious climate change impacts, including
temperature variations and extreme changes in rain and sea levels.
Allan noted that erosion and sea level rises have already caused
negative impacts in the northern suburbs. EThekwini has identified
65,000 hectares of open space available for carbon capture.
EThekwini has several existing climate change adaptation programs,
including the Water and Sanitation Water Loss Management Project,
the Waste Water Education program, and the Coastal Storm Water and
Catchment Management programs. The Parks, Leisure and Cemeteries
Department, the Working for Water Program and the Environmental
Management Department (EMD) have partnered to control and eradicate
alien invasives. End summary.

---------------------------------------
EThekwini Facing Climate Change Impacts
---------------------------------------

2. A 2004 climate change study by the eThekwini Department of
Agriculture and Environmental Affairs (DAEA) predicted that daily
maximum temperatures in the region will increase 2-3 degrees Celsius
within the next twenty years. Daily minimum temperatures will
increase 3-4 degrees Celsius; heat waves over 30 degrees Celsius
will occur during the summer season (October to March). The study
noted that rain will increase in certain areas, causing heavy floods
while other areas will experience longer dry periods, resulting in
drought. The study advised that sea levels will rise 2.5 cm every
ten years.

3. The DAEA study predicted that extreme heat would cause major
negative health impacts on young and old and that increased
rainfalls would amplify incidents of vector-borne diseases (e.g.,
malaria) and water-borne diseases (e.g., cholera). The study said
that cities should expect decreased water supplies due to
diminishing water levels in dams resulting from irregular rainfall
and increased evaporation. The study advised that high
temperatures, declining water availability and increasing water
evaporation would reduce agricultural productivity and intensify
topsoil erosion while extreme rainfall in other areas would cause
flooding. The study concluded that ecosystems favoring indigenous
species could be severely compromised due to erosion, floods, sea
level rises and the proliferation of alien species. The report
noted that sea level rises and increased flooding would impact
infrastructure, including residences and key industries located in
low-lying areas.

--------------------------------------------- --
EThekwini Already Experiencing Negative Impacts
--------------------------------------------- --

4. EST Officer met with KwaZulu Natal (KZN) Department of
Agriculture and Environmental Affairs (DAEA) Environmental Services
(South Region) Manager Sharon Allan to discuss climate change
impacts, adaptation and mitigation within KZN Province, with an
emphasis on the eThekwini Municipality (metropolitan Durban and
suburbs) on March 31, 2008. Allan advised that infrastructure and
housing in the Durban northern suburbs had already experienced
Qhousing in the Durban northern suburbs had already experienced
damaging erosion from climate events. She emphasized that the
disastrous March 2007 weather events could reoccur at any time.
(Note. In March 2007 three cyclones in the Indian Ocean created an
extreme cut-off, low-pressure system while a simultaneous extreme
high-tide event occurred. That weather combination resulted in
damage to homes, business and infrastructure in the Durban area, and
brief closure of the city's economic hub - its port. End Note.)

5. Allan said the first step in resolving climate challenges is
acknowledging their existence. She noted that the city had
commissioned several greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions studies. A 2006
study estimated that the eThekwini municipal area emitted 17.8
million tons of CO2 per year, which is five percent of South
Africa's total CO2 emissions. Industry, commerce and local
agriculture sources account for 53% of all emissions, 26% derive
from transport, and local government accounts for 3%. Electricity,
predominantly from coal-burning power plants, causes more than half
of all emissions. According to a 2007 report, "renewable energy is
almost non-existent in Durban.

-------------------------------------
Sequestration Activities in eThekwini
-------------------------------------

6. Allen said eThekwini has considered sequestration and storage
for CO2, identifying 65,000 hectares of available open space,
including grasslands, wetlands, beaches, rivers and estuaries.
Allan said the vegetation and soils of these open spaces has been
inventoried and found to capable of storing 6.6 million tons of
carbon, or 24.3 million tons of CO2. Allan noted that some of these
open systems grow biomass, which the city estimates sequesters about
31,000 tons of CO2 per year.

7. The eThekwini Environmental Management Department (EMD) is
implementing the eThekwini Environmental Services Management plan
(EESMP) which seeks to expand open spaces within the city. Allan
notes that these open spaces provide ecosystem services such as
erosion prevention, storing and filtering water, and city cooling.
These services will be even more important if the temperature rises
as predicted.


8. Allen noted that many of the mature spaces may have reached
saturation and are not capable of storing additional carbon.
Predicted future changes in temperature and rainfall could cause
some ecosystems to sequester carbon at higher or lower rates. (FYI.
Wetlands store large amounts of carbon because organic material
decomposes slowly in waterlogged soil due to the lack of oxygen. As
wetlands dry out they lose this ability. End FYI.)
Allen noted that approximately 58 percent of the municipality's
carbon pool is stored on land that could potentially be developed.
Protecting these areas will become increasingly important, as well
as rehabilitating land infested with alien species.

----------------------------------
Mitigation Activities in eThekwini
----------------------------------

9. Allen commented that sequestration will never alleviate the
entire region's CO2 output. She said the area must consider
mitigation. Allen noted that the city planners have advised that
the adoption of an efficient public transport system and the use of
renewable energy would be the most effective mitigation techniques.
Allen said the city has conducted energy audits for municipal
buildings and implemented air conditioning cut-backs, reducing
energy use by more than fifteen percent.

10. Allen emphasized that eThekwini's landfills produce large
amounts of methane gas (CH), which is stronger than GHG. Allen
noted that methane is highly flammable and flared periodically to
prevent methane build-ups, which produces CO2. Allen advised that
the energy produced by flaring at Marianhill, La Mercy and Bissar
Road landfills is converted into electricity (approximately 10 MW).
Credits for these reductions are sold internationally via the Kyoto
Protocol's Clean Development Mechanism (CDM).

----------------------------------
Adaptation Activities in eThekwini
----------------------------------

11. Allen noted that eThekwini has several existing climate change
adaptation programs. The eThekwini Water and Sanitation (EWS) Water
Loss Management Project improves water pressure control, and
conducts leak surveys. The EWS Waste Water Education program
educates communities about preventing sewage blockages and leaks.
Allan advised that EWS programs also encourage water recycling and
filtering to make water suitable for drinking or agriculture. Allan
said EWS promotes water storage and rainwater catchment areas, and
is developing systems that use grey-water (used water) for toilets.
EWS now requires that all new developments use low flush toilets.
Allan commented that EWS is completing an assessment of the effects
QAllan commented that EWS is completing an assessment of the effects
that increased heat, storms and sea levels will have on water
provision and the sanitation infrastructure with a view towards
making recommendations on where infrastructure upgrades or
relocations should be made.

12. Allan advised that eThekwini Coastal Storm Water and Catchment
Management (ECSCM) is reassessing areas vulnerable to flooding using
predicted future rainfall. ECSCM requires storm water management
plans for all new developments. Allan said that ECSCM hopes to
prevent further development in areas that would be affected by 1:50
year storms and 50-year, sea-level rises. ECSCM is developing flood
prevention and emergency response plans to meet climate change
scenarios.

13. Allan said the eThekwini Urban Agricultural Programs (EUAP)
support community farming initiatives and promote workshops on the
use of drought-resistant crops, erosion prevention and efficient
water use. The Parks, Leisure and Cemeteries Department, the
Working for Water Program and the EMD have partnered to control and
eradicate alien invasives, which often use excessive water, degrade
local soils, out-compete indigenous species, and lead to degraded
habitats.

14. Allan said the Health Department has predicted that more areas
will be vulnerable to malaria and early identification of these
areas will help target malaria prevention programs, including
mosquito eradication. The KZN Health Department is also working to
secure sustainable energy and clean water sources for healthcare,
and to identify the size and distribution of groups within the city
that are vulnerable to climate change impacts (children, elderly,
and immune-compromised). Allen noted that the KZN Health Department
hopes to develop city-wide heat emergency plans and to initiate
education campaigns about heat stress and environmental problems
associated with excessive heat.

15. Allen noted that eThekwini would like to ensure that new or
upgraded infrastructure such as roads, electricity lines or
landfills are not located in floodplains and that builders use
construction materials appropriate for increased temperatures. She
indicated that the municipality should also prevent new developments
in potentially hazardous areas by rezoning those areas.


--------------------------------------------- ------
Comment: First Steps Taken; More Remains To Be Done
--------------------------------------------- ------

16. Comment: eThekwini has done a commendable job in acknowledging
and assessing potential climate change impacts. Preliminary steps
have been taken, but more concrete actions will be needed,
especially if the predicted health and infrastructure impacts become
a reality. The real test will come when development and industry
come into direct conflict with climate change priorities and
assessments. The March 2007 environmental and economic damages
caused by a convergence of climatic events should serve as a
reminder of what can happen if nothing is done. End comment.

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
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