Western Cape sets its vision for a low carbon economy

Reading time: 6 minutes
11 September 2020

Over the last six weeks, the Under2 Coalition has been working with representatives from the Western Cape Government, South Africa, to develop a vision for the province’s pathway towards a low carbon and equitable future.

38 representatives from over 10 different government departments and directorates from Western Cape Government and the City of Cape Town took part in six virtual workshops hosted by the Climate Pathway Project team, which support subnational governments to develop unique transformational Pathways towards reducing emissions while supporting economic and social development. 

The Climate Change Directorate in the Department of Environmental Affairs and Development Planning (DEA&DP), supported the team in hosting and facilitating the workshops. 

This workshop series, which took place virtually due to COVID-19 restrictions, was the first of its kind for the Under2 Coalition combining tailored capacity building and stakeholder engagement. It was made possible by the Under2 Coalition’s Future Fund, an initiative that supports climate action in developing and emerging economy regions and empowers them to accelerate the shift towards a world of under 2°C of warming.

Objectives of the workshop series 

Through presentations, group discussions and interactive activities, participants learned about the Climate Pathway Project’s unique process for developing an emissions reduction Pathway and the steps to developing a low carbon vision. The series featured presentations from the Western Cape Government, the City of Cape Town (the largest municipality in the Western Cape), and an inspiring guest presentation by the Government of Scotland on their net-zero target to help participants determine the ambition they want to see for their Pathway.

The end goal of the workshops was to create an understanding of Pathways and for participants to develop a series of 2050 visions for the Western Cape that the Government can take forward to develop their emissions reduction Pathway.

Western Cape’s vision

Western Cape is, like states, regions, and provinces all around the world, already feeling the effects of climate change. Starting in 2015, the province experienced its worst drought in decades; it lasted three years for much of the province - with some areas still experiencing water constraints today - and threatened the livelihoods of the local population and their water security. At its peak, the City of Cape Town was less than 30 days away from running out of water. When COVID-19 hit, many areas were still recovering from the long-lasting consequences of the drought – this continues to exacerbate the impact of the pandemic and is making the recovery process more complex.

Building a more climate-resilient Western Cape, with care for all of its citizens and the environment central to the process, was therefore expressed as a core value for the vision to uphold.

Another key observation was the willingness of Western Cape’s citizens to respond to a crisis, a crucial element of its emissions reduction pathway development will be the involvement of stakeholders from across all of society, with a strong focus on representing women, youth and vulnerable groups, while placing equal importance on emissions reduction and the associated social and economic co-benefits of climate action.

“The pathway work that Western Cape is currently developing will feed directly into the Provincial Climate Change Response Strategy, but, actually, it needs to feed into so much more. 

“As a province, the questions we are now asking ourselves are - How do we set our long-term vision realistically, but ambitiously? And how do we make sure that our vision speaks to the whole of society? 

“If COVID-19 has shown us anything, it’s that everyone needs to come along on this journey with us. We can’t afford to leave anyone behind.” - Karen Shippey, Chief Director for Environmental Sustainability, Government of Western Cape

For Climate Pathway development, a ‘vision’ should define the government’s long-term ambition for emissions reduction and guide the selection of priority sectors and actions for decarbonisation.

In developing a vision for Western Cape, participants identified the crucial need to:

  • Ensure a just transition to a green, equitable and inclusive economy
  • Build stronger resilience to climate change impacts and create resource security for all citizens
  • Set an ambition to achieve net-zero emissions
  • Transform the Western Cape’s energy, transport and agriculture sectors
  • Make the vision relatable to every citizen
  • Align efforts across different government departments and across national, provincial and local government

Next Steps

At the end of this series of virtual workshops, participants described their visions for Western Cape’s 2050 Emissions Reduction Pathway and selected the top three. The Western Cape Government will take these three visions forward to develop and build a single, unified vision of a low carbon and climate resilient Western Cape in 2050. This vision will then guide the design of Western Cape’s pathway and selected actions to achieve it.

The Western Cape is currently reviewing its Climate Change Response Strategy and the Pathway work will feed directly into this Strategy. The province will also begin the creation of its first full greenhouse gas (GHG) inventory, which will allow them to better understand their emissions profile and allow them to make data-driven choices for how to reduce their emissions. The inventory will help to determine the region’s highest emitting sectors and guide the government towards priority actions and mitigation measures within them.

As described by representatives of the DEA&DP, the workshop series provided a strong starting point for the development of an emissions reduction pathway for Western Cape and highlighted the need for an inclusive process that benefits all areas of society. Ultimately, social and climate justice must unite to create a just transition that’s equitable, leaves no one behind and delivers on the goals of the Paris Agreement. Western Cape is now set on its way to delivering this outlook.

The Climate Pathway Project team plans to expand this support to other states and regions globally and improve the material and resources available to other Under2 Coalition members.

“Now is not the time for talk, now is the time for action…

“But, most importantly, any actions we take must have been developed with a view to creating a just transition. This must be at the forefront of our minds every step of the way.” - Karen Shippey, Chief Director for Environmental Sustainability, Government of Western Cape

Climate Pathways Project

For more information, please contact:
Mili Morgado, Senior Manager - Climate Transparency and Pathways
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